19 Jul 2002 : Column 555

House of Commons

Friday 19 July 2002

The House met at half-past Nine o'clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]


Heavy Goods Vehicles (Totternhoe)

9.33 am

Andrew Selous (South–West Bedfordshire): I wish to present a petition bearing the signatures of more than 400 residents of the village of Totternhoe, in Bedfordshire, to which I am pleased to add my support.

The petition states:

To lie upon the Table.

9.35 am

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will be aware that under the heading "Business of the House", yesterday's Order Paper states:

However, it was then pointed out that the Division on this question stands deferred to Wednesday 24 July.

You will be aware, Mr. Speaker, that we attempted to deal with this matter yesterday evening, and I simply seek your guidance as to where the House now stands on this motion. It appears that the motion provides for three hours for the Adjournment debate on Monday, but that the Division that will decide the matter is not until Wednesday. The House would be grateful for your guidance as to what is likely to happen on Monday. The Leader of the House said that there will be a statement, and there are two other items of business that we know about: Second Reading of the Mobile Telephones (Re-Programming) Bill, and the motions to establish the Transport Committee and the Committee on the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. Given that Monday is already

19 Jul 2002 : Column 556

a fairly busy day, can you explain the likely shape of business, and in particular the status of the Adjournment debate?

Mr. Speaker: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of his point of order. Monday's business will go ahead without account being taken of the proposal in the motion before the House yesterday, which was not decided on. By the time that the deferred Division on that motion is taken, it will be too late for it to have effect; however, the Chair has no power to cancel the deferred Division. The right hon. Gentleman may wish to take up, through the usual channels, how this odd situation may be dealt with.

Mr. Forth: Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am most grateful for that guidance, although I doubt whether anybody else will be. However, it raises another matter relating to the Adjournment debate itself. Will it be within the gift of the Government to arrange business on Monday so that we can have an Adjournment debate of a proper length? I see the distinct danger that, if the business that we know about is in any way prolonged—and if the Government insist that we stop at 10 o'clock, for example—the Adjournment debate could be squeezed very severely. Can you confirm that it is now a matter for the Government as to whether proper time be allowed for the Adjournment debate?

Mr. Speaker: The right hon. Gentleman, as usual, is very accurate in these matters. It is a matter for the Government as to what shape Monday's business will take.

Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your advice because I am very concerned about what appears to be the incredible shrinking Order Paper before the House today. On Monday, 63 Bills were down for consideration today, on Tuesday there were 64, and on Wednesday we had an embarrassment of riches—67 Bills. Yesterday, 68 Bills were listed for consideration today, all of which have some merit and are certainly worthy of closer examination.

Today, however, only 49 Bills are on the Order Paper, and I seek your advice, Mr. Speaker, on what has happened to the others. I want to know why they are not before the House today and whether some dirty deal behind the bike sheds has been done to get rid of them, thereby robbing this House of the opportunity to scrutinise them in any way, shape or form. Can you advise me whether it is possible to find out if undue pressure has been brought to bear on any Member to withdraw his or her Bill? That information would be most helpful to other Members, and certainly to Opposition Members.

Mr. Speaker: I am always happy to advise the hon. Lady. Bills that are not printed are not included on the Order Paper. Of course, hon. Members of this House would not tolerate undue pressure from any quarter.

Bob Spink (Castle Point): On a very pleasant point of order, Mr. Speaker. As this is the day on which Trevor Dann, the Principal Doorkeeper, announced your arrival in this House for the last time before his retirement, will you advise us whether this would be an appropriate time

19 Jul 2002 : Column 557

for us, on behalf of the whole House, to thank him, and Peter Overfield, the Deputy Principal Doorkeeper, and Maureen Coxon, the first lady Doorkeeper, who guarded the Letter Board so admirably over many years, for their work and the help that they have given us, and to wish them a long and happy retirement?

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Gentleman gives me the opportunity to say that I have known those officers for a long time, and they have been conscientious, hard-working and most obliging to all Members of the House. I wish them all well in their retirement and thank them for their excellent service to the House.

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I draw your attention to page 1088 of the Votes and Proceedings for yesterday, which reports the deliberations of the Reasons Committee in respect of the Lords amendments to the Proceeds of Crime Bill? I was a member of that Committee and I found myself in a difficult position, so I seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker, as to how one should deal with the situation that developed.

The Votes and Proceedings says:

I find myself in an awkward position, and I seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker, because I was asked to be party to a vote on why this House disagreed with something, when not a single word had been uttered in the Chamber to explain why the vote turned out as it did. Is it appropriate for a Committee of the House to sit and speculate on what the Government really meant but refused to give us the opportunity to discuss? It was the statements that the Government arranged yesterday, and the lengthy delays that they caused, that prevented the House from knowing what the reason for disagreement was. I feel very uncomfortable at having put my name to a guess about what the House meant. Is there not a better way of doing things?

Mr. Speaker: The responsibility of the Reasons Committee is to give reasons as to why certain legislation has been dealt with in a certain way. It is not for me to interfere with the business of the Reasons Committee. It has put down a reason and that will be sent to the other place.

Mr. Stephen McCabe (Birmingham, Hall Green): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can it be in order for any Member of the House to seek your absolution because he regrets his own voting record?

Mr. Speaker: It may be more appropriate for the Speaker's Chaplain to do such things.

19 Jul 2002 : Column 558

Orders of the Day

Private Hire Vehicles (Carriage of Guide Dogs etc.) Bill

As amended in the Standing Committee, considered.

New Clause 1

Damage by assistance dog

'Where an assistance dog being carried in a private hire vehicle causes damage, vomits, urinates or defecates therein then the disabled person accompanying the assistance dog shall be liable for the full cost of repairing and cleaning the private hire vehicle, the amount being recoverable as a civil debt.'.—[Sir Sydney Chapman.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

9.45 am

Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet): I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: Amendment No. 6, in clause 1, page 2, line 4, after "medical", insert "or other reasonable".

Amendment No. 7, in page 2, line 11, at end insert—

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