§ Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Edge Hill)
Given the events earlier this week and the lack of time for legislation to proceed, I do not wish to move my motion for leave to introduce the Proportional Representation Bill. It would be better settled at the hustings in a few days' time.
§ Mr. Michael Cocks (Bristol, South)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Were you given any notice that the Bill would not be moved? It has precluded another hon. Member from taking that slot and he might well have wished to test the mood of the House on proportional representation. Since that will be a substantial issue in the next election, it might have been for the benefit of the community as a whole. Will you give us your guidance on that point?
§ Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I gave notice that I would wish to oppose the hon. Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. Alton) and I mentioned that to him. He was courteous enough to tell me what he intended to do today. However, is it not an abuse of the procedures of the House to book time and to withdraw the Bill only when it is too late for other hon. Members to book the same slot?
§ Mr. English
The hon. Member for Edge Hill must deal with his own party, but if he no longer supports the single transferable vote procedure he should say so to his party and not in public. The thing that perhaps cuts me to the quick—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ah."]—is that the hon. Gentleman has deprived me of my swansong, when it was just possible that I might have defeated him, with the votes of both parties.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I come from a part of the country which is very similar to that represented by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. Alton), and where his party was recently humbled in the local elections. Is it not therefore most unfortunate that the hon. 790 Gentleman, who represents a party that apparently considers this issue so important, is not prepared at this critical point in the Parliament to put the matter to a vote? I am confident that right hon. and hon. Members would show the Liberal party and the hon. Gentleman that we are very strongly opposed to proportional representation. It is most unfortunate that he did not have the courage to press his Bill today—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I think that I have had enough now—[Laughter.] I am much obliged to the right hon. Member for Bristol, South (Mr. Cocks) and to the other hon. Members who raised points of order. It is in order for an hon. Gentleman not to move his ten-minute Bill if that is his wish. It has happened before in my time and I am always grateful if a ten-minute Bill … Well, perhaps I had better not say it.