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Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I am not trying to prevent the right hon. Gentleman from continuing his point of order, but we must deal with motions 4 and 5 before coming to motion 6. Does the right hon. Gentleman want to pursue his point of order now?
Mr. Forth: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I seek your guidance and clarification. It has been suggested that motion 6 may be subject to what has come to be known as the deferred Division process, so although the debate would be held now the Division, and therefore the determination of the substance of the motion, would be taken next Wednesday, on a ballot of Members. However, the motion refers to the conduct of business on Monday. It would be bizarre if the House were to be asked to vote on the motion on Wednesday, when the business had already happened on Monday. Before we launch into debate on the motionit has no time limit, happily, and we may have much to say about itit would be helpful if you could resolve that oddity. I hope that you can help.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: I hope that I can. The right hon. Gentleman is correct. If the House wishes to divide on this motion, the Division will be deferred until half-past 3 next Wednesday. It is for the House to decide whether it wishes to agree to the motion.
Mr. Forth: Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. With the greatest respect, how can that be? Only by a Division can we decide whether the House will follow the pattern of business laid down in the motion, which would allow three hours for the Adjournment debate on Monday. How will we know whether the debate should last for three hours on Monday, if we do not have the vote until Wednesday? Perhaps I am being obtusethat is not entirely unknownbut I fail to see how we can know on Monday what substantive decision the House will make on Wednesday. If it will help you to help us, I confirm that I may ask my colleagues to test that point by dividing the House on the motion, just to see what will happen.
Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This is a more serious issue than it appears. We have spotted a flaw in procedure. We know that when the Government change the constitution they seldom think about the real implications, and when the House agreed to the bizarre procedure of deferred Divisions the Government did not anticipate a case such as this. It is surely a nonsense for the House to make a decision on Wednesday about a matter that has already happened. If the House were to vote against the motion on Wednesday, it could not influence something that had happened two days earlier. That is obviously nonsense and I suggest that it is an abuse of the procedures of the House for the Government to attempt to proceed in that way. I suggest that the business managers confer urgently, with a view to withdrawing the motion, so that we may proceed in a more orderly way.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: It is not possible to withdraw the business at this time, but the Government Whip might wish to refrain from moving it. Otherwise, I cannot add to the points that I made earlier in response to the initial point of order. Of course, the House and those responsible for the matter will have heard the points that the right hon. Gentleman has made.
Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As Chairman of the Procedure Committee, I am deeply worried by what has happened. Undoubtedly, the current procedures of the House are flawed. The House would look stupid if we went ahead with the business on Monday but then voted in a deferred Division on Wednesday that it should not take place. Is it within your power to suspend the House so that the issue can be discussed with the Leader of the Housewhom I saw standing in the Chamber only a few moments ago, so he is hereto resolve the issue satisfactorily? I am not seeking to make life difficult for you, for the House or for the Government, but this nonsense should be sorted out before the House of Commons makes a fool of itself.
Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Given that the Parliamentary Secretary, Privy Council Office is present, would it be possible for him to assist us in resolving the matters that have been raised?
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Again, I have listened to the points made by the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) and the right hon. Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack). I am sure that the whole House will have heard them. I have no power to suspend the House, although, as I have said already, the motion could be withdrawn.
It is not my job to answer points of order, but perhaps I can respond to the contents of some of the points that were raised. I defer to your better judgment, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as to what the impact would be if anyone were to call for a Division on the motion. I hope that no one does, as the motion is an attempt to guarantee that Monday's summer recess Adjournment debate is guaranteed three hours. That debate is valued by hon. Members of all parties, and none of them would want to risk letting the other business that the House has to conduct on Monday eat into the time set aside for it.
I do not know what would happen if the motion were to be pressed to a votewhich, as you rightly said, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would be subject to a deferred Division on Wednesday evening. I defer to your wisdom and advice on procedural matters, but my guess is that the implication would be that there would be no guarantee that the summer recess Adjournment debate would get three hours.
Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): This is a fine mess, is it not, Mr. Deputy Speaker? In some ways, the benefit to the House is that we have identified an apparent flaw in the ghastly deferred Division process. I hope that, at the very least, that further thought will be given to what some of us argued from the start was a nonsense and an anomaly.
However, that is for another day. We are now debating the substance of the motion, and I am delightedit takes me back to the good old daysthat we can do so until any hour. That is only right, as the motion raises a number of important issues.
First, why is the motion necessary at all? The answer is readily available. Exchanges earlier today at business questionsto which I made a modest contributionmade it clear that the Government are overloading the House's business for next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to a ridiculous and unacceptable degree. Further, for some reason the Government have decided that the summer Adjournment debate must happen on Monday, when there is other substantial business to be disposed of.
The Minister, in his usual open and engaging way, has said that he is here only to protect the summer Adjournment debate, but from what? The answer is that it has to be protected from the Government, as it is they who are putting pressure on the time available for that debate.