Transport Bill (Allocation of Time)

– in the House of Commons at 4:51 pm on 28th July 1981.

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Photo of Mr Norman Fowler Mr Norman Fowler The Secretary of State for Transport 4:51 pm, 28th July 1981

I beg to move,

That the Order of the House [9th March] be supplemented as follows:

Lords Amendment

1. The proceedings on Consideration of Lords Amendments shall be completed at this day's sitting and, subject to the provisions of the Order of 9th March, each part of those proceedings shall, if not previously brought to a conclusion, be brought to a conclusion at the time specified in the second column of the Table set out below.

TABLE Proceedings
Lords AmendmentsTime for conclusion
Nos. 1 to 95.30
Nos. 10 and
116.30
No. 129.00
Nos. 13 to 7411.00

2. Paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to the proceedings for one hour after 10 o'clock.

3. For the purposes of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph 1 above—

  1. (a) Mr. Speaker shall first put forthwith any Question which has already been proposed from the Chair and not yet decided and, if that Question is for the Amendment of a Lords Amendment, shall then put forthwith the Question on any further Amendment of the said Lords Amendment moved by a Minister of the Crown and on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown, That this House doth agree or disagree with the Lords in the said Lords Amendment or, as the case may be, in the said Lords Amendment as amended;
  2. (b) Mr. Speaker shall then designate such of the remaining Lords Amendments as appear to him to involve questions of Privilege and shall—
    1. (i) put forthwith the Question on any Amendment moved by a Minister of the Crown to a Lords Amendment and then put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown, That this House doth agree or disagree with the Lords in their Amendment, or as the case may be, in their Amendment as amended;
    2. (ii) put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in a Lords Amendment;
    3. (iii) put forthwith with respect to each Amendment designated by Mr. Speaker which has not been disposed of the Question, That this House doth agree with the Lords in their Amendment; and
    4. (iv) put forthwith the Question, That this House doth agree with the Lords in all the remaining Lords Amendments;
  3. (c) as soon as the House has agreed or disagreed with the Lords in any of their Amendments Mr. Speaker shall put forthwith a separate Question on any other Amendment moved by a Minister of the Crown relevant to that Lords Amendment.

Stages subsequent to first Consideration of Lords
Amendments

4. The proceedings on any further Message from the Lords on the Bill shall be brought to a conclusion one hour after the commencement of the proceedings.

5. For the purpose of bringing those proceedings to a conclusion—

  1. (a) Mr. Speaker shall first put forthwith any Question which has already been proposed from the Chair and not yet decided, and shall then put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown which is related to the Question already proposed from the Chair;
  2. (b) Mr. Speaker shall then—
    1. (i) put forthwith the Questions on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown on any item in the Lords Message;
    2. (ii) put forthwith the Question, That this House doth agree with the Lords in all the remaining Lords Proposals.

Supplemental

6.—(1) In this paragraph "the proceedings" means proceedings on any further Message from the Lords on the Bill, on the appointment and quorum of a Committee to draw up Reasons and the Report of such a Committee.

(2) Mr. Speaker shall put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown for the consideration forthwith of the Message or, as the case may be, for the appointment and quorum of the Committee.

(3) A Committee appointed to draw up Reasons shall report before the conclusion of the sitting at which they are appointed.

(4) Paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to the proceedings.

(5) No dilatory Motion with respect to, or in the course of, the proceedings shall be made except by a Member of the Government, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

(6) If the proceedings are interrupted by a Motion for the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on the Motion shall be added to the period at the end of which the proceedings are to be brought to a conclusion.

The order will ensure that the House has the opportunity to decide at a reasonable hour this evening the few important issues that are still to be resolved, so that the Bill can complete its remaining stages before the Summer Recess. In the arrangement of the proceedings we have sought to meet the wishes of the House and the Opposition. The order will bring proceedings on the first nine Lords amendments, which are entirely technical, to a conclusion by 5.30 pm and the proceedings on Lords amendments Nos. 10 and 11, which deal with powers of entry, to a conclusion by 6.30 pm. We have sought to meet the wishes of the Opposition spokesman.

That means that the House will have at least two and a half hours in which to debate the seat belts issue. The proceedings on that issue are to be brought to a conclusion by 9 pm.

The order further provides that the proceedings on the remaining amendments shall be completed by 11 pm, which allows for another two hours' debate.

Since we introduced the Bill last December more than 950 amendments have been tabled and we have had nearly 160 hours of debate. I hope that we can move quickly to our consideration of the Lords amendments.

Photo of Mr Albert Booth Mr Albert Booth , Barrow-in-Furness 4:53 pm, 28th July 1981

Given the Government's sad record of restricting debate on every other Commons stage of the Bill, with the exception of the Second Reading, one comes to a further guillotine motion with an appalling sense of inevitability. I shall not rehearse the classic and valid objections to guillotines which are normally deployed.

I object strenuously to what the Secretary of State has just said about the time provided. He suggests that we have between now and 5.30 pm to debate the first nine amendments. That would be true only if we gave up our right to debate the guillotine motion. If we took only an hour to debate the guillotine motion and took advantage of that limited right, we should go past the first guillotine slot in the proposition.

To introduce a guillotine motion on a day when the Government have so staged the business as to have two statements and a Ten-Minute Bill to eat into the time to debate the order of our business is an affront to the rights of the House. The Government have tabled the guillotine motion on the day that we are to debate the Lords amendments. Inevitably, if we exercise our right to debate the guillotine we do so at the expense of debating the Lords amendments. It is unreasonable and improper to table a guillotine motion in a way that takes time out of guillotined debate.

The terms of the motion are designed, as are other guillotine motions, to protect the Government's interest in their business and in the Lords amendments with which they wish the House to deal. The motion also protects the Lord's interests by instructing you, Mr. Speaker, to put before the House those Lords amendments that are not covered by the Government.

The guillotine motion does not offer protection to Back Benchers in the time that they can spend debating the issues. If the Bill had not already been subject to the guillotine that might not be such an important issue. However, the Bill was guillotined in its Committee stage and on Report. As a result, some of the issues in the Lords amendments have not yet been debated in the House, although they would have been debated if the Bill had not been guillotined. When hon. Members wish to raise issues on Lords amendments which they have not yet had time to debate, it is a bit much of the Government to suggest that the restriction is reasonable.

I congratulate the Secretary of State on executing a perfect 180 degree U-turn from the position that he took when we discussed the last guillotine motion. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that my hon. Friends and I sought to persuade him that if there were to be a guillotine motion, he should apportion the time to allow the House to take a decision on seat belts. We sought to persuade him to do that. We believed it to be the will of the House, but that was frustrated in Committee. The Secretary of State said "No", that the Government could not do that, and that if they did it would be interfering with the business of the House in favour of hon. Members who wanted to debate that issue. He was referring to those who had had the audacity to take a new clause to encapsulate their views on seat belts.

The Secretary of State said that the Government could not table a timetable motion that would facilitate the House of Commons to reach a decision, but he has tabled just such a motion today. It will facilitate the House to debate the views not of hon. Members, but of the House of Lords on seat belts. That shows that the Secretary of State has a total disregard for the rights of hon. Members. I do not make any distinction between Opposition and Government Back Benchers for this purpose. The Secretary of State has disregarded the rights of hon. Members to express their views. He should at least have allowed the House of Commons to come to a decision. However, when hereditary peers, or those appointed to another place, take a view, the right to have a debate is protected. Such issues have not arisen on any other guillotine debate in which I have been involved. That is why the guillotine motion is unreasonable.

5 pm

Photo of Mr Arthur Lewis Mr Arthur Lewis , Newham North West

I rise to support my right hon. Friend the Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth), if he will forgive me, on this issue. It is not a party political matter. It is a House of Commons matter. I would also ask Conservative Members to bear in mind the history and background of guillotines. All hon. Members know how and why they arise. In this case, however, my right hon. Friend has, I believe, proved his case.

The Government themselves say in their motion that Lords amendments Nos. 1 to 9 should be concluded at 5.30 pm. Obviously, they were under the impression when making that proposal that hon. Members would have begun their discussion at about 3.30 pm. We have not started at about 3.30 pm. Able and efficient though you are, Mr. Speaker, even you cannot ensure that our business begins at 3.30 pm. It is now 5 pm. Hon Members are now told, in effect, that the two hours originally to be allowed for discussing the nine amendments have been reduced to half an hour—or less than half an hour if my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) starts interrupting.

Paragraph 6(6) of the supplemental order shows that the Government took precautions in providing that any time allocated by you, Mr. Speaker, to a motion for the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 would have been allowed for. Why could not the. Government also have included wording to the effect that if Lords amendments Nos. 1 to 9 could not be allocated two hours before 5.30, time could be added? I do not think that any hon. Members would have objected.

I should like to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you would be prepared to accept a manuscript amendment from my right hon. Friend specifying that the originally expected time of two hours should be allowed on the first batch of Lords amendments. I assume that the timing for debates on the remaining Lords amendments would have to be altered which would upset all the dinner arrangements and cocktail parties of hon. Members. The Government should examine the matter. All hon. Members know that the Government manoeuvre and manipulate these things. A question or a statement is often arranged. It is often welcomed when a matter is put off from Monday to Tuesday. I do not believe that any Government should be allowed to get away with what has happened today. It deprives Back Benchers of the limited rights that they possess. The Government should be opposed.

Question put and agreed to.