Orders of the Day — Scotland Bill (Programme)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:37 pm on 30th April 1998.

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Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst 7:37 pm, 30th April 1998

I welcome the motion, although I regret the fact that the Leader of the House did not see fit to open the debate to explain the nature of the proposal. It is all very well for her to say that the motion is self-explanatory, but has the House of Commons fallen so low that hon. Members are now expected simply to glance at an item of business on the Order Paper—business for which debate is allowed until 10 pm, as you well know, Mr. Deputy Speaker—and say, without even the courtesy of an explanation from the Leader of the House, "Well, that's all right then"?

Admittedly, the right hon. Lady has—in response to the initiation of the debate by my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. St. Aubyn), which I welcome—given some explanation of what is on the Order Paper. However, her explanation seemed largely to consist of her saying that, because something called the usual channels have agreed on something, it must be all right. I do not share that view. The usual channels, whatever they are, may have a key role to play, but I hope that hon. Members can have a look-in occasionally, too.

The right hon. Lady seems surprised that Conservative Members want to participate in the debate. The fact that a number of hon. Members want to do so may be old-fashioned, for all I know. Perhaps I have not caught up with the modernisation of the House, or perhaps modernisation means that we should no longer bother to participate in debates.

I believe that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as a stout defender of the House and of Back Benchers' rights, would want to encourage us to debate the motion. You would not expect hon. Members, such as my hon. Friends, who are widely involved in the business of the House, simply to accept that because an unexplained item is on the Order Paper, and because something called the usual channels have agreed to it, it must necessarily be all right. We want to spend just a little time this evening exploring the implications of the motion. The right hon. Lady has been at great pains to say that there is no extra time available—as if extra time was some sort of crime; as if the Government were ashamed of any concession over time.