On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Before we proceed with today's business may I invite you and the Table Office to confirm whether the proceedings adopted in today's business are within the precedents followed by the House? Page 456 of "Erskine May" deals with the provision of allocation of time orders and observes that such an order
is not usually moved … until the rate of progress … has provided an argument for its necessity.
There has been no debate and no commencement to the proceedings on Lords amendments to the Social Security Bill, so there can be no argument founded on the rate of progress, or lack of it, on Lords amendments, for the necessity of this order.
Secondly, Mr. Speaker, I draw your attention to the fact that the Bill was not subject to a guillotine motion when it was before this House. May I invite you and the Table to confirm that there is no precedent for a guillotine motion being applied to Lords amendments to a public Bill for which there was no guillotine motion when it was before this House?
You are charged, Mr. Speaker, with defending the rights of minorities in this House. The use of the guillotine motion is the most extreme affirmation by the majority of its rights over minorities. If it is indeed the case that on both those counts today's motion breaks the precedents of this House and represents a substantial extension of the powers of the guillotine, would it not be appropriate to invite the Government to reflect on whether it is desirable to take this unprecedented step and, if necessary, to suspend the sitting so that they may reflect on it?
As the House knows, I was present on Friday when this matter was raised, when the Leader of the House confirmed that this was an unusual procedure. However, I also noted the comment made by the shadow Leader of the House, who welcomed what was about to happen. So I do not think there is any reason why we should delay today.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. It will be within your recollection, and certainly it is in Hansard— with due deference to my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell)—that I said we thought it was regrettable that the Government were seeking to introduce a guillotine, and that on the day before I had said that we were dismayed at the short notice that my hon. Friends would have for putting forward amendments to the Bill.
Order. Nothing else arises.
As I was asked on Friday to look with careful consideration at the starred amendments on the Order Paper, I have selected them all. I must however, say to the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Ms. Primarolo), who tabled a manuscript amendment just before Question Time that I have considered her amendment with great care but I regret that, for reasons unconnected with the shortage of time, I have been unable to select it.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. You have rightly referred to the statement made by the Leader of the House at 11 am on Friday, for which I was present. You will recall that, at that stage, he was seeking to persuade the House that the guillotine motion applying to the Lords amendments to the Social Security Bill had been agreed through the usual channels. I was therefore surprised to hear the 1 pm Radio 4 news, which quoted Government spokespersons as saying that the reason why the guillotine was being advanced was that the Government were afraid that Labour Members were going to seek to disrupt the proceedings of the House to the inconvenience of the Government.
So it would seem that the Government were most concerned that, because there was no time limit on the Lords amendments to the Social Security Bill, which were going to come after a debate on a Scottish housing measure, there would be some difficulty for the Budget. Therefore, we must question the true motives of the Government for putting forward the guillotine. It had nothing to do with the agreement of the Opposition and everything to do with the Government's concern that they might have been caused some inconvenience by Labour Members trying to debate a Bill that does great hardship to vast numbers of our constituents.
I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to reflect on whether this business should be allowed to proceed. I urge you to suspend the House to enable you to do that and to give the House an adequate opportunity to debate these amendments to the Bill, which does grave damage to a vast number of our constituents.
Order. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was here on Friday. If he had been, he would know that every hon. Member who rose to question the Leader of the House had an opportunity to do so. I shall not take questions now that might well have been asked on Friday. I have already called the Leader of the House to move this motion. If the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish seeks to take part in the debate he may get a chance, but he must not make his point on a point of order.