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Dr. Evan Harris (Oxford, West and Abingdon): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have recently learned that the Chairman of the Select Committee on Education and Employment, the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman)--[Interruption.]
Dr. Harris: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I learned today that the Chairman of the Select Committee on Education and Employment, the hon. Member for Huddersfield, has called for my resignation from the Committee, apparently, for opposing the majority report. May I ask you to confirm that members of Select Committees are appointed by the House to scrutinise the Government and that it is not appropriate for the Chairman of a Select Committee, whose job it is to try to create consensus, to make such a decision or, indeed, to express such an opinion? I apologise for giving you short notice of this point of order, but I notified the hon. Gentleman's office about half an hour ago that I hoped to raise the issue with you.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will have noticed that the Prime Minister yesterday set a two-year timetable for the abolition of the pound and the merger of this country's economy with those of continental Europe. Given that all the indications are that over the past two years public opinion has hardened from a two to one majority in favour of keeping the pound to more than three to one in favour of keeping the pound, have you received any notification of a ministerial statement, perhaps to be made by the Minister for Europe, on whether or not the hoped for turnaround could be funded--
Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sorry to have to rise, but you heard the altercation between those on the two Front Benches during the points of order on the
Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I should be most grateful to you for your guidance. Would you be good enough to confirm to the House that the fact that the Hunting Bill (Programme) (No. 3) motion, on extending the time for debate, is not eligible for debate in no way precludes us from saying that, although the extension of time is welcome, it is patently inadequate for the consideration of the remaining new clauses and amendments to the Bill?
Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I apologise for the fact that I have not had an opportunity to give you notice of this point of order, but the information has only just come into my possession. A little while ago, at Education and Employment questions, I asked a Minister about concerns involving the future funding of education business links and was told that the Secretary of State had made an announcement on the matter today.
I have since discovered that the Department issued a press notice on the matter at 10.25 this morning, only an hour before questions to the Department for Education and Employment were due to start. The information was sneaked out, and not in a parliamentary answer. Sufficient time was not given to Members on both sides to become aware of the press notice's contents, and that made it impossible for me and other Members to question the Minister about whether there had been a cut in funding. I believe that there has been a cut of at least 20 per cent. I should also have liked the opportunity to ask whether the additional funding announced will be ring-fenced or will be discretionary funding for the Learning and Skills
Mr. Simpson: My point of order is about the business of the House which we shall have to consider shortly. As a member of the Committee considering the Hunting Bill, I am somewhat confused about how the matter has come back to the House. Presumably it was discussed by the usual channels, who presumably agreed that the House should authorise further time for the Bill's consideration in Committee. I do not understand where the points of conflict and contention arise when such agreements are brought back to the House as a matter of consensus. As a member of the Committee, I would welcome your guidance, Mr. Speaker, on where and how this practice should be properly--
Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Does this matter not show the very reason why Programming Sub-Committees should not meet in secret? We have asked that they do not meet in secret, but the Government insist that they do. If the Committees were to be open, there would be no circumstances in which misunderstandings could take place.
1. Proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading shall be completed at today's sitting.
2. Proceedings on Consideration shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at half past Three o'clock.
3. Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at a quarter past Four o'clock.
4. Sessional Order B (Programming Committees) made by the House on 7th November 2000 shall not apply to proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading.
5. Paragraphs (6) and (7) of Sessional Order A (varying and supplementing programme motions) made by the House on 7th November 2000 shall not apply to proceedings on any programme motion to supplement or vary this order in relation to--
(a) proceedings on Consideration of Lords Amendments; or
(b) proceedings on any further messages from the Lords,
and the question on any such motion shall be put forthwith.
The Bill gives companies the chance to settle their national insurance liabilities on the options granted between 6 April 1999 and 19 May 2000 early--in advance of the date when the actual gain is made by the employee. Companies that wish to use this measure will calculate the amount of national insurance due by reference to the accrued gain up to 7 November 2000--the day before the pre-Budget statement when the proposals were announced. They will be required to notify the Inland Revenue and pay the appropriate amount within 92 days of Royal Assent to the Bill. That effectively caps the national insurance contribution liability by reference to the company's share price on 7 November, so providing the company with certainty.
Our debates in Committee were brief but purposeful. The Opposition introduced worthwhile amendments, and we were happy to accept the main thrust of some of them. In particular, we accepted that the deadline for sending the notification and paying the special charge under the Bill should be extended from 60 to 92 days. We tabled an amendment in Committee in response to the Opposition request that companies with a nil liability to the special contribution should not have to go to the trouble of lodging a formal notification within the 92-day deadline. Under our amendment, such companies will be deemed to have lodged formal notice within the set period. Both those changes will help to reduce the burden of