Orders of the Day — Scotland Bill (Programme)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:32 pm on 30th April 1998.

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Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor Lord Privy Seal, Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Privy Council Office) 7:32 pm, 30th April 1998

I had thought that the motion was sufficiently self-explanatory not to need much of an introduction. The hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. St. Aubyn) is new to the House, so he may not fully have understood the procedure. As you rightly pointed out, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the motion is narrow and specific.

For the benefit of those who have not fully kept up to date with what is happening in the House, I should give some background to the original motion. On Second Reading of the Scotland Bill, the House agreed, without a Division—I think that my memory is correct—that there should be a programme motion. The programme motion is a new procedure recommended by the Modernisation Committee to facilitate the pacing of debates, so that all parts of a Bill can be debated, which is not always what happens when we follow the alternative method of allocating time—a guillotine motion.

Conservative Members may care to reflect on the fact that that programme motion was tabled not only in my name, but in the names of the shadow Leader of the House, of the Liberal Democrat spokesman and of the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond). There was cross-party agreement on how the Bill should be handled.

The motion is narrow and details some aspects of how that agreement should be carried out in practice. As I had to tell the hon. Member for Guildford, it does not allow for an extra six and a half hours. Programme motions are experimental—the Modernisation Committee recommended that the House should try that new way of working. As we have said, we shall learn as we go on and ensure that the system works as well as possible.

Programme motions involve the establishment of a Business Committee, to work out how best to deal with the pacing of debates. An issue that has arisen on one or two occasions when a Bill has been programmed is whether—when debate is curtailed because of a statement or, indeed, because the Opposition have tabled a private notice question, as they did today—there should be injury time for the time that is lost. The motion simply ensures that, if time is taken because of a statement—we do not intend to have statements on these days, but something might crop up that requires one to be made—or because of a private notice question that is accepted by Madam Speaker, the time for consideration of the Scotland Bill will be protected. The motion provides for injury time, which I believe is for the convenience of the House.

That approach was agreed through the usual channels. If Conservative Back Benchers have any problems with that, or with other matters that are not as relevant, they should have consulted Conservative Front Benchers.