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Orders of the Day — Business of the House

– in the House of Commons at 3:37 pm on 19th December 2000.

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Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health 3:37 pm, 19th December 2000

I beg to move, That, at this day's sitting, notwithstanding Standing Order No. 16 (Proceedings under an Act or on European Union Documents) the Speaker shall put the Question on the Motion in the name of Mr. Secretary Milburn relating to Human Fertilisation and Embryology not later than Seven o'clock. I shall speak briefly on the motion, as I do not want to take up the House's time, which should be targeted at the extremely important debate on the regulations.

The regulations are made under section 45 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990. That section provides for the regulations to be made under the affirmative procedures, which usually ensure automatic referral to Standing Committee for consideration. Debate in Committee is usually time limited to one and a half hours before the Question is put.

The Government were concerned to ensure that regulations such as these had proper time for debate and consideration. We have already made available 10 hours for debate in the Chamber both before and after the regulations were laid. We have also revoked the automatic referral of the regulations to a Standing Committee and have made prime time available in the main Chamber, as we have listened to the points made by hon. Members who are concerned about the issues. We feel that it is extremely important for Parliament thoroughly to debate those issues.

The motion provides for the debate to extend beyond the standard one and a half hours. If it is accepted, therefore, we will have a further three and a half hours of debate before the vote occurs at seven o'clock. I am not aware of any other statutory instrument that has received so much detailed scrutiny and debate on the Floor of the House. Indeed, the staff of the Journal Office do not know of any statutory instrument in their memory that has been accorded so much consideration.

Given the issues at stake and the strong views held across the House, I hope that hon. Members will accept a further extension of consideration of the issues on the Floor of the House. I commend the motion to the House.

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Speaker of the House of Commons

Does the hon. Gentleman have a point of order?

Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox Shadow Secretary of State for Health 3:39 pm, 19th December 2000

Many hon. Members and many people outside will think that the debate is being curtailed too greatly—that we have had too little time between the publication of the final draft regulations and the move to legislate tonight. Many will also feel that it should have been a matter for primary legislation, rather than a statutory instrument which is unamendable. However, there is a great desire for us to continue with the substantive debate. I shall therefore take up the House's time on the issue of process later. We need to move to the issues, which are extremely important, not to take up time on the timetable motion.

Photo of David Wilshire David Wilshire Conservative, Spelthorne 3:40 pm, 19th December 2000

I apologise for rising earlier, although the point could perhaps have been made in a point of order.

I do not want to take up the House's time, but the difficulty on these occasions is that these are emotive issues where there are no official spokesmen for Back Benchers. Over the years I have been here, the tradition seems to have been that every hon. Member who wishes to speak—it is always a relatively small number of hon. Members who wish to speak—has been able to do so and the House has allowed that to happen. On occasions, such as the first capital punishment debate that I was involved in, the Speaker of the day, Speaker Weatherill, allowed the debate to run beyond 10 o'clock.

I am not quarrelling with the Government. I am just expressing regret that there is to be a time limit for those hon. Members who wish to speak. I therefore hope that you, Mr. Speaker could give some guidance on the number of hon. Members who want to speak, so that those who feel strongly can fit their speeches in within the three and a half hours.

Question put and agreed to.Ordered,That, at this day's sitting, notwithstanding Standing Order No. 16 (Proceedings under an Act or on European Union Documents) the Speaker shall put the Question on the Motion in the name of Mr. Secretary Milburn relating to Human Fertilisation and Embryology not later than Seven o'clock.