§ Considered in Committee
§ [MR. BERNARD WEATHERILL in the Chair.]
§ 4 pm
§ Mr. Brynmor John (Pontypridd)
On a point of order, Mr. Weatherill. I refer to the grouping of amendments on the selection list — No. 24 and following, the fourth group that you selected.
First, we have been working on the estimate that inflation will be 4 per cent. in May and 6 per cent. in November. That has certainly been fudged by Ministers from the Department of Health and Social Security in recent debates. Should not a Treasury Minister be present for the debate to confirm that those are still the Government's estimates?
Secondly, in view of he Chancellor's synthetic song of economic improvement, should not he, too, come to the House to confirm that the Government stand by the pledge given by the previous Secretary of State for Social Services, the right hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Jenkin), that pensioners will fully share in the general rise in living standards rather than merely being protected against further falls, as is now the case.
§ The Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order, but I do not think that it is a matter that I can answer from the Chair. I am sure that what he has said will have been heard by the Government Front Bench.
§ Mr. A. W. Stallard (St. Pancras, North)
On a point of order, Mr. Weatherill. I wish to object to the overall lack of time for debate on this. This Bill and social security expenditure account for at least one quarter—probably nearer one third—of total Government expenditure. To dismiss all the clauses, the important issues affecting every pensioner and beneficiary in the country and the remaining stages of the Bill in one afternoon's debate is a bit hollow.
We know that the Bill is intended to save £210 million. That in itself could be the subject of a whole day's debate. Had the Bill gone into Standing Committee, even with complete co-operation it would have taken a minimum of four Committee sittings and the same in another place. Instead, it is being crashed through. The Government are using their majority in the worst possible way to bulldoze the legislation through and to stifle discussion on one of the most important Bills likely to be passed in the remainder of this unfortunate Parliament.
§ The Chairman
I am certainly not responsible for the allocation of time. However, the hon. Gentleman will see from the 10 o'clock business motion on the Order Paper that there is no necessary time limit on the debate.
§ Mr. George Foulkes (South Ayrshire)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Weatherill. I understand that you are responsible for the selection of amendments. Important amendments and new clauses relating to the restoration of the link with earnings and a new pensioners' price index 297 have not been selected. Can you confirm that the reason for not dealing with those important matters is the very limited time available?
§ The Chairman
No, I certainly cannot confirm that. In making my selection of amendments I have no regard to any time arrangements for debate. My selection is affected by whether the amendments are within or outside the scope of the Bill. I was unable to select those to which the hon. Gentleman refers, because they were outside the scope of the Bill.