Motion made, and Question proposed,
That this House takes note of the First Report of the Select Committee on Procedure (House of Commons Paper No. 570) and agrees with the recommendations contained in paragraph 14.[Mr. Biffen.]
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Paul Dean)
Mr. Speaker has asked me to suggest to the House that as part of the debate on motion No. 6 on procedure, it would be convenient also to discuss motion No. 7:
- (1) That during the next Session Mr. Speaker may announce at the commencement of public business that, because of the number of Members wishing to speak in a debate on one of the matters specified in paragraph (2) of this Order, he will call Members either between six o'clock and ten minutes before eight o'clock or between seven o'clock and ten minutes before nine o'clock to speak for not more than ten minutes; and whenever Mr. Speaker has made such an announcement he may, between those hours, direct any Member who has spoken for ten minutes in such a debate to resume his seat forthwith.
- (2) This Order shall apply to debates on:
- (a) the second reading of public bills;
- (b) matters selected under paragraph (2) of Standing Order No. 6 (Arrangement of public business) for consideration on allotted Opposition days; and
- (c) motions in the name of a Minister of the Crown.That this Order be a Standing Order of the House until the end of the next Session of Parliament.Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment to motion No. 7 in the name of the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James).
§ Sir Peter Emery (Honiton)
This short debate and the motion before the House arise from the first report of your Procedure Committee, Mr. Deputy Speaker, which not surprisingly is entitled "Short Speeches". I am grateful especially to the Leader of the House for arranging for this debate so rapidly after the publication of the report. The Committee is also pleased that the Government have considered it sensible to propose the exact recommendations of the Committee for adoption by the House. Those recommendations can be seen in the motion on the Order Paper.
The trials and tribulations through which ordinary Back-Bench Members must go in trying to catch Mr. Speaker's eye in major debates is hard to understand by anyone unless that person has been a Member of this honourable House. The number of speeches torn up, deposited in the waste paper basket and never delivered because of lack of time in debates is more than legion. All this can be even more frustrating for the new Member—more frustrating perhaps than unrequited love for the young courtesan, although some of us may no longer fit into the category of young courtesan.
I wish to deal with one criticism which I have heard which suggests that these recommendations are another attempt to gag Members of Parliament. Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, exactly the opposite are the facts. Paragraph 14 on page ix of the report clearly sets outthe position. It states:Our proposals are designed to seek ways of ensuring that as many Members as possible participate in debates whilst not preventing individual Members, for whatever reason, from having the opportunity to make longer speeches if they consider it necessary.We accept immediately that this measure is limited and will mean that only two or four more Members will be called in the normal all-day major debates. None the less, 1342 we consider that this is worth while and believe that it will be particularly so for those Members who get called. Therefore, the Committee started by looking at the facts.
Consideration of the length of speeches has been given many times by many different Committees. After the last major review of procedures in 1977–78, the House accepted as an order, by a large majority, implementing an experiment that during the Second Reading of Bills Mr. Speaker might be able to apply a 10-minute limit on speeches between 7 pm and 9 pm. However, because there was no permanently appointed Procedure Committee, as there is at present, no assessment was ever made of the success or otherwise of that experiment, and it duly lapsed.
When the present Committee was set up by the House, its terms of reference specifically asked us to consider among other thingsthe application of time limits on speeches".I am particularly grateful to my colleagues on the Committee for enabling us to deal with this inquiry promptly. The Committee is indebted to Viscount Tonypandy, our previous Speaker, for his evidence and to Mr. Speaker for his informal advice.
Our proposals in the report allow us to build on the previous experiment in a way which we believe will command the widest measure of support in the House and which will be practicable. In many instances our proposals are similar to the previous experiment in the following ways—the restriction of speeches to 10 minutes during a two-hour period would be triggered by an announcement by Mr. Speaker that in the light of the number of members wanting to speak, the 10-minute rule would apply. This limited restriction would apply to only part of the debate, and paragraph 8 of the report sets out the arguments as to why this would actually be for two hours only. It would apply on Mondays to Thursdays.
We held this view, wishing to stay close to the previous experiment and believing that Private Members' Bills and time was a rather different ball game which could be considered by the Committee when it reviewed the success of our limited recommendations. These recommendations are put forward in a new Parliament for an experimental period of one year.
Our proposals this time move on from the previous experiment in that they apply not just to Second Reading debates but to full-day debates on Opposition Days and to substantive Government motions. In other words, they would apply to nearly all the major debates on the Floor of the House. They give Mr. Speaker the option of deciding whether the 10-minute restriction should apply between 6 pm and 8 pm or between 7 pm and 9 pm.
If the House approves the motion tonight, it is the Committee's intention to assess the working of the rule as to its time of operation and the range of debates to which it applies during the current session and then to make permanent recommendations to the House.
Although modest, our proposals go some way towards meeting the demand for a greater sense of fairness in debates in which many Members wish to take part. We must surely recognise that even with the slightly limited attendance tonight ours is, by world standards, an unusually large parliamentary assembly. It is not realistic to expect all those who wish to be called in every debate to be able to speak; but we believe that our proposals will lead to some increase in the number of Members who are called in the major debates in which they wish to participate.
1343 Our report makes it plain that we do not propose that rigid time limits should apply to all speeches. There are some who would like to see that, but we considered it essential to retain the traditional virtues of debate in this place which are admired in many other parliamentary democracies. Our proposals still safeguard the position of those Members who wish, for whatever reason—perhaps because they are spokesmen of other parties, groups, regions or Committees, or because they have a particular constituency or personal interest or a distinctive and complicated case to put forward—to speak for longer than 10 minutes during specific debates.
Paragraphs 11 and 12 of our report also refer to the length of speeches of Ministers, Front Bench spokesmen and Privy Councillors. There was a strong enough feeling to record that when the 10-minute rule is to apply, all speakers—Back-Bench and Front-Bench and Privy Councillors—should look to shortening their speeches in the interests of the House as a whole. In these instances my personal view is that Ministers should always instruct their Departments to prepare speeches of 20 to 25 minute length at a maximum, thereby allowing, even with interruptions, a speech of no longer than 30 minutes. Ministers may not realise how popular this could make them.
As I recommend this fairly modest proposal—in your absence, Mr. Speaker, I thanked you for the advice that you gave to the Committee—I ask all hon. Members to realise how much can actually be said in 10 minutes if one really tries. I am glad to say that I have now spoken for only nine minutes and 10 seconds.
§ Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)
These recommendations, though modest, have been carefully considered and are well worth while for an experimental period. I fully support them.
§ The Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Biffen)
It might be for the convenience of the House if I intervene at this stage and thank my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) and those who served with him on the Procedure Committee for this report.
I start with a belief that a high level of frustration and dissatisfaction is inevitable for all who come to this House and take part in its proceedings. I believe that that would even have been experienced by previous generations of parliamentarians, many of whom came here more in a spectating role and less in a participating role than is true of this House of Commons. I also have an instinctive hostility to anything that tries to impose on our proceedings any more rigidity than we already possess.
Therefore, it is in that sense of agnosticism that I look at the report. I welcome its modesty, which has been underlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton, and, in particular, the emphasis that it is experimental and flexible and leave much to your discretion, Mr. Speaker.
It is in that cautious sense that I recommend it in a personal capacity, because this is truly a House of Commons occasion and, if there is to be a vote, it should be so seen.
1344 None the less, I do not wish the modesty of my welcome to detract from the fact that I believe that if we grasp the fact that many speeches are considerably enhanced by their brevity, we may, by one way and another, improve the general quality of debate in the Chamber.
I want to conclude on a point which I am sure that the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) was trying to establish when he sought to intervene. Any speech which is judged net of interruptions is possibly a speech that much diminished in its attractiveness to the House. Of course, it shows that it is foolish to have any preconceptions in terms of arithmetical times.
Above all, I must warn the House about what I suspect is a modish fashion for the length of ministerial speeches. I have no objection to ministerial speeches being shortened. I am sure that that would help us all. But once Ministers are given the protection that they need not give way because they have to abide by the convention that they will only speak for a certain time, we take from the House a most charming dimension of parliamentary blood sports—the ministerial speech coming adrift under interrogation. In this situation there is clearly both baby and bath water and I am sure that the House would like to view it in that way.
§ Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney)
Like the Leader of the House, I approach the matter with a good deal of agnosticism. Certainly, I am no mad enthusiast for the proposition that is before us. Indeed, if it were not couched in terms of being a one-year experiment of a rather limited kind, I am rot at all sure that I would be speaking for it at all. Why? The argument is fairly obvious. The argument in favour of limiting people to 10 minutes is basically that more people can speak. Nobody objects to that statement of purpose. That is precisely the way in which the detailed propositions in paragraph 14 are introduced. It says:Our proposals are designed to seek ways of ensuring that as many Members as possible participate in debates".However, there are other purposes in debate as well. They are that there should be a good debate, not an artificial debate, and that someone who has something worth saying should not be stopped and artificially restricted in the saying of it. It may be—not always, but it may be—that on the particular occasion that a Back Bencher speaks between the hours of 7 pm and 9 pm he has something of burning importance to say that should be heard. So have no doubt that there is a trade-off here. We shall lose something. We should be prepared to watch the experiment with that clearly in mind.
§ Mr. Eric Forth (Mid-Worcestershire)
Will the right hon. Gentleman concede that another powerful reason in favour of the argument is that the restriction of speeches might discourage incoherent rambling and self-indulgent contributions and would encourage people to structure their speech in advance and produce a tight, taut argument?
§ Mr. Shore
I cannot be certain about that. It depends very much on how right hon. and hon. Members approach the question of addressing the House and with what seriousness and concentration they turn their minds to what they have to say. No automatic assumption can be made that, because Members have a limited time in which to speak, they will make better speeches.
1345 Having paraded my doubts, I must say that, like others, I think that a certain amount can be said in 10 minutes. The hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) who introduced the debate, nicely and neatly kept within the 10-minute self-imposed rule to good effect. I have not even bothered to look at the time and hon. Members saw how happily I gave way. But if I were self-conscious and worried about the time, that would be a draw back and I might well say precisely what a Minister might be tempted to say if he were so restricted, as the Leader of the House reminded us—that I have not the time.
§ Mr. Shore
Yes, people do it anyway, but the temptation will be all the greater. Therefore, the spontaneity of debate is affected.
As I said, a lot can be said in 10 minutes. The hon. Member for Honiton has shown us that and my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) showed us even more succinctly. The Leader of the House did not exactly encroach beyond his 10 minutes, and I shall certainly do the same.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Mr. Silkin) who reminded me that the Gettysburg address takes exactly three minutes to read and I think that I would be right in saying that even the sermon on the mount can be got through in 12 minutes. Therefore, it is not an intolerable burden to impose 10-minute speeches on Members between the hours of 7 pm and 9 pm or 6 pm and 8 pm, according to the Speaker's guidance. I can only say that we must watch—and I am glad that we shall do so on this occasion—the experiment, monitor it and report back.
§ Mr. Robert Rhodes James (Cambridge)
At an appropriate moment I shall move an amendment which extends the proposal of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to Fridays.
I fully appreciate the remarks made about the high level of frustration. My amendment is logical, intelligent and sensible and, therefore, will perhaps not commend itself to the vast majority of the House, particularly because my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, when talking about Mr. Gladstone this week, referred to 1886 rather than 1881.
One should not underestimate the frustration and difficulties that Back Benchers have. Last Friday, which is supposed to be an easy day, 40 hon. Members wished to speak in a debate on higher education. When we have public Bills and other contentious issues, many hon. Members also wish to speak briefly.
My proposal will ensure only that between the hours of 11.30 am and 1 pm on Fridays nine Back Benchers will have the opportunity to address the House. It is a modest proposal which follows on from the proposals of my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery). It is important and it will give to that minority, the Back Benchers of the House, the opportunity to express their views on major issues.
§ Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
I am attracted by the suggestion of the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. 1346 Rhodes James), knowing full well that the discretion which you have, Mr. Speaker, in applying the limits, could readily be applied so that it was not allowed to intervene in cherished traditions on the way in which private Members' and other business is handled.
As the hon. Gentleman said, many important debates take place on Fridays to which exactly the same problems apply. Those problems, on Fridays and other days, reflect to some extent on the business management of the House. There have clearly been many occasions when those responsible for the presentation and timing of its business have given insufficient time to major issues and, conversely, well-known occasions on which a large amount of time has been allowed and hon. Members have been sought, even press-ganged, into taking part extensively in debates which need never have lasted as long. We all know that that happens and we should all apply ourselves to trying to ensure that the time of the House is used more wisely.
I am with the Leader of the House in his defence of the right—nay, the necessity—of Ministers not to be under too much restriction of time in their opening of debates. I support the general admonition of Front Bench speakers in the report, but it is important that they should be subjected to intervention and not be able to avoid that pressure. That is partly because there are times when the sheer weakness of their case should be exposed and partly because when presenting, for example, the Second Reading of a Bill, there are details and problems about the Bill that should be explained as the speech goes on and on which hon. Members can press the Minister for a fuller explanation. Such interventions often avoid the necessity to make a speech later in the debate. On many occasions I have felt that a ministerial speech of 45 or 50 minutes has been fully justified.
I direct my criticism at the Opposition Front Bench, although not in any unpleasant or even partisan spirit. On many occasions, Opposition Front Bench speakers have been under the mistaken impression that to speak at length strengthens the effectiveness of their case. They speak at great length even on statements. On many recent occasions a ministerial statement of three or four minutes has been followed by a counter-statement of many times that length. It has been considerably less, rather than more, effective, and has probably led to a number of Opposition Back Benchers being excluded from the exchanges. That also happens during debates. That admonition should be heeded by the Opposition Front Bench.
The report quite properly recognises the position of those who must speak occasionally for more than 10 minutes. For example, the spokesman for a minority party may wish to present a case as fully as the case presented by the Opposition spokesman. There is no logical reason why, if the Labour party presents a case that requires 30 minutes, the Liberal, SDP or some other minority party may take only 10 minutes to deploy their case. It may be that, on occasion, we might make more effective use of 10 minutes than of 30 minutes. However, the Committee rightly recognised that the presentation of a view by a party or a Select Committee may take more than 10 minutes. That is the purpose of your discretion, Mr. Speaker. You can make provision for that. However, an hon. Member may wish to speak from the Liberal Bench between 7 o'clock and 9 o'clock, and it would be proper to impose a 10-minute limit. I am glad that the Committee recognised that. 1347 It would be wrong if the House wished to go further along that road and preserve a pattern of debate that is not the pattern of debate taking place in the country. We must not suggest that a Government view takes 30 or 35 minutes to deploy, that the Labour Front Bench view will take the same time but that any other views, from whatever quarter, must be expressed in a much shorter time. I am grateful to the Committee for not taking that view.
In the report of the proceedings of the Committee there is an account of a division that carries with it the seeds of future trouble. Against my advice, the Committee decided to defer the consideration of Opposition time until it had conducted other business. Inevitably, that will mean that it will be some time before we come to the contentious issue of how Opposition time is divided. We shall shortly embark upon another Session and that issue is bound to raise its head. The Labour party has 19 days of Opposition time at its disposal. During the past two Sessions, it has offered one day to the alliance, thus taking for itself eighteen-nineteenths of the available time. By no standard is that just, reasonable, or a recognition of the debate taking place in the country. I shall not pursue that argument tonight as there will be many other occasions to do so. However, I regret that the Committee did not give the House the benefit of its advice at an early stage in this Parliament. It would have saved the House a lot of trouble had it done so.
§ 7.3 pm
§ Mr. Richard Ottaway (Nottingham, North)
When I came to the House last year from the sanity of the outside world, I was somewhat amazed by the set of rules for debating in the Chamber. In the spirit of the debate, I shall keep my comments brief.
I support the reforms proposed by the Select Committee, but theydo not go far enough. The principle should be carried into other sectors of our procedures, such as Report stage, Third Reading, Committee stage and motions. We should try to outlaw two sorts of speech. One is the speech made by hon. Members whose brevity is not their strong point. There is an old saying that if one cannot say what one has to say in 10 minutes, one should write a book. During the proceedings on the Police and Criminal Evidence Bill on Monday, 21 Members spoke on racial discrimination in the space of 152 minutes, an average of seven minutes each. That established that it is possible to restrict speeches to 10 minutes, and the proposed rule would encourage more such debates.
The second speech that should be outlawed is the filibuster. I had the unpleasant experience of seeing the Nottinghamshire County Council Bill talked out, not on one evening but on three evenings. While I do not deny the right of anyone to use the rules to his advantage, that manner of proceeding misunderstands the objectives of this place. If someone is opposed to legislation, the remedy is through the ballot box, not the filibuster. It is worth noting that in the European Parliament anyone opposed to legislation has one and a half minutes speaking time for what it calls an explanation procedure.
For those reasons, I support the motion, but I hope that when the experiment is reviewed my points will be taken into account.
§ 7.5 pm
§ Mr. Hugh Brown (Glasgow, Provan)
The hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Ottaway) is the only 1348 speaker who has tried to give a reason for the introduction of a ten minutes rule. I am following a worthy precedent in taking up remarks made by the previous speaker. The trend in the House, especially among new Members, is to come to the Chamber with a well-researched, 10-minute speech that has been already handed out to the local press. While I recognise that that is part and parcel of the purpose of making a speech, it destroys the atmosphere of real debate when carried to excess.
I am a little quizzical about the magic figure of 10 minutes. I, too, am an agnostic about the whole purpose of the recommendation. Brevity is marvellous, provided it is in someone else's speech, and especially when waiting to make one's own speech. No one can match the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), and I shall not try to do so.
What is a long speech by a Back Bencher? I know that you, Mr. Speaker, have a direct interest in this debate. I do not think that there are many instances of long speeches after 6 o'clock or 7 o'clock. If a debate is interesting, hon. Members are queueing to join in. I am more concerned about the declining attendances in the Chamber. I do not understand the reason for the proposed change. Is it to allow one or two more hon. Members to contribute, or is it to improve the quality of the debate in the Chamber and, therefore, attract more Members?
It is not a bad thing to listen to someone else's speech. I do that regularly, and I find it interesting. I assume that the recommendation completely carries out the suggestion in paragraph 14 of the Select Committee report. I assume that it applies to all hon. Members, whether Privy Councillors or leaders of Opposition parties, and that it is indiscriminate if Mr. Speaker says that he is applying the rule to a particular debate. If that is so—I shall not be pressing this issue to a Division—it is difficult to oppose such a meek and mild suggestion that there should be an experiment for a year followed by a review. In any event, discretion will be with Mr. Speaker. In terms of fundamental changes being recommended, this is something of a non-event.
In my experience, some of the most interesting debates take place when there is a free vote or when the issue is regarded as a House of Commons matter. We see this evening one of the largest attendances that we are likely to witness in the Chamber at 7 o'clock. I do not think that there were as many Members present last night at the same time even for the debate on unemployment.
I do not welcome the proposition that is before us, but I accept it halfheartedly, if only because it is part of the process of trying to enhance the prestige of the Chamber. As discretion will rest with Mr. Speaker, I am happy to accept it.
§ Dr. Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maidenhead)
I welcome the motion, although it does not go as far as the motion which I have had on the Order Paper for a long time. At least it will give the House the chance in the next year to assess how the recommended procedure works in practice. Of course, we should like to know whether it will apply to Privy Councillors. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery), the Chairman of the Committee, for raising the issue so quickly. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House on bringing 1349 the matter before the House. I think that it will give Back-Bench Members a better chance to participate in our debates.
The motion which I have been placing on the Order Paper for a long time recommends that speeches should be confined to 15 minutes except by leave of the House, which would meet the point of the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore). If that provision were introduced, it would enable a Member with a particular interest, or who represented a particular faction in the House, to continue speaking for longer than 10 minutes if Mr. Speaker exercised his discretion accordingly. The issue would be left always to the discretion of Mr. Speaker. Perhaps that is something that we should consider in future.
My motion was considered when it appeared on the Order Paper in 1970 with more than 100 signatures. It was rejected, but I received a nice letter from the Chairman of the Committee which considered it. Throughout the years I have ensured that it has appeared on the Order Paper so that Members are made aware that there are ways of allowing more Members to speak in our debates. I am grateful to those who have supported it.
The words of Viscount Tonypandy were appropriate when he said that the procedures that we are discussing might help to remove some of the frustrations which Back Benchers suffer. It is especially important that such a system should be introduced when there is one party with a large majority, which means that its Members have a much more limited chance on a one-to-one basis of having their say.
I hope that the experiment will prove a success. If it does, I hope that it will be extended. If it is extended to all speakers at the discretion of Mr. Speaker, a Member who has a particular interest will be allowed to continue speaking by leave of the House. We would thus achieve the object of the 10-minute speech and exceptional circumstances would be met by the exercise of Mr. Speaker's discretion.
Mr. John Mc William (Blaydon)
I have much enjoyed serving on the Procedure Committee under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery). It has been an enlightening experience and I am now much more informed about the way in which the House operates. I agree basically with my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Brown). I have been motivated throughout by the desire not to see the rights of individual Members further eroded.
It has been alleged that if we readopted the earlier experimental procedure more Back Benchers would be able to participate in our debates. The Procedure Committee's report is directed to ascertaining whether that will happen in practice. It is unfortunate that when the previous experiment was conducted we were not in a position to compare like with like. We hope now to introduce an experiment that will enable us objectively to assess whether Members have more or less opportunity to have their say within the constraints that we are asking you, Mr. Speaker, wisely to apply. The proposition must surely commend itself to all hon. Members because we want objectively to make an assessment.
1350 It is my instinct to defend the rights of Back Benchers. I want to defend the rights of all hon. Members and that has been the view of the Procedure Committee. The hon. Member for Honiton, the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) and I have expressed concern about hon. Members' rights. It has been alleged that the proposed limitation would enable more Back Benchers to participate in our debates and it is our desire to ascertain whether that is right.
The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) is not right in his assertion that the Labour Opposition have eighteen nineteenths of the Supply Days. The Labour party is not the only Opposition party in this place. There are Opposition parties other than the Social Democratic party and the Liberal party. The fact is that other Opposition parties have been allocated time. The previous Select Committee took that into account when it decided to reduce the number of Opposition days. I had the privilege of being a member of that Committee. Some of the Committee's other recommendations were not implemented and that reduction may not necessarily be entirely relevant in terms of what the House has seen fit to introduce. I do not detract from the argument of the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed, but I suggest that it is an issue that merits further consideration.
I ask all hon. Members to accept that the intention of all members of the Procedure Committee is to defend the rights of hon. Members from further erosion. It wants to ascertain whether those who advocate reducing the duration of speeches to 10 minutes are right or wrong.
§ Mr. Roger Freeman (Kettering)
I am not persuaded by the arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) or my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. I make my brief contribution to this debate from the vantage point of a new Member. There are two reasons why I am not persuaded. The first relates to the quality of debate that exists at present and that which is likely to exist under this new rule. My hon. Friend the Member for Honiton argued that, with this new rule, we might get in one, or possibly two, extra speeches from Back Benches. I would argue that we must look to the qualitative argument in addition to the quantitive one. I suggest to my hon. Friend in all humility that, with a 10-minute rule in operation, with the best will in the world, new Members will not give way to interventions. It is hard enough as a new Member to participate sensibly in a debate by giving way and responding in an intelligent fashion. With a 10-minute rule, I fear that no interventions will be granted by Back Benchers during the two-hour period. I cannot foresee any way in which injury time could be taken out for interventions in a sensible and practical fashion. Interventions would be counted within the 10 minutes.
For the quantitative benefit of getting in one or two extra speeches, the House would suffer qualitatively in terms of contributions. I was always brought up to believe that this was a debating Chamber—not one where we have a serious of speeches.
§ Sir Peter Emery
I intervene just for the sake of accuracy. I thank my hon. Friend for giving way. When 1351 the experiment was carried through the period of the 1979–80 Parliament it was interesting that, even with the limitation of 10-minute speeches, hon. Members gave way. Part of my hon. Friend's argument does not hold water historically.
§ Mr. Freeman
I accept that, but I point out that during the debate on the Rates Bill, I and many other hon. Members were frustrated at not being called. Under a voluntary restraint procedure, without the operation of a 10-minute rule, there was an excellent debate during which a great number of hon. Members were called. I have gone over that debate and tried to see how many extra speakers would have been called had a 10-minute rule operated. I was hard pushed to calculate more than one or, at the outside, two extra speakers. That happened under a restraint procedure, based upon Mr. Speaker's appeal to hon. Members. That system seemed to work well.
The second reason why I am not persuaded by the arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton is that I think that the rule would discriminate against Back Benchers.
§ Mr. Freeman
The rule would discriminate against Back Benchers collectively, because I believe that the real perpetrators of lengthy speeches are seen before 7 pm. Appeals for brevity might more correctly be directed to Front Benchers and Privy Councillors. By imposing a limit upon Back Benchers, one is directing the rules and regulations at the wrong class of speaker. Once again, it is an example of the poor bloody infantry being singled out for attack when the real culprits are the general staff.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
Like the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Freeman), I must confess that I am not over-enthusiastic about the proposals, but unlike him I think that there are arguments that we must believe in accepting this report. In some circumstances, so many hon. Members wish to contribute to a debate that a time limit of some type seems to be almost inevitable. We must accept that now, unlike previous times and previous centuries, virtually all hon. Members wish to speak—the only exception being Government Whips. In previous centuries, it was not unknown for a large number—perhaps the majority—of Members of Parliament not to participate in debates. It was never expected that they would speak. The time of the House was taken up by the oratory of the great stars, who certainly took more than 10 minutes to put their arguments. We are, therefore, in a different ball game.
One of the reasons why I believe a time limit is necessary is found in what is described as a day's debate. That is a misnomer. Rarely does a day's debate begin before 4 pm or shortly afterwards. Rarely does the day's debate begin immediately after Question Time. The reasons are obvious. There are private notice questions, statements, points of order—sometimes I am the guilty party—applications under Standing Order No. 10 and ten-minute Bills. On occasions, the day's debate can begin after 5 pm, although normally it begins at some time around 4.10 pm. If a debate begins at 4 pm or 4.10 pm, it will be after 5 pm before the two front Benches have finished.
Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition was followed by the Chancellor of the 1352 Exchequer—not that we learnt much from the Chancellor—who finished his speech at 5.13 pm. So yesterday, Back Benchers had between 5.13 pm and 9 pm to contribute to the debate. In the main, there is time for perhaps 18 Back Benchers to speak before the replies begin—eight hon. Members from each side. We must recognise that as well as the humble back Benchers like myself, Privy Councillors on the Back Benches and hon. Members from minority parties wait to be called. We may find that in a so-called day's debate only six Back Benchers from the Labour Benches were called.
I have looked at yesterday's important debate on unemployment. Altogether, seven Labour Members of Parliament were called to speak on the major issue of unemployment, which affects all our constituencies. Going by what you said yesterday, Mr. Speaker, before the debate started a large number of Labour and Conservative Members wrote and asked whether they could be called. Of the seven Labour Members who spoke in yesterday's debate, one—my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mr. Parry)—had to limit himself to three minutes. One cannot make much of a case in three minutes, although my hon. Friend did well. I feel therefore, that there is a case for some kind of limitation. I hope that that limitation is not applied frequently and that there will be a great deal of restraint on your part, Mr. Speaker, in imposing such restraint. Given a choice of the times available for speaking, I would rather have 6 pm to 8 pm than 7 pm to 9 pm and my reasons are pretty obvious.
I should like to raise other matters. I hope that in raising the first point I shall not be misunderstood by you, Mr. Speaker. Should the alliance—which organises itself as one group and constantly says to the county} that its members are blood brothers and one group in Parliament although it has not had a formal amalgamation—be treated as two separate parties in debates? In effect, Opposition time is taken by a member from the Social Democratic party and the Liberal party, and the next speaker in the debate is from the Government side. That does not always happen, but when it does it makes inroads into the amount of time left for Labour Members of Parliament.
On another point would it be so bad—I hope that this will not be misunderstood—for a list of speakers to be published beforehand? The Procedure Committee report comes down heavily against that proposal. As I understand it, a list of speakers is put up in another place. The argument against having a list of speakers is that, if an hon. Member knows that his chances of being called are remote, he will not stay in the Chamber. I am not convinced by that argument. In practice—I hope that I am not causing Mr. Speaker any embarrassment—we ask Mr. Speaker about our chances.
§ Mr. Winnick
My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover—Simon Pure—does not, but most of us who have more human failings and weaknesses do so, if many Labour Members wish to speak.
§ Mr. Winnick
I have never grovelled in my life. I certainly do not need any lectures from my hon. Friend. I should be the last one to grovel to anyone.
§ Mr. Winnick
At least I do not grovel to the media, like some I could mention.
It is pretty agonising to find that 12, 15 or 20 colleagues want to be called and we have no idea of our chances of speaking. We ask you, Mr. Speaker, as I know Conservative Members do. What would be the harm of experimenting with a list? One of the drawbacks might be that we should be unable to negotiate although I do not know that we can negotiate now. If a list is drawn up the chance of being called in a different batting order is somewhat remote. That is a weakness. If a list were published, one would not be able, I suppose to see you, Mr. Speaker, or the occupants of the Chair and change the batting order. There is a case—I am not arguing it strongly—for publishing a list so that we do not have to do what we do, and I make no apologies for doing it.
At the beginning of my remarks, I mentioned the pressure that there was to speak. It is expected that most of us will speak. Why not? We come here to put a point of view. I know that I am elected to put the point of view of those whom I represent—working people. If I did not do so there would hardly be any point in being here.
I am convinced that if television were introduced—I am not saying that I am the strongest opponent of television here—the pressure to speak would be even greater. Prime Minister's Question Time has been altered dramatically as a result of radio. It may well be that in time we shall have television, but I have yet to make up my mind about it. However, I know that if we were to bring the cameras into the Chamber there would be enormous pressure to be here and to speak; otherwise we should be criticised.
I do not argue with a great deal of enthusiasm for the experiment, but for the reasons that I have given, I believe that the Committee has probably come to the right conclusion.
§ Mr. Tony Favell (Stockport)
I listened carefully to my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Freeman). My experience is contrary to his views. I support the proposal, and I shall support the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James). There are far too many occasions when hon. Members sit in the Chamber for five or six hours with an important contribution to make but are unable to say a word, never mind make a short speech. I believe that that is worse than someone being cut short after 10 minutes.
My experience as a new Member has shown that those hon. Members who have been here for years and who have the greatest reputation, not just among new Members but among the older, are those who are clear and concise. Those who are not merely clear the Chamber.
§ Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)
The Select Committee is to be congratulated on the report. It gives me cause to reflect on what happened to me when I was elected to the House in 1979. I, with many of my hon. Friends, came into the Chamber and witnessed what angered many of us on that occasion—a stream of 1354 speakers being called, invariably led by Privy Councillors who to us at that time appeared to have a privileged position in terms of their right to speak.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Dr. Marek), who has had to return to his constituency, would, if he had caught your eye, Mr. Speaker, have drawn your attention to the debate on Government policy that took place on 31 July this year. He would have referred to the allocation of time, which is what this debate is about, and the proportion of time given to Front Bench spokesmen, Ministers, Back Benchers and Privy Councillors. During a debate that took five hours and 40 minutes, 45 per cent. of the time was allocated to Front Bench spokesmen and Ministers. Privy Councillors were allocated 25 per cent. That made a total of 70 per cent. Only 25 per cent. of the debate was allocated to the further 500 Members who, I believe, have equal rights during our debates.
I remember that I felt aggrieved when I was first elected and raised the matter with a number of my colleagues in the Tea Room. Amongst them was a good friend of mine, Mr. Bob Cryer, the former Member for Keighley. He said, "Dale, there is a simple way to deal with the problem. You forget Supply days, Government motions, Second Reading debates and you concentrate on Third Readings, Report stages, and Finance Bill Committee stages on the Floor of the House, and you have a feast. You will find that throughout the year you can enjoy your parliamentary life much more by being able to listen to others speak, because, invariably, on a tense Supply day"—invariably it is tense as everyone waits to speak—"people are not listening." There is a lesson in that for us all, but that does not mean that I wish to oppose the experiment. I see it as an experiment, but I have one reservation which is the point that was raised by the Leader of the House as to what happens with interventions.
One of the great joys of debating in the Chamber is what happens when there are interventions. They are the meat of our debates. The cut and thrust of parliamentary debate is dependent upon the quality of the interventions and the way in which some hon. Members are able to probe and expose inconsistencies in the case being put forward by the proponent of any argument.
I believe that this experiment, as it has been construed in the form in which it is being presented to the House, may well diminish to some extent the quality of our debates. I do not believe that the motion precludes you, Mr. Speaker, from taking into account the fact that those interventions are a vital part of our debates. In your wisdom you might wish to take into account the length of those interventions and, perhaps, allow a little flexibility as to what constitutes 10 minutes to ensure that we all enjoy the richness of what we believe to be some of the finest debates in the country.
§ Mr. John Browne (Winchester)
I agree with one of the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours). It pointed to the percentage of time allocated in the debates. They are telling figures. But I disagree with him about interventions. The evidence shows that when this experiment was carried out before, it did not discourage interventions all that much.
I believe that the present experiment which is targeted at a certain time of the day for the later, mainly Back-Bench speeches is discriminatory and I agree about that with my 1355 hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Freeman). I propose that the experiment be adopted for all Back-Bench speeches including Privy Councillors, and that the opening speeches of Ministers should be limited, like replies, to 30 minutes.
I agree with the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), who spoke of a list system. It does not give a true reflection of the modern day to have hon. Members waiting in the Chamber for two days during two-day debates. They prepare a speech and wait two days but do not get called. That is wasteful. We should move towards a list system which would reflect the modern age. Members would have a reasonable target at which to aim and would know whether they were likely to be called.
The reporting of the House has been mentioned. Hansard's reporting of debates is extremely good and fair because there is no editing. What worries me about BBC reporting in the Chamber and hence television, is that there is editing, and that means great political power. I should support the introduction of television into the Chamber but not while there is heavy editing, because that is an enormous encroachment of unrepresentative, unelected, political power.
I support the motion but not the amendment.
§ Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)
I am one of those masochists who voluntarily spends time in the Chamber listening to debates. I have a great deal of sympathy with you, Mr. Speaker, and the Deputy Speakers who have the misfortune to be compelled to sit through long debates.
I acknowledge that there is a problem and that there are some people who go on at some length and are inconsiderate to some of their colleagues on both sides of the House.
I remember an occasion when you, Mr. Speaker, made an effort to penalise one side of the House because a particular hon. Member on that side had spoken for rather too long. I know because I suffered from it. It was my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell), speaking on the summer Adjournment, in connection with the Falkland islands. It was a very interesting speech but he went on at some length. As a consequence, you, Mr. Speaker, called two hon. Members from the other side of the House before you called me. I felt mildly aggrieved at the time because it was not my fault. That was one way of tackling the problem and it had some effect. I had better not dwell too much on my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow, who is a very dear friend.
As we all know, we have the problem of people who abuse their opportunties in this House. The Select Committee's proposal is useful and I should like to give it a fair wind, but I am worried that it builds into the Standing Orders, Mr. Speaker, the existence of your list of speakers. The motion is thatMr. Speaker may announce at the commencement of public business that, because of the number of Members wishing to speak in a debatea certain procedure will be followed. Presumably, at the commencement of public business, no one has yet had an opportunity to rise in his place and seek to catch your eye. The only way in which you can know that hon. Members want to catch your eye is when they have written to you, and you have a list on your shelf. I am a little worried about that. Some of us have misgivings about the existence 1356 of that list and pecking order. Everyone has a quick look at it. If hon. Members find that they are not well placed on the list, they tend to leave and do not come back until the Division at 10 pm. It is a pity that the random element of trying to catch Mr. Speaker's eye does not seem to apply any longer. Perhaps that is a matter meriting further consideration in due course.
However, the proposal is flexible. You, Mr. Speaker, already have discretion in several matters. We have the so-called ten-minute Bills. I have heard speeches which have continued for rather more than 10 minutes when hon. Members have been seeking the leave of the House to introduce Bills.
The consequence of the proposal could affect the Scottish Grand Committee, and I should like to ask the Leader of the House about that. As you know, Mr. Speaker, the Scottish Grand Committee is a sort of hybrid Committee. It is not a Standing Committee such as those that deal with legislation. It is a Committee which deals with the Second Readings of Bills, with matter days and Estimates days, and business of that nature. As a consequence of the proposal, could similar restraints be imposed in the Scottish and Welsh Grand Committees? I do not express a view on whether that would be a good or bad thing, but I wonder whether the proposal may have knock-on effects.
There are certain problems which always affect us when the House is dealing with Scottish affairs. As you know, Mr. Speaker, there are not many Scottish Conservative Back Benchers. Therefore, when the House is dealing with Scottish legislation or the Second Readings of Scottish Bills, we always have the rather unedifying spectacle of the Scottish Conservative Whip going out into the highways and byways to look for the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker), on whom he knows he can rely to make his usual speech. Some of us have heard that speech on many occasions. It should not be necessary for the hon. Member for Tayside, North to be present at the Second Reading of every Scottish Bill and make that speech. Anything that can restrict the padding that is sometimes inserted into debates, particularly Scottish debates, will be most welcome.
The motion embodies a useful proposal, and I am grateful to the Select Committee on Procedure for bringing it before us. I think the House should give it a fair wind.
§ Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
I want to put it on the record—[HON. MEMBERS: "Filibuster".] No, I shall not filibuster. I just want to put on the record that I am amazed at the number of people on our side of the House, in particular on the Back Benches, who have adopted the attitude that the proposal is not a bad idea and that we should give it a fair run. Most of those present on the Opposition Benches are the type of people who would be seen here at 1 am and 2 am, fighting against the Government, doing the Opposition's job. I just cannot understand their naivety in imagining that the proposal will do other than give more power to the Executive.
The proposal will not curb the speeches from the Government; it will not result in the Opposition Front Bench having to curtail their speeches. It will even allow Dr. Death, called by the Speaker immediately after the two Front Benchers, to speak on behalf of the SDP, contradicting the Liberal spokesman, as he did today on the statement—but I shall not go into that. They are 1357 allowed 20 minutes. I am not against the Liberals and the SDP having 20 minutes each to contradict one another. But when statements are made, a nice little group of people —the leader of this party, that party and the other party—are handed copies of the statements, whatever they may be. Back Benchers must be made to go along with the idea of handing power to the Executive and to the Speaker.
It was suggested that the proposal will be an experiment. As for there being any question of my grovelling to television, I remind the House that the miners' strike has been on for eight months and I have not appeared once on BBC television. Hon. Members can draw the conclusion that, far from grovelling, I have been giving people some stick.
During the past 14 years I have been concerned about the way in which power has gravitated even more towards the Executive. As Labour Members we are supposed to be using every available minute of our time in thwarting the Government. The only value of the Opposition is in buying time, in stalling, in using time effectively to hold up the Government. Yet hon. Members are agreeing that it will be all right for some people to speak for 40 minutes because we are daft enough to make our speeches in eight or nine minutes. When we get to the most important point we shall be allowing the Speaker to pull us up and prevent us from finishing the speech. If we do that we shall get into an incongruous position. Are nearly 200 Opposition Members and 300 Conservative Members going to fall into that trap? Surely they have more sense than that.
The idea is put forward that the Speaker is somehow immune from criticism, and that he can be given the so-called objective task of deciding when to operate the scheme. It will be for the Speaker to decide who is to be stopped in full flight. I have an idea who will be the first one to get the whip. I have only to say two things of the wrong sort and the Speaker pulls me up. I shall not fall for the proposal.
During the past 14 years the Executive has taken more power to itself. There have been occasions in the recent past when the Speaker has prevented business questions from being continued when hon. Members have been on their feet wanting to raise legitimate items of business for the following week. It has been said that it happens only occasionally and that generally speaking, the Speaker will call every hon. Member who has risen. But every so often we find that the Executive seeks to reduce further the opportunities for Back Benchers to raise issues. The same argument applies to statements.
§ Mr. Home Robertson
I fear that my hon. Friend may be misunderstanding the proposal that is before the House. Like my hon. Friend, I would hate to give up any opportunity that already exists to obstruct the business of the Government. [Interruption.] What we are debating here is business which is already——
§ (1) That during the next Session Mr. Speaker may announce at the commencement of public business that, because of the number of Members wishing to speak in a debate on one of the matters specified in paragraph (2) of this Order, he will call Members either between six o'clock and ten minutes before eight o'clock or between seven o'clock and ten minutes before nine o'clock to speak for not more than ten minutes; and whenever Mr. Speaker has made such an announcement he may, between those hours, direct any Member who has spoken for ten minutes in such a debate to resume his seat forthwith.
§ (2) This Order shall apply to debates on:
§ (a) the second reading of public bills;1358
§ Mr. Skinner
What I have to say to the hon. Member for wherever it is with those thousands of acres, is this. One gives an inch and they take a mile. Now it is Supply days, then it is Second Readings and then it is something else. They will say, "It is only an extension of what we did in 1984, when we allowed Mr. Speaker to stop us after 10 minutes." When television comes, some more rules will be brought in, and we shall have to curtail our speeches even more. Why? Because television has had such an impact in every area of our life into which it has intruded.
§ Mr. Skinner
I have read it. There is no need to make snide remarks about not having read it. I am saying to the House: Don't just look at what is on the Order Paper. Look into the future and imagine what the Executive will do once it realises that it has a list of tame Back Benchers prepared to toe the line and go along with a cosy arrangement that has been drawn up by the club of consensus. Whenever I see the Front Benches agreeing together, I have a natural instinct to say that there is something wrong.
§ Mr. Skinner
When the official Opposition and Government Front Bench get together, and the leaders of the Liberal party and the Social Democratic party tell their minions to join in, I know that it smells. If the Whips are involved as well, it is even worse. So I have read the motion and I know what it means in practice. No doubt it will be carried as these 10 Back Benchers flock into the Lobby to support that consensus and Mr. Speaker. However, I am prepared to bet that in 12 months' time there will be more people against it than there are now.
I say to my hon. Friends: Do not have anything to do with this. Our job is to harry the Government day and night. Some of us like to use that opportunity. Once one gives the power to the Executive that is suggested in the motion, they will say that they will take a little more from us. I am not prepared to give them that inch. They might want to take a mile later. They are not having anything from me tonight.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That this House takes note of the First Report of the Select Committee on Procedure (House of Commons Paper No. 570) and agrees with the recommendations contained in paragraph 14.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed,1359
§ (b) matters selected under paragraph (2) of Standing Order No. 6 (Arrangement of public business) for consideration on allotted Opposition days; and
§ (c) motions in the name of a Minister of the Crown.
§ That this Order be a Standing Order of the House until the end of the next Session of Parliament.—[Mr. Biffen.]
Amendment proposed to the Question, in line 5, after 'o'clock', insert
', on Monday to Thursday sittings, and between half-past eleven o'clock and one o'clock on Friday sittings,'.—[Mr. Rhodes James.]
§ Question put, That the amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 49, Noes 34.
|Division No. 481]||[7.54 pm|
|Alton, David||Hayward, Robert|
|Amess, David||Hind, Kenneth|
|Beith, A. J.||Kennedy, Charles|
|Benyon, William||Key, Robert|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Lester, Jim|
|Boyes, Roland||McWilliam, John|
|Brandon-Bravo, Martin||Marek, Dr John|
|Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E)||Meadowcroft, Michael|
|Burt, Alistair||Moynihan, Hon C.|
|Butler, Hon Adam||Page, Richard (Herts SW)|
|Butterfill, John||Powley, John|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Robinson, Mark (N'port W)|
|Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Cartwright, John||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Cash, William||Sims, Roger|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)||Spencer, Derek|
|Coombs, Simon||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)||Taylor, John (Solihull)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.||Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Waller, Gary|
|Eyre, Sir Reginald||Watson, John|
|Fallon, Michael||Wood, Timothy|
|Forth, Eric||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Franks, Cecil||Mr. Robert Rhodes James and Mr. Richard Ottaway.|
|Bellingham, Henry||MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Madden, Max|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Mather, Carol|
|Browne, John||Molyneaux, Rt Hon James|
|Buck, Sir Antony||Parry, Robert|
|Carlisle, John (N Luton)||Pike, Peter|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)|
|Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)||Proctor, K. Harvey|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Smyth, Rev W. M. (Belfast S)|
|Forsythe, Clifford (S Antrim)||Soames, Hon Nicholas|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Stevens, Martin (Fulham)|
|Harvey, Robert||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Holt, Richard||Viggers, Peter|
|Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)||Walker, Bill (T'side N)|
|Knight, Gregory (Derby N)|
|Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)||Mr. Dennis Skinner and Mr. Robert Atkins.|
|MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Main Question, as amended, put:
§ The House divided: Ayes 67, Noes 22.1360
|Division No. 482]||[8.4 pm|
|Adley, Robert||Brandon-Bravo, Martin|
|Alton, David||Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)|
|Amess, David||Browne, John|
|Beith, A. J.||Burt, Alistair|
|Benyon, William||Butterfill, John|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Campbell-Savours, Dale|
|Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)||Meadowcroft, Michael|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||Molyneaux, Rt Hon James|
|Cartwright, John||Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)|
|Cash, William||Moynihan, Hon C.|
|Clwyd, Mrs Ann||Ottaway, Richard|
|Coombs, Simon||Page, Richard (Herts SW)|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)||Powell, Rt Hon J. E (S Down)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.||Powley, John|
|du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Rhodes James, Robert|
|Emery, Sir Peter||Robertson, George|
|Eyre, Sir Reginald||Robinson, Mark (N'port W)|
|Favell, Anthony||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Forsythe, Clifford (S Antrim)||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Forth, Eric||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Franks, Cecil||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)|
|Ground, Patrick||Smyth, Rev W. M. (Belfast S)|
|Hargreaves, Kenneth||Spencer, Derek|
|Harvey, Robert||Steel, Rt Hon David|
|Hayward, Robert||Taylor, John (Solihull)|
|Hind, Kenneth||Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)|
|Holt, Richard||Viggers, Peter|
|Home Robertson, John||Watson, John|
|Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)||Winnick, David|
|Kennedy, Charles||Wood, Timothy|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)||Mr. John McWilliam and Mr. Roger Sims.|
|MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)|
|Bellingham, Henry||Marek, Dr John|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Mather, Carol|
|Boyes, Roland||Parry, Robert|
|Carlisle, John (N Luton)||Pike, Peter|
|Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)||Prescott, John|
|Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)||Proctor, K. Harvey|
|Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)||Silkin, Rt Hon J.|
|Freeman, Roger||Walker, Bill (T'side N)|
|Howard, Michael||Waller, Gary|
|Knight, Gregory (Derby N)|
|Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)||Mr. Dennis Skinner and Mr. Robert Atkins.|
§ Question, as amended, agreed to.
(1) That during the next Session Mr. Speaker may announce at the commencement of public business that, because of the number of Members wishing to speak in a debate on one of the matters specified in paragraph (2) of this Order, he will call Members either between six o'clock and ten minutes before eight o'clock or between seven o'clock and ten minutes before nine o'clock on Monday to Thursday sittings, and between half-past eleven o'clock and one o'clock on Friday sittings to speak for not more than ten minutes; and whenever Mr. Speaker has made such an announcement he may, between those hours, direct any Member who has spoken for ten minutes in such a debate to resume his seat forthwith.
(2) This Order shall apply to debates on:
That this Order be a Standing Order of the House until the end of the next Session of Parliament.
§ Mr. Skinner
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It should be placed on record, and perhaps you will take this 1361 into account because as Mr. Speaker you will have a great deal of discretion in the matter of 10-minute speeches, that, out of the 650 Members of Parliament who are available to take part in this momentous exercise, fewer than 100 chose to do so. As only 93 hon. Members took part in the vote, you should, during the course of the year of this experiment, bear in mind that the number of Members participating in the vote was a minute proportion—a smaller proportion than could be secured in a postal ballot for a trade union leader, or in Some other examples about which we have heard so much.
What sort of democracy is it that prevails here? Eighty per cent. of hon. Members are playing truant, have gone absent or are on fact-finding tours in the Caribbean or wherever they are sunning themselves. I hope Mr. Speaker, that you will take all those factors into account and that you will use whatever authority you have, stick it under the cushion under your Chair and keep it there.