§ Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In Committee this morning on the Civil Aviation Bill the Government, for the second time in a week, failed to carry their own sittings motion. May I take this opportunity—it is the only one I have—to ask the Secretary of State for Transport whether or not he now intends to proceed with the Bill and, if so, when? In doing so, would the Secretary of State bear in mind that it is apparent from the decisions of the Committee at its two previous sittings—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I think I heard the hon. Gentleman say that he was asking the Secretary of State. The hon. Gentleman should be asking me.
§ Mr. Snape
I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker. How on earth I could have confused the Secretary of State with you I do not know. May I therefore ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you have received any intimation from the Secretary of State regarding how the Government intend to proceed with the Bill, since it is apparent from the two sittings of the committee that there is no majority upon it for the Bill as it stands. I and other hon. Members on both the Labour and Liberal benches are entitled to ask what the Government intend to do. I cannot of course speak for the opposition on the Conservative benches.
§ Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is not what occurred a failure on the part of the Committee of Selection to reflect the will of the House? [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman must not raise a point of order with me about what goes on in the Committee of Selection.
§ Mr. Jessel
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Further to that point of order. What remedy is available to the House when the House has decided by a large majority in favour of the Bill on Second Reading—in this case 232 to 154 votes, which is a ratio of 60 to 40 in favour of the Bill — and the Committee of Selection then unknowingly appoints a Committee which is against the Bill? How can the interests of the House be protected?
§ Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Following the point of order from the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape), might it not be for the convenience of the House if one of my right hon. Friends — either the Secretary of State for Transport or the Leader of the House — were to make a statement that the Bill will be withdrawn pending a debate on the Floor of the House about airports policy and pending a decision in the light of that debate by the Secretary of State for Transport, taking into consideration the findings of the airports policy report? If not, will not the Secretary of State be prejudicing his quasi-judicial capacity?
§ Mr. Alan Haselhurst (Saffron Walden)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is not the difficulty due to the fact that the inspector's report on airports policy was published a few days after the Second Reading in this House and that the Standing Committee is reflecting the resulting confusion that has arisen over the Secretary of State's quasi-judicial position? May I therefore support the 193 point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) in believing that the right and better course for the House as a whole would be the withdrawal of the Bill at this stage?
§ Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am not a member of the Committee which is considering the Bill. I voted against its Second Reading. The points which my hon. Friends have made are important. I should have thought that they would be of benefit to the Secretary of State. Certain hon. Members may be uncertain whether the Bill is or is not linked with Stansted. I think that most of those who have studied the matter recognise that it is linked with Stansted and believe that the House ought to drop the Bill until a decision on Stansted has been reached by the Government.
§ Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Surely it is unprecedented for a Standing Committee to fail to approve the sittings motion at two meetings. This in itself is worthy of considerable comment. Is not the truth of the matter that, since the House of Commons gave approval to the Second Reading of the Civil Aviation Bill, certain events have taken place and reports have been published which have led to a fundamental reappraisal of the principle of the Bill? Is it not therefore essential for the Leader of the House and his colleagues to consider whether or not the time has come to withdraw the Bill and introduce more appropriate legislation?
§ The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Nicholas Ridley)
Perhaps it might help the House in the difficulty which has been created for it by a Bill which has been given a Second Reading by a large majority, although the Committee appointed to consider it has not yet seen fit to begin its consideration, if I were to seek to make a statement about it either tomorrow or the next day, and 194 certainly before the House rises for the Christmas recess. The matter requires a certain amount of consideration. I should like to ask for your leave, Mr. Speaker, to make a statement in due course.