HC Deb 18 July 1979 vol 970 cc1806-8
Mr. Les Huckfield

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to raise with you a matter concerning voting on the Abortion (Amendment) Bill which took place in the House last Friday. I apologise for not having raised the matter before, but I hope that you will accept that with no official Hansard showing the voting lists being available to hon. Members I have only just found out what happened from some of the unofficial voting lists that are appearing in the House.

I voted on the Bill, as did many other hon. Members on both sides of the House, but I have only just found out that my vote has not been recorded. I find that I am not alone in that. I understand that several hon. Members on both sides of the House have a similar complaint.

Having checked upon what happened, and bearing in mind that there was a great deal of confusion surrounding the votes, may I point out that this is an important issue, on which many hon. Members have a serious need to show their constituents which way they voted?

As representation on the Committee to consider the Bill very much depends on the outcome of the vote on Second Reading, may I ask whether it is possible—I appreciate that we are in a sort of constitutional no-man's land—that the vote could be taken again or that the various lists of the various Divisions and parts of Divisions could be published?

I know that it is an unusual situation. We do not have an official Division list. Is there any way, Mr. Speaker, in which you could rectify that position?

Mr. Speaker

I am obliged to the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Huckfield) for giving me notice that he would raise this matter. It has been referred to in correspondence from other hon. Members.

I understand from the Deputy Speaker who was in the Chair at the time that there was considerable confusion as to whether hon. Members were voting on the closure or on the main Question. That view was expressed to the Chair. The Deputy Speaker did what I would have done had I been in the Chair and what is always done in the House if there is confusion in the Lobby. The Division was called off and was called for a second time.

I realise that a number of hon. Members who had been expressing views outside wanted the public to know that they had kept faith with what they had been saying. They were here to cast their votes. Unfortunately, when a Division is called off the list is immediately destroyed in order to avoid any misunderstanding arising. We keep only the list of hon. Members who take part in the official Division.

The Deputy Speaker and I wish that we could help hon. Members who stayed for the whole afternoon in order to cast their votes but who left in a hurry, understandably, after the first vote. It was a Friday afternoon, when many hon. Members have engagements in the country. However, I fear that I cannot help the hon. Gentleman any further.

Mr. Huckfield

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am grateful for what you have said and I do not, of course, cast any reflection on you or your colleagues in the Chair. It is not that sort of matter.

It is a serious matter and one on which hon. Members are under great pressure from all sides in their constituencies. We are in an unprecedented situation, because there is still no official voting record. Is it not possible to amend the unofficial lists that are appearing in the Library and other places? I know that those are unofficial lists, but, if they are unofficial, surely some of the parts of the other Division lists could be made available unofficially.

Not only was there a false start to the vote on the closure; a point of order was raised during the main vote, so that there were three attempts at voting. Even if it is not possible to produce any kind of official or unofficial recollection of what took place, Mr. Speaker, is this a matter that you feel is in your power to bring to the attention of the Committee of Selection, so that it may have it in mind when it makes up the composition of the Committee?

Mr. Speaker

I think that the last point raised by the hon. Gentleman is a substantial one, which will be borne in mind by those responsible. There is no doubt that due to anxiety to get to constituencies hon. Members did not come back to hear the result of the Division in order to know that all was well. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's point will be borne in mind.