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Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Orders [
That the following provisions shall apply to the Higher Education Bill:
1. The Bill shall be committed to a Standing Committee.
Proceedings in Standing Committee
2. Proceedings in the Standing Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on Thursday 26th February 2004.
3. The Standing Committee shall have leave to sit twice on the first day on which it meets.
Consideration and Third Reading
4. Proceedings on consideration shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour before the moment of interruption on the day on which those proceedings are commenced.
5. Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption on that day.
6. Sessional Order B (programming committees) made on 28th June 2001 shall not apply to proceedings on consideration and Third Reading.
Programming of proceedings
7. All other proceedings on the Bill (including any proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments or on any further messages from the Lords) may be programmed.—[Paul Clark.]
The House divided: Ayes 361, Noes 231.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The question that will now arise is on the formation of the Standing Committee. Normally, as you know well, the committee of nomination would select the Standing Committee in accordance with party composition. However, you will know from page 693 of "Erskine May" that it is a rule of the House that the strength of opinion as expressed in any Division on Second Reading is properly to be reflected on the Standing Committee. The Government obtained a majority of five on Second Reading. May I suggest that they are therefore entitled to a majority of only one on the Standing Committee; otherwise, the rule in "Erskine May" will not be respected?
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I join in the remarks made by my right hon. and learned Friend Mr. Hogg? Clearly, in such a case the support to be considered is that on the respective Benches in this place. It is clear that, on this occasion, those on the Opposition Benches almost prevailed. It would be quite wrong if the membership of the Committee did not reflect the fact that the vote was very close—the majority on the Committee should be no more than one.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Following on from the point made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham, I hope that you, in your wisdom and after your deliberations, will feel free to give guidance to the Committee of Selection so that there can be no doubt in its mind as to the wish of the House, as expressed through the Division that we have just had. We must also bear in mind the fact that the guidance in "Erskine May" must be followed on this occasion by the Committee of Selection. It would be an insult to the House were that Committee, for any reason, to decide to compose the Standing Committee so that it has anything other than a very even balance that reflects the vote in the House.