International Development Bill

– in a Public Bill Committee at on 15 March 2001.

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[Mr. Bill O'Brien in the Chair]

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development) 2:37, 15 March 2001

On a point of order, Mr. O'Brien—and it is with great surprise, as well as delight, that I welcome you to the Chair this afternoon. The Committee has just witnessed an unprecedented turn of events. This is our fourth sitting on the International Development Bill and there is some feeling that insufficient time has been allocated. I have not been able to put to the Minister all the points that I would have done had we not faced a 5 o'clock guillotine.

I hope that no untoward event has befallen our expected Chairman. I expect that all hon. Members share my concern about his welfare, which will continue until we have further news of him. However, as the Committee sitting has begun eight minutes late, how should we go about reclaiming the eight minutes that we have lost? What recourse is available to us?

Photo of Mr Bill O'Brien Mr Bill O'Brien Labour, Normanton

I understand that the decision on the timetabling of the Committee was taken by the House. If an extension of time is needed, it is necessary to return the matter to the House and to recall the Committee that made the decision on the dates and times of sittings. I am afraid that I cannot say, ``Yes, the Committee can have extended time.''

As for the eight-minute extension, that is a matter for someone who is not present. The time has been set. The decision was taken by the Committee at an early stage and I am afraid that we have no permission to extend the time now. That is unfortunate, but that is the position as I see it. If we need extra time, the matter must go back to the House.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

Further to that point of order, Mr. O'Brien. I thank you for that ruling, which is a novel and precedent-setting one. I am sure that every hon. Member will take notice of what you said. That ruling is rather alarming, because it means that once the House has fixed the time for debate by means of one of these new and badly received programming motions, valuable time to consider any Bill can be eaten into by the House itself, the authorities of the House or the failure to be present of the relevant member of the Chairman's Panel. [Interruption.] I am not filibustering. I am making a valid point—the Chairman would rule me out of order if I were filibustering. I will not take what the right hon. Member for Coatbridge and Chryston (Mr. Clarke) is saying from a sedentary position. This is a serious point.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Labour, Coatbridge and Chryston

On a point of order, Mr. O'Brien.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

I am making a point of order at the moment. As a precedent has been set, it is important to make sure that it is on the record so that the House authorities can consider it. I am not being disrespectful to any member of the Committee, the Chairman or the House, but that should be on the record so that the House authorities can consider the matter in the light of the restricted time that has been given, not only to the Bill that we are considering, but to others.

Photo of John McFall John McFall Labour/Co-operative, Dumbarton

On a point of order, Mr. O'Brien.

Photo of Mr Bill O'Brien Mr Bill O'Brien Labour, Normanton

Order. May I deal with the first point of order and give the Committee the benefit of my experience? At the Committee's first sitting, it decided that the business would be dealt with from a certain date to another date. Within those two dates, the Committee can meet as often as it wants and it can have as much time as it wants. It is unfortunate that the end of that period is this afternoon, but if the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) wanted to have more time to debate the amendments and our business, it would have been wiser to raise the matter last week or the week before, when the Committee that decided the timetable could have been called. You could have arranged more hours; you could have sat through the night; you could have sat whenever you wanted between the starting date and the end. Unfortunately, this is the end.

Photo of Tom Clarke Tom Clarke Labour, Coatbridge and Chryston

On a point of order, Mr. O'Brien. You are, of course, absolutely right to remind the Committee that the House has already decided matter. Am I therefore correct to point out to the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham, who lectured us on the subject of arrogance for half an hour this morning, that her intemperance does not stand her in good stead, and that we really should not waste another eight minutes debating the lost eight minutes?

Photo of Mr Bill O'Brien Mr Bill O'Brien Labour, Normanton

That is not a point of order for me.

Photo of John McFall John McFall Labour/Co-operative, Dumbarton

On a point of order, Mr. O'Brien. Like other members of the Committee, I am delighted that you have come along. I noticed that you took the Chair at 14.37. It is now 14.42. The hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham complains about losing eight minutes, but she has wasted five minutes with typical waffle. If she would get on with the business we might get some decent—

Photo of Mr Bill O'Brien Mr Bill O'Brien Labour, Normanton

Order. That is not a point of order for me. I should like to move on. I understand that the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham was winding up on the amendment.

Photo of Dame Cheryl Gillan Dame Cheryl Gillan Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Minister (International Development)

Further to my point of order, Mr. O'Brien. May I just make one swift, brief point? The programme motion specifically names the time for the sitting as between half-past 2 and 5 o'clock—this is the one sitting for which times are specifically mentioned. That is why I have raised valid points of order that ought to be considered in the light of the precedent that you have now set. This appears to be yet another occasion when our time is eaten into. Unless you want to reply to that supplementary point of order, Mr. O'Brien, I shall continue. Clause 5 Meaning of assistance