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

I apologise for the fact that you are on your feet once again, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I am quite sure that you will appreciate the exercise. You do a very sedentary job and, if I can assist in giving you some exercise, that must be a good thing.

The motion may not vary procedure, but it seeks to vary the programme. In welcoming it, is it not reasonable to allude to why it has come about? We are not debating the motion in a vacuum. It has not alighted on the House from the ether. It has resulted from a specific problem that arose in Committee. I shall not repeat it, as you have asked me not to, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

In an intervention on my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst, my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough said that he did not think that six and a half hours would be long enough, and I agree. In welcoming the motion, I believe that the Leader of the House responded to my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major), when, on 4 March, he referred to the utter unacceptability of the fact that the time permitted to discuss perhaps the most crucial and central part of the Bill had been limited to 50 minutes. Therefore, I welcome the fact that we are to have six and a half hours of guaranteed debate.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough that the issue is so important that six and a half hours is not long enough to debate it. I understand that the usual channels have agreed on the motion, but the issue is of such fundamental importance to the United Kingdom that it deserves more time. Perhaps the Leader of the House will consider giving us even longer to debate it. Given what my hon. Friend said about the Irish question in the last century and previous debates on devolution under former Labour Governments, it is right and proper that we should devote more time to it. I invite the Leader of the House to listen to the representations that have been made and perhaps to go back to the usual channels and seek to extend the debate beyond six and a half hours.