HC Deb 20 May 1976 vol 911 cc1731-844

As amended (in the Standing Committee), considered.

4.19 p.m.

Mr. Bruce Douglas-Mann (Mitcham and Morden)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I raise the question of the selection of amendments? The amendments which have been selected do not include two new clauses to which, we were told in Committee, further consideration would be given before Report. There was no express undertaking, but a reference was made in Committee to the fact that further consultation would take place both in relation to the new clause which now stands on the Notice Paper as New Clause 7 and to the clause which now stands as New Clause 3, neither of which has been selected. I appreciate that the extent to which it is legitimate to question your ruling on these matters is limited but these are matters which occupied the Committee for some considerable time. It was considered that we were not in a position to press those amendments to a vote because further consultation was required. It was indicated that this consultation would take place.

Amendment No. 9 which appears on the Paper to a certain extent is the other half of New Clause 7. May I ask your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, for a ruling that you will permit New Clause 7 specifically to be discussed when we reach Amendment No. 9?

However, New Clause 3 does not arise, except to a certain extent, under any other amendment: it stands in its own right. It was the subject of considerable debate in Committee. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Law Officers' Department said in col. 1035 that it was intended that explorations and investigations with the police organisations would be undertaken to see to what extent it would be practicable to deal with the spirit and intention of the new clause which corresponded to what is now New Clause 3. In those circumstances my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) withdrew his amendment. However, neither of these new clauses is listed for debate.

While I appreciate the point made by the Leader of the House—we are all anxious to see this Bill go through—it is, nevertheless, a technical Bill and an important and difficult Bill. It is important to ensure that it goes through in a form which is workable. Both sides of the House desire to see the Bill carried through effectively but it requires examination and the two new clauses are important. I feel that we should have an opportunity to discuss them in adequate detail.

Mr. Phillip Whitehead (Derby, North)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Mr. Douglas-Mann) is right. Substantially the same clause as New Clause 3 was withdrawn in Committee, as reported at col. 1037 of the Official Report, on the understanding that the Parliamentary Secretary would intervene on Report to tell us of his consultations. Try as I might, I cannot see any other new clause or amendment as tabled, either by the Government or by Back Benchers on either side, which would allow him to make that intervention. Although the undertakings were given on All Fools Day 1976, I hope that they can be honoured and that perhaps the selection of amendments might be reconsidered on this point.

Mr. Michael Alison (Barkston Ash)

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. I believe that some very special considerations arise about the way in which we should handle the Bill and the suggested amendments. I do not know whether you are aware of the fact, but had it not been for the attitude of the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Mr. Douglas-Mann), myself and one or two of my colleagues towards amendments tabled in Committee the Bill would not have emerged in this form, if at all.

It is only because we agreed to a Government undertaking that they would enter into the most widespread and systematic consultations with outside bodies on the basis of proposals very akin to those contained in some of the new clauses—I understand that those consultations have since taken place—that we allowed the Bill to go through as it was. Because of the ending of the Committee stage, there has been no systematic opportunity to debate the principle which we put forward.

The most important point is the reaction to those consultations of outside bodies with an immediate personal interest. This is the only opportunity that the House has had to consult and debate matters widely discussed outside by the representative bodies of the police. It would greatly damage the principle of debate and consideration of measures supported by both sides if we were not given an opportunity at least to discuss new Clause 4 and, I believe, new Clause 3. I hope that it will be possible for you to reconsider this matter.

Mr. Speaker

I am obliged for the way in which hon. Members have raised their points. I shall certainly look at New Clause 3, but I must say that my first understanding is that an identical, or almost identical, new clause was discussed in Committee and withdrawn without being pressed to a Division.

On New Clause 7 I cannot hold out much hope at all, for technical reasons. I get into difficulties if I start explaining why I have not selected any new clause, and I had better not do so now. I shall consider whether there is cause to change my selection.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Law Officers' Department (Mr. Arthur Davidson)

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. What my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Mr. Douglas-Mann) has said about New Clause 3 is correct. I undertook to report on the progress of certain negotiations. It is obviously a matter for you, but I have no objection to discussing New Clause 3.

Mr. Speaker

I am obliged. I shall let the House know my decision within a few minutes when I have considered it.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I hope that this point of order is constructively put. It is intended solely to expedite progress on the Bill. As my hon. Friend the Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison) said, we are confronted by two Government new

clauses and, subject to your discretion, possibly with extended debate on between 27 and 30 new Government amendments, plus amendments by others. I would, through you, put it to the Home Secretary, who I know wishes to get the Bill through, as do we all, that it is more likely to go through expeditiously if the House can know reasonably soon that the Government will not be pressing us to gallop through the whole thing during the night. The right hon. Gentleman will know from his experience of the House that pressing hon. Members to do that is likely only to be counter-productive and to result in debates which do not expedite the Bill. I would, through you, Mr. Speaker, ask the Home Secretary—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member cannot ask the Home Secretary anything through me. He must ask him directly when he gets the chance. I have undertaken to look at the matters raised, and that I shall do.

Sir Bernard Braine (Essex, South-East)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I accept the ruling which you have just given, of course, but you are responsible for the general conduct of proceedings. I would join my hon. Friend in submitting—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I know already what is coming. We shall reach midnight simply on points of order if we do not begin the business. I cannot allow points of order on the question of how long the debate is likely to continue. If I am wrong in my assumption of what the hon. Gentleman wanted to raise, I apologise.

Sir Bernard Braine

You have the gift, Mr. Speaker, of the Celtic race. You have psychic powers which enable you to see deep into the recesses of my heart and mind. All that I wanted to say is that, unless there is some quick response to the pleas which have been made, not only will the Government's clause, which we in principle support, be badly served but every police officer in the country, whose morale is bound up with what happens to the Bill, will look askance at this House. I hope that for that reason, if not because of the feelings of hon. Members, due note will be taken by the Home Secretary.

  1. New Clause 1
    1. cc1735-65
    2. DISCIPLINARY CHARGES IN CRIMINAL CASES 11,882 words, 2 divisions
  2. New Clause 2
    1. cc1765-80
  3. New Clause 3
    1. cc1780-818
  4. New Clause 4
    1. cc1819-20
    2. DEFINITIONS 371 words
  6. New Clause 8
    1. cc1840-3
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