HC Deb 19 April 1978 vol 948 cc446-7
Mr. Powell

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. At this point I should like to raise with you a matter of order relating to today's Order Paper on which, as third Order, there appears the Committee stage of the Protection of Children Bill—a measure which I think commands general support in the House and which hon. Members wish to see reach the statute book. The point I wish to put to you is that as the normal notice of this business being taken today was not given—indeed, I appreciate that if it were to be taken today notice could not be given last Thursday—and especially as hon. Members nowadays, since they do not receive delivery of the Order Paper, are not able to be aware of the business until they actually enter the Chamber, hon. Members particularly concerned with this order, and especially hon. Members desiring to move amendments to it, have been placed in great difficulty.

I say this particularly with regard to the fact that there is a matter affecting Northern Ireland which is known to, and I believe accepted by, the Government. In these circumstances may I make a suggestion in order to relieve the difficulty to which I have drawn your attention, namely, that the Government—having established by placing it upon the Order Paper that this is henceforward a Government Order of the Day—might be satisfied to proceed minimally with it tonight so as to report Progress in order that it can be put down again for completion after due notice?

Mr. Speaker

The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), with his customary courtesy, gave me notice of this point of order, which enables me to give him a considered reply.

On Friday last when objection was taken in the Committee stage of the Protection of Children Bill, the hon. Member for Bexleyheath (Mr. Townsend), as the Member in charge of the Bill, gave notice that the Committee stage would be set down for Monday. The Bill accordingly appeared among the remaining Orders of the day for Monday, and it was carried over to the Remaining Orders for yesterday in the ordinary way.

Last night, with the agreement of the Member in charge, the Government gave instructions that the Bill should be placed on the effective Orders. As the Bill has been before the House, among the Remaining Orders, since Monday last, I must rule that nothing out of order has occurred in placing it among the effective Orders today.

It is, of course, open to the Government to provide some of their own time for the discussion of a Private Member's Bill. When they do so, it is the practice to distinguish the name of the Bill with a star, as is done with Government Orders. As hon. Members will see, this practice has been followed.

The right hon. Gentleman and the House will have noticed that the Protection of Children Bill has not been exempted from the Ten O'clock Rule, so that it can only be considered if no objection is taken.