HC Deb 06 December 1979 vol 975 cc643-4
Mr. William Hamilton

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I know that you have nothing to do with Committees upstairs, but you are the defender of Back Benchers' interests. When I raised with the Leader of the House the question of proceedings in the Abortion (Amendment) Bill upstairs, no doubt inadvertently he treated the matter with a levity which he later regretted. On both sides of the Committee last night there was great resentment at the continued absence from that Committee of the Minister for Health, the hon. Member for Reading, South (Dr. Vaughan). The sponsor of the Bill had to move the adjournment of the Committee until next Wednesday, when he thought that the Minister might be able to attend.

Will you, Mr. Speaker, make representations to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House so that the interests of all Back Benchers are safeguarded? It must be made clear to all Ministers that their prime responsibility, irrespective of other engagements, is to the House of Commons. If their attendance at a Committee or in the House means cancelling an engagement outside, that engagement must be cancelled.

Mr. Speaker

I allowed the hon. Gentleman to make his point fully. The fact that the Leader of the House is still in the Chamber underlines the earlier point of order.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. St. John-Stevas)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have told the hon. Member fore Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) that I shall investigate the situation and establish the facts. I was told—apparently erroneously—that the Minister was ill. I understand that the Minister has been assiduous in his attendance.


Mr. Robert C. Brown

Further to the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton). It is common knowledge that the delay in that Committee is precluding other Private Members' Bills from beginning their Committee stages. The sponsor of the Bill has cancelled three sittings of the Committee. That means that the Committee stage of other Private Members' Bills are being postponed. Is it not time that the Leader of the House appointed a second Committee to consider Private Members' Bills?

Mr. Speaker

I am obliged for that point of order. I am sure that what has been said will have been noted.