Form of Ballot Paper

Part of Schedule – in the House of Commons at 5:45 pm on 24th November 1997.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Peter Brooke Mr Peter Brooke Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee 5:45 pm, 24th November 1997

We are again debating the single question. During the last Parliament, I participated in many debates with the two Ministers on the Treasury Bench. They have heard me say a lot of things and, I hasten to say, I have heard them say a lot of things. In consequence, I cannot remember whether they have heard me tell the story of another single question, when Professor Joad, as he then was not, sat the scholarship at Oxford and was asked to write for three hours on the question, "Can a good man be happy on the rack?", to which Professor Joad, as he then was not, wrote for a minute and a half the single sentence, "If he were a very good man and it were a very bad rack, yes; if not, no." The referendum question—when we come to the referendum, next May, as it is most likely we shall—is more readily answerable in a minute and a half.

In the debate on clause 1 stand part, I asked the Minister another single question why he was so confident that the Government were right in their single formulation? Although I acknowledge that he may be a very good man, that also remains a very good rack. And answer came there none on that occasion. The debate on the schedule affords him a chance to redeem his earlier silence—now that he has had the opportunity to think about it—and he will still be within Joad's three hours. If the answer is too difficult or will take him more than three hours to answer, I shall ask him a simpler question why is it that—as I mentioned in the debate on Second Reading—clause 1 mentions a Greater London Authority made up of an elected assembly and a separately elected mayor whereas, curiously, the schedule asks Are you in favour of the government's proposals for a Greater London Assembly, made up of an elected mayor and a separately elected assembly?"? There must be some reason why that curious rearrangement has occurred. I, personally, should be happy to hear it.