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Procedure

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:15 pm on 27th February 1986.

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Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , North Shropshire 7:15 pm, 27th February 1986

I do not wish to engage in further controversy, least of all upon the issue of timetabling, which has occupied so much of this evening's debate. However, I shall make one or two comments in response to specific points that were put to me on other issues.

May I first respond to the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) regarding his amendment to the motion on Special Standing Committees. I am happy to accept his amendment.

In that context, may I also refer to the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) on committal, which raises much more substantial points. I repeat the Government's preference that they should control commital to Special Standing Committees, partly because the convention has arisen that the Special Standing Committee procedure should apply to Bills that raise substantial issues not of acute party controversy. Therefore, one will appreciate that there is a real interest in the Government's determining which Bills should come within that category.

The right hon. Gentleman also asked about questions that lapse because of an overrun in business. The Government's view—it is shared more widely—is that written answers merit reinstatement, which is a fairly straightforward procedure. However, if oral questions were reinstated as written questions, it would prevent those hon. Members who had tabled them as oral questions from putting them down again as oral questions for six months. It was thought that, on the whole, this would put those hon. Members at a disadvantage. That was the basis on which we made our judgment.

Finally, on a personal note, I feel obliged to refer to the speech of the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot), whose reference to me as a latter-day Buster Keaton of the Treasury Bench leads me to believe that, unlike me, he is old enough to have seen those films in the 1930s and is showing the social disposition which I do not have of watching the repeats at weekends. Therefore, I am unable to judge the implied compliment or otherwise, but I console myself with the fact that at least I am not described as the Boris Karloff of Tory monetarism.