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Jim Sheridan: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You have been a great advocate of trying to modernise this House and make it relevant to the people outside and the people inside. The behaviour of the official Opposition tonight is disgraceful. The public schoolboy attitude of Conservative Members demonstrates their insincerity. Every Thursday, you and I hear the shadow Leader of the House complaining about the lack of time for parliamentary debates. The way they are behaving tonight is an absolute disgrace-they are purely filibustering and trying to waste time, and the general public will see them for what they are.
Mr. Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. Would that I could describe that as a point of order; I am not sure that it quite qualifies for that description. However, he has registered his views with great force, and they are now firmly on the record.
Mr. McLoughlin: Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I draw your attention to the motion in the name of the Prime Minister at the top of page 377 of the Order Paper? If the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire, North (Jim Sheridan) feels that this is abuse, should he not have voted against what was moved in the name of the Prime Minister at 10 o'clock?
Mr. Speaker: The right hon. Gentleman is a very old hand-if memory serves me correctly, he has now served in this House for 23 years and either seven or eight months-so he knows very well that in making that point with his characteristic force he has made a very good debating point but not a point of order.
The interesting point made by the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire, North is that it would have been fantastic if we could have had this debate before 10 o'clock. In fact, there are many opportunities where we do not vote and could have had this debate. As my right hon. Friend the Member for West Derbyshire (Mr. McLoughlin), who is second only to you, Mr. Speaker, in my esteem on these matters- [ Interruption . ] I am choosing my words very carefully. As my right hon. Friend said, there were opportunities to do this at another hour. I regret this situation, because I want to get back home to Uxbridge-in Middlesex, and still in London-but I feel so strongly that we must debate the matter that I will continue.
Mr. Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con): Does my hon. Friend share my dismay at the omission from the Committee of the witty repartee of the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Stephen Pound), who could bring to it the experience of living in a Conservative borough that this Christmas is giving £50 back to its residents?
If I allow myself to go back to the heady days of the debates on the Greater London Authority Act 1999, I remember that there we were sitting there one evening, late into the night. The hon. Member for Ealing, North who, as my hon. Friend says, is a very witty Member, said that my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Richard Ottaway) resembled a giraffe. I did not know what that had to do with anything, but I found out later that the hon. Gentleman
was on a wager to mention the word "giraffe" in a speech. I tried to think what he himself reminded me of in the way of animals of the savannah, and all I could think of was a dik-dik, which is a small antelope.
The point that I am making, which I think is valid, is that if we are to have a Select Committee- [Interruption.] I say to the hon. Member for somewhere north of Watford that I do not interfere in the matters of the Scottish Affairs Committee. If the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire, North wants to go home, he should go home. I am not forcing him to stay here. If he wants to discuss London, he should stay here; if he wants to go home to Scotland, good luck to him. Now, we should return to the important subject-
Mr. Speaker: Order. Yes, I am very happy, indeed extremely eager, that the hon. Gentleman should return to the terms of the motion. Without wanting in any way to be personal about it, may I entreat him to focus on the overall qualities of possible members of the Committee? I do not think it is seemly or appropriate for him to dilate on the physical characteristics of either the hon. Member for Croydon, South or the hon. Member for Ealing, North.
Mr. Randall: I will bear that in mind, but I have to say that I was not actually referring to any physical proportion; I was actually talking about their spirituality. If you understood the dik-dik, which is a sly creature, alert in the undergrowth just waiting to be predated, you might find that. However, I get the general drift that we have to move on a little. We have only just started on west London.
Mr. Greg Knight: My hon. Friend gave the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire, North (Jim Sheridan) some advice a moment ago, telling him that he could go home. Is that advice available to those in all parts of the House?
"Debate may continue until any hour, if the 10.00 pm Business of the House motion is agreed to."
Mr. Speaker: Order. I am listening with the closest interest and respect to what the hon. Gentleman is saying, as he would anticipate, but may I say to him that although, as he rightly states, it is noted on the Order Paper that the debate "may" run until any hour, there is a difference between that and "shall" run until any hour?
Mr. Randall: I do not really understand what "any hour" means in this sense, Mr. Speaker. Whether it is "may" or "shall", "any hour" could mean any particular time. We recognise that the House is a place for debate. I am sorry that it has come to this so late.
Anne Main (St. Albans) (Con): May I take my hon. Friend back to about 15 minutes into his oratory, when he talked about the suitability of particular locations for members of the Committee? Much to my chagrin, St. Albans has been designated part of the north London arc. I disagree with being part of it, because we think we are in Hertfordshire, but I completely agree that perhaps we have not looked at the right mix for the Committee.
Mr. Randall: My hon. Friend raises a very important point, because a Regional Select Committee for London will have to address Crossrail, for example, and transport in a wider aspect. Many who commute into London do not live within London's boundaries. Therefore, it might be appropriate for those who commute from outside London to be members of the Committee.
While we are talking about Crossrail, which I am, I wonder how many hon. Members named in the motion will be affected by it. Some will be, and it is good that they will be represented, but there is also the question of London underground, which is a very important matter to my constituents-I mentioned Heathrow earlier, but the underground is also important. I am looking through the list here, and I am not too sure how many of the hon. Members on it have underground stations in their constituencies, although rather peculiarly, even if they do, someone else might say, "What about the overground?" because there might be a bias for underground.
Robert Neill: My hon. Friend will recognise that overground transport is a key issue in London. The London borough of Bromley, which I happen to represent, has something like 23 overground railway stations, but not a single Member whose constituency is on the overground has been proposed to sit on the Committee. The same applies to a number of other London boroughs. Should we not perhaps rehearse the number of London boroughs that have overground stations only, and not underground stations-
Stephen Hammond: It is a great place to come from, but one proposed member of the Committee who comes from south of the river is not here this evening. Mr. Speaker, you entreated my hon. Friend to talk about some of the qualities that the candidates will need. One is scrutiny. Does my hon. Friend want to compare and contrast the qualities of the proposed Members against the Greater London authority members who are already going to fulfil that function for us?
Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): My hon. Friend says he thinks the Select Committee should talk about issues such as Crossrail, but people in my constituency think that an awful lot of money is spent on transport in the south-east and that we in Yorkshire do not get our fair share. Surely if the Committee is going to talk about very expensive projects such as Crossrail, there should be a Yorkshire perspective on it-I hasten to add that I am not volunteering.
Mr. Randall: Perhaps I was a little harsh with the hon. Gentleman opposite from Scotland. Therefore, much as I would like to agree with my hon. Friend, if I was harsh with the hon. Gentleman, I have to be harsh with him, because this is a London or south-east matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond) asked me-
Jim Sheridan: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I just point out that I am not the Member for Scotland? I am the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire, North. I must say that the anti-Scottishness coming from the Opposition demonstrates why there will never be a Conservative MP in Scotland.
Michael Gove (Surrey Heath) (Con): Like the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire, North (Jim Sheridan), I am a Scot, and proudly so. May I say that my hon. Friend has shown me nothing but kindness during my years in this House? However, speaking on behalf of my constituents in Surrey Heath in this United Kingdom Parliament, may I draw his attention to the fact that my constituents, who depend on South West Trains, would like to see two particular Labour Members on the Committee, namely the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Frank Dobson), because Eurostar has moved from Waterloo and now terminates in his constituency, and the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey), because Waterloo, Clapham Junction and Vauxhall are the three stations whose pointing and track systems have a direct effect on the speed with which my constituents can travel from Camberley, Frimley, Bagshot, Ash Vale, Farnborough Main and Farnborough North Camp-
Mr. Randall: I thank my hon. Friend for assuring the House that I have no feelings of antipathy towards Scotland. In fact, I admire the Scots. In many respects, and speaking as a retailer, I wish that I had been Scottish myself as I would like to uphold many of their qualities.
Mr. Pelling: I am enjoying the best after-dinner speech that I have heard all year. Is not the solution to the hon. Gentleman's concern about the quality of rail services in London for Conservative Members to do the work that they are paid for and to sit on this Committee?
Mr. Randall: When I first came into this House, there was no Greater London assembly or Mayor for London. Therefore, in 1997, the hon. Gentleman's words would have been correct. Unfortunately for him, today there are many elected members representing our boroughs in London, and therefore his point is not that well made.
On the other hand, my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove) makes an extremely good point. I had almost forgotten about the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Frank Dobson). For many years, I was a voter in that constituency as a student. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman was standing then, otherwise I might have had to consider my vote. We bearded chaps have to stick together. It is true that he would be a sane voice.
One of the things that I find fascinating about this place-I am sure that you have observed it from your position, Mr. Speaker-is that those people on the way up sometimes do not speak as forthrightly as they do once they have been up and are on the way down. Therefore, I find that the people to whom we should listen most in this House are those who have been there, done it and do not want any more preferment. Suddenly, their words have even more credence. I know the right hon. Gentleman to be a fine Member of Parliament.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Nicholas Brown): On a point of order, it is a pleasure to follow the hon. Gentleman. He will not speak for the Government, but I will. I beg to move that the question be now put- [ Interruption. ]
Mr. Speaker: Order. I do not require any help from the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Richard Ottaway). For the avoidance of doubt, I can tell hon. Members that when appointments to other Select Committees are contested, Standing Order No. 15(1)(c) provides for a debate for up to one hour before the question is put. That is the conclusive response to the hon. Gentleman.
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