HC Deb 17 November 1970 vol 806 cc1116-65

Considered in Committee.

[Sir ROBERT GRANT-FERRIS in the Chair]

7.21 p.m.

Mrs. Shirley Williams (Hitchin)

On a point of order. I wish to seek your guidance, Sir Robert, and in doing so I want at the outset to make it clear that I accept completely the decision of the Chair in regard to the selection of Amendments. I raise this point of order because we are in some difficulty in respect of the first group of Amendments selected, and I seek your guidance in an effort to overcome this difficulty.

You have not seen fit to call Amendment No. 1, Sir Robert, in which we suggest that the word "include" should be replaced by the phrase "consist of". This followed from the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Social Services when, on Second Reading, he referred to the fact that we would have to define carefully in Committee, and in the subsequent regulations, exactly what was included in a family. I was advised that the word "include" was rather broader than the phrase "consist of".

Would it be possible for me to move Amendment No. 1, which stands in my name and that of some of my hon. Friends, in a way which would assume that the phrase "consist of" does not mean an exclusive list of those who are members of a family but may be taken to mean those others in the Bill as it now stands?

The Chairman

I do not think that there will be any difficulty about that.

Mr. S. C. Silkin (Dulwich)

Further to that point of order. I, too, speak with the greatest respect to the Chair and I fully understand that it is not the province of an hon. Member to question the selection of Amendments. Anything I say is, therefore, intended simply to help you and the Committee, Sir Robert, in this matter.

Clause 1 sets out to define what is meant by "a family". Indeed, unless one has a family the Bill does not bite. The Measure therefore naturally starts with a definition of what a family is and that definition in the Bill as it stands consists of three elements, which are cumulative and which are set out in subsection (1) (a), (b) and (c).

My hon. Friends will wish at the appropriate stage to move an Amendment which, if accepted, will have the effect of leaving out altogether one of those three cumulative elements. If the words remain as they are, with "consist of" left in, the effect of the acceptance of that Amendment, as we understand it, will be that, for the purposes of the Bill, a family will consist of only two of the three elements, which is either the man or the woman referred to in subsection (1)(a) and the child or children referred to in subsection (1)(c). That is not the intention, however, of any of our Amendments. On the contrary, our intention is to widen rather than narrow the definition of a family and we see no way of accomplishing that other than by removing the words "consist of", which specify precisely what a family should be, and substitute some such word as" include which is, of course, much wider.

The Chairman

I am obliged to the hon. and learned Gentleman for those comments. I do not think he need have any great difficulty about this. I am sure that we will manage to find what the hon. Lady the Member for Hitchin (Mrs. Shirley Williams) has to say in this matter in order, and I hope that we can now move on to discuss the first group of Amendments.

Mr. Brian O'Malley (Rotherham)

Further to the point of order that has been raised, and I promise to be brief because I appreciate that the Committee is anxious to make progress with the Bill.

As is usual when Amendments are selected—and I make no complaint about the selection of Amendments—both in the Chamber and in Committee upstairs, a number of Amendments are grouped together. It has been the practice on some occasions for Mr. Speaker, when we have been in the House, or for you, Sir Robert, as Chairman of Ways and Means, to be willing to accept separate Divisions on secondary Amendments which are under consideration, and on the paper which has been placed in the Lobby for the convenience of hon. Members there is usually a star against those Amendments on which it is agreed there may be separate Divisions.

My hon. Friends and I are in some difficulty, particularly in relation to two of the groups of Amendments which have been selected, in that we would like very strongly to be able to vote on certain Amendments which will be secondary in the group under discussion. Could you give some guidance on this, Sir Robert?

The Chairman

I have not considered what Amendments on which I would or would not allow Divisions, whatever may appear on the door, as it were. I am always happy to meet the convenience and wishes of hon. Members. If separate Divisions are required, I will be prepared to allow that, though we do not want to have an enormous number of Divisions from among those Amendments which are grouped together because that would be wasteful of the time of the Committee. I think that I will be able to meet the wishes of the hon. Member when the time comes.

[Sir MYER GALPERN in the Chair]

  1. Clause 1
    1. cc1118-58
    2. FAMILY INCOME SUPPLEMENT 15,493 words
  2. Clause 2
    1. cc1159-65
    2. PRESCRIBED AMOUNT 2,611 words
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