STATUTORY INSTRUMENTS, &c.

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th June 1991.

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Ordered,That the draft Farm Woodland (Variation) Scheme 1991 be referred to a Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.—[Mr. Patnick.]

Hon. Members:

Where is he?

Several Hon. Members:

rose

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. Sit down please. If hon. Members would clear the Chamber, I could see who was rising on a point of order.

Photo of Mr David Ashby Mr David Ashby , North West Leicestershire

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I draw your attention to the gross discourtesy of the hon. Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Hughes)? According to the Order Paper he is to present a ten-minute Bill, and I came to the Chamber, as did many other hon. Members, expecting to hear the Bill presented, and to hear the arguments on it, but the hon. Gentleman has not turned up. That is a gross discourtesy to the House, and I feel that the fact that it has happened should be a matter of record.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

It may be a matter of record; it is not a point of order.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will you bear it in mind that when you hear complaints from Tory Members about a Labour Member who has been held up—[Interruption.]

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Will you bear it in mind, Mr. Speaker, that it was on the way from that posh gambling den at Lloyd's that my hon. Friend was held up in the traffic? Will you remember, too, that at 3 o'clock last Tuesday morning the Tory hon. Member for Amber Valley (Mr. Oppenheim) was not here to conduct the Adjournment debate that you kindly granted him. I never heard any Tory Members complain about his absence; they were all asleep in the Tea Room.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. That is not a point of order. The hon. Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Hughes) is not here and we have to move on to the next business.

Several Hon. Members:

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Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. I have to say, before I take any more points of order, that it would enable hon. Members to participate in the subsequent debate if they refrained from raising with me points of order that are not really points of order at all.

Several Hon. Members:

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Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

It is a difficult decision to make, but I will call Mr. Michael Brown first.

Photo of Mr Michael Brown Mr Michael Brown , Brigg and Cleethorpes

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. This is a serious point, and one which I would ask you to consider. The 10-minute rule provides hon. Members with a highly valued parliamentary slot and, over the past 12 or 13 years, many of us in the House have sought an opportunity to introduce a 10-minute Bill but have failed to be successful under the system that now operates. I make no complaint about that system, Mr. Speaker, but as this is the second occasion on which an hon. Member has failed to present his Bill to the House, is not there a case for the Select Committee on Procedure to investigate whether it is right and proper for hon. Members to take this valuable slot and then not have the courtesy to be here to present their Bill to the House?

Several Hon. Members:

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Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. Let us have one hon. Member at a time. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to refer the matter to the Procedure Committee, he may do so. It is not a matter for me.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You, Sir, are the custodian of the Standing Orders of the House, one of which governs the allocation of Members to Committees. Two Members of this House stood for election under the same slogan—"MP on a workers' wage". One of the candidates in the Walton by-election is standing under the same slogan and on the same platform. If that woman, Ms. Lesley Mahmood, is elected in Walton, will you count her as a Labour Member?

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

I cannot answer hypothetical questions.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

I think that the hon. Gentleman may be called, but I must first hear the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow).

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I understand that the hon. Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Hughes) intended to seek leave to introduce a Bill setting out some aspects of the Labour party's immigration policy. I think that that would have been of great interest to the country. I understand that, with private Members' Bills, if the hon. Member in question is not here, it is possible for another hon. Member to introduce the Bill on his behalf. Is it the same with a 10-minute Bill? I feel that the public would really like to know what the Labour party's immigration policy is.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

No, it is not in order to proceed in that way. The Bill is not an Order of the Day.

Several Hon. Members:

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Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. The trouble with some points of order is that they are not points of order at all. We would be well advised to get on with the debate, which will give hon. Members the opportunity to put serious points to the House rather than raise bogus points of order.

Photo of Mr Patrick Nicholls Mr Patrick Nicholls , Teignbridge

The Bill tabled by the hon. Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Hughes) has almost been presented on two occasions, and it seems reasonable to expect that, on a third occasion, it will indeed be presented. My point of order to you, Mr. Speaker, arises under the heading "Varieties of Expenditure" at page 177 of "Erskine May", which states: the existence of the Social Security Fund cannot be used by private Members as a means of evading the basic rule that a net charge cannot be imposed"— [HON. MEMBERS: "Here is the hon. Member!"] As you, Mr. Speaker, will acknowledge in a moment or two, there could not be a better time for my point of order to be heard.

If leave is given to bring in the Bill, there will be unrestricted immigration and, under the terms of the Bill, there will be a direct and immediate charge to public funds for the dependants of those immigrants. My point of order is this, Mr. Speaker: can we even entertain giving leave for such a Bill to be brought in today? The rules are perfectly clear. If we are to enlarge the scope of the social security fund in that way, it can only be done following a proposal by the Crown. The measure allowing unrestrained immigration at the taxpayers' expense is a Labour measure; it has not been brought forward by the Crown. I should like to know, Mr. Speaker, whether you feel that it would be in order.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

The hon. Gentleman has shot himself in the foot by using the phrase, "If leave is given to bring in the Bill". We have not heard what the hon. Member in question wishes to say. [HON. MEMBERS: "The hon. Gentleman is here now."] Unfortunately, the hon. Gentleman was not here when the title of the Bill was read out, and we cannot go back now.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Dickens Mr Geoffrey Dickens , Littleborough and Saddleworth

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. There must have been many occasions on which hon. Members should have been here to present Bills or open Adjournment debates but were not. Often there is a jolly good excuse, and we must be fair-minded. But when an hon. Member walks into the Chamber before we move on to the next business and still does not present his Bill, it becomes inexcusable.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

I think that I must hear the hon. Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Hughes).

Photo of Mr John Hughes Mr John Hughes , Coventry North East

I apologise for being late, Mr. Speaker. Unfortunately, I was lobbied by a considerable number of Tory Members of Parliament about the Lloyd's question. I beg leave to speak to my important ten-minute Bill.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

We cannot take it now. The hon. Gentleman was not here at the time I called him. We must move on to the next business.

Several Hon. Members:

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Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

I ask hon. Members to sit down. We have had our fun.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Will the hon. Gentleman kindly resume his seat?

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. I shall give the hon. Gentleman one last chance. I should not like to ask him at this stage of a Parliament to leave the Chamber for having refused to obey the Chair. I ask the hon. Gentleman to resume his seat.