Parliamentary Procedure

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 6:56 pm on 20th June 1994.

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Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree 6:56 pm, 20th June 1994

With the leave of the House, I shall offer just a few comments on the debate, although obviously in a few minutes—I accept that I sought only a few minutes—I cannot comment on all the points that have been made, by any manner of means.

I understand why the hon. Member for Rochdale (Ms Lynne) said what she did and, perhaps, why she did not wish to give way to my right hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling). One of the interesting aspects of this matter is that my right hon. Friend's Committee—I think that my right hon. Friend will confirm it—has received almost no representations whether from the Liberal Democrats or from elsewhere about the handling of private Members' Bills, but no doubt he will have heard with interest some of the points that have been made.

The only point that I make in response to the hon. Lady is that she might at least have acknowledged that the Government have made clear their reasons for concern about the practical consequences of the proposals in the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill and their concern to make positive progress, to the extent that the Government themselves will consult on a number of key matters in relation to discrimination against disabled people—for example, discrimination in employment, in access to goods and services, and in the provision of financial services. They will consult also on extending access provisions and creating a new independent body to advise the Government and to report on progress towards eliminating discrimination. That is an important and positive attempt to seek genuinely workable and practicable ways forward, and the hon. Lady might at least have acknowledged that in pursuing the controversy.

Many other points have been made. I was grateful to my right hon. Friend for acknowledging that he feels, as I do and as the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, East (Mr. Brown) does, that it is important to make progress in this matter on the basis of consensus to the maximum possible extent. That has certainly been my approach.

We heard with great and genuine interest the cautionary notes struck by the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Cleethorpes (Mr. Brown) and others about how, sometimes, procedures that are regarded as arcane and complex are nevertheless an important part of hon. Members' armoury in pursuing their interests as Members. I say only—I see that the Liberal Chief Whip is looking anxiously at his watch lest I should talk the motion out, but that is not my intention—that some remarks made by the hon. Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Garrett) and some of my hon. Friends were less than gracious. Perhaps he gave the game away when he said that the problem was not the powers that the Government have given Select Committees or the efforts that I have made, but, and I think that I noted his comments right, that all that these Committees lack is the ambition of hon. Members to use those powers. That may or may not be the case, but it is a criticism not of the Government but of hon. Members.