HC Deb 28 October 1980 vol 991 cc355-61

Postponed proceedings resumed.

Bill immediately considered in Committee, pursuant to order this day.

[Mr. Bernard Weatherill in the Chair]

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

On a point of order, Mr. Weatherill. The position we find ourselves in as a result of the emergency created by the rush to get this Bill through is best illustrated if we try to pick our way through the list of amendments. It would be useful if the Committee were to adjourn for an hour so that we could establish where we are.

It is difficult to identify which of the amendments tabled has been selected, which is likely to be discussed and which amendments have been overtaken by the concessions made by the Government. Further, there is at least one major amendment yet to be tabled by the Government to fulfil the undertaking given by the Minister. I do not know when it is to be tabled.

I can best explain the difficulty by referring to the third amendment selected, which is given as— "Clause 1, page 2, line 20" There are two amendments that could easily be identified by that description. One is in my name, relating to the question of the constable and the prison officer, and the other is in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) and deals with a quite different situation. I do not know whether I am supposed to move my amendment or my hon. Friend is supposed to move his. No doubt you will know, Mr. Weatherill, on the basis of the indication from the Clerk. How the Minister is to reply I know not.

Would it not be wise for us to adjourn for a little while so that there could be negotiations through—I can hardly say "the usual channels"—the unusual channels, so that we can understand what it is we are about to discuss for the next eight hours or so and thereby sort out some of the difficulties so that we might take rather less time in Committee? I submit that we should be allowed this period of grace to put ourselves in order.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

Further to that point of order, Mr. Weatherill. My hon. Friend is on to an important point. If you will look at the fourth set of amendments on the provisional selection you will notice an amendment there in my name, which I did not table. I have an amendment on the list which refers to page 9 of the Bill when there are only six pages to the Bill. More important, if you look at the eleventh set of provisionally selected amendments, those dealing with clause 8, you will see that there is reference to an amendment on page 5, line 28, and page 5, line 31. There are amendments tabled exactly conforming to those terms in my name and in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Rees). Neither my right hon. Friend nor I know which amendment has been selected and which of us will have to move it.

There is a great deal of confusion, which is not surprising in the circumstances, and it would be a great help if we were able to consider the amendments in a slightly less rushed and more dispassionate manner, particularly so that we can consider in detail the amendment that I gather the Government have tabled, but which is not yet available in the Vote Office.

Mr. Cryer

Further to that point of order, Mr. Weatherill. I am concerned that the selection has been hasty.

The Chairman

Order. That is a reflection on me. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the selection was not hasty, and I assure the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon) that I, and not the Clerk, select amendments.

Mr. Cryer

Because of how we are dealing with the Bill, you, Mr. Weatherill, obviously had less time for the selection of amendments than you would have wished. The first two amendments to clause 1, in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon), were not selected. They refer to the possibility of orders being obtained from the House for the categorisation of places that are to be termed prisons. I understand that those amendments were felt to be in conflict with clause 8. But that is not so, though I can understand—

The Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman is questioning my selection and I cannot allow that.

Mr. Cryer

I am not questioning your selection, Mr. Weatherill. I am questioning the amount of time that you have had to examine these and other amendments and to make a comprehensive selection. It is beyond doubt that insufficient time has been provided for you.

The Chairman

An adjournment would not make any difference. I will not re-think the selection. I went through the manuscript amendments carefully and made what I consider to be a generous selection. I think that we should now proceed.

Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

On a point of order, Mr. Weatherill. Surely it is the case that if an hon. Member informs you and the Committee that an amendment standing in his name is not to be moved by him that amendment will fall and that will be the end of the matter. The hon. Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk) said that an amendment attributed to him had not been tabled by him. Surely that disposes of the amendment. It must fall if its alleged mover disclaims movement of it.

The Chairman

I am satisfied that all the amendments that I have selected are in order. Correspondingly, many of those not selected were not in order.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

On a point of order, Mr. Weatherill. I am not questioning the fairness or appropriateness of your selection. However, you may know which amendments you have selected, but I do not know. In particular, there are amendments to clause 8 in my name and that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South. They are different amendments, which is exactly the point that my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. Lyon) was making about a different clause. Which amendment has been selected, and which hon. Member will move it, Mr. Weatherill? That is what we want to know.

The Chairman

The answer to that is the Shadow Home Secretary.

11.45 pm
Mr. English

I am not, Mr. Weatherill, challenging your provisional selection as it is stated on the piece of paper that we have. There are 26 draft amendments mentioned on it that you have provisionally selected, and I am not challenging those. I am sure that you provisionally selected them upon the assumption that they were due to be tabled.

The basic rule of the House is that amendments must be tabled after the Second Reading. I checked a moment ago, and as far as I am aware only four amendments have been so tabled. The 26 which end up with the words New Clause (Kilroy-Silk's First)"— a somewhat unusual way of putting it, and I think slightly unlikely, in any case—were not tabled after the Second Reading.

There are two sets of circumstances. Like you, Mr. Weatherill, I have been in queues of Members just in front of the Opposition Front Bench, near the Table, trying to get in amendments on occasions such as this immediately after the Second Reading and before the Committee stage of a Bill that is passing through all its stages immediately. That is not happening tonight.

I also recall occasions when the Government have tabled motions stating that amendments can be put down before a Bill's Second Reading has taken place, to avoid that queueing procedure. There was a business motion earlier. It was passed on the nod with the help of the Opposition and everyone in the House. But the Government simply forgot to provide that we could table amendments before the Second Reading had taken place.

It may be said that there are precedents for this rather slovenly way of proceeding. If that is so, why were some amendments issued through the Vote Office as if they had been laid before Second Reading, and amendments that were also put in the Table Office before Second Reading were not put in the Vote Office for hon. Members to see?

The Clerks at the Table cannot have it both ways. If they are choosing to act as if the Government had put down a motion that the Government forgot to put down, they should not have allowed some amendments to be presented by the Table Office to the Vote Office, to be issued to hon. Members, and have forgotten to put others there. They should have treated them all equally.

The Chairman

The House has been in this position before when we have had a Bill going through all its stages in one day. We have had to accept manuscript amendments. One could not be certain what time the Second Reading debate would conclude. Therefore, I had to make a provisional selection at an appropriate moment in order to get it circulated to hon. Members.

All the amendments, including the hon. Gentleman's amendments, were seen by me in manuscript. Some of them were typed and circulated up to that point, but after I had made my selection the rest of the amendments were not at that stage circulated. Any amendments that came in after that manuscript were also seen by me. I did not feel able to select any more of them. The hon. Member's manuscript amendment was certainly seen and considered.

Mr. English

Of course, I believe you, Mr. Weatherill, but could you take under advisement this slovenly procedure whereby some amendments are treated as if they had been laid when they were not, and others are treated as if they had not been laid when they were? It would be far better if the Officers of the House relied on the motions put down and dealt with amendments laid after the Second Reading, unless there is a motion tabled by the Government, and passed by the House, saying that they can be laid that. It is a slovenly procedure simply to assume that one can act as if the put down a motion that Government had put down a motion that the Government forgot to put down, as they have forgotten so much. You will recollect, Mr. Weatherill, that one of my amendments was to set up a contingencies commission to advise the Home Office on contingency plans that it may not have thought about. It is fairly obvious, due to the hurry in this case, that it did not think of the possibility of a prison officers' strike.

Mr. Lyon

Further to my original point of order, Mr. Weatherill. It is obvious that I had not explained my point sufficiently clearly to you. I am not suggesting that you are in confusion. I accept that you are the one person in the Committee who understands where we are. My difficulty is that I am confined as, I suspect, are most hon. Members. The issue is that these amendments, due to the rush, were not numbered. It is therefore impossible for hon. Members to recognise which amendments have been called. I wonder, therefore, whether it would be possible for you to indicate which have been called by reference to the name of the proposer of the amendment.

The Chairman

I propose to do exactly that. I think that we should proceed on that basis. Before doing so, I should say that, in addition to the amendments I have selected, some Government amendments have been tabled. There are seven amendments to clause 8. I shall ensure that when we reach that point the Committee knows about it. The first amendment to be selected is in the names of the hon. Members for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett), for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk) and for Barking (Miss Richardson).

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

I was under the impression, Mr. Weatherill, that you would indicate all the amendments selected. It will not enable us to make a useful contribution to the debate if we get up to move, or prepare for, an amendment that you are not intending to call. It would have been helpful to be told now all the amendments that have been selected rather than for hon. Members to be informed at the time when one of us has to move the amendment.

The Chairman

If it will help the Committee, I should perhaps indicate those amendments I have selected for clause 1. The first amendment is in the names of the hon. Members for Stockport, North, for Ormskirk and for Barking. That is clause 1, page 1, line 7. The second amendment is in the name of the hon. Member for Stockport, North, in clause 1, page 1, line 14, together with page 2, line 33. The third amendment is in the name of the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lyon). That is page 2, line 20. The hon. Member for Stockport, North will perhaps now move the first amendment.

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