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Procedure

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:58 pm on 27th February 1986.

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Photo of Mr John Golding Mr John Golding , Newcastle-under-Lyme 5:58 pm, 27th February 1986

That is what most of us do. Most of us are loyal to our parties and loyal to the promise that we made to our electorate to support the party. If I were the Secretary of State on a Committee that was timetabled, my first thought would be to find a young man who wanted to make his name and who was prepared to talk and talk and talk in support of the Government, thereby squeezing out Opposition speeches of criticism. We must solve that problem. It can be solved only by agreements that are kept and worked out through the usual channels. If that is not done, the proposal is a charter for the Government-lackey filibuster and our democracy would be the worse for it.

I have tabled an amendment which has not been selected. It says, "Get rid of the 10 o'clock rule and relate the ending of the Committee to the rising of the House." The 10 o'clock rule is nonsense in practice. If the House sits late on a Tuesday, what sense is there in saying to hon. Members, "Finish in Committee and go and hang around the Tea Rooms until the early hours"? They will say that they might as well be in Committee. Everyone knows that Members would prefer to work late on Tuesdays and finish early on Thursdays.

Shop stewards are required in the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) was called the shop steward. We have missed his services since he became a distinguished journalist. If the 10 o'clock rule is abolished, we must find a device which prevents the Government from using up all the hours in one fell swoop and getting the legislation through quickly.

A Bill needs a certain length of time in Committee, because outside interests which want to make representations need a little time to wake up to what is happening in Parliament. We need a rule related to the rising of the House, and a limited number of weeks for the Opposition and for Government supporters who want to support or oppose the Government.

I was asked by many hon. Members to spin out my speech because they do not like the proposals, but that I will not do. I echo those who say that the present rules are daft. It cannot be right to waste so much time when we could be getting on with our business. If we do not change the rules, there is an obligation on people like me who came here to support the Labour electorate to exploit the rules in the interest of our party. It is better to change the rules and stop that daft system.