Orders of the Day — CONTROL OF POLLUTION BILL [Lords]

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th July 1974.

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Order for consideration of Bill (as amended in the Standing Committee), read.

1.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr Arthur Jones Mr Arthur Jones , Daventry

On a point of order. As I think you were about to say, Mr. Deputy Speaker, my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi), who is leading for the Opposition on the proceedings we are about to enter, is not with us. It is generally known that he has been sitting all night in Committee on the Rent Bill. Those proceedings started at 10.30 yesterday morning and for a Committee with that length of sitting I think there might be a Guinness Book of Records entry in the offing. The Committee has been sitting all night and, I think, finished only a short time ago. I submit for your consideration, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the House should adjourn for a short time to enable my hon. Friend to attend.

May I also add that I think all hon. Members are having great difficulty in informing themselves adequately on the Bill and the amendments? The Minister of State has expressed himself about the difficulties of printing which are restricting our proceedings. Many of the amendments have not been edited. They refer to the old Bill rather than the new draft which is before us today. This is a difficult situation for the House.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Because this House on a Friday is always in a wonderful mood, I think that we should suspend our sitting for 10 minutes to allow the hon. Gentleman to join us.

Photo of Mr Denis Howell Mr Denis Howell , Birmingham Small Heath

Further to the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This Bill is a matter of cardinal importance and is recognised as such by both sides of the House, so it would be of advantage to have the main Opposition spokesman present. I understand the great difficulties under which he has laboured. In the expectation that we shall complete the Report stage I am happy to associate myself with the request which has been made.

Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

Further to the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in view of the confusion over the state of the Bill, which I trust will be soon resolved, I could point out that I am ready to proceed with the next items on our agenda, the two Prayers, although at the moment I do not see a Minister present to reply. If after the suspension, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you thought it appropriate to alter the order of business to allow those involved in the Bill to recover from their labours of last night, I should be willing to proceed with those orders.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Now I have heard everything. One thing that I cannot do is change the order of business.

1.2 p.m.

Sitting suspended.

On resuming—

1.12 p.m.

Photo of Mr David Gibson-Watt Mr David Gibson-Watt , Hereford

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is extremely difficult for hon. Members to deal on a Friday with such important Government Bills as appear on the Order Paper. The Control of Pollution Bill [Lords] has come from another place. Those of us who have to choose between our constituency engagements and the business of the House to find it difficult to be here this afternoon to deal with a matter of such importance. You will know from your own experience that this Bill deals with control of pollution in the rivers of South Wales, a matter of great interest to you and to me. It is disgraceful that in handling a Bill like this, which comes from another place, the Government should put it on now rather than during an ordinary weekday.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. The right hon. Gentleman is very experienced in the ways of the House. He will know that his quarrel is not with the Chair. This is not a point of order. The arrangement of business is not in my hands.

Photo of Mr John Ellis Mr John Ellis , Brigg and Scunthorpe

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I believe that mine is a real point of order. It concerns what has recently occurred. We have had a suspension of the sitting until a minute or two ago. A couple of weeks ago I was very interested in the Hare Coursing Bill. At about this time on that occasion a number of Bills were counted out. I should be pleased if you could give us some explanation about this latest procedure because it may be useful in future for back-benchers when we reach a similar situation. I should like to know more about it so that we can make sure that important Bills like the Hare Coursing Bill survive.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. The hon. Gentleman has misunderstood the position. There was general agreement on both sides of the House to suspend the sitting to enable the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi), who was leading for the Opposition in a Committee which has been sitting all night and is also leading for the Opposition and this Bill, to get to the Chamber. It was one of those courtesies of which the House is capable from time to time. It must not be taken as a general precedent for Four o'clock business.

Photo of Mr Hugh Rossi Mr Hugh Rossi , Haringey Hornsey

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I express my grateful thanks to right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House for the consideration and courtesy they have shown me in suspending the sitting in this way so that I may attend in my place at the Dispatch Box. In Committee we have undergone a marathon sitting of 26 hours non-stop. I hope that I am still up to the task before me for the rest of the day, although I shall crave your indulgence if you notice that from time to time I do not find the correct place in my papers. I have been dealing with a great number of other papers on another matter in Committee and it is only at this moment that I have begun to devote my attentions to this Bill.

1.15 p.m.

Having said that and expressed my sincere thanks, may I, as a further point of order, now make a complaint? I am aware that it is not in order in any way to question the selection of the Chair as to the new clauses and amendments which are to be considered. There is, however, one circumstance upon which I would like your guidance. There was a particular new clause selected for debate in Committee. Because this gave rise to an entirely new area of discussion I felt it was only right that the Government should have the opportunity of consulting outside interests.

Therefore I did not move that new clause on the general understanding and agreement in Committee that it would be selected here. I now find that it has not been selected. I should be grateful if an inquiry could be made into the reasons for that.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Certainly, if the hon. Gentleman will allow me time to consider that question. May I say—

Photo of Mr John Ellis Mr John Ellis , Brigg and Scunthorpe

Further to that point of order—

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

I am replying to the point of order. It is so pleasant that the House can be suspended in a good mood.

Photo of Mr John Ellis Mr John Ellis , Brigg and Scunthorpe

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have no objection to what has gone on and to the customary efficieny with which you have despatched an unusual situation. Nevertheless, there were few backbenchers present at the beginning of this exchange and I feel that one of us is obliged to press the point I have already put to you. It may be that the two Front Benchers have agreed and that the whole House has agreed to what has happened. There is nevertheless other important business affecting us and I would take this as a precedent. I hope you will look into it so that if back-benchers are in a similar position on a Friday and can get the agreement of the House they will be granted a suspension of business so that we do not lose Bills as we did a fortnight ago.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order, I do not think I need say anything to the hon. Gentleman after what I have said previously. This was done with the agreement of all sides of the House. There were a large number of hon. Members present. I acted accordingly.

Photo of Mr Leslie Spriggs Mr Leslie Spriggs , St Helens

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. While I do not criticise those responsible for not selecting certain amendments, may I draw your atttention to the fact that Amendments Nos. 84, 85, 86, 87 and 88, standing in my name and the names of some of my hon. Friends, which were designed to give teeth to the Bill have not been selected. May I ask you whether hon. Members who have put their names to those amendments may speak about their intentions even though the amendments have not been selected?

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

We cannot discuss amendments that are not called. Hon. Members with long experience like the hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs) will know that there are ways of making their points on other amendments. I know the hon. Member well enough to expect that I shall hear him.

As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.