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Rights of Way (Amendment)

Rights of Way (Amendment) Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:40 pm on 10th March 2004.

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Janet Anderson accordingly presented a Bill to amend the law relating to public rights of way for vehicles: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 21 May, and to be printed [Bill 70].

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Commons)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. A ten-minute Bill has just been introduced that is of very great concern to a number of hon. Members who represent large country constituencies. I congratulate Janet Anderson on her success, but is it not the practice, first and foremost, that if an hon. Member opposes a Bill, he or she should at least follow that through with a shout of no, which Lembit Öpik failed to do; and, secondly, that at least one Minister from the relevant Department should attend in the Chamber when such a Bill is debated? I very much regret that, on such an important issue, no Minister is present from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which is currently consulting on this matter.

Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Affairs, Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, Welsh Affairs

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Just to clarify, you may not have heard me but I did say no—but not very loudly. As you are aware and as I made clear to your office, I felt that it would be an inappropriate use of parliamentary time to divide the House, when we are looking for a consultative solution, rather than simply trying to make a point on the Floor of the House.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. If you check the records, you will find that there were many occasions when previous Speakers used to tell people that they had to oppose a motion. Indeed, when I first came here, they had to shout and divide the House. Why? Simply because not doing so is an abuse of parliamentary time. The Order Paper says that 10 minutes will be allowed for the Member to move the motion and 10 minutes for someone to oppose it. In this case, that individual—a typical Liberal, who does not know whether he is on this earth or fuller's—said that he would not oppose the motion and wanted to get together with my hon. Friend Janet Anderson. Ten minutes for, 10 minutes against—that is the principle. You wasted time, you tin-pot Liberal—shut your gob.

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons

Let me deal with the three points of order, and then I will call the hon. Lady.

I am sure that Mr. Skinner was not referring to me when he mentioned wasting time.

On the point of order that Mr. McLoughlin raised, I have been chairing proceedings for quite a long time, as he knows, both in Committee and in the Scottish Grand Committee, and then in the Chamber. When I am in the Chair, I am entitled to express an opinion when hon. Members shout from one side of the House or the other, and I often say that I think that the ayes have it. It is at that stage that an hon. Member can disagree with that opinion. There was a shout—it was a very quiet shout—and I only wish that that was the case at Prime Minister's Question Time. To reply to the point raised by the hon. Member for West Derbyshire: there was a shout. I heard it because I have good hearing.

There is no absolute rule about the appropriate Minister sitting on the Treasury Bench, but it is a courtesy for them to do so. I would expect that courtesy to continue, and I hope that Ministers from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will take note of what I have said.

Photo of Janet Anderson Janet Anderson Labour, Rossendale and Darwen

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to respond to the point raised by Mr. McLoughlin and to what you have said by pointing out that the Minister for Rural Affairs and Local Environmental Quality has been very supportive of my introducing the Bill. In fact, he left a message with me this morning to say that he was very sorry that he could not be present in the House because he had another engagement. I assure the hon. Gentleman that DEFRA is very much taking an interest in the matter, and the Minister did not intend any discourtesy to the House.