Previous SectionIndexHome Page


Several hon. Members rose--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I shall deal with that point. The Leader of the House could not have expected hon. Members to treat her remarks as a statement as she was simply contributing to the debate on the motion.

Mr. Hogg: Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Leader of the House has now risen. I think that hon. Members will wish to treat what she has said as a statement that gives us the opportunity, before we resume our debate, to ask her some questions. Will you confirm that what she has said by way of an intervention is indeed a statement that gives rise to the process of questioning that statement?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: That is not correct. The Leader of the House was simply contributing to the debate.

Mr. Peter Bottomley: Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You clearly gave a ruling that the Leader of the House's first remarks were part of the debate on whether the House should now adjourn. The Leader of the House, since then, has purported to say that she has made a business statement. Would it be possible, in the kindest way, to advise her that her remarks cannot have been a business statement as you had already ruled that her remarks were a contribution to the debate on the motion for adjournment. No one would want to accuse the Leader of the House of intentionally trying to challenge a ruling by you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but until she clarifies the issue, that is the way it will read.

Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Would it be in order for the Leader of the House to confirm that once this debate is out of the way she plans to make a business statement in the normal way?

Mrs. Beckett: Not only is that my intention, but I have been willing to make it plain at any time this past hour. [Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. We can clear this point up. Is the Leader of the House planning to make a statement at the conclusion of this debate?

Mrs. Beckett: At your convenience, and at the House's convenience, I shall make a statement when this debate is concluded. I accept, of course, your ruling, as I have accepted it from the beginning. I object strongly to the imputation by the hon. Member for Worthing, West (Mr. Bottomley), whatever his seat is. You properly ruled that I made a contribution to the debate and I have no

23 Mar 1999 : Column 279

quarrel with that. I also have no objection to being questioned on the business statement: indeed, I look forward to it.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: The matter is entirely clear and we must now resume the debate.

Mr. Wilshire: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Things get better and better or worse and worse, depending on one's point of view. A few moments ago, we witnessed a demonstration from a bunch of wimps who are not prepared to debate anything and are not prepared to listen. We have now had a demonstration from a bunch of wimps who do not understand how to run the House of Commons, although they claim to be in charge of it.

Mr. Gummer: Would my hon. Friend comment on the fact that for several moments while he was asking the Leader of the House whether she was going to make a statement, she shook her head, giving a clear indication that she would not. She now says to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that she never had any intention of not making that statement.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. That matter has been clarified and we must move on to the question before us.

Mr. Wilshire: I imagine that it may occur to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that as we have not had a business statement, and the business has not yet changed, you might be tempted to ask how we can debate a change of business that has not taken place. Everything that has been said on the issue will need to be repeated after we have heard the business statement.

Mr. Hogg: One of the matters of concern to many hon. Members is that the Leader of the House proposes to make a business statement that clearly has not been discussed through the usual channels. Is not she abusing the courtesy and practice of the House and is not that a matter of grave concern to my hon. Friend?

Mr. Wilshire: It has been demonstrated that Government Front Benchers do not understand the conventions and courtesies of the House, so how can we expect anything different? The only other thing that we can now say is that perhaps the Select Committee on Standards and Privileges needs to investigate another leak. Before the business statement has been made, we know what will be in it. That is yet another leak from the Labour party.

I shall return to the subject of the Government's so far botched attempt to stop debate on the Bill. Before we got into this situation, we were discussing new clause 5. Our argument was that we wanted to return power to the people because the Bill would do the opposite. [Interruption.] We made no claim to that phrase; we borrowed it from the Labour party. Having had a debate about returning power to the people in local government, we are now having a debate about a Government who are prepared to deny power to Parliament. When the Government make their business statement shortly, they will guillotine a Bill--

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin): Order. We are not deciding what the Government or the Leader

23 Mar 1999 : Column 280

of the House are going to do; there is a motion before the House. We can worry about what the statement contains later on.

Mr. Wilshire: I accept that point, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I was responding to the contribution to the debate made by the Leader of the House. However, I accept your point, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The refusal to listen that we saw earlier and are seeing now reflects the use of the draconian powers that refuse to allow Parliament to sit late into the night. Those draconian powers against this Parliament, like the draconian powers against local government, show the Government in their true light; that is not a pretty sight.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield): We are debating the progress of the Bill on Report; the Question is whether the House should adjourn and terminate debate tonight on this important Bill, having debated only two groups out of 12 groups of amendments and new clauses. According to the Leader of the House, many of the amendments that remain to be debated are likely to be subject to a guillotine, namely a timetabled debate.

I speak tonight because I served in local government and am proud of the role that local government plays in our democracy. Will the right hon. Lady guarantee to the House that she will allocate adequate time under the timetable motion for debate on the remaining 10 groups of amendments and new clauses, including the third group on the selection list? That group relates to capping--a most important matter, especially to those, like me, who served in local government. I am proud that one of the small number of achievements that I have notched up in my political career was when I won a Labour seat--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Until now, the hon. Gentleman has been perfectly in order, but he must not tell us about his political career. That is not the subject of the debate, interesting though it may be.

Mr. Winterton: Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have the feeling that the House wants to hear about it.

Hon. Members: Hear, hear.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The Deputy Speaker does not want to hear about it and that is what is important.

Mr. Winterton: Mr. Deputy Speaker, I thought that you were seeking to represent the best interests of the whole House. At no stage would I ever seek to overrule a decision of the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker, but I am trying to make the point that debate on the remaining 10 groups of amendments and new clauses could well be limited and that that might have an impact on the effectiveness of local government and on the democracy which is so important to local government.

Mr. Gummer rose--

Mr. Winterton: I shall give way to my right hon. Friend in a moment.

The right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) is someone for whom I have the highest regard; for several years, I served under his chairmanship of the Select

23 Mar 1999 : Column 281

Committee on Social Security. He raised an issue about Kosovo and the fact that British service men and women--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. [Interruption.] I am making the rulings and Kosovo is not a matter--[Interruption.] I make the rulings when I am in the Chair, and I cannot decide on what went on before I took the Chair. I am ruling that the matter of Kosovo is out of order.

11.45 pm

Mr. Winterton rose--

Mr. Gummer: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Winterton: I shall in a moment, but I hope that when the Deputy Speaker has received the advice of the Clerk of the House, he might--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman knows better. I am acting on my own advice and I say to the hon. Gentleman that he should make no mention of Kosovo--it has nothing to do with the motion before us. The hon. Gentleman knows the procedures of this House as well as I do. Carry on.


Next Section

IndexHome Page