Orders of the Day — Scotland Bill (Programme)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:52 pm on 30th April 1998.

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Photo of Gerald Howarth Gerald Howarth Conservative, Aldershot 7:52 pm, 30th April 1998

The House should be extremely grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) and to my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. St. Aubyn) for taking this opportunity to clarify an important issue.

It is disappointing to us all that the Leader of the House did not seize the opportunity at the start of this debate to advise us of the intention behind the motion. Had she done so at the beginning of the debate, rather than in a few interventions in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst—who was very forgiving in allowing her to intervene—we would have been able earlier to establish the truth, even if we are still unclear about the precise difference between injury time and extra time. I tell the right hon. Lady—in case she should seek to misrepresent me—that, although I realise that there is injury time and extra time in football matches, both provisions result in the game continuing rather longer than it might otherwise have done. However, that is perhaps a slightly semantic point.

Although the point dealt with in this debate may be narrow, it is one of principle. The Leader of the House said that the motion arises partly from the proceedings of the Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons, and that it has been agreed—in mysterious conversations through the usual channels—that the programme for the Scotland Bill will be adjusted to provide a guaranteed six and a half hours of debate on each day of the Bill's Report stage, which I welcome. I am sure that Conservative Members in the Chamber will welcome the fact that the Government have agreed to change the timetable on that important Bill.

This debate is a good example of why we need the type of change in programme heralded by the motion. I know that you ruled that some matters mentioned earlier in the debate should not have been so mentioned, Mr. Deputy Speaker. However, today's debate on economic and monetary union was similar to our debates during the Scotland Bill's Committee stage, in that proper time was not allowed to debate a matter of grave importance to the future of these islands. I argue that the people of Britain and hon. Members were not given—