Previous SectionIndexHome Page

23 Oct 2002 : Column 345—continued

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman is ignoring the ruling that I have given, and I shall take an increasingly serious view of that. He must talk about the particular motion before the House and not the generality.

Stephen Hesford: May I then turn to the issue of suspension, which is in order?

Normally, if a motion such as this is not before the House, every Bill that does not complete its passage through the House is quashed as a direct result of Prorogation. [Interruption.] I do not know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether the hon. Members for Tatton

23 Oct 2002 : Column 346

(Mr. Osborne) or for Eddisbury (Mr. O'Brien) want to make a constructive contribution to the debate or whether they have just had a good dinner.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will leave it to me to maintain the order of the House. I suggest that he get on with his speech.

Stephen Hesford: XErskine May" observes:

That means that the suspension seeks to nullify the effect of Prorogation. I submit that the Bill does not deserve the benefit of that procedure. The effect of Prorogation is to suspend all business at once. Every Bill—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman is now repeating himself, and there are Standing Orders that cover that. I hope therefore that he will not go on committing that error.

Stephen Hesford: Every Bill in the normal way must therefore be introduced afresh at the beginning of a new Session. That is, of course, other than private Bills or hybrid Bills.

Mr. Stephen O'Brien (Eddisbury): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It has just come to my notice and, I dare say, that of a few colleagues that the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Estelle Morris), has resigned. Have you had any intimation that a Minister will be coming to the House forthwith to explain why that has taken place? As a former member of the then Education and Employment Committee, I think that the House and all those involved in education are owed an explanation, in the House, as soon as possible.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I have had no such intimation. This is time-limited private business that cannot be interrupted by any extraneous matter of that kind.

Stephen Hesford: I was making the point that all Bills, other than private Bills such as this, must fall on Prorogation. The inability to carry over Bills from one Session to another involves constitutional considerations and is not governed by Standing Orders. It is, in effect, a convention of the House that a Bill is not carried over from one Session to another. I know that the convention has recently been considered by the Modernisation Committee.

Dr. Pugh: I am trying very hard to follow the hon. Gentleman's point. He is saying either that this motion is allowed by the procedures of the House, but it ought not to be, or that it is not allowed for some reason. If it were not allowed, you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would have given us a ruling by now. Is the hon. Gentleman's argument therefore that this motion is allowed, but in his view it ought not to be? If that is the case, he is

23 Oct 2002 : Column 347

making a substantial point about the procedures of the House which has already been ruled out of order by you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Stephen Hesford: My point is that this is not simply a case of a Bill going through on the nod. The House is being asked to make a substantial derogation from the normal procedures for a Bill.

Dr. Pugh: If that is the hon. Gentleman's point, we might as well concede it and say that he is stating the obvious. This procedure is within the legitimate remit of the House. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is arguing that it ought never to be used, so he does not seem to have an argument at all.

Stephen Hesford: The argument is—

Mr. Ben Chapman (Wirral, South): Is my hon. Friend suggesting that the Bill has implications for an area far wider than Merseyside, including Cheshire, north Wales, east Lancashire and areas beyond and that its promoters can purport to represent only Merseyside? Is he suggesting that the precedents set by the Bill will have an impact on other ports, tunnels and crossings? Is he suggesting that—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot make a speech on an intervention, and the content of his intervention has very little to do with the motion before us.

Stephen Hesford: Being ever mindful of the narrow point that is under discussion, but trying to do justice to the constitutional position as I see it, I must say that some of what my hon. Friend was saying is relevant to the matter under consideration.

Mr. George Howarth: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can you confirm that the procedure that we are using is perfectly proper and that the procedures undergone by the Bill so far, namely the fact that it has had a Second Reading, are all perfectly in order?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I can confirm that. We just have one matter to decide tonight: whether the Bill should be allowed to continue into another Session so that its merits can be further considered in that Session.

Mrs. Dunwoody: Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is not it true that the subsequent passage of the Bill would not preclude amendments and that it could be scrutinised at various stages if it progressed after tonight?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: The hon. Lady is right. She knows her procedure well and I am sure that the hon. Member for Wirral, West (Stephen Hesford) could benefit from that.

Stephen Hesford: I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral, South was making the point that private Bills are designed to deal with narrow matters such as railway companies or a matter that affects a specific locality. My hon. Friend nods, and I believe that

23 Oct 2002 : Column 348

the point is relevant. I am trying to distinguish between what could legitimately be passed by means of a public Bill and what should be tackled through private Bill procedure.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Our business tonight is not to decide the Bill's merits and implications; we are considering a procedure for carry-over. The Chair has accepted the motion for debate by the House, and it is therefore perfectly proper and in order. The hon. Member should direct his attention to it.

Stephen Hesford: I am obliged, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I want simply to present the case that because the Bill applies to the region of Merseyside and contiguous parts of Cheshire and other areas in the north-west, the locality that it covers is wider than normal.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman is simply repeating himself. I remind him that I have Standing Orders at my disposal to control that. I advise him to move on.

Stephen Hesford: I shall move on. Part of my prepared speech involved considering the way in which the private Bill procedure came about. However, I cannot do that and I shall therefore conclude.

Hansard for the week of 15 to 23 December 1919 shows that the House debated a carry-over matter. I should like to read out some of the debate because it illustrates the reasoning behind the carry-over procedure.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Member is in serious danger of abusing the procedures of the House. We are considering a specific motion, which deals with whether the Mersey Tunnels Bill should be carried over. I have said more than once that our debate is not about the generality of private Bill procedure and whether it is appropriate. The hon. Member has only one question to tackle tonight. If he strays outside its limits again, I shall apply Standing Orders and cause him to desist.

Stephen Hesford: The Leader of the House in December 1919 tried to bring before the House—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I have just ruled on that. I shall apply Standing Order No. 42, which will cause the hon. Member to resume his seat if he does not conclude his speech within the proper terms of the motion.

Stephen Hesford: In conclusion, and bearing in mind your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I ask hon. Members to appreciate that the Bill is a bad measure, which is bad for the people of Merseyside. Its promoters have previously benefited to some extent from having a pause for thought. Hon. Members would assist the promoters if they allowed them a further pause.

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: My hon. Friend may consider the Bill a bad measure that is bad for Merseyside, but I thoroughly disagree. It is a good Bill, which is exceptionally good for most of the people of Merseyside who stand to gain considerably from it.

Stephen Hesford: On a previous occasion, the Bill's promoters benefited from a pause for thought. They lost

23 Oct 2002 : Column 349

the first version of the measure and, in the intervening period between the first and second Bills, they reconsidered. They subsequently presented another Bill that was substantially different from the first version. If hon. Members reject the suspension, it will give the promoters further time for consideration. It is therefore in the interests of the House and my constituents to give the promoters that time. We can do that only if the Bill is stopped in the current Session.

I therefore ask hon. Members to reject the suspension, allow the Bill to fall in the normal way, and let the promoters present another Bill if they want to change the regime. If hon. Members agree to the motion to suspend without understanding the implications, the promoters will rush ahead. After acting in haste, they will repent at leisure.

Next Section

IndexHome Page