HC Deb 14 March 1972 vol 833 cc303-8

Considered in Committee [Progress, 8th March.]

[Sir ROBERT GRANT-FERRIS in the Chair]

3.45 p.m.

Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)

On a point of order, Sir Robert—

The Chairman

Order. Perhaps I could make my own "point of order" first. I think that might be helpful.

I should like to announce one change in the list of selected Amendments which I issued this morning. As a result of representations received, I have decided that Amendments Nos. 175 and 177 should be discussed with Amendment No. 3 and not with Amendment No. 28 on the list as published. The other point which I should mention now, in case it is raised, is that I am prepared to allow a separate Division on Amendment No. 175 and on sub-Amendment (a) to Amendment No. 23, a matter in which the right hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Sir Robin Turton) was interested.

Mr. Foot

First, Sir Robert, I thank you for the consideration which you have given to the representations which we made for the inclusion of Amendments Nos. 175 and 177 with Amendment No. 3, rather than the original selection. But may I renew the representations which some of my hon. Friends have made? On some of the latter selections, which are not likely to affect the immediate discussions, I should be grateful if you could give the same consideration as you have given to the previous ones.

For example, we should prefer it if Amendments Nos. 179 and 180 were taken with No. 150. This might be a more convenient way of embracing the debates. Also, it seems strange to us that Amendment No. 161, referring to Clause 2, should be included with Amendment No. 40and its associated group of Amendments. We would therefore ask you to consider that as well.

The next question that I wish to raise with you is whether you would give fresh consideration to some of the matters which we have put on the Order Paper about separate votes. Although we fully understand why you have embraced these questions in the same debates—for example, in the immediate debate which we are to have on Amendment No. 127—the subject matter of Amendments Nos. 178 and 72 is sufficiently different to require a separate vote. If that were to be denied, it would mean that the Committee could not express its view on some of those questions.

We also feel most strongly that, although it is right to incorporate the debates on Amendments Nos. 3, 175 and 177 together, Nos. 175 and 177 particularly should be separate subjects for Division, because No. 175 refers to the whole discussion that we have had on the so-called ad hoc committee and No. 177 raises a quite separate point.

Therefore, in general, we should like to know whether you would look afresh, Sir Robert, at the question of separate votes on all these matters, particularly because some of these Amendments come from different sides of the Committee and raise different aspects of these matters. We hope that you will consider the matter in that respect.

The third matter that the Committee should consider—this is not immediately a matter for you to rule upon, Sir Robert, but I think that this is the proper occasion to raise it—is that the more that we have considered this Clause—no one who has participated in the debate could deny that the discussion on Clause 1 has embraced subjects which perhaps were not envisaged when the discussions started—the more we think it desirable that Amendments to the Schedule, or at any rate to the first Part of the Schedule, should be taken with Clause 1.

We think that the Committee will be in considerable difficulties if this is not permitted. I understand that this would require a Motion from the Government to ensure that the discussion on the Schedule should take place at the same time as the discussion on Clause 1, and that that should come at that appropriate stage in our proceedings.

I therefore hope, Sir Robert, that we may ask, through you, that the Government should consider this matter and perhaps make a statement to the Committee at a convenient time—either when we start on the next Amendment or possibly at the begining of our proceedings tomorrow.

The earlier that the Government could give some indication of their view on this subject, the better it would be for the Committee, since it would mean that we could then consider how we are to discuss some of the very important questions which arise on the Schedule—particularly paragraph 7 in Part I, which raises extensive matters in a manner which has never been incorporated in any Bill ever presented to the House before.

For all those reasons I hope that the Government will, perhaps on a point of order, give some indication of their view or at any rate some indication of when they can state their views on the general possibilities.

The Chairman

Answering the hon. Gentleman as best I can, the last point, as he said, is not primarily a subject for me. It is for the Government to make up their minds how they wish to tackle the question of the Schedules in connection with the Clauses.

On the question of Divisions, I think the hon. Member said that Amendments Nos. 178 and 72 were in one group and Nos. 175 and 177 in another. I am at this stage prepared to allow him at any rate one Division on each of the two groups in addition to the first of the group. I mean a Division on Amendment No. 172, if wanted, and again on Amendment No. 3, if wanted. I shall also allow a Division on either No. 8 or No. 72 and on No. 175 or No. 177 if wanted. I do not consider that absolutely final—I should like a little more time to consider this—but I concede that to the hon. Member at this stage.

On the other questions that the hon. Member raised, the subject is being actively considered by myself and my advisers and I hope to give him an answer in the very near future.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)

On a point of order, Sir Robert. I am sure the Committee will be greatly helped by your indication that you would be willing to permit a Division on either Amendment No. 178 or Amendment No. 72. Although it is obviously a matter for the hon. Members who put their names to the Amendments, I would suggest that if there is a choice a Division on Amendment 178 might be more appropriate.

Secondly, I hope you will agree, Sir Robert—and I take it from your answer to the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot) that this would be your practice—to consider these applications for separate Divisions without prejudce as we come to them, since the advisability or otherwise of seeking a separate Division may be altered as the Committee proceeds with its study of the previous Amendments and also because it is very difficult—and this is no criticism of you, Sir Robert—when an alteration is made in the arrangement of the Amendments which are to be discussed to come to a decision there and then how it might be most advantageous in the new circumstances to take them.

I want to add only one point, therefore, on your initial communication to the Committee. While respectfully welcoming your decision that sub-Amendment (a), in the name of my hon. and right hon. Friends, to Amendment No. 23 might be taken separately, I ask you whether, if that Amendment to an Amendment were to appear on the Notice Paper in the form of a separate Amendment, you would be willing for it to be treated in the same way as a separate Amendment, since this would, I imagine, be convenient to both sides of the Committee.

Finally, realising, as you said, Sir Robert, that the question of the order in which the first Schedule and perhaps subsequent Schedules are to be taken is not for the Chair, might I, since I first raised this question in the Committee with one of your deputies in the Chair, reinforce the plea of the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale and say that on the previous occasion when I raised it I may have misunderstood the signal conveyed to me by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House but it was a signal such as to give me hope that, as in the case of many other Bills, the Government will in this respect consider what I think is the undoubted convenience of the Committee by bringing the Schedules in after the Clauses to which they refer?

The Chairman

The right hon. Gentleman will understand that his last point is not really a point for me. As regards the two other points that he raised, I had better say definitely that I ought to see what happens on the Notice Paper rather than give a ruling about the sub-Amendment being put down as a separate Amendment. I would rather not commit myself at this stage. As regards anything that might happen about Divisions and the desire of hon. Members to divide on certain Amendments, I quite understand that the arrival of other Amendments which it was necessary to group with an Amendment might alter the impetus which one might want to give to that Amendment, and might lead to a change to another. Those things can, I am sure, be arranged in a reasonable way, as we proceed.

Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)

I should like to raise one further matter which was not adverted to by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Michael Foot), although the two Amendments to which I refer stand in his name. They are Amendments Nos. 29 and 31, grouped together for the purposes of discussion. As you will appreciate, Sir Robert, they raise entirely different points—indeed, in the legitimate sense of parliamentary business they are contradictory to some extent, and some of us who attach considerable importance to Amendment No. 31 would wish to have that Amendment the subject of a separate Division, if that were thought appropriate by yourself, Sir. May I perhaps implant that thought in your mind and respectfully invite your consideration of it, apologising if in so doing I have run in any way contrary to the intentions of those who tabled the Amendments? That seems to be the logic of the position.

The Chairman

I would ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to leave that to me for the time being. Obviously, I cannot really allow a Division on every single Amendment. I must draw the line somewhere. But I want to help the Committee as much as I can, and I am sure we shall proceed in a very happy and congenial manner.

Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)

I reinforce what has been said by hon. Members on both sides of the House in the matter of Divisions and invite you, Sir Robert, to look as favourably as possible on the request for separate Divisions on the Amendments before us. I recognise that it is for the convenience of the Committee at times to group Amendments together, because Amendments cover partly the same subject matter and partly other subject matter; but when we come to Divisions, the consequences of a vote or a decision are precise and, clearly, differ from one division to another. I would have thought, therefore, that this should be taken into account where a considerable section of the Committee wishes to have a Division. Whatever the result of the Division may be, there really are very strong grounds for permitting the Division to take place in those circumstances.

The Chairman

Those are questions which I must, of course, take into account, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to leave it to my good judgment to decide as I think best.

Mr. Eric Deakins (Walthamstow, West)

On the grouping of Amendments, Sir Robert, I would ask with great respect, that when you are considering this matter you might consider the group of Amendments with No. 40, which at the moment stands last on the Notice Paper. I am particularly concerned about No. 161.

The Chairman

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman does not realise that I have dealt with that very point.

  1. Clause 1 45,473 words, 3 divisions
Forward to