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Procedure

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:37 pm on 27th February 1986.

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Photo of Mr William Benyon Mr William Benyon , Milton Keynes 5:37 pm, 27th February 1986

I cannot give way; many hon. Members wish to speak. I normally do so, but I cannot on this occasion.

The present arrangements are a stupid way to consider legislation in Committee. There is no doubt about that in the minds of most of my hon. Friends. We all know the pattern of delays in the early stages, followed by the inevitable guillotine and eventual Royal Assent. The so- called delaying power about which we have heard so much this afternoon is illusory. I have sat on Committees dealing with the type of Bills that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) was talking about. Votes stop legislation.

Anyway, who is to say that the Legislative Business Committee will not fix a much longer Committee stage than that which takes place, normally, after the guillotine is brought in? Who is to say that a future Leader of the House will not take up the point made at the end of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and bring in a shorter guillotine at an earlier time? What my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has suggested about bringing in timetable motions before the 80 hours have elapsed is precisely what could happen. The amendment is protection for the House.

The real reason why the idea has produced such a reaction is the increasing contempt in which Governments of both parties have progressively regarded the House of Commons. The idea that the House of Commons should take to itself even the smallest measure of what is carried out through the usual channels sends shivers down a lot of spines. That is why the vote tonight is so important.

If the amendment is lost, we shall stagger on with a procedure that is both antiquated and discredited. The Select Committee will realise that its only role in future will be to consider trivia. Parliament will suffer, because the people will realise that any reform, no matter how modest or tentative, will not stand a chance of success against the entrenched and ever more powerful Executive. Let us try this modest reform for the short period of one year, and see what happens. I would have preferred something more dramatic and extensive, but, like Cardinal Newman in his famous hymn, I do not ask to see the distant scene,One step enough for me".