Business of the House

Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 3:44 pm on 3 April 2001.

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Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham 3:44, 3 April 2001

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We will shortly debate a motion tabled by the Leader of the House on the business of the House, but before we can sensibly do that we need to have an idea of the terms of the timetable motion. I have just been to the Vote Office. It does not yet have the timetable motion, so we do not know its terms. That is a peculiar state of affairs, not least because the Leader of the House announced the timetable motion yesterday. May I suggest that it would be best for us to adjourn our debate until the timetable motion is in the Vote Office?

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have a copy of the Elections Bill, which has just been delivered an hour late to the Vote Office. The opening paragraph relates to explanatory notes, which will be prepared by the Home Office and published "as Bill 80—EN." We have been to the Vote Office, and although we shall debate the Bill shortly, no explanatory notes are available. [HON. MEMBERS: "We'll discuss it tomorrow."] Hold on; I believe that, since the Bill has been published today, it is important to publish the explanatory notes, too. Could you advise the House on that, Mr. Speaker?

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

The hon. Gentleman knows that the Bill was presented only today. The explanatory notes are a matter for the Minister, not the Chai.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your guidance on what appears to be a growing phenomenon of parliamentary truancy whereby hon. Members—I am sorry to say that, they are principally Labour Members—bunk off rather than turn up to ask the questions that they have tabled. Given that that is discourteous to the House, I ask you, in the words of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, with which I am sure you are familiar—

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

Order. That is not a proper point of order. I am here, and so is the hon. Gentleman. That is all he has to worry about.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office 3:46, 3 April 2001

I beg to move, That, in respect of the Elections Bill, notices of Amendments, new Clauses and new Schedules to be moved in Committee may be accepted by the Clerks at the Table before the Bill has been read a second time. The motion simply provides for amendments to be tabled in advance of Second Reading. The Bill needs to receive Royal Assent quickly: certainly before the Easter recess. We believe that all those involved in local elections—candidates, parties and electoral administrators—need certainty. Local authorities are obliged to incur wasted expenditure in anticipation of elections on 3 May, for example, through printing ballot papers and sending out postal vote papers, until the Bill receives Royal Assent. I therefore propose that all its stages be taken tomorrow. To be helpful to the Opposition and, indeed, all hon. Members, we propose that hon. Members can table amendments straight away rather than having to wait till the end of Second Reading.

We made draft copies of the Bill available to principal Opposition spokespeople yesterday evening to give them extra time to consider its provisions. I hope that hon. Members will perceive the motion as a common-sense measure and endorse it.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

As the Minister knows, I have raised a point of order on the explanatory notes. Does he not accept that they would be helpful to hon. Members? Can he suggest when they will be available? If amendments are to be tabled before Second Reading, the explanatory notes would be helpful, especially to Back-Bench Members, who do not have the advantage of large offices to advise them. They help hon. Members to determine the sort of amendments they may table.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that hon. Members will benefit from explanatory notes. I assure him that we will provide them as soon as possible. The motion that we are considering covers only the procedural question of whether amendments can be tabled in advance of Second Reading.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

The Minister has heard my point of order on the timetable motion. If he was in a position to disclose a draft copy of the Bill to my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench, why was not he in a position to place a timetable motion in the Table Office? When can we expect it to be there?

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

I give the right hon. and learned Gentleman the same commitment as I gave to the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton). I shall use best endeavours to ensure that we make it available as quickly as possible.

I hope that I have clarified the motion.

Photo of Martin Smyth Martin Smyth UUP, Belfast South

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I was trying to catch the Minister's eye earlier to query whether he had said that the main Opposition parties had been given copies of the Bill yesterday evening. One has to bear in mind that there are other Opposition parties too. I wonder whether the Northern Ireland parties had a copy of the Bill yesterday evening, because I was not aware of it, and the Bill specifically affects Northern Ireland.

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

I hope that the Minister will take note of that point of order, because I would expect all Opposition parties to be given notice.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. A promise was made yesterday that we would receive a draft copy, because most of the Bill has to do with Northern Ireland. That promise was not kept: my party did not get a copy until this morning, after hunting round the various Whips' offices and making phone calls. We did not get our copy until just before the House sat this afternoon. Northern Ireland parties are implicated in the legislation in a big way, so surely they were entitled to see the Bill as soon as possible.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would it be in order for me to apologise to hon. Gentlemen from the Northern Ireland parties? I do not know why what happened did happen, and I apologise. As both the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth) and the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) have said, the Bill very much affects their part of this country; they were entitled to see it, and I apologise that they did not have it earlier.

Photo of Mr Martin Bell Mr Martin Bell Independent, Tatton

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I put the case for the many independents in local Government? Surely they are entitled to as much consideration as the candidates from the regular political parties.

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

Third time lucky, Mr. Speaker.

Given the representations that we have just heard in the form of points of order, Mr. Speaker, I wonder whether I could begin by saying something that I was going to ask you about. I collected the Elections Bill from the Vote Office after Question Time at 3.30; it was an hour late and, as we have heard, there are no explanatory notes to go with it at the moment—

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

Order. Perhaps I can help the hon. Lady. The Bill was made available as soon as it was presented to the House.

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I said that the Bill was late because earlier in the day I had asked the people in the Vote Office when they had been notified that it would be delivered to them. I was told that it was expected to be there by 2.30. That is why I suggested that it was an hour late.

In the circumstances—

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

Order. Perhaps the hon. Lady will take my word for it: I heard the Bill being presented earlier today, and it could be placed in the Vote Office only after it was presented before the House.

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

Of course I accept your word for that, Mr. Speaker

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

Perhaps my hon. Friend will allow me to complete a sentence first.

I would like to make a helpful suggestion, because clearly we are dealing with matters of great concern to Members in all parts of the House. I appreciate the fact that those on the Conservative Front Bench received a draft copy of the Bill last night, and we are very grateful for that. None the less, the examination and scrutiny of any Bill is equally a matter for Back Benchers on both sides of the House.

In view of the representations that you have just heard in the form of points of order from other parties whose representatives did not receive a draft copy, Mr. Speaker, are you prepared to advise the House of whether you will accept manuscript amendments until a late stage, just before we begin of our proceedings on the Bill tomorrow afternoon? Many Members will not wish to draft their amendments until they have had sight of the explanatory notes.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

My hon. Friend will not have forgotten that the Government intend to take all stages of the Bill under a guillotine tomorrow. How does she imagine that the House will be able to judge what will happen in the Committee stage? Hon. Members may wish to table amendments for Report. How does my hon. Friend imagine that they will be able to do that if we are operating under a guillotine?

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

That is exactly why I began by suggesting—and would have suggested, even if I had not heard the representations from other parties—that you might consider manuscript amendments for tomorrow's proceedings, Mr. Speaker. My right hon. Friend is right: we shall be taking all stages of the Bill under a guillotine. Indeed, the House will not need me to remind it that tomorrow we shall be taking all stages of two Bills under guillotine motions. Careful deliberation will therefore be needed to ensure that we have adequate time, especially for the Committee and Report stages of each Bill. That applies particularly to the Elections Bill, as we have had so little time to consider it.

Having had a few minutes on the Bench in which to flip through the Elections Bill, I immediately see many matters that are not only detailed but potentially controversial. Although there is agreement between the parties on wanting the Bill to proceed, it cannot do so at the expense of proper scrutiny on the Floor of the House, or of the right of people to ask questions and to have the right length of debate.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

My hon. Friend advances a coherent and constructive argument. Does she not feel that the Government are wrong to introduce a programme motion for the Bill? We are dealing with local government democracy in the Bill, and it is entirely inappropriate that there should be a programme motion. Bearing in mind the complications in the Bill, if the House needs to sit late tomorrow night, it should have the opportunity to do so and should not be inhibited by any programme or guillotine motion.

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

I agree with my hon. Friend. I am concerned, because we shall be dealing with two important Bills tomorrow under those terms. During the business statement yesterday, the Leader of the House was asked whether we would sit late tomorrow night. I forget her exact words, but she implied that we would not. That suggests that the guillotining is going to be pretty ruthless.

My hon. Friend asked about the Government's intention to programme. Programming has become the hallmark of this Government. Although there is co-operation, and a need to see the Bill discharged, I none to the less urge the Minister to allow the House—particularly its Back-Bench Members—to give the Bill the proper scrutiny that it deserves.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

Is there not a further problem? This is the first time the local government representatives and their associations will have seen the Bill. They may well want to make representations about its contents. In the ordinary course of events, no amendments would be taken after the House rises tonight. In those circumstances, how on earth are those people going to have their point of view properly listened to by the elected representatives sitting in this place?

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

My right hon. and learned Friend is right. Glancing through the Bill for just a few minutes, I notice, for example, a provision about the extension of the nomination period in relation to individual candidates. There is also the matter of clause 6, which deals with compensation to local authorities or candidates. The House will want to probe exactly what is intended by that, and, in the absence of an explanatory note, I have not been able to second-guess it at this stage.

The programme for tomorrow's business includes two very important Bills. The Elections Bill will require a lot of debate and scrutiny. Mr. Speaker, may I urge you to consider being as flexible as possible, according to the powers available to you, in relation to representations from Back Benchers on both sides of the House, and to the ways in which amendments could be tabled to the Bill? Perhaps you could also give us guidance on how the Report stage will be handled, as we shall not have heard the relevant deliberations by the time any amendments would have to be tabled?

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

Does not the hon. Lady agree that the most difficult part of the Bill has to do with Northern Ireland? We have two systems of voting there. We have a system involving putting a straight "X" for electing Members to this House, and the "one, two, three" single transferable vote system in local government. That leads to all sorts of complications, because the constituencies for Westminster are not—

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

Order. Perhaps I can help the hon. Gentleman. We are not scrutinising the Bill at the moment. We are discussing the business of the House, under motion 3. That motion is very narrow, and deals with the ability to table amendments. We are, therefore, going wide of the motion if we start discussing the detail of the Bill. That will come later.

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

May I pick up the thrust of the point made by the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley)? The measures dealing with matters pertaining to Northern Ireland are important and no doubt amendments to them will be tabled, which brings me back to timetabling. How will the allocation of time be dealt with? It is a great pity that a timetable motion is not before the House now, because we would have a clearer idea of how time will be divided up between the various parts of a Bill that we have only just seen.

4 pm

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

The problem is that we have only part of the information. As my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning) said, we know only the barest details of what confronts us and what is, after all, an extremely important and rare, if not unprecedented, event in our constitutional arrangements. We are discussing nothing less than changing election dates. I should have thought that even this Government would want to ensure that the House has a proper opportunity to consider those matters in detail, yet we do not know how much time they will deign to give us tomorrow.

The Leader of the House was kind enough to say yesterday that an allocation of time motion relating to the Elections Bill and, indeed, another Bill would be tabled. We have been told that two Bills will be considered on the same day.

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

Order. I must be very firm: the right hon. Gentleman is going wide of the motion. I cannot allow him to do so, because I am sure that he will want to speak on other matters.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

You can take that as being absolutely for sure, Mr. Speaker. I am concentrating on this matter right now; I am warming to my theme.

The Leader of the House told us yesterday that there will be proceedings—plural—on the Elections Bill. Until the motion was tabled, that was the only hint that we will have debates on Second Reading, in Committee, and on Report and Third Reading.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

My right hon. Friend will want to remind the House that unless the Bill is amended in Committee, there will be no consideration on Report and the process will be further truncated.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

Regrettably, that is true and my right hon. and learned Friend is correct. I hold out no great hope or optimism that we shall be able to amend the Bill in Committee. It has been in our possession for only a few minutes, but even a glance at it suggests to me that there is ample scope for amendment. Therefore, we should be concerned about the opportunity given to us by the motion properly to amend the Bill.

The motion says that notices of Amendments, new Clauses"— that is a useful hint—"and new Schedules", which is an even bigger hint, I would have thought, to be moved in Committee may be accepted by the Clerks at the Table before the Bill has been read a second time. That suggests that we shall be able to table amendments, new clauses and new schedules right up to the vote on Second Reading. That in turn suggests that, were we to agree to the motion, which I hope we do not, we would face a possible plethora of manuscript amendments being tabled after Second Reading and before we consider the Bill in a Committee of the whole House. We would then be in the invidious position of facing the possibility of debating a number of manuscript amendments of which most Members of the House were unaware until that point.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

Will my right hon. Friend contemplate this point? He is discussing manuscript amendments being tabled up to the point at which we begin consideration on Second Reading, but the truth is that the House needs to consider and reflect on the arguments advanced on Second Reading. That argues for amendments to be tabled in Committee.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

Of course, my right hon. and learned Friend is correct, although I had not quite reached that point in my reasoning. When considering any Bill, never mind a Bill of such gravity and importance, we would usually expect the opportunity to consider what had been said on Second Reading, take soundings, undertake consultations, accept representations from outside and table amendments in Committee.

That would be the normal process, but we are faced with an absurdity in this instance. Apparently, we are expected to engage in a truncated Second Reading debate under a guillotine; we will vote on Second Reading; then, and only then, the shutters will come down and it will no longer be possible to table amendments.

I might want to delay submitting my amendment until I have heard the whole of the Second Reading debate. If time permitted, I might well want to hear the Minister's winding-up speech before considering what amendments to table for the Committee stage.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

My right hon. Friend's textual exegesis is second to none, but, in fairness to the Leader of the House, does he not think that she possibly—and presumptuously—intended the word "proceedings" to refer to a single event?

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

I cannot believe that. I think that my hon. Friend, unusually, has got the wrong end of the stick. I assume that the Leader of the House deliberately used the word in the plural because of the devastating combination that would confront us under a guillotine: in quick succession, Second Reading, a Committee of the whole House, Report—if amendments had been made in Committee—and Third Reading.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

In the normal run of procedure, when we have a Standing Committee, there is the safeguard of a Programming Sub-Committee. How can the safeguards built into the normal passage of legislation by the good offices of such a Sub-Committee be taken into account when a Bill is being taken through all its stages in one day on the Floor of the House?

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

Order. That has nothing to do with the tabling of amendments, which is what the motion is about.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

My hon. Friend may wish to consider what he has said. It might have a bearing in some circumstances—but, guided by you, Mr. Speaker, I could not possibly speculate on that.

It strikes me, at first glance, that items in the Bill mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning)—we have had only a few minutes in which to look at it—suggest considerable scope for amendments, which, of course, are allowed by the motion. The controversial issue of a fixed date might be the subject of one debate; a change of circumstances in the renomination of a candidate might be the subject of another. There is our friend "as if for", which is a variation of the "deeming" method that we have seen recently. There is the whole question of compensation—not easement of expense limits—on which I myself might wish to table an amendment.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

In regard to limits on expenses, is it not difficult for us to determine whether it is appropriate to approve the motion until we have had the opportunity of receiving representations from the Local Government Association on whether the 50 per cent. figure is sufficient?

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

My right hon. and learned Friend raises an important matter. We are being told that a Bill that we have only just received will go through all its stages tomorrow, and that the motion allows the tabling of amendments, new clauses and new schedules, all of which could well be the subject of serious representations from those directly involved in local elections and local councils up and down the land, whose circumstances will vary. Given the compressed nature of the timetable that is being suggested, I should have thought that the lack of any time for those outside the House to make legitimate representations to Members would seriously undermine the credibility of the Bill, should it be passed.

It is all very well for the Minister to say, "It is all very uncontroversial; it has all been agreed, everyone is happy with it, and therefore we need not bother with it too much, need we?" We know from bitter recent experience—the other Bill that we are to debate tomorrow, which you will not want me to discuss or even refer to, Mr. Speaker, is standing testimony to this— that, if we do not scrutinise legislation adequately, mistakes are likely to arise.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

Would my right hon. Friend care to make this point? We cannot judge whether the motion now before the House is appropriate until we know what, if any, representations were made to the Government by the Local Government Association and other bodies when the Bill was originally drafted.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

My right hon. and learned Friend is correct, but I hazard a guess that the answer is adjacent to zero. That should disturb us all greatly; it should not give us any assurance.

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it might be helpful if when the Minister replied, he could say when authority was given for the drafting of the Bill? [Interruption.]

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

The Minister has just indicated from a sedentary position that he is not going to bother replying to the debate. I think that that was the gist of what he has just muttered. I am beginning to think that this matter will now be subjected to a Division. I am certainly of a mind now to seek to divide the House on it, if only to seek to censure the Minister for the fact that he has indicated that he will not reply to the debate. A debate not replied to should be subjected to a Division, so that we can test the view of the House. I thought that I would give a little indication of that at this stage to help my colleagues.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

I am trying to be reasonable and rational, because I agree with the Bill. I wonder whether my right hon. Friend would indicate whether—this specifically relates to the motion —the Clerks at the Table will accept new clauses, new schedules and amendments to be moved in Committee after the Bill has had its Second Reading. Clearly, in the light of what is said on Second Reading, it may be necessary to table amendments. Will they be acceptable in manuscript form?

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

It might be helpful if I said that the motion simply allows amendments to be tabled before the Bill has been read a Second time. It is about timing. It has no bearing on the scope of amendments that may be proposed.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. That is helpful guidance and we are grateful for it, but can you tell us whether you would be minded to accept manuscript amendments in Committee, bearing it in mind that, in the ordinary course of events, amendments must be tabled by tonight? It would be enormously helpful to us if you accepted amendments in Committee and, if we have a Report stage, on Report.

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

The right hon. and learned Gentleman will know that we are dealing with a Committee of the whole House. It is for the Chairman of Ways and Means to consider that matter, not me.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would it be possible for you this evening, once you have had an opportunity to discuss the matter with the Chairman of Ways and Means, to say what the likely ruling would be? It would be of enormous value to the House to know that amendments could be tabled in Committee.

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

The Chairman of Ways and Means, like me, cannot deal with hypothetical matters. Obviously, amendments will have to be weighed up by the Chairman of Ways and Means, as they are weighed up by me.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

That is extremely helpful, Mr. Speaker. We are all grateful for that, but you referred a moment ago to amendments. The motion also talks about new clauses and new schedules. Therefore, potentially, a new schedule could—

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

I will happily give way to the Minister, who is not going to reply to the debate.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

I may have misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman, but I just want to make it clear that, if he divides the House against the motion, amendments, new clauses and new schedules to he moved in Committee might not be accepted by the Clerks before the Bill has been read a Second time. That may be the effect of dividing the House. I want to make sure that he has understood that.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

I am always grateful for the patronising guidance of the Minister from the depth of his vast parliamentary experience. I always feel completely inadequate when faced by this Minister across the Chamber, and I find his guidance extremely helpful. I should, however, tell him that I shall make up my own mind on what I do and whether I seek to divide the House, and that when I do, I will probably know what I am up to.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

I shall be very chary in the way in which I phrase my intervention. Would I be right in supposing that, had the Government been minded to allow amendments in Committee, the motion could have been drafted in such a manner as to say so?

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

Of course, but it is perfectly obvious that the Government's objective in this whole exercise is to minimise the opportunity for consultation, representation, debate, amendments and consideration. We can draw no other conclusion than that. Although the Minister has tried, rather feebly, to portray the motion as an act of parliamentary generosity by the Government, those of us who have been in this place for more than a dog-watch will know that the situation is precisely the opposite.

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Conservative, Reigate

As one who has been in this place for the same length of dog-watch as the Minister, I should perhaps tell my right hon. Friend that, before he takes into account the Minister's guidance on this Bill, on three occasions during our consideration of the Criminal Justice and Police Bill, the Minister's guidance on likely events turned out to be terminologically inexact.

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

Order. That is nothing to do with the matter before us.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

No, but it is interesting.

I should like for a moment to concentrate on the word "schedules", which is rather important to us in this debate. It would be one thing if we were dealing only with amendments—although amendments can be a matter of great seriousness and very wide-ranging, of course subject to selection by you, Mr. Speaker—but when we discuss the possibility, as is stated in the motion, of new schedules to the Bill, that raises the possibility of a wide-ranging debate and of considerable change to the thrust and direction of the Bill itself. No less could be said of new clauses.

Once we get into the territory of new clauses and schedules and the possibility of their being moved were they to be selected, the relationship between Second Reading and Committee, and between Committee and Report, comes into play, as does the matter—which we are not discussing today, although we shall tomorrow—of the time available for them. Therefore, time and again, we keep coming back to the fact that hon. Members must make some type of judgment, within the terms of the motion, on whether we think that it is credible or acceptable, in terms of parliamentary accountability and scrutiny of the Bill, to countenance what is suggested in the motion.

Although it may be possible for all these matters to be accepted by the Clerks at the Table before the Bill has been read a second time"— in other words, as I understand it, under the guillotine, right up until a Division, if there is to be one, on conclusion of debate on Second Reading—we face the possibility of a very complex schedule being tabled at the last minute trying to take account of what has been discussed on Second Reading, and the House being forced under a guillotine either to debate the matter barely at all or to divide on a possibly very complex schedule, although we are scarcely aware of its content. That puts us in an impossible position.

Even if the Government are attempting to say, "Aren't we being generous, having guillotined this Bill and said", as the Leader of the House did, "that we will have all the proceedings under a guillotine in less than one parliamentary day?", hon. Members are now in the invidious position that we—with you, Mr. Speaker—may have to make a very rapid judgment on a complicated manuscript new schedule or new clause and then be forced to make up our minds on that provision on a matter as important as elections.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

Although we are discussing procedure, namely the motion on the Order Paper, does my right hon. Friend agree that we are aware of only part of the process? Until we see the timetable, we do not know when, for example, the Bill will be considered on Second Reading. We are seeing but part of the process, not the whole. How can the House conceivably vote successfully on this motion?

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend. I was going to touch on that issue, and now is as good a time as any to do it. We know that we have only just had the Bill and the Government propose that it should be dealt with tomorrow, but we do not know at what stage tomorrow it will be dealt with. It is an important point. My right hon. and learned Friend has highlighted the fact that those of us who will try to balance our time between wanting to participate in the upcoming debate and attempting to rush off and start drafting numerous amendments and new schedules to the Bill—as I fully intend to do—do not know how much time we have available to do that. The motion states simply before the Bill has been read a second time. For the sake of argument, let us suppose that a statement were made tomorrow, or that you, Mr. Speaker, were to grant an emergency debate under Standing Order 24. From the time made available tomorrow for the debate on the programme motion, hon. Members could judge when the debate on Second Reading would start and conclude, and when any vote would occur. That in turn would tell us how much time we had to meet the requirements of the motion. However, we know none of that and we are being forced to debate this motion without knowing what the Government will impose on the House tomorrow.

Photo of Graham Brady Graham Brady Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

Is not another serious possibility that, if consideration of the Bill is guillotined, as we expect that it will be, the passage of this motion may disadvantage any amendments or new schedules tabled with the benefit of knowledge of what has been said on Second Reading? Amendments tabled before Second Reading may take up all the available time.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

Indeed, and we shall therefore have an odd phenomenon. I propose to draft today, without having heard the Second Reading debate, amendments that necessarily will be somewhat speculative—although I shall do my best to imagine what might be said on Second Reading. Conversely, as my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady) pointed out, those hon. Members who wait for the Second Reading debate and then try to make sense of new schedules or new clauses will be at a curious disadvantage.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

May I point out a further disadvantage to which my right hon. Friend will be put? I know that it is not his practice to attend Westminster Hall

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

My right hon. Friend says "never", but I know that there is a debate on the future of the green belt, and that that is a master of some concern to him. He might be minded to attend the whole debate in Westminster Hall tomorrow—

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

Order. Whether the right hon. Gentleman is so minded or not has nothing to do with the motion.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

I am grateful for your protection, Mr. Speaker, from my right hon. and learned Friend's attempts at seduction.

We are in an extraordinarily difficult position. The Government have tried to portray the motion as an act of generosity, but it is completely the opposite. The House is in an invidious position, with hon. Members being asked to tamper with the country's electoral arrangements—no less—in a limited amount of time and with no proper time allowed for representations from outside, consideration or consultation. There is the great risk that any amendments, new clauses or new schedules that are tabled will be defective, either for the reason set out by my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale, West a moment ago, or simply because insufficient time has been allowed for their preparation.

Photo of Gwyneth Dunwoody Gwyneth Dunwoody Labour, Crewe and Nantwich

The right hon. Gentleman makes the serious and welcome point that the House should never rush through legislation without looking at it. However, that should not detract from the fact that it would not be the first time that hon. Members had written new schedules or amendments without having any idea of what was contained in the Bill connected with the subject matter.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

It is always reassuring to know that there is a precedent, in which I am, generally speaking, somewhat of a believer. However, my point is that the House is being put at a peculiar disadvantage on this occasion. If we are to be bereft of a summing up by the Minister, there will be no option for some of us but to seek—

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is no requirement, in terms of parliamentary propriety, to debate amendments in the chronological order of their tabling? Although no Conservative Member cares a tinker's cuss whether the Minister of State replies to the debate, does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be entirely appropriate for the Parliamentary Secretary, Privy Council Office to be plucked from his office and instructed to return forthwith to the Chamber?

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

We always welcome the Parliamentary Secretary for his courtesy and consideration to the House, and his presence would be advantageous. However, the ordering of the sequence of amendments is for Mr. Speaker to determine. We always respect his wisdom in these matters, as we would on this occasion.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

I was about to conclude my remarks, but before I do so I shall of course give way to my hon. Friend.

Photo of Graham Brady Graham Brady Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

I am afraid that my right hon. Friend may have treated with undue levity the comments of the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), for whom both he and I have great respect. The hon. Lady said that such a state of affairs was not without precedent. However, does my right hon. Friend agree that, in a constitutional measure of this sort, one should set a higher standard? We should not necessarily expect this measure to proceed without proper precedent. I know of no such precedent. Does my right hon. Friend?

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

I certainly do not and would be interested to know whether the hon. Lady does, for the reason that my hon. Friend has given. This is a constitutional measure of the greatest importance—we know that the Prime Minister has agonised over it—yet the Government seek to rush it through in this unseemly way.

All in all, this is a very sad day. The arrangements are most unsatisfactory. Even in the event of an elegant, comprehensive and lengthy reply from the Minister, I believe that some right hon. and hon. Members may have no option but to vote against the motion to express their disapproval of the whole matter.

Photo of Mr Paul Tyler Mr Paul Tyler Liberal Democrat, North Cornwall 4:26, 3 April 2001

The core concern, as I see it, is that although the motion may be intrinsically sound and acceptable in itself, the fact that it does not have alongside it any timetable, programme motion or guillotine arrangements makes it extremely difficult to judge whether it is acceptable. For all we know, the Government may intend to bring matters to a conclusion at 7 o'clock or 11 o'clock tomorrow evening, or at 2 o'clock or 7 o'clock on Thursday morning. In those circumstances, it is extremely difficult for us to judge how the matter will be addressed in the House tomorrow.

Liberal Democrats have no problem with the motion, and I think that that is probably true of other parties as well. The key issue is whether we will be given adequate time to debate properly the amendments that will be brought forward under the motion and give the matter the scrutiny that it requires. I hope that someone on the Government Front Bench can give us an indication of the intended timetable. I have been in the Chamber for a couple of hours, and I may have missed something, but as far as I am aware there has not even been any discussion across the House through the usual channels.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman heard my point of order. I went to the Table Office and was told that no timetable motion had yet been tabled, so we must assume that the terms have not been drafted.

Photo of Mr Paul Tyler Mr Paul Tyler Liberal Democrat, North Cornwall

I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but that may not be entirely so. He will know from his experience in government that discussions sometimes take place through the usual channels before the final version of a motion is tabled. It has been known for programme motions to receive the support of all parties in certain circumstances. Given, as I understand it, that the Conservative party—

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

Order. I have spoken at length about the narrowness of the motion. Programming does not come into it—it is strictly about the time limit for amendments. That is what we must debate.

Photo of Mr Paul Tyler Mr Paul Tyler Liberal Democrat, North Cornwall

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker. The importance of the motion—which we support—is not its intrinsic merit but how it fits with the business of the House. My concern is that we do not know how it will operate tomorrow, which will make it difficult to judge its merits.

I plead with the Government to ignore the fact that the Conservative party seems to be at sixes and sevens on this issue. After all, Conservative Members have wanted these elections to be delayed for some weeks, and now that the necessary motion has come before the House to make that a practicality, it is difficult to understand where they are coming from.

Will the Government give us an indication of what the timetable is? Without knowing that, it is extremely difficult to address the motion in a fair and balanced way.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party 4:29, 3 April 2001

The House should be aware of the immense part of the Elections Bill that refers to Northern Ireland. Four pages refer to England and Wales, but 12 refer to Northern Ireland. I would have thought it only right for a Northern Ireland Minister to be on the Government Front Bench, at least today, because the largest part of the Bill deals with Northern ireland.

The amazing thing is that Northern Ireland does not need to be included in the Bill, as our elections do not need to coincide. They are not even in the same month. We in Northern Ireland know why this has happened—the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister want it, whereas the other parties do not. To us, this is a political move for political advantage.

Elections are at the heart of democracy and there should be no interference, if possible, in the way in which elections are run. Part I of the Bill deals with parliamentary elections rules, about which I am supposed to table amendments. We then come to a large part about local election rules, about which I am supposed to table amendments. [Interruption.] I am looking at the motion, Mr. Speaker, and I am aware of what is in it; it is about tabling amendments, and I am sticking to that. I tried to get that through to the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning), but you cut me off before I put my question, Mr. Speaker. I am trying to stick to the subject of tabling amendments.

I always thought that we tabled amendments after we heard what the Government thought about a Bill and what it meant. I have written a three-page letter to the Prime Minister, by request from the Northern Ireland Office, in which I put all my views. It was not even acknowledged and I do not know what the response will be. How can I carry out my duty as leader of a party in Northern Ireland when I do not know the response of the Government to the Bill?

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

Does the hon. Gentleman know of any discussion involving the Northern Ireland Office, his party or any of the parties in Northern Ireland—

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller Labour, Ellesmere Port and Neston

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday, in answer to the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said: As for the way in which amendments will be tabled, it will be done in accordance with the usual procedures of the House."—[Official Report, 2 April 2001; Vol. 366, c. 42.] As I understand it, the motion seeks to extend the normal procedures of the House. Am I right in saying that if the motion were to be rejected, we would fall back to the normal procedures of the House, which would be of lesser benefit to Members on both sides? Would it be in order to ask you to ask whether any Member of the House does not want the extension to the normal procedures, so that we can get on to some sensible business?

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

It would not be in order to ask me because I am not here to say what the benefits would be of approving the motion. All I can do is to advise the House on how narrow the motion is. It is very narrow, and I would say to the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) that he is nearly going beyond its terms. Perhaps he will assist me by getting back to the terms of the motion.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

I am glad to hear that you think I am not beyond, but only nearly beyond, the motion, Mr. Speaker. I will not make any further comment and I will leave to your imagination what I am thinking.

In response to the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg), I know that all the parties in Northern Ireland have had discussions with either the Secretary of State or the Minister in charge of elections, and it is clear that the First Minister and his deputy want this delay, while the other parties do not. There are many within the Ulster Unionist party who do not want it either.

It is all right for those in the House who have only four pages to look at; Northern Ireland Members have the vast bulk of the Bill to look at. When we table amendments, we will not know whether we are tabling them with the right view of the Bill, because there is no explanation—not even in the Bill itself. That is a legitimate point to make on this motion, Mr. Speaker, because it concerns the tabling of amendments. How can we do that unless we have some idea of the Government's view, which would usually come out in a Second Reading debate? That is what Second Reading is for.

The matter is complex for Northern Ireland because it has different constituencies for local government. One constituency has four different—

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

Order. This is where the hon. Gentleman is going beyond the scope of the motion.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

Perhaps I can ask for your help, Mr. Speaker. How can I table an amendment that will cover a situation in which, instead of one council, we have local government councils in four parliamentary constituencies?

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

All I can tell the hon. Gentleman is that whenever I wanted to table amendments, I sought the advice of the Clerks. That is my advice to him.

Photo of Ian Paisley Ian Paisley Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

The Clerks will have a long session, because there are great difficulties. As the largest part of the Bill concerns Northern Ireland, there should be adequate time to consider the amendments. We may get a bit of paper that says that the amendments will not be discussed at all. Even if they are on the amendment paper, with the guillotine we may never reach them.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham 4:37, 3 April 2001

I want to reinforce what the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) and my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning) said. The motion is narrowly phrased but important, and I view it with dismay. I am perfectly prepared to accept that we need emergency legislation, although I would have put a date for the local council elections at the back end of this year—but that is not a matter for this debate.

This is a profoundly unsatisfactory state of affairs, for several reasons. Critically, the motion is only part of the process, and until we also see the timetable motion we do not know whether it is right to agree to it. We are told that we can table amendments until the Bill has its Second Reading, but we do not know whether there will be a substantial gap between Second Reading and Committee stage. If the Committee stage is taken immediately following Second Reading, and that is to be concluded very early tomorrow, in the afternoon sitting, the proposal in the motion is wholly inadequate.

Until we see the timetable motion, we are being asked to discuss an important matter of parliamentary procedure with only one part of it before us. That seems absolute nonsense to me.

Another reason for not liking the motion is that I have already raised with several right hon. and hon. Members—and with you, on a point of order, Mr. Speaker—whether amendments will be acceptable during the Committee stage. You were kind enough to tell the House that that is, in essence, a matter for the Chairman of Ways and Means. No doubt that is correct, but it would have been perfectly possible for the Government, when drafting the motion, to provide for the acceptance of amendments, new clauses and new schedules during Committee.

Photo of Sir Nicholas Lyell Sir Nicholas Lyell Conservative, North East Bedfordshire

As you, Mr. Speaker, were kind enough to say that the question of amendments at the Committee stage would be a matter for the Chairman of Ways and Means, I took that to mean that Members of the House would at least be able to table amendments at that stage so that they could be considered by the Chairman of Ways and Means. I regarded that as enlightening the House. Did my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) have the same impression?

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

Yes, I believe that my right hon. and learned Friend is right about that. However, whether the amendments, new clauses and new schedules will be debatable or debated is a matter partly for the timetable and partly for the discretion of the Chairman of Ways and Means. You are nodding, Mr. Speaker, so I assume that I have got it right, which is of great reassurance to me—

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

Order. Perhaps I can help the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Amendments and new schedules can be tabled, but it is at the discretion of the Chair whether they are accepted for debate.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

The point that I think my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Bedfordshire (Sir N. Lyell) wants to make, and which I certainly want to make, is that as the Government thought it right to make provision for the tabling of amendments, new schedules and whatever up until the moment of Second Reading, it would have been perfectly possible for them to have covered the Committee stage and Report. Had they done that, people such as myself and my right hon. and learned Friend would have been much happier.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

The hon. Gentleman says that he doubts it, but the truth is that many Members are seriously concerned about the House's procedures. They feel that the House has been abused by Labour Members over a long period—[Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that shouting by Government Members from a sedentary position once again reinforces a point that so many Conservative Members have believed for a long time—Labour Members do not care about democracy. They believe in an elective dictatorship, and this motion is yet another example of that.

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

Order. I know that the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) will not answer that intervention.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

In view of your comments, Mr. Speaker, I will not respond in detail to my hon. Friend's comments. However, had we more confidence in the democratic credentials of the Labour party, we should be happier with the motion.

The plain truth is that the Bill is important. It will affect many individuals. It also raises technical points of some complexity. One can determine what the amendments should be only as a result partly of representations made from outside and partly from debate in the House. Under the motion, all that we will be able to do with certainty is to table amendments right up until the end of the Second Reading debate, but not thereafter. We should be much happier if we could do so during Committee and during Report stage, if there is one.

That brings me to my final point. We have been told by the Minister of State, Home Office that draft copies of the Bill were given to my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton and, no doubt, to the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler)—or whoever—in the Liberal Democratic party. That is good as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. The hon. Member for North Antrim made the point, as did the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth), that the Ulster Unionists were not given a proper view of any draft Bill. Scottish National party Members have said nothing, because none of them are in the Chamber, but no doubt they were in a similar position.

It is a lamentable state of affairs when significant minority parties are ignored. Indeed, the matter goes much further than that. What are the rights of Back Benchers? I am delighted that my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton received the draft Bill. That is splendid, but as she knows full well, I often proceed on my own agenda, and I would have liked to have seen the Bill—and so, I am sure, would my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Bedfordshire and my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth).

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

I remind my right hon. and learned Friend that in my opening remarks I emphasised that although Conservative Front-Bench Members received a copy of the draft Bill last night, as shadow Leader of the House I was concerned about the rights of Back Benchers.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

My hon. Friend is always so concerned, which is very much to her credit, but I take advantage of the opportunity to say that it is the duty of the Government to consult the House if they want their legislation to be passed. We are the House; it is not only my hon. Friend.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

No, we are the House, and I even include the hon. Gentleman in that, although I sometimes find that a rather difficult thing to do.

My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has been saying for a long time that the Government should have published enabling provisions for the legislation some time ago. If the Government had heeded his advice, a draft Bill would have been published 10 or 14 days ago and we would have had an informed discussion last week after proper consultation with the Local Government Association and other representatives. As it is, an important constitutional Bill will be rammed through the House tomorrow on the back of this motion and a timetable motion, the contents of which we do not know—and on any view of the matter that is profoundly unsatisfactory.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath 4:46, 3 April 2001

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) and the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley) have made a particularly important point about the fact that a copy of the draft Bill was provided only for official Opposition Front-Bench Members and not to the hon. Gentleman, even though, as he pointed out, he is the leader of a party in Northern Ireland. I have the advantage of having a copy of that draft Bill. One of the significant changes to the Bill since last night refers, as the hon. Gentleman suspected it would, to Northern Ireland. Clause 4 contains no fewer than six changes to the text about Northern Ireland—[Interruption.] I am trying to restrict my comments to the motion. The concern expressed by the hon. Gentleman—

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. If the hon. Gentleman wants to be as good as his word and to restrict his comments to the motion, he will have to wait another day to continue with his point.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

My point concerns the way in which amendments can be tabled, and it was made by the hon. Member for North Antrim. He is a party leader, but he did not have the advantage of seeing the draft Bill, as my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton did, so it is difficult for him to know how to table amendments. As he says, much of the Bill relates to Northern Ireland. One of the significant changes made to the Bill since last night relates to the text on Northern Ireland, and I have counted no fewer than six amendments. That makes it more difficult to table amendments—

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. The motion is not concerned with difficulty; it is simply about timing.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

I am grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I simply wanted to echo the point about minority parties which was made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham. It will be difficult to debate amendments when even the leaders of minority parties have not have the chance to see the draft Bill.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office 4:49, 3 April 2001

With permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall respond briefly to the debate. On an earlier point of order, I apologised to the leaders of Northern Ireland parties for the difficulties. I subsequently learned that part copies were given to the party offices yesterday evening, but they took more time to emerge than is desirable. I apologise again for those difficulties.

I emphasise that whatever the date until which local elections are postponed, we need legislation forthwith to effect the postponement. That is why we are using this rapid process, and everybody agrees that it is in the greater interest of all those involved in the local elections rapidly to enact the legislation.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

Surely the Minister must concede that we have been put in this position because the Prime Minister has delayed making his decision until the last possible moment, so to say that we must agree to the motion because of the timetable for the local elections is to put things back to front.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

I hear that political point, but I simply say that the Prime Minister likes to take decisions on the basis of the facts, rather than on the basis of situations that otherwise might become apparent.

The main point to make on the motion is that the House has only one matter to determine: does it wish to extend the rights of Members to give notice of amendments, new clauses and new schedules? That is the only issue that must be addressed.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

No, I will not give way.

I hope that the House will agree that we should extend the rights of Back Benchers to ensure that we have a more informed debate, and for that reason I commend the motion to the House.

Photo of Graham Brady Graham Brady Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions) 4:51, 3 April 2001

I had not intended to speak in this debate, but I am forced to do so, as the Minister was not prepared to deal with a brief inquiry that I directed at him. He has spoken very briefly, which, of course, is an improvement on what he originally offered to do; he originally was not going to have the courtesy to reply to the debate. Will he give us some small detail of the Government's timetable for the provisions? That is directly pertinent to the matter that we are debating. If the timetable is to be particularly compressed, there will be additional difficulties in tabling and debating amendments or new schedules.

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. The point the hon. Gentleman makes is not only repetitious, as it has been made many times during the debate, but outside the strict terms of the motion.

Photo of Graham Brady Graham Brady Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do not seek to repeat any point at all; of course, I have not made a speech in the debate.

Before hon. Members decide how to vote in any Division that may be called, it is important that they know the practical implications of the motion. If we allow amendments to be tabled before the completion of Second Reading, the Minister must intimate whether that will be our only opportunity to table amendments or whether we shall have other opportunities to do so and whether there will be a period between the conclusion of Second Reading and the commencement of the other stages.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can the House do anything to protect the Chair from being harangued by the Government Deputy Chief Whip, who is probably asking for a premature closure?

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

It is perfectly in order for any hon. Member to approach the Chair at any time.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Would you care to help me on one matter? I can, of course, understand the ruling that an hon. Member is out of order, but the word "repetitious" troubles me. Having been a Member for 20 years, it occurs to me that our arguments are repeated many times, and when did that become—

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. The right hon. and learned Gentleman must be familiar with Standing Order No. 42.

Photo of Graham Brady Graham Brady Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

We are all familiar with Standing Order No. 42, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do not wish to detain the House. As I said at the commencement of my remarks, I had not intended to speak. I hope that the Minister will take note of the fact that hon. Members on both sides of the House understand how important it is that we know the Government's timetable before we arrive at a conclusion on the motion. I implore him to think again, and not to be so arrogant as to refuse to give important information that is directly pertinent to the matter in hand.

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller Labour, Ellesmere Port and Neston

May I ask the hon. Gentleman a straight question? Is he in favour of extending the normal practices of the House for the purposes of this business, or is he in favour of sticking to the normal practices?

Photo of Graham Brady Graham Brady Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making some very interesting interventions, in one of which he suggested that the Leader of the House had inadvertently misled the House in a statement on Monday. However, I am pressing the Minister on the vital point that we cannot make a rational judgment on the motion unless he is prepared to give us important but simple information on whether the timetable will be tight and compressed, whether there will be a gap between Second Reading and Committee and whether we shall have a longer period to debate—

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. The hon. Gentleman is repeating himself, and in my hearing. The fact of the matter is that what the motion seeks to do is quite independent of any other timetable motion, which presumably will be discussed by the House on a future occasion.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You were good enough refer me to Standing Order No. 42, but might it not help the House if it knew that repetition per se is not objectionable? Repetition is objectionable only if it is tedious.

Photo of Graham Brady Graham Brady Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

The timetable may be outwith the scope of this motion, but my point is simple. My decision on how I cast my vote in any Division on the motion will depend very much on the Minister's response to my question.

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You were not here at the beginning of the debate, but I am sure that you will have followed what happened. Before the conclusion of this debate, may I please have an answer to the question that I asked initially? Will manuscript amendments be acceptable on all stages of the Bill tomorrow?

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

I cannot add to the ruling that Mr. Speaker gave a short while ago. It was entirely definitive, and I stand by it.

Photo of Graham Brady Graham Brady Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

I was about to give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow).

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Does my hon. Friend not agree that, on the question of the tabling of amendments, probably the most worrying feature of the debate so far is the fact that the Minister does not seem to know whether the contents of the motion are prescriptive or merely permissive?

Photo of Graham Brady Graham Brady Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

My hon. Friend makes an important point. More to the point, the Minister does not appear to know whether the Government intend to timetable this business or what timetable will be applied.

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. The hon. Gentleman is either wilfully or carelessly mishearing my rulings. This motion has nothing to do with the timetabling.

Photo of Graham Brady Graham Brady Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

My aim was quite the contrary, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Without challenging your ruling, I was simply seeking to conclude my sentence but, at that point, you interrupted my remarks.

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. The hon. Gentleman should consider his reputation in the House before making such a suggestion. I advise him to desist from continuing with that argument.

Photo of Graham Brady Graham Brady Shadow Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

That is precisely what I was trying to do, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was attempting to conclude a sentence, to conclude a point and to conclude my remarks. All I want from the Minister is an indication of what the timetable will be, because that will inform my decision.

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

The hon. Gentleman will be in serious trouble if he goes on defying the Chair after a ruling has been made. I take it that he has now sat down and concluded his speech.

Photo of Sir Nicholas Lyell Sir Nicholas Lyell Conservative, North East Bedfordshire 4:58, 3 April 2001

The common objective of us all must be to try to enact sensible legislation on this fairly narrow point. It is plain that, regardless of the time that there may be between the Bill's different stages, it will be a tight timetable. The Leader of the House tabled this motion to enable amendments to be tabled before Second Reading, which is unusual.

When you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, were not in the Chair—Mr. Speaker was in the Chair—a perfectly logical supplementary question was asked. Will amendments be considered by the Chair—you were not here, but you might have to consider them—in Committee and on Report?

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. The Chair has a collective memory on these matters and the right hon. and learned Gentleman will have heard me respond to the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning), repeating, in effect, Mr. Speaker's ruling on that question. The position is unchanged and the motion before the House in no way affects that speculative situation.

Photo of Sir Nicholas Lyell Sir Nicholas Lyell Conservative, North East Bedfordshire

You called me to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and I fully understand that, but may I raise a point of order about the collective memory of the Chair? I have been here throughout the debate, so I have a collective—or, at least, an individual—recollection of what was uttered. What came home to me was that Mr. Speaker made it clear that you, in your capacity as Chairman of Ways and Means, will consider amendments in Committee. I take it that you will also consider amendments on Report.

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is again going over the same ground. Mr. Speaker has given the correct position. Such matters will be considered in due course. This, however, is not the time.

Photo of Sir Nicholas Lyell Sir Nicholas Lyell Conservative, North East Bedfordshire

I shall return to my serious point. Much legislation has been erroneous in this Parliament, not least because time for debate has been unduly truncated. The process of debate—

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is again directing his remarks towards the amount of time that is available for discussion. That is well and good, but it is not within the terms of the motion to extend the normal time in which amendments can be tabled. It is a separate matter.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I build on what my right hon. and learned Friend said?

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

The right hon. and learned Gentleman begins by saying that he wants to build on one matter and then changes his ground. Can he be clear?

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

Yes, of course. Mr. Speaker said that it was for the Chairman of Ways and Means to give a ruling. You could give a ruling now on whether you will accept manuscript amendments during the Committee and Report stages—

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is testing the patience of the Chair. Mr. Speaker said that the matters would be discussed on their merits. That is the exact position.

Photo of Andrew MacKinlay Andrew MacKinlay Labour, Thurrock

Incidentally, when would you like the election?

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

That is most assuredly not a matter for me.

Photo of Sir Nicholas Lyell Sir Nicholas Lyell Conservative, North East Bedfordshire

My final remark was directed at the importance of our ability to table amendments at an appropriate time so that Bills can be properly considered and their errors corrected. All hon. Members will realise that the legislative process is not the monopoly of the Government of the day; it relies on the will of the House. The procedure, which you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, are astute in protecting, is designed to give every Member due opportunity to contribute to proposed legislation in the hope—sometimes misguided; often well directed—that it will better meet the country's needs.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

Has my right hon. and learned Friend resolved for himself the dilemma that we all face? Given that the motion allows amendments, new clauses and new schedules to be tabled before Second Reading, is he, like me, going to draft those today speculatively, or does he intend to table them at the last minute when he has heard that debate?

Photo of Sir Nicholas Lyell Sir Nicholas Lyell Conservative, North East Bedfordshire

My understanding is that I am entitled—indeed, encouraged—to table amendments, new clauses or new schedules now and until a decision is made on Second Reading. I also understand that I am entitled to table amendments in Committee for your consideration, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to be dealt with as you think fit. I might be looking too far ahead and further guidance might be forthcoming, but I believe that, in addition, I will be able to do that on Report. I shall do my best to do all those things.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

Given the circumstances that the motion outlines, does my right hon. and learned Friend believe that he has sufficient opportunity to receive representations from local government interests in his constituency? Such representations would inform the process—

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. That is completely irrelevant to the motion.

Photo of Sir Nicholas Lyell Sir Nicholas Lyell Conservative, North East Bedfordshire

I entirely understand that. The answer to my right hon. Friend's question would depend on the time that was allocated.

One has to have time in which to table sensible amendments; we must also have an opportunity to reflect. I shall determine the amendments that I shall table pursuant to the ruling on which I am concentrating. If I have calculated correctly, the time available lasts until tomorrow night if the Elections Bill receives a Second Reading. Following the Chair's guidance, which we have just received, I anticipate further discussions on timetabling, with which we cannot deal now.

The Bill is complex.

Photo of Mr Dale Campbell-Savours Mr Dale Campbell-Savours Labour, Workington

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Some extremely important prospective legislation has been tabled on the Order Paper for discussion today. The whole world awaits it. The measure will be discussed in Parliaments throughout the world. When will we end the nonsensical debate that we are currently holding? Conservative Members are wasting time. Why will they not stop?

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

The debate is proceeding in order. When it does not, the Chair takes corrective action.

Photo of Sir Nicholas Lyell Sir Nicholas Lyell Conservative, North East Bedfordshire

The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) will bear in mind that we are discussing a complex Bill. We want to get it right—

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is incorrect. We are not discussing a Bill, but a technical motion, which extends the amount of time for tabling amendments. That is the sole, narrow point before the House. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman is not prepared to stay within my ruling, I suggest that he remain seated.

Photo of Sir Nicholas Lyell Sir Nicholas Lyell Conservative, North East Bedfordshire

Of course, I always stay within your rulings, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In directing our attention to the amendments that the motion gives us an opportunity to table, our objective is to improve the Bill. I hope that the House supports that.

Photo of Martin Smyth Martin Smyth UUP, Belfast South

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am trying to keep within the rules of the debate. At the beginning of our proceedings, the Minister apologised to the minority parties. He also said that the Northern Ireland Office or someone else had advised him that we had been given information through our offices late last night. I must put it on record that some of us were here until late last night. I understand through consultation with the leader of the Democratic Unionist party that notice was sent to Stormont. Surely the information should be provided to us here rather than in Stormont.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As the hon. Gentleman acknowledged, I apologised earlier for what had happened. I want to clarify matters further, and I shall write to him and his colleagues with a full account of events.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 325, Noes 11.

Division No. 172][5.8 pm
AYES
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Ainger, NickCampbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife)
Allan, Richard
Allen, GrahamCampbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Anderson, Rt Hon Donald (Swansea E)Campbell-Savours, Dale
Cann, Jamie
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms HilaryCaplin, Ivor
Ashdown, Rt Hon PaddyCasale, Roger
Atherton, Ms CandyCaton, Martin
Atkins, CharlotteChapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Austin, JohnClapham, Michael
Bailey, AdrianClark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Ballard, JackieClark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Barnes, Harry
Barron, KevinClark, Paul (Gillingham)
Battle, JohnClarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Bayley, HughClarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs MargaretClarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Beith, Rt Hon A JClarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Bell, Martin (Tatton)Clelland, David
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)Clwyd, Ann
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)Coffey, Ms Ann
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)Coleman, Iain
Bennett, Andrew FConnarty, Michael
Benton, JoeCook, Frank (Stockton N)
Berry, RogerCook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston)
Best, HaroldCorbett, Robin
Betts, CliveCorbyn, Jeremy
Blackman, LizCorston, Jean
Blunkett, Rt Hon DavidCotter, Brian
Boateng, Rt Hon PaulCox, Tom
Bradley, Keith (Withington)Cranston, Ross
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)Crausby, David
Bradshaw, BenCryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Breed, ColinCryer, John (Hornchurch)
Brinton, Mrs HelenCummings, John
Browne, DesmondCunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)Darvill, Keith
Buck, Ms KarenDavey, Edward (Kingston)
Burgon, ColinDavey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Burstow, PaulDavidson, Ian
Butler, Mrs ChristineDavies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Byers, Rt Hon StephenDawson, Hilton
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)Dean, Mrs Janet
Dismore, AndrewKaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Dobbin, JimKeen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Donohoe, Brian HKeen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Doran, FrankKeetch, Paul
Dowd, JimKemp, Fraser
Drew, DavidKennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Dunwoody, Mrs GwynethKhabra, Piara S
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)Kidney, David
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)Kilfoyle, Peter
Ellman, Mrs LouiseKing, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Ennis, JeffKingham, Ms Tess
Fearn, RonnieKumar, Dr Ashok
Field, Rt Hon FrankLadyman, Dr Stephen
Fisher, MarkLawrence, Mrs Jackie
Fitzpatrick, JimLaxton, Bob
Fitzsimons, Mrs LornaLeslie, Christopher
Flint, CarolineLewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Flynn, PaulLewis, Terry (Worsley)
Foster, Rt Hon DerekLiddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Foster, Don (Bath)Linton, Martin
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)Livsey, Richard
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Foulkes, GeorgeLock, David
Fyfe, MariaLove, Andrew
Galloway, GeorgeMcAvoy, Thomas
Gapes, MikeMcDonagh, Siobhain
George, Andrew (St Ives)Macdonald, Calum
George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)McFall, John
Gerrard, NeilMcGuire, Mrs Anne
Gidley, SandraMcIsaac, Shona
Gilroy, Mrs LindaMcKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Goggins, PaulMackinlay, Andrew
Golding, Mrs LlinMaclennan, Rt Hon Robert
Gordon, Mrs EileenMcNamara, Kevin
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)McNulty, Tony
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)MacShane, Denis
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)Mactaggart, Fiona
Grocott, BruceMcWilliam, John
Grogan, JohnMahon, Mrs Alice
Gunnell, JohnMallaber, Judy
Hain, PeterMandelson, Rt Hon Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Hanson, DavidMarshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Harman, Rt Hon Ms HarrietMartlew, Eric
Harvey, NickMaxton, John
Healey, JohnMeale, Alan
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)Merron, Gillian
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)Michie, Bill (Shefld Heeley)
Hendrick, MarkMichie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Hepburn, StephenMilburn, Rt Hon Alan
Heppell, JohnMiller, Andrew
Hesford, StephenMitchell, Austin
Hill, KeithMoffatt, Laura
Hinchliffe, DavidMoonie, Dr Lewis
Hodge, Ms MargaretMoore, Michael
Hoon, Rt Hon GeoffreyMorgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Hope, PhilMountford, Kali
Hopkins, KelvinMullin, Chris
Howells, Dr KimMurphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)
Hoyle, LindsayNaysmith, Dr Doug
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Humble, Mrs JoanO'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Illsley, EricO'Hara, Eddie
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)Olner, Bill
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)O'Neill, Martin
Jamieson, DavidÖpik, Lembit
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)Organ, Mrs Diana
Johnson, Miss Melanie(Welwyn Hatfield)Osborne, Ms Sandra
Palmer, Dr Nick
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)Pearson, Ian
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)Perham, Ms Linda
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)Pickthall, Colin
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)Pike, Peter L
Joyce, EricPlaskitt, James
Pollard, KerryStringer, Graham
Pond, ChrisStuart, Ms Gisela
Pound, StephenStunell, Andrew
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Primarolo, DawnTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
Prosser, GwynTemple-Morris, Peter
Quinn, LawrieThomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Radice, Rt Hon GilesThomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Rapson, SydThomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Rendel, DavidTimms, Stephen
Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)Tonge, Dr Jenny
Touhig, Don
Rooker, Rt Hon JeffTrickett, Jon
Rooney, TerryTruswell, Paul
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Rowlands, TedTurner, Neil (Wigan)
Roy, FrankTwigg, Derek (Halton)
Ruane, ChrisTwigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Ruddock, JoanTyler, Paul
Russell, Bob (Colchester)Tynan, Bill
Salter, MartinVis, Dr Rudi
Sanders, AdrianWalley, Ms Joan
Sarwar, MohammadWard, Ms Claire
Savidge, MalcolmWareing, Robert N
Sedgemore, BrianWatts, David
Shaw, JonathanWebb, Steve
Sheerman, BarryWhite, Brian
Sheldon, Rt Hon RobertWhitehead, Dr Alan
Shipley, Ms DebraWilliams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Skinner, DennisWilliams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)Willis, Phil
Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)Wills, Michael
Wilson, Brian
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)Winnick, David
Smith, John (Glamorgan)Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)Wood, Mike
Soley, CliveWoodward, Shaun
Squire, Ms RachelWoolas, Phil
Starkey, Dr PhyllisWorthington, Tony
Steinberg, GerryWright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Stevenson, GeorgeWright, Tony (Cannock)
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)Tellers for the Ayes:
Stinchcombe, PaulMr. Kevin Hughes and
Straw, Rt Hon JackMr. Greg Pope.
NOES
Body, Sir RichardRoss, William (E Lond'y)
Chope, ChristopherShepherd, Richard
Davis Rt Hon David (Halternprice)Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Hogg, Rt Hon DouglasTaylor, Sir Teddy
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)Tellers for the Noes:
Paisley, Rev IanMr. Eric Forth and
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)Mr. Crispin Blunt.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Ordered,That, in respect of the Elections Bill, notices of Amendments, new Clauses and new Schedules to be moved in Committee may be accepted by the Clerks at the Table before the Bill has been read a second time.