HC Deb 26 February 1975 vol 887 cc495-7
Mr. Ridley

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to raise a matter with you concerning further progress in this House on the Finance Bill.

In Committee, the Government were made aware of the need to have their amendments and new clauses tabled in good time for the Report stage. I understand that the Report stage is likely to be started on Monday of next week.

It appears that the Government have not yet tabled all their amendments and that at least one and possibly three new clauses have not been tabled at all. Certainly that was the position this morning, although a great many new clauses and amendments have been tabled today. However, as I see it, there can be no further new clauses tabled so that they will be available to hon. Members before tomorrow morning. I refer to amendments dealing with capital distributions to trusts and possibly with charities, and a new clause dealing with forestry, none of which is yet on the Notice Paper.

If these amendments are not on the Notice Paper until tomorrow morning, it will mean that hon. Members who wish to table amendments to those amendments and new clauses will not be in a position to do so until tomorrow. That in turn will mean that they will not appear on the Notice Paper until Friday, and only then as starred amendments, which will be starred in respect of any debate which may take place next Monday.

That would be all right if it were possible to get amendments tabled as quickly as that. But the interests concerned here are very major ones—forestry, charities, agriculture and many settlements—and it will be necessary for some consultation to take place about major new clauses which may or may not be tabled today and appear on the Notice Paper tomorrow.

The Bill has been altered radically in Committee and is promised by the Government to be further altered. I submit that it is not satisfactory for this House to be presented with major new clauses on a Thursday morning which will be considered on Report on the following Monday.

I raised this matter in advance with the Chief Secretary in Committee. I will not bore the House with quoting what I asked the right hon. Gentleman, but he obligingly replied: I am aware of the problem. I always try to help hon. Gentlemen opposite. They are so kind, generous and courteous at all times, and I will try to be the same."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 13th February 1975, cc. 1591–2.] The Government have not fulfilled that undertaking, and I submit that it would be quite improper for the Report stage to start before next Tuesday at the earliest because there will not be time to table amendments which you, Mr. Speaker, will be able to consider, and which will be unstarred, in time for proper and orderly debate to take place on the first day of the Report stage.

I hope you will agree with me that it would be quite wrong for this House to enter into the Report stage at least before next Tuesday.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Quite apart from the gravely damaging nature of the proposals contained in the Bill and the effect that they will have on employment and enterprises throughout the country, it emerges from the matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) that the proposals themselves are wholly ill-considered and are, even now, being handled without consideration for this House and for people outside—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not think we can have a discussion on the merits on a point of order.

Sir Geoffrey Howe

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I was passing to the matter of substance raised by my hon. Friend. It is quite impossible for hon. Members and for interested parties outside this House who have to be consulted to consider legislation being prepared in this way. I express the hope to you that generous consideration will be given to calling and allowing us to debate starred amendments, and that the Government will consider it their duty to bring forward legislation in a more appropriate form than they are seeking to do to deal with this tax—better still, to withdraw tax.

The Chief Secretary of the Treasury (Mr. Joel Barnett)

Perhaps I may deal with the matters raised by the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley), who knows something about them, and tell him that up to last night 83 Government amendments and new clauses had been tabled, that there will be more in the possession of the House today and tomorrow, and that I shall be happy to deal with the untruths just uttered by the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe).

Mr. Burden

Do not the remarks just made by the Chief Secretary indicate the real situation? He said that already 83 new clauses and amendments had been tabled and that others would follow. It is obvious that there will be no time for proper consideration or consultation on so many amendments.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

I remind the House that we have a great deal to do.

Mr. Gow

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Since the Leader of the House is present and since we have been told that 83 amendments have been tabled already, with further amendments to come today and tomorrow, would it not be for the convenience of the House if the Leader of the House told us exactly what timetable the Government have in mind for the future progress of the Finance Bill?

Mr. Speaker

These matters can be raised on the Business Statement tomorrow, if need be. The only matters that the Chair has to consider are starred amendments and possibly manuscript amendments. I shall take all these matters into account when I am deciding my selection of amendments.