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Mr. Speaker: If hon. Members will be patient, I shall make a statement along those lines.

Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. With reference to your comments a few moments ago, may I inform the House that the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham did not seek my permission or communicate with me before tabling his amendment, which appears on today's Order Paper? Is that amendment in order?

Mr. Speaker: I have a statement to make, which may clarify matters for the hon. Lady.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. One of the amendments that you have selected is the very amendment that refers to my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs. Ellman). Does that create a problem? You have said that tabling amendments without contacting the Member concerned is not a smart thing to do—it is unpleasant. However, that amendment has been selected, whereas other amendments that would have captured our attention and taken personality out of the issue have not been selected. Dare I say that that is not very clever?

Mr. Speaker: Difficult decisions had to be made on whether to accept amendments. I shall be making a statement that may clarify matters.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I make it absolutely clear that I would never support an amendment to remove my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside from the Committee? She is a most useful, brilliant and hard-working member of the Committee, and contributes enormously to its work.

Mr. Frank Field (Birkenhead): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It was because of these problems that I tabled amendments regarding two of the Committees that did not name particular Members to be taken off, but instead asked the Committee of Selection to reconsider

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the whole of the membership of Select Committees and to report back quickly to the House with a new list of names after it had listened to our debate.

Mr. Speaker: It is a difficult issue. All the motions before us refer to Members by name, so it is inevitable that some amendments remove Members from Committees and replace them with others.

Mr. Field: Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker: The right hon. Gentleman is in danger of arguing the case for his amendment.

Mr. Field: I was not trying to single out any name or group of names. I was merely proposing that the Committee of Selection be asked to consider the whole membership and to report back. It may decide to propose the same group of names after listening to our debate. I was not trying to put the House in the position of having to pick off individuals Members to bring greater justice to other Members.

Mr. Speaker: In that case, the right hon. Gentleman can vote against the motion and allow the Committee of Selection to do exactly that.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the enormous interest in the House and among the public about the arrangements for appointments to Select Committees, and given the undue haste with which they have been made, can you advise what procedures are available to delay the whole issue? As my right hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) said, the Committee of Selection could come up with some new, more representative names that, I hope, would be more democratically chosen than those currently proposed.

Mr. Speaker: The procedure would be to vote against the motions before us.

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Orders of the Day


Order for Second Reading read.

Question, That the Bill be now read a Second time, put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 56 (Consolidated Fund Bills), and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Question, That the Bill be now read the Third time, put forthwith, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.

Business of the House

Mr. Speaker: Before I call the Minister to move motion 2, I want to make a brief statement about proceedings on the motions concerning nominations to Select Committees.

If the Business of the House motion is agreed to, I propose that motions 3 to 29 should be debated together. When the debate concludes, presumably at 7 pm, the Question will be put on each motion in turn. Where an amendment has been selected, the Chair will invite the hon. Member proposing it to move it formally, and the House will vote first on the amendment and then on the main motion. A list of the amendments that I have selected is available in the No Lobby.

May I make it clear that today's proceedings are about nominations to Select Committees? That includes the process by which nominations are made, but it does not include the wider issues about the powers, functions and resources of Select Committees, which were raised during debate on Thursday 5 July.

I have not selected either of the amendments to the Business of the House motion, and I should make it clear that the scope of debate on that motion is limited to the arrangements for today's proceedings.

3.41 pm

The Parliamentary Secretary, Privy Council Office (Mr. Stephen Twigg): I beg to move,

I shall be brief in outlining the purpose of the business motion. In effect, the House is being asked to approve the timing of today's debates on Select Committees, including that on the establishment of the Modernisation Committee. The matter is important to the House, and I am therefore pleased that a half-day of prime parliamentary time has been provided for it.

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No previous Government have set aside time for debates on the nominations for Select Committees before 10 pm. In past Parliaments, similar debates were timetabled for just one and a half hours. For example, in 1983 the issue was debated after 10 pm, for one and a half hours. That was six months after the state opening of Parliament. In 1987 the issue was again debated after 10 pm, with a limit of 90 minutes, and six months after the state opening of Parliament. In 1992 the debate was taken three months after the state opening, and again it was held after 10 pm. This year, the proposals are before the House just one month after the state opening, with more than double the time allocated for debate and the debate held in prime time.

The motion ensures that the Questions necessary to decide these matters, including the Questions on any amendments, can be put today at 7 pm. An early decision means that the Select Committees will be able to begin their work before the summer recess—indeed, as soon as the senior member calls a meeting.

The purpose of today's debate is to carry through the wish of the House. I urge Members on both sides to approve the motion, so that we can move on to the important debate and enable the Select Committees to be established today.

3.43 pm

Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton): So that we all understand what half a day in prime time means, let me point out that we have barely three and a quarter hours in which to deal with some 27 motions and five important amendments tabled by Members across the House and selected by you, Mr. Speaker.

What distinguishes this debate from those in earlier years is the discontent among Back Benchers, again across the House.

Hugh Bayley (City of York): Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Browning: No, I will not. No doubt the hon. Gentleman will catch your eye, Mr. Speaker.

I was referring to the discontent across the House—

Hugh Bayley: Nicholas Winterton.

Mrs. Browning: The hon. Gentleman shouts from a sedentary position. If he had done his homework, he would know that I abstained in the vote in 1992. I am not the person at whom to direct gibes about that vote.

This is an important matter. Clearly, we would all like the rules under which nominations are made to have been changed by now; but thanks to an intransigent Government and an earlier Leader of the House who cared little for the wishes of Back Benchers on either side, we must now conduct a very controversial debate in just three and a quarter hours.

3.44 pm

Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle): I am disappointed that right hon. and hon. Members will not be able to look behind the strict confines of the individual amendments that are before us. My disquiet, which is widely shared, has been aroused because we are being asked to

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agree memberships of Select Committees for a full Parliament—four or five years—when many people are concerned that the names have been plucked out of the air. Would not it be better to restrict the membership of the Committees to 12 calendar months, until 16 July next year, when we could debate and vote on the recommendations of the Liaison Committee report, which are germane—

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