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Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:40 pm on 27th February 1986.

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Photo of Sir Peter Emery Sir Peter Emery , Honiton 4:40 pm, 27th February 1986

Yes. I shall explain how later. The House —through the voice of a Committee of senior Back Bench Members—not the Government will decide that the most contentious and controversial Bills, which everyone knows that the Government will duly guillotine, will be timetabled from the start of their Committee stage. The new procedure would be used, rather than our having to waste the 100-odd hours on a few clauses until the guillotine is introduced.

A shibboleth that has been adopted by both major parties—that time is power and delaying legislation in Committee wreaks havoc on the Government or stops legislation getting through —is no longer true, if it ever was. The only havoc created is for the poor hon. Members who have to go through the party political charade of wasting time and sitting through all hours of the day and night.

As to stopping legislation, the Clerk of the House can find no instance in the last 20 years where delay in Committee upstairs has meant that the Government have lost a Bill they wished to have on the statute book. That is the major point, because there is not the flexibility that the Opposition say there is. Nor is there any case of delay in one Bill stopping other Bills listed in the Queen's Speech being enacted. There is no proof of that. Everybody knows that when a Bill goes into Committee the Government Whips office has a date by which the Bill has to be out from Committee in order to go into the House of Lords. If the Opposition use all that time, in comes the guillotine. Why, therefore, try to suggest that there is any flexibility for the Opposition?