Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:40 pm on 2nd April 1980.

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Photo of Mr Mark Carlisle Mr Mark Carlisle , Runcorn 9:40 pm, 2nd April 1980

I shall reply briefly to the points raised. The Government have made it clear that it is their desire to pass the Bill before parliament rises for the Easter Recess. I make no confession or apology about that. We made that clear from the out- set because of the clauses that allow for savings of money on school meals.

It is the desire and the wish of the Government that the Bill should receive Royal Assent tomorrow. Although there is little controversy in any of the Lords amendments, it was to safeguard that position that we felt it right to table the timetable motion.

I shall take up the two points made on the amendment and deal with the second point first. As far as I know, the timetable motion, which allows not for a specific time for debate but that the debate should end four hours from the moment that the timetable motion is moved, is a new measure. It was an attempt to meet what we thought would be helpful to the House.

Under the previous timetable motion passed by the House, the time allowed for the debate on the motion was one hour. Therefore, I could have merely moved a motion allowing for three hours' debate on the amendments, assuming that one hour would be taken on the timetable motion. That would give a total of four hours, which is usually accepted as a half-day debate. If the motion was passed in less than an hour, there would still have been a limited three hours for debate, By tabling this motion—should it be taken either on the nod or after a short debate—there would be a longer period, if the House wished it, to debate the Lords amendments.

It was in no way a deception. We intended to give a measure of flexibility by tabling the motion in this manner. We considered the substance of the Lords amendments. The Government will invite the House to agree with all of them. Many of them are of a drafting nature. That will leave ample time for debate.

The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) said that he has never before seen anything like the motion. The hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) said that he had been a trustee safeguard of the interest of the Back Benchers when be was on this side of the House between 1974 and 1978. There is a precedent for the paragraph in this timetable motion which provides that at the end of four hours' debate any outstanding Lords amendments shall be put at once. During the period of the previous Labour Administration, every time table motion contained such a provision.

If the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed was watching interestedly, as he says he was, and the hon. Member for Lewisham, West was being a doughty safeguarder of the Back Benchers, I am bound to tell them that they failed to take the point that such a paragraph has been used on every occasion over the last few years. Therefore, I am following a perfectly proper precedent.