[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]

– in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 2nd November 2001.

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Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Speaker of the House of Commons 9:30 am, 2nd November 2001

I inform the House that the first Bill on the Order Paper, the Patents Act 1977 (Amendment) Bill, has been withdrawn. We shall therefore proceed to the second Bill.

Photo of Vincent Cable Vincent Cable Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Trade and Industry)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask both why this problem has arisen and two specific questions? First, why has the Bill been found to be defective only at this very late stage, whereas the defect might have been identified earlier? Secondly, why is it not possible to rescue this potentially useful Bill by amendment in Committee?

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

I was concentrating on the hon. Gentleman's first point; could he repeat his second one?

Photo of Vincent Cable Vincent Cable Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Trade and Industry)

Some hon. Members attending this debate were hoping that this useful Bill might be passed for further scrutiny and improvement by amendment in Committee. Why is it not possible to do that?

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

It is entirely up to the hon. Member promoting a private Member's Bill, even when we have gathered in the Chamber to debate it, to decide whether he or she wishes to proceed with it. As I said, the Bill has been withdrawn. There can therefore be no other comment on the matter.

Photo of Andrew Dismore Andrew Dismore Labour, Hendon

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Do you not agree that it is a gross discourtesy to hon. Members when a Bill is withdrawn at such a late stage? I certainly spent some time yesterday afternoon preparing a speech for this debate—[Hon. Members: "Ah."]—and I know that many other hon. Members have done the same. If notice of the Bill's withdrawal had been given earlier—yesterday morning, for instance—much of the time that has been spent by hon. Members could have been saved and diverted to other purposes. Did Mr. Liddell-Grainger give you a reason for withdrawing the Bill?

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

The hon. Gentleman is asking me to express an opinion, but as he knows, I cannot do that. I am not entitled to an opinion so I cannot help him. However, I am sure that there will be an occasion when he can use his speech.

Photo of Claire Ward Claire Ward Labour, Watford

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Whilst not asking you to express an opinion, I wonder whether you think that it would have been appropriate for the hon. Member for Bridgwater to have an opportunity at least to express to hon. Members in the Chamber why he felt it was appropriate to withdraw the Bill.

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

The hon. Member for Bridgwater is guided by the same rules as guide all hon. Members: the rules of the House. He has exercised his right to withdraw the Bill and there is nothing more to be said about the matter.