HC Deb 20 February 1985 vol 73 cc1037-77

Motion made and Question proposed, That, notwithstanding the practice of the House relating to the interval between the various stages of a Bill brought in on a Ways and Means Resolution, more than one stage of the London Regional Transport (Amendment) Bill may be proceeded with at any sitting of the House.—[Mr. Biffen.]

3.39 pm
Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

I beg to oppose the motion, Mr. Speaker. In doing so, I wish to point out to the House that it is most unusual to have such a business motion at the commencement of public business before even a ten-minute Bill. But this is an unusual business motion, because it was put down yesterday and it could have been taken at about 4 am this morning, but one of my hon. Friends from London turned it, technically, into opposed business. Therefore, it is on the Order Paper, quite properly, as first business this afternoon.

I understand that the Leader of the House wishes to vary procedure. The motion says: notwithstanding the practice of the House". Whenever that happens, Back Benchers of all parties have to take some notice, irrespective of what may have happened in the usual channels—which of course do not exist. When I think of usual channels I think of rivers, and their usual channels are usually up the creek on either side.

Be that as it may, the motion is in respect of a Bill founded on a money resolution. When money resolutions are presented to the House, whether they relate to the Consolidated Fund or other moneys, power flows with them. The Bill authorises the payment to the Treasury of an additional £50 million by the ratepayers of London, which was not thought proper by many of my hon. Friends, and authorises the Secretary of State for Transport to do that.

The Bill only received its Second Reading yesterday at 10 pm. Originally, its Committee stage, its Report stage, if any, and its Third Reading were to be taken tomorrow. That left the minimum of two days for the preparation of Committee amendments. That was the minimum possible even for a Standing Committee let alone a Committee of the whole House.

We understood yesterday that there was an opportunity to rearrange business. We could have had a long debate on milk, which we missed yesterday, and perhaps a continuation of yesterday's debate on fluoridation, which did not get very far. I do not know. Instead, the Leader of the House not only does not arrange those debates but brings tomorrow's debate forward to today. Therefore, the time for preparation of Committee amendments on an important and controversial Bill is further reduced.

Hon. Members reading yesterday's proceedings in Hansard will find some difficulty in following the speech by the Secretary of State for Transport. I was in the House, I come from London, I take an interest in transport, and I found it difficult. We need at least two days for preparations to be made. But we are now confronted with the possibility of considering the Bill almost immediately.

It is also relevant in opposing the motion to mention why the Bill is particularly controversial. Not only is it likely to lead to rates being increased in London, by a party which, I understand, does not always approve of putting up rates, but it does so on a controversial action of the Secretary of State. Under section 49 of the London Regional Transport Act the Secretary of State—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman is arguing the merits of the Bill. We must confine ourselves in this debate to the point about taking more than one stage of the Bill at a single sitting. We are not concerned with when the Committee stage begins. That was agreed yesterday. I must ask the hon. Gentleman to address himself to the terms of the motion.

Mr. Spearing

I understand that, Mr. Speaker, but if we are to vote on Third Reading, there is a supposition in the House that there has been adequate opportunity for discussion in Committee. I put it to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the House, and more importantly to the Leader of the House, that no such adequate opportunity has been afforded. It has barely been afforded for Thursday and it has not really been afforded for Wednesday.

I could rest my case there, but as we are discussing a money resolution it is in order to point out that the money resolution was brought in because, according to a High Court Judge, the Secretary of State had acted unlawfully, irrationally and procedurally improperly in giving a direction which exceeded his statutory powers without consideration of all relevant material and without consultation with the Greater London Council." — [Official Report, 19 February 1985; Vol. 73, c. 876.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is the sort of argument which should be adduced on Third Reading. It has nothing to do with the motion before us, which is a business motion.

Mr. Spearing

I will conclude, but the House could proceed to Third Reading today, though we may debate this motion until 10 pm, unless the Leader of the House wishes to move a closure motion, which would be possible, but would not go down well with my hon. Friends.

In view of the long list of business, to which you, Mr. Speaker, referred earlier, and the circumstances that I have outlined, the Leader of the House should consider whether we should proceed with the Bill at all today. We should certainly not proceed to Third Reading. The right hon. Gentleman may feel that his motion is lawful and rational. I believe that not only is it irrational, but it is procedurally questionable, if not improper.

3.46 pm
The Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Biffen)

It may be for the convenience of the House if I make my contribution at this stage of the debate.

The hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) suggested that what is contained in the motion is improper. I reject that suggestion. However, I accept that the motion causes some inconvenience for the House and I made that point to the hon. Member for Newham, North-west (Mr. Banks) last night. I do not deny that for a moment. However, in this instance, as in so many others, the House has to make a judgment of where the balance should lie. Our proposal is unusual, but is by no means unparalleled or unprecedented.

The problems that have arisen to require the motion are within the recollection of the House.

Mr. Ian Mikardo (Bow and Poplar)

You can always withdraw the motion.

Mr. Biffen

Please—may I be allowed to proceed? Objection was raised to the taking of the Rate Limitation (Prescribed Maximum) (Rates) Order which was set down for consideration today and it was agreed that that consideration should be postponed until Monday. As a consequence, we had to rearrange business. There are a variety of ways in which that can be done, but this was the means chosen by the Government. It gives rise to the characteristics — I understand that it also gives rise to anxiety—that all the remaining stages are to be taken in one sitting and that that is to follow the day immediately after Second Reading.

No one would suggest for a moment that our proposal is the most leisurely and ideal way of setting about the matter. However, the procedure has been used in the past. The neatest precedent that I can use to demonstrate the fact that the procedure is something with which the House is at least familiar, if not on a frequent basis, is our consideration of the Oil Taxation Bill in November 1983. Not only were all remaining stages taken in one sitting, but, as in this instance, they were taken on the day after Second Reading.

The reasons that have prompted some expedition in the legislation lie much more within the province of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, who will seek to catch your eye later, Mr. Speaker. However, what has been proposed, although inconvenient, is a reasonable working way to go forward.

3.49 pm
Mr. Ian Mikardo (Bow and Poplar)

The Leader of the House has explained the reasons why he tabled his motion, but I do not find those reasons satisfactory, much less convincing.

There are good reasons for the existence of what the motion calls the practice of the House". We commit a great error if we do not give ourselves adequate time to consider legislation.

The practice of the House is based on the concept that, at each stage of the proceedings, hon. Members have an opportunity to consider what happened during the previous stage and, in that light, to determine what action, if any, should be taken during the subsequent stage.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Does my hon. Friend not agree, therefore, that this subject must concern all hon. Members, not just those from London? If a Government intend to act as this Government are doing with this Bill, how do we know that they will not act in precisely the same manner with a number of future Bills? How do we know whether the Government will do what my hon. Friend says should not be done—not give the House sufficient time to consider amendments after Second Reading?

Mr. Mikardo

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point. My observations, as you will have noticed, Mr. Speaker, do not concern the contents, merits and demerits of the Bill. They concern the general question of the practice of the House.

We cannot table amendments in Committee until a Bill has had its Second Reading. To decide which amendments, if any, should be tabled, one needs to study the speeches made on Second Reading. Otherwise an hon. Member — I speak from experience; you, too, Mr. Speaker, may have had the same experience when you were on these Benches—may be proposing to table an amendment about a matter which, if he had been present for the whole of the Second Reading debate, he would have know had been dealt with. For that reason, we always assume that there will be times between Second Reading and Report for hon. Members to study the Official Report of the Second Reading debate.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, because you have the duty of selection, one's attitude and action during the Report stage must be based on what happened in Committee. The Chair often makes its decision on whether to select amendments on the basis of the extent to which those amendments were discussed adequately in Committee. It is, therefore, virtually impossible for hon. Members to table amendments on Report unless they either sat through the whole of the Committee stage or, even better, had the opportunity to read the proceedings. Third Reading does not present so difficult a problem and does not give rise to the type of difficulties I have described.

The Leader of the House has rightly said that there are precedents for this procedure. He has, equally rightly, said that there are not many precedents, because there have been few occasions on which this procedure is indulged in. We all know that it is a bad procedure and we therefore use it only as a last resort, when there is an especially good and weighty reason. I have been present in the House as I believe you have, Mr. Speaker, on occasions when all the stages of a Bill were considered by agreement between the two sides on a single day. That process almost always occurs by agreement. The exceptions are occasions when there is a pressing emergency—to use a grandiloquent phrase, when there is an urgent reason of state.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

My hon. Friend has got to the heart of the matter, which is that the House reaches agreement on these occasions. One of the most famous occasions was when the Tory Government discovered that one area of private enterprise was in a dire mess. Its reserves had become exhausted and it was an uneconomic unit of production. I refer to Rolls-Royce. On that occasion Labour Members agreed with alacrity to nationalise Rolls-Royce right through the night, because otherwise thousands of workers would have lost their jobs. A second example of agreement being reached was on the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1974, after the Birmingham bombing. The Government, represented by the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) — the Social Democrat bloke whom we never see these days—said that the measure would last only a year or two, and it still exists.

Those are examples from the past of instances where there was agreement. But this time the position is completely different. The reason for the procedure is that the Secretary of State for Transport has made not one cock-up but an almighty cock-up of the entire proceedings during the past three months.

Mr. Mikardo

My hon. Friend has reinforced my argument, but I was being terribly—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member does not need help.

Mr. Mikardo

My hon. Friend produced some examples to reinforce my case. I was being extremely careful not to refer to particular measures, just as I do not wish to refer to the measure before us today. I am urging the House to consider the general principle, unrelated to the merits or demerits of this case.

No one will dispute the fact—I know that the Leader of the House will not — that when in the past we adopted this admittedly bad procedure, we always did so because there was a compelling reason of state. No one can pretend that there is a compelling reason of state on this occasion. The procedure is not being introduced because of circumstances outside the Government's control, which they must take emergency measures to deal with because they could not have anticipated what happened. It has arisen solely from a matter within the control of the Government. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) described the reason for it in language more colourful than I normally use—that is, as a "cock-up" by the Secretary of State. I would have been inclined to use more euphemistic phraseology, but the facts are the facts. There has been an error in procedure, and the right hon. Gentleman is asking the House to carry the can for a mistake, perhaps more than one mistake, made by one of his colleagues.

I do not see why that is necessary. The remaining stages were tabled for tomorrow, and we could have had the Royal Air Force debate today. Last night the right hon. Gentleman told us that he was being pressed from all quarters for that debate and that he had to have one quickly. If we had debated the Royal Air Force today, we could have had 24 hours to read the report of yesterday's Second Reading debate, and all hon. Members would have been better able to decide which amendments, if any, they wanted to table in Committee.

I strongly support the observations of my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing). They should strike a chord among Conservative Members, because this will not be the last occasion on which a Minister will seek to get this slippery short-cut procedure through the House, and the victims of it may not always be on the same side of the House. All Back-Bench Members should unite against the Front Bench. We should not be asked to carry the can for the mistakes of those on the Front Bench. I hope that the motion will be withdrawn, but, like my hon. Friend, I shall certainly oppose it, if need be, in the Lobby.

3.59 pm
Mr. J. Enoch Powell (South Down)

I hope that well before the end of this short debate the Leader of the House will find severer terms to reprobate the proposal which is before the House. The strongest thing he said against it was that it was inconvenient to hon. Members. A more severe term than that is required to describe a procedure which makes it, in effect, impossible for hon. Members to put down amendments to a Bill which has had its Second Reading and to have the chance of them being considered.

The House is ready and capable of doing almost anything, irrespective of its Standing Orders, when there is an evident necessity for it. It is not the urgency of what is contained in the Bill that is the reason for the opportunity being denied to the House by the motion.

With great respect to him, the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), whose duties in Committee have obliged him not to be in the Chamber at the moment, was correct to say that the objectionable effect of this motion derives from the fact that the Bill is being put down for Committee on the day after Second Reading. That has happened not because of the urgency of obtaining the contents of the Bill; it is due to the fact that, owing to other matters altogether unconnected with the Bill, the business of the House had to be rearranged. The business of the House has been rearranged in such a way that a motion which in itself is not at all unusual, has an unusual and far-reaching effect — it deprives the House of any genuine opportunity to have a Committee stage on the Bill.

The Leader of the House cited a precedent for the motion being applied to a Bill which was being taken in Committee on the day following Second Reading. There may be that and other precedents, but it would be wrong for the House to allow the motion in these circumstances, when no conditions of urgency and emergency can be pleaded, to remain without reprobation whatever the precedents, otherwise we shall soon find ourselves in circumstances where a Government, in arranging their business, and short of parliamentary time, can do this again. Another Leader of the House, not this one, and not necessarily of that party, will say to the House, "You ought not to be surprised to find this on the Order Paper. You ought not to be surprised at this procedure. This is a procedure which has happened before. There are precedents. Keep quiet." I hope that on this occasion the Leader of the House will recognise, as he is a House of Commons man, that the House of Commons is right not to keep quiet about the motion that is before it.

4.3 pm

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

As Ministers have flown in the RAF to help them rescue Thursday's business, I raise this point. All the trouble is about £5 million with regard to the London borough of Haringey. A certain airport in the South Atlantic is having 70 times that figure spent on it.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member is wrong. All the trouble is about the business of the House motion. That has nothing to do with what I think he is about to say. The motion is about whether the remaining stages—not the Committee stage, because taking that was agreed yesterday and passed by the House—Report, and Third Reading should take place today.

Mr. Dalyell

I wish to get things into perspective and to be helpful. As the RAF debate is to take place tomorrow, would it not be desirable for a Minister from the Department of the Environment, if he can be spared from rate capping and the like, to explain in the RAF debate the reason for the rise in the cost—

Mr. Speaker

Order. That could have taken place, if the hon. Member had been called yesterday, when we were discussing the change of business. That does not arise today.

4.4 pm

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

I hope that we can convince the Leader of the House that the Opposition are not being obstructive by opposing the motion.

Mr. Robert Atkins (South Ribble)

We do not believe the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Banks

The hon. Gentleman's problem is that he never believes the truth. He would not recognise it if it hit him straight between the eyes. I hope that it will one day.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Will the hon. Member confine himself to the business of the House and try to keep down the temperature a bit?

Mr. Banks

As those few hon. Members who were in the House yesterday will be aware, the London Regional Transport (Amendment) Bill is not just highly controversial, which puts it in a category different from those other Bills which it has been agreed should go through all their stages in one day; it is highly technical. If the Bill goes through, the GLC will have to find £50 million which it does not have at the moment. It is entitled, with hon. Members, to analyse carefully what the Secretary of State said yesterday, and to consider carefully whether to table amendments so that London ratepayers and Members of the House can obtain a fair deal and a fair hearing. Under the circumstances, it is not just inconvenient that we should be taking the remaining stages of the Bill today: it is grossly unfair to London ratepayers and to Members of the House.

I understand that because of the way that the stages are being concertina-ed, amendments have been turned down because they were technically incorrect or were not tabled in time. How, in all fairness, were those of us who were studying the Second Reading and tabling amendments to produce amendments that were in time and in order? It is unfair, and I appeal through you, Mr. Speaker, to the Leader of the House. There must be other business that can be considered which would give the Opposition sufficient time to study carefully what the Secretary of State said yesterday, and to come forward with reasoned amendments, giving everyone the opportunity to debate those amendments and achieve some resolution of a tricky technical and highly controversial measure.

The Opposition are not being obstructive. We are seeking genuinely to debate the Bill properly. The Leader of the House must have some other business that is not so controversial and detailed in its application that he can bring forward to allow us to have more time to discuss the Bill.

4.7 pm

Mr. Chris Smith (Islington, South and Finsbury)

I support the arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) in opposing the business motion. I do not have as many years' experience in the House as my hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Poplar (Mr. Mikardo) or the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell). As an outside observer of the proceedings of the House for many years, it has seemed to me that the tradition has always been that business is rushed through all its stages in the course of 48 hours in extreme and unusual circumstances only. That is what is being proposed in the motion.

The Bill, which is about to enter its Committee stage, Report and Third Reading, if the Government have their way, is being dealt with with the most unseemly and undue haste. That has been one of the arguments of those opposing the Bill.

A further element of haste is added to the picture with the proposal that the Bill should come forward by 24 hours with Committee, Report and Third Reading all rolled into one. I cannot support the motion. I am surprised that the Leader of the House has brought it before us because he is in most circumstances a fair and honourable man.

We have had insufficient time to consider what was said by the Secretary of State on Second Reading. Because of other engagements, I was unable to attend the entire debate yesterday. However, I have attempted this morning, when not attending a meeting of a Select Committee, to read carefully what was said in the House yesterday. Some very important points were made by the Secretary of State in the course of his remarks. For example, in winding up, he gave some detailed information about the amount of money required by LRT from the GLC and the purposes for which that money was required. That was important, new and detailed information. It was not available to me until I collected my copy of Hansard this morning. I have been unable to table amendments. In the light of the Committee debate which is to take place later today, it may well be impossible to think carefully and deeply enough to table further amendments and to make comments on Report and on Third Reading.

It is not just a question of haste; it is in particular that detailed and grave arguments emerged in what the Secretary of State said yesterday, and we are now denied an opportunity to make full use of these in further consideration of the Bill.

The Bill is one of great importance to hon. Members who represent London constituencies. Our constituents will be affected financially by the measures proposed in the Bill. It is important that we have an opportunity to consult our constituents, the GLC, which is affected by the measure, and the London borough councils which will also be affected in consideration of their rating policies by whatever decisions the House takes. That degree of consultation has been denied to us by the haste with which the Bill is being brought forward.

I hope that the Leader of the House will consider the motion further because we have had insufficient time to protect the interests of our constituents, to give proper consideration to comments which were made yesterday in the House and to give fair and full consideration to what we will wish to put forward in the course of debate later today. I hope that the Leader of the House will think again before pressing the motion.

4.13 pm
Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney)

These are serious matters, as I think the Leader of the House, if he did not believe so before this short series of interventions took place, would readily accept now. Not for the first time, the House is indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) for watching over our procedures so carefully and defending the interests of Parliament in so doing. I agree with virtually all that has been said by my hon. Friend and, indeed, by the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell).

Here is a very special case in which the principle and practice of our procedures is put to the test. The principle from which the motion seeks to depart is that we should not simply run one stage of an important Bill into another without having time to reflect upon what has happened and without a chance to amend. The practice, of course, is that if one does not allow for such an opportunity, one runs into great difficulties.

No hon. Member who has considered the Bill can have any doubt that it is not a perfectly conceived Bill. It is a Bill which requires considerable discussion and, indeed, reasonable amendment. My right hon. and hon. Friends have not had—indeed, cannot have—the opportunity of tabling those amendments that they genuinely wish to table. Nor have people outside the House who have serious and legitimate interests in the progress of the Bill had a chance to consider what was said yesterday by the Secretary of State or to make represenations to their Members of Parliament on further amendment of the Bill in Committee.

What adds a special piquancy, indeed irony, to this attempt to accelerate our procedures is that the Bill arises out of an initial faulty judgment by the very Secretary of State who now presents the Bill to the House. If he had got it right the first time, he would not need to use this process now. The idea that he is going to get it right the second time without anybody having a chance to consider what he said yesterday is highly unlikely. What adds farce upon farce is that the very fact that we have a change of business arises from the misjudgment of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment who botched up an order yesterday.

Therefore, I think that there is here very special reason why the Leader of the House should take notice of what has been said to him from a wide-ranging body of opinion, and should seek to withdraw the motion and substitute something more acceptable for the business of the House today.

4.16 pm
The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Nicholas Ridley)

I should like to say a few words, because hon. Gentlemen have made perfectly fair points, and I may be able to add a little further information from the point of view of the Bill as opposed to the point of view of the business of the House with which my right hon. Friend has been dealing.

Mr. Eric Deakins (Walthamstow)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for the Secretary of State to transgress your earlier ruling that in consideration of the motion we should debate merely the contents of the motion?

Mr. Speaker

The Secretary of State was present when I ruled on what was in order in consideration of the motion. He should not go into the details of the Bill. We are considering a motion on the business of the House with respect to further proceedings of the Bill.

Mr. Ridley

Perhaps I might be allowed to complete my sentence. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen have made certain remarks and asked certain questions to which it would be right for me to reply. Obviously I cannot answer for my right hon. Friend in his arrangement of the business of the House.

On Second Reading yesterday I gave the reasons for the urgency of the Bill: because the GLC cannot be certain that Parliament will approve the Bill in the form that I have presented it. In order to give the earliest possible element of certainty to the GLC and to LRT the Government propose that the progress of the Bill be expedited. The House will have seen the motion on the Order Paper in the name of the Leader of the House proposing that the remaining stages be taken on Thursday. I am sure that hon. Members will agree that, whatever they may think of the contents of the Bill, it is right to decide the issue as quickly as possible." — [Official Report, 19 February 1985; Vol. 73, c. 871–2.]

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)


Mr. Ridley

I will give way, but I am trying to answer the point of the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) that there is no urgency—a point raised also by the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore). There is urgency, because LRT will run out of cash later this month.

Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)


Mr. Ridley

I will give way after I have finished my point. The GLC has to fix its rate precept for 1985–86 very soon, not later than the first week in March. These are what hon. Gentlemen called reasons of state. These are the reasons which give rise to the urgency.

Mr. Corbyn


Mr. Ridley

I am coming to the point about tomorrow, but it may be helpful if I give way to the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams).

Mr. Williams

The whole House heard the right hon. Gentleman say—he was quoting from his speech—that it was urgent to get this legislation through on Thursday. In that case, he must concede, and should consult the Leader of the House about conceding, that in all logic, if the Bill is not needed before tomorrow, we should have the Air Force debate today and the LRT debate tomorrow.

Mr. Ridley

That shows how important it sometimes is to complete one's argument before giving way. I was explaining why the Bill was required urgently. It is not as if that was not pointed out yesterday; those who heard me or who read my remarks in Hansard would have known that the Government attached urgency to the passage of the Bill.

The Leader of the House announced the change of business at 10 o'clock last night. Most hon. Members who have spoken in this brief debate were present on that occasion. My right hon. Friend announced that it was proposed to bring forward the further stages of the Bill from Thursday to today. The only Opposition Member to comment on the matter was the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks).

Mr. Shore

So did I.

Mr. Ridley

And the right hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member for Newham, North-West was merely concerned—I am grateful for his kind thoughts—about the state of my physical health. I assure him that I am in good trim and ready to undertake the debates on which we are, I hope, shortly to embark. There was no objection from him to the business being taken earlier than had previously been suggested.

Mr. Corbyn

Is the Secretary of State aware that, because the Leader of the House has brought forward tomorrow's business to today, it is impossible for hon. Members to study what the right hon. Gentleman said in yesterday's debate, to consult anybody or to table considered amendments? Is he aware, therefore, that he is denying us the ability to conduct any serious consultation about the form of amendments that should be tabled to this nasty little Bill?

Mr. Ridley

I was about to come to the point that the hon. Gentleman raises. It is said that there has not been sufficient time, that considerable discussion is needed and that we are proceeding with undue haste. I remind the House that we had a considerable debate on the Ways and Means resolution, when all this ground was covered—[Interruption.] — and that we had a full day's debate yesterday on Second Reading, when all the ground was covered again. More than eight hours have already been spent debating the Bill.

The right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney and others allege that there has not been time to table amendments. But Opposition Members have tabled amendments. They put down six amendments and this morning they tabled a new clause. I would not for a moment comment on whether those amendments should have been selected; that is entirely a matter for you, Mr. Speaker. It cannot be sustained, however, that Opposition Members have not had time to put down amendments, because in practice they have done so.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

The right hon. Gentleman must not exaggerate. The amendments standing in my name and in the names of my hon. Friends were tabled at extremely short notice immediately after the Second Reading last night. That is not the way in which amendments should be tabled, because hon. Members could not have had time in which to consider them. We would have liked to table a number of other amendments and a new clause; we put those in this morning, but they were not found acceptable. It is nonsense to say that because we succeeded—by rushing at the Clerks in what I can only call a most undignified manner after 10 o'clock last night—in getting some form of words on the Notice Paper we had time to table amendments.

Mr. Ridley

The hon. Lady succeeded in putting down some amendments, two or three of which will be debated later. They raise interesting new points to which I shall be glad to respond in due course. The fact that not all of her amendments were in order is not the fault of the procedure. I do not know what reasons Mr. Speaker would give for not selecting them. I am simply saying that it is not true to say that there was not time or opportunity for hon. Members to table amendments — [Interruption.] — because amendments have been put down, and the hon. Lady tabled a new clause this morning. Other hon. Members could certainly have put down further amendments this morning.

I do not know what attitude you, Mr. Speaker, would take to any further amendments—manuscript amendments and matters of that sort—because that is not a matter for me. I could not accept, therefore, that hon. Members have not had an opportunity to put down amendments. The contents of the Bill have been known for nearly a fortnight.

Any amendments that hon. Members might have contemplated could have been prepared, even though the Bill did not get its Second Reading until last night. I accept that the House is put to some inconvenience by the change of business which has brought the debate forward by one day, as the Leader of the House said, but I cannot accept that it is without precedent or that the House has not had ample opportunity to table amendments.

Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)

Unless my ears deceived me, I heard the right hon. Gentleman say that the GLC needed to know the outcome of the measure because it had to decide its budget on 1 March.

Mr. Ridley

I referred to the first week in March.

Mr. Dobson

The Secretary of State is still wrong, because Friday 1 March falls in the first week of March and the GLC does not intend considering making its budget until Thursday 7 March. There is therefore more time available than the Secretary of State thought there was.

Mr. Ridley

My last word in reply is that the hon. Gentleman neglects to remember that the Bill has to go to another place.

4.27 pm
Mr. Eric Deakins (Walthamstow)

The motion constitutes a dangerous precedent. I invite Conservative Members, who may be sitting smugly listening to the debate on this issue and thinking about the vast majority that the Government have in the House, to consider that this precedent could be used by a future Government of a different political complexion for purposes which they might wish strongly to resist.

We are discussing an issue which is for the House of Commons as a whole. The Leader of the House said that it was a matter of inconvenience to hon. Members. It was unusual for him to be mealy-mouthed about such a matter, for it is not just a question of inconvenience, but of taking away the right of Back Benchers to table considered amendments following the Second Reading of a Bill.

The only precedents that can be quoted are of Bills introduced by all-party agreement through the usual channels at times of national emergency. There is no national emergency for this Bill. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) pointed out, the Bill stems not from one but from two examples of incompetence by Cabinet Ministers, the Secretaries of State for Transport and for the Environment, the actions of one compounding those of the other. I invite the Leader of the House to say whether there is any precedent for such a procedure to be introduced solely to cover up the embarrassment of a Government who have been doubly incompetent in handling their affairs.

Urgency was the theme of the remarks of the Secretary of State for Transport. If it was urgent to have the Bill on Thursday of this week—when a week ago notice was given of the day when the Report and Committee stages would be taken—what has happened to increase that urgency which makes it necessary for it to be taken today rather than tomorrow? The answer was not clear from what the right hon. Gentleman said. Indeed, I thought that he evaded the point. Neither the right hon. Gentleman nor the Leader of the House has so far addressed himself to that feature of this issue.

Mr. Tony Banks

My hon. Friend will have heard the Secretary of State say that the money was needed urgently by LRT. I do not know whether my hon. Friend was in the House yesterday when the Secretary of State detailed the use to which the money would be put. The right hon. Gentleman said that it included £21 million for voluntary severance payments that had been agreed—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We had this out yesterday, as the hon. Gentleman has just said. It is nothing to do with the motion that we are debating now. The hon. Gentleman must confine himself to the motion.

Mr. Williams

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I submit that the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) is making is relevant to the motion that we are discussing because he is trying to demonstrate that the purposes for which the money will be used are not urgent purposes. Therefore, it is necessary to consider this point.

Mr. Speaker

Order. If that were the case, the shadow Deputy Leader of the House would find it on the Order Paper. It is not there, so we must confine ourselves to the motion that we are discussing. If the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) is arguing for urgency, that is one thing, but to start reading from the debate last night is a rather different thing.

Mr. Tony Banks

With great respect, Mr. Speaker, I point out that the Secretary of State has just said that this business motion was introduced because of the urgency of the payments to LRT, so it is germane to that argument to say what the money is to be used for. Yesterday the right hon. Gentleman gave a whole list of things, and if you will not let me read it out, Mr. Speaker, I cannot do so. However, it clearly—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member has made one speech. This is supposed to be an intervention. I am stopping him making a second speech. An intervention in the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Deakins) is another matter. The hon. Gentleman is rather banging on.

Mr. Deakins

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), but the point that I am making is narrower than the point that he was making. I am asking what change in urgency there has been since last Thursday's business statement that warrants bringing the Bill forward from Thursday to Wednesday.

I have a simple question for the Leader of the House. The Government have a difficult problem as a result of the double incompetence of two Ministers. Why, when faced with such a dilemma, did the Government choose the difficult way out of the problem—bringing tomorrow's business forward to today and bringing some extraneous business in for tomorrow—rather than the easy way out, which would have been to bring in the extraneous business to fill in the gap of the rate-capping order today?

4.32 pm
Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

The only national emergency that we face today, which we faced yesterday and will face tomorrow, is the incompetence of the Secretaries of State for the Environment and for Transport. We are in this mess because the Secretary of State for the Environment cannot get his figures straight before he goes on his merry way of destroying local government services, and the Secretary of State for Transport cannot get his figures right when he is trying to rob the ratepayers of London of a further £50 million to continue on his course of privatising London transport, which is what he is trying to do at the end of the day.

Before I came to the House I was always alarmed and concerned at the way in which Parliament could apparently drop everything, for no good reason, apart from the convenience of a Department or a Minister, and force through special legislation without adequate consultation or debate. I was concerned about that as somebody who was not then a Member of Parliament but who was Watching from outside. I could not believe that hon. Members would give even less consideration to a matter than part-time councillors faced with an emergency at their monthly meeting. We are being confronted with this situation because the Secretary of State for Transport has been asked to bail out his friends in the Government by bringing the Bill forward today. If the Bill goes through and the Government get their way, it will result in £10 being taken from every Londoner to pay for the Secretary of State's earlier cock-ups and in a further deterioration of transport in London. More importantly, it is impossible for me or for any other London Member to have any opportunity to consult anyone about the details of the Bill.

Yesterday the Secretary of State for Transport spoke at great length twice. During his winding-up speech, he released what I now understand to be new figures and information on the funding of London transport. I do not intend to quote at length, but I can give examples. He talked about £21 million for voluntary severance payments … £6 million for insurance claims … £4 million for claims outstanding on the Jubilee line". — [Official Report, 19 February 1985; Vol 73, c. 945.] Various other figures were mentioned. I need an opportunity to analyse those figures. I need to consult the National Union of Railwaymen, the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen, the GLC and the many transport consultative and advisory groups in London, including the transport consultative committee set up by the Secretary of State. There is no opportunity to do that. If an hon. Member was not here yesterday—for example, my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) could not be here—he would not have heard those pearls of wisdom from the lips of the Secretary of State. He would not have known about them, and therefore he would have been denied the opportunity of tabling any amendment.

It is inconceivable that the House should now start debating this measure after many amendments have been rejected. It is impossible to take any advice on the detail or the substance of the matter and there is now to be another debate on London transport. It is a farce, and it is occasioned by a series of cock-ups in Ministers zeal to destroy local government, public services and transport. Anyone listening to the debate would ask where is the urgency in this matter when there is the Prime Minister in Washington discussing Star Wars, a famine in North Africa, a miners' strike and all manner of disasters around us. Instead of discussing those matters, we are asked to put through a motion to save the face of the Secretary of State for Transport and the competence of the Secretary of State for the Environment.

I ask through you, Mr. Speaker, even at this late stage, the Leader of the House to withdraw the proposal to discuss this matter today and bring forward some other much more serious, much more urgent matter than saving the face of the Secretary of State for Transport.

4.36 pm
Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh)

I hope that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will not be persuaded by the siren voices on the Labour Benches. However, if he were to be, and if he were in a mess, perhaps we might use the time usefully by having a debate on a subject that would find universal favour throughout the House—the funding of the BBC and television licensing. In that way, all of us would be made happy.

4.37 pm
Mr. James Lamond (Oldham, Central and Royton)

Until the last intervention, which was fairly sharp, it was disturbing to note that all of the speeches, with the exception of those from the Front Bench, have come from the Opposition side of the House. I should have thought that this matter transcends party politics because it concerns all Back Benchers if they want to defend their rights, not just today but in the future.

It is true that there are precedents for railroading legislation through the House in one day, but in very special circumstances that do not arise on this occasion. If we allow this Bill to go through without any complaint the occasion will be used as a precedent. It will be pointed to in the future. It will be said, "You cannot complain now. We did it before. You should have prevented it on that occasion and you cannot stop it now."

We do not accept that. The reputation of the Leader of the House stands high in the House. He is admired for the way in which he stands up for Back Benchers. Therefore, it is all the more surprising that he comes forward unnecessarily, as far as we can gather from what he said, on this occasion. He has given us no reason why there is added urgency that requires the remaining stages of the Bill to be brought forward to today.

The Secretary of State tried to show that the Bill is urgent. We can accept that he sees it as urgent, as it was so urgent last week that he wanted it to be discussed on Thursday — tomorrow. Now, something has happened that means that he wants to have the debate on Wednesday. We want to know what has caused him to bring forward the legislation to today.

Mr. Jerry Hayes (Harlow)

If the matter is as apolitical as the hon. Gentleman says and cuts across party political lines, will he not accept that anything that is happening today should not be blamed upon the Secretary of State for Transport or even upon the Secretary of State for the Environment but upon the council of Haringey for not getting its figures out in time?

Mr. Lamond

I have been trying, in accordance with the instructions you gave us, Mr. Speaker, to confine myself to the motion that is before us. I may be wrong in blaming the Secretary of State for Transport. Perhaps he was told that his business was to be brought forward to today, whether he liked it or not, and he is trying to make the best of a bad job. We should not be swept away by something that is convenient for the Government. The rearrangement of the business has been done for their convenience, although the Leader of the House has said that it is a bit inconvenient. Because of that little bit of convenience we will set a precedent that may be used in the future against all Oppositions. Hon. Members should think twice about it.

After we have dealt with the Bill it will all be water under the bridge and no doubt it will be forgotten about in three weeks' time. But the precedent will not be forgotten and will be trotted out from time to time to push through legislation that is not agreed across the House but, rather, is highly controversial. That is the important point. This legislation is not agreed between the parties. Some of my hon. Friends regard it as highly controversial. Therefore, although he has already spoken, the Leader of the House should, with your leave, Mr. Speaker, speak again. It would be difficult now for him to bring on another debate. I understand that hon. Members who should reply to any other debate are probably away wining and dining. Even so, the Leader of the House should set his mind to thinking about it. If he wants to retain the high reputation he has on the Opposition Benches for standing up for Back Benchers and if he wants us to accept what he proposes in future, he must demonstrate today that he is as concerned about the rights of Back Benchers as we are.

4.42 pm
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

I think we can agree that this is a matter not simply for London Members but for the entire House. What is proposed in the motion is to rubber-stamp our procedure to make a mockery of a system that has been used for a long time, whereby there is an interval between the Second Reading and the Committee stage of a Bill. My hon. Friends who are concerned with the Bill which is due to be debated have said to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the Leader of the House that there has not been time to table amendments. That is a very important point.

The Leader of the House may be surprised to hear that I have much sympathy for him. I do not believe that this is his mistake. I think he has been pushed into it by two of the most incompetent colleagues that he has in the Cabinet.

Mr. Corbyn

Does my hon. Friend agree that the remarks made earlier by the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Hayes) are disgraceful since the Department of the Environment withdrew its order because of its own incompetence and not the incompetence of Haringey council?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I did not manage to stop the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Hayes), but that has nothing to do with this motion.

Mr. Winnick

The only appropriate comment to make is that the more we hear from the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Hayes), the more we regret the defeat of Mr. Stan Newens.

The Leader of the House of Commons has been described as someone who generally tries to listen to the voice of Back Benchers. Therefore, it is all the more regrettable that on this issue, which is a House of Commons matter and not one confined to London Members, he has been pushed into bringing forward business which Back Benchers have not had the necessary time to consider to enable them to table amendments, if necessary.

The issue is important. That is why Conservative Members are wrong to ignore what we are saying. If this is done today, how do we know that it will not be done on other Bills? We are dealing with an authoritarian type of Government. If they come to the conclusion that the House of Commons is an easy pushover and that it does not matter what is said or done, they will again arrange the Second Reading of a Bill one day with the Committee stage the next. The Prime Minister may decide that the House of Commons can be dealt with easily and that there is no need to worry.

Mr. Deakins

We must not be a rubber stamp.

Mr. Winnick

As my hon. Friend says, we must not allow the House to be a rubber stamp. We must stand up for our rights and privileges.

Mr. Holt

If the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) had been present at 3 o'clock this morning, he would have seen the strength of Back Benchers.

Mr. Winnick

I was here at about 2 o'clock last Friday morning, and I did not see the hon. Gentleman. I am pleased that he was present for a debate which obviously occupies his interest. This is even more important in many respects for the House of Commons than what was being debated in the early hours of this morning, because it is a constitutional issue. Therefore, Conservative Members, particularly those who came into the House at the last election, should remind themselves that these procedures have evolved over many years to some extent to protect the interests of Back Benchers. That is all the more reason why we should be concerned about the motion that is before us.

As has already been said, it would be foolish for Conservative Members to think that if they remain Members of Parliament they will always sit on the Government side of the House. If they do not protest now, it may be too late for them to start protesting when another Government propose to do the same. That Government may say that they regret it but that it is urgent business which has to be discussed. What will Conservative Members say then? They can hardly say that they protested at the appropriate time—namely, today. [Interruption.] I am glad that the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Proctor) has been so persuaded.

There would only be an excuse to do what is proposed if the legislation was not controversial. If there was unanimous agreement, so be it, but there is not. This is a highly controversial measure which has aroused much passion. Moreover, we are dealing with a Secretary of State who can hardly get anything right, a right hon. Gentleman who, if I may say so without being ungenerous, is notorious for his ministerial incompetence. This matter should occupy the attention of Conservative Members as much as it occupies ours. Therefore, the Leader of the House should consult in the appropriate manner through the usual channels to ensure that the motion is withdrawn. If it comes to a vote, it should be fiercely resisted. If it is not withdrawn and there is a Division I hope to see some Conservative Members in the same Division Lobby as us.

4.50 pm
Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)

It is essential to make it clear who is responsible for this procedural debate. It is the Secretary of State for Transport. He introduced and got through the House the London Regional Transport Bill, and it is no one else's fault that, when the right hon. Gentleman started to administer the legislation, he got it wrong and acted in a way which a High Court judge described as unlawful, irrational and procedurally improper.

Mr. Mikardo

Is it all right, apart from that?

Mr. Dobson

I think so, yes. I have not read every word of the judgment, and it may be that there were other faults. But it is felt by those who have been initiated into the matter that those three criticisms carry some validity and ought to carry a great deal of weight.

Opposition Members who have taken a deep interest in what happened have objected strongly to every effort that the Secretary of State has made to change the law to suit himself. It is necessary to fill in a little of the background to demonstrate that we have not been particularly obstructive and that, if there is any great urgency for the present Bill, the fault lies with the Secretary of State.

One of the problems appears to be that when the Leader of the House and the distinguished panjandrums on the Treasury Bench met to decide what should go on to the agenda of the House, anything to do with an amendment to the London Regional Transport Act became a movable feast. As chairman of the Labour group of London Members, I am consulted from time to time about the Opposition's responses, and it was my understanding, before the Government suddenly decided that we had to have a debate on the Belgrano sinking on Monday, that in one of the original drafts of the business statement for this week this Bill was to be read a Second time on Monday, with the remaining stages on Thursday. That would have been right. We should then have had time, as we are entitled to have time, to consider what had been said in the Second Reading debate before we got to the remaining stages of the Bill.

Apparently that does not matter to many Conservative Members who purport to represent London constituencies. They have scarcely ever been present when the House has discussed this legislation. But my right hon. and hon. Friends and I who have spent a great deal of time looking into what has been happening feel that this procedural motion means that we are being robbed of the right and opportunity to do our duty and to attempt to protect the interests of the people who elected us.

If any right hon. or hon. Member thinks that our duty to our electorate can be performed properly today following yesterday's Second Reading, he has a very peculiar view of how hon. Members should discharge their responsibilities. We have not had the opportunity to consider in detail some of the new information given by the Secretary of State at the end of yesterday's Second Reading debate. We believe that we are entitled to scrutinise what he said and to consult others who are more expert in these matters than we are, so that we can attempt to protect the interests of those who sent us here with the sole job of protecting their interests.

We are being denied the opportunity to do our job properly. Therefore, we hope that the Leader of the House will have some regard for the rights of Back Benchers. We do not blame him for what is happening unless he forces through this motion. We are willing to accept that it is the Secretary of State who is at fault. The Leader of the House is well known for his skill as a wordsmith. Even leaving out of account what the judge said about the actions of the Secretary of State being unlawful, I think that the right hon. Gentleman must agree that, having had the Second Reading debate yesterday, for the House to be forced to go through all the remaining stages today would, in the immortal words of Mr. Justice McNeill, be "irrational and procedurally improper."

4.55 pm
Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)

I agree fully with my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) that this procedure is wrong. I was about to quote Mr. Justice McNeill's statement about the Secretary of State, because it is very important. The learned judge described the right hon. Gentleman's actions as illegal and irrational, and said that he was acting improperly procedurally as well.

With this proposed procedure the Leader of the House is compounding that illegal, irrational and procedurally improper behaviour, and it is essential that the House has no truck with it. It is especially important for the House to get the procedure right when there has been a court judgment of this kind. It is ridiculous for us to compound procedurally improper behaviour.

Mr. Eric Forth (Mid-Worcestershire)

Will the hon. Gentleman do the House a favour and cut out those parts of his speech which simply repeat what has gone before, and give us something new?

Mr. Mikardo

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for an hon. Member who has not been in the Chamber to walk in and then instruct the Chair on what may or may not be said?

Mr. Speaker

I did not hear the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) instruct me to do anything.

Mr. Cohen

At that stage of my speech I had made only one point, and that was about the judgment of the court that the Secretary of State had acted illegally, irrationally and procedurally improperly. I was not repeating what had been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, because what I said was that, that judgment having been delivered, it was very dangerous for the House to compound that conduct and go ahead with further procedures that were procedurally improper.

Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley)

Like me, my hon. Friend is a comparatively new Member of the House. Does he not treat with suspicion legislation which seems to be trying to cover up a misdemeanour by a Minister which was condemned by the High Court a few weeks ago?

Mr. Cohen

I agree with my hon. Friend, and it was one of my arguments during yesterday's Second Reading debate. For the benefit of Government supporters, I shall not repeat it.

It is not just serious that the House should contemplate compounding an improper procedure. We are also compounding the deception of the House. It was clear that the Secretary of State did that in several respects. Again I shall not go over the right hon. Gentleman's speech yesterday, but he deceived the House when he said that there was no intention to create a surplus, which was untrue. He also failed to answer our question about his comment that the matter was sub judice. In yesterday's debate he made the excuse that, even though it was not actually sub judice, it was sub judice to him. Apparently he has some God-given right to say when a subject— Mr. Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman keeps saying that he is not going back over yesterday's debate, and then does so. I ask him to confine his remarks to the motion.

Mr. Cohen

I shall do that, Mr. Speaker. I have no intention of going over the details of yesterday's debate. I made quite a lengthy speech, and I shall not repeat it.

Mr. Deakins

Now that the Attorney-General is present, would it not be advisable for my hon. Friend to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his opinion? When the Secretary of State was describing what led up to this legislation, which we are being forced to consider in all its stages today, he said that in his opinion the matter was sub judice. Is not that a new procedure for the House?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope that the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) will not be tempted to do so, because it is a question that has nothing to do with the business motion.

Mr. Cohen

I take your ruling on that, Mr. Speaker. Perhaps the Attorney-General will answer questions on that matter at some future date. Indeed, he still has answers to give us about the prosecution of Mr. Ponting, but I shall not raise that matter now.

The motion flows from the fact that the Secretary of State got his figures wrong in his demands upon the GLC. The Bill is concerned with figures—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I know that the hon. Gentleman is relatively new here, but he is rehearsing an argument which he no doubt rehearsed yesterday. His argument will be perfectly in order on the amendments or on Third Reading, but not on the business motion, which he must please stick to.

Mr. Cohen

I accept your ruling, Mr. Speaker. However, my point is related to the business motion.

Mr. Corbyn

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Cohen

In replying to the debate yesterday the Secretary of State introduced new figures. The Bill is a technical Bill and the figures have to be studied by hon. Members before any reasoned amendments can be put down.

Mr. Corbyn

Can my hon. Friend tell us what opportunities he has had since the Secretary of State finished his reply to the debate at 10 o'clock last night to discuss with either his local borough council or people at the bus garage in his constituency how many jobs will be affected by the revelations made last night by the Secretary of State? Does my hon. Friend now feel able to contribute adequately to a debate on the basis of any discussions that he may have been able to have with workers in London Regional Transport?

Mr. Cohen

I have not been able to have any detailed consultations at all on the implications of the new figures.

I had a constituency commitment this morning. I was unable to come here in order to pick up a copy of Hansard, and study what the Secretary of State had said, and put down amendments to the Bill. I am sure that I was not the only hon. Member who could not be here. It is very bad that hon. Members should not have an opportunity fully to use the proper procedures of the House. Rushing the Bill through in 48 hours is dangerous. It would not be a dangerous precedent in terms of any future Labour Government, but it would be dangerous in terms of a future Conservative Government, who might try to muzzle all opposition, even from their own Back Benches. When such a precedent is involved, we should speak for Parliament. Bills have been rushed through only in emergencies, and when there has been agreement between both sides of the House. It has been made quite clear that there is no agreement on this matter. This is therefore a dangerous new departure.

The Secretary of State for Transport justifies the procedure by saying that there is an emergency. Although that question was hotly disputed last night, it was clearly shown in the debate that there is no emergency — certainly not as regards LRT's 1984–85 operating needs. LRT has the money for those needs.

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are not concerned about what the Bill is about. We are concerned about the motion on the Order Paper—whether we should take the remaining stages of the Bill after the Committee stage. The Committee stage was agreed last night. I believe that the hon. Gentleman was present.

Mr. Cohen

Yes, Mr. Speaker, I was present. The justification for the motion is that there is urgency. The Secretary of State made that point just now. My point is that there is no urgency in terms of LRT's operating needs in this financial year. That argument is spurious.

Mr. Tony Banks

Was my hon. Friend here when, in arguing the urgency case, the Secretary of State said that LRT would run out of money by the end of February? That statement was simply untrue. The Secretary of State has given LRT external borrowing powers. There is no question of urgency in terms of LRT's money supply.

Mr. Cohen

My hon. Friend speaks for Parliament in shooting down another deception which the Secretary of State has tried to impose on us.

In arguing the urgency case, the Secretary of State showed considerable concern for the GLC and its budget-making process. In my recollection, this is the first time that the right hon. Gentleman has shown concern for the GLC. He has been singularly vindictive about the GLC. In my view, the Secretary of State's argument was purely an excuse. Has the GLC contacted the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House or any Minister with a request for urgent consideration of the Bill? I suspect that it has not. There is no shred of evidence that it has done so. The argument is spurious.

We have not had time to study Hansard and put down amendments. I am thinking of both Back Benchers and Front Benchers. I have spoken to one of my right hon. Friends on the Front Bench. He told me that, although the Front Bench had studied the matter in detail, when a Front Bench spokesman attempted to put down amendments they were ruled out of order because of this unnecessarily rushed procedure.

The procedure is unfair, not just to hon. Members, such as myself, who have not had the opportunity to study the Secretary of State's speech, but to my Front Bench colleagues. Some amendments were submitted, I believe, but they were turned down. That is serious in itself. When the hon. Members sought to submit other amendments in their place, they were told that they were out of time.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not perpetuate something that is wrong. I do not select amendments for the Committee stage and have no knowledge of whether or not amendments have been submitted incorrectly. The hon. Gentleman must concern himself with the motion on the Order Paper.

Mr. Cohen

I have no criticism to make of you, Mr. Speaker. I understand your role. I understand that this will be a matter for the Chairman of Ways and Means. I was merely relaying to the House, in relation to the business motion, the fact that hon. Members had had no opportunity to put down amendments or that amendments submitted had been turned down or ruled out of time. The Secretary of State is ruling out an entire parliamentary process— the Committee stage. This is a dangerous messing around with our constitution. I see that the Leader of the House is nodding assent. I hope that that argument will be reflected in his answer to the debate.

Your role in these matters is carefully defined, Mr. Speaker, and you must protect the rights of the House and Back Benchers. If the Leader of the House does not have a re-think, you should seek means of having words in his ear in order to protect the rights of the House and Back Benchers.

The motion is procedurally improper, just like the Secretary of State's action towards the GLC, and unsatisfactory. I strongly urge the Leader of the House to withdraw it.

5.11 pm
Mr. K. Harvey Proctor (Billericay)

The hon. Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Deakins) said that Conservative Members were sitting smugly while listening to the debate. I was not one of them as I listened from the beginning and with increasing anxiety about what was proposed. Moreover, I did not want the debate to go by without that worry being expressed on this side of the House.

I mean no disrespect to Opposition Members present, but one of the reasons why some of my right hon. and hon. Friends treated the initial stages of the debate with some contempt might be that we have had to listen to a string of what might be regarded as bogus points of order or claims to parliamentary difficulties, so it was difficult to differentiate between them and this genuine worry.

Why does my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House think that there was no row about these matters last night? I assume that it was known last night during the business statement that taking the remaining stages of the Bill in one sitting would create difficulties. I wonder why there was no outcry last night from the Opposition Front Bench. There might be a procedural reason for that. I have great sympathy for my right hon. Friend in the problems that he faces with the rate limitation measure, on which I had hoped to address the House tonight if I caught your eye, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Barron

The hon. Gentleman says that there was no objection last night. Has he read the Official Report and seen that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) made all of these arguments after the business statement? If the hon. Gentleman reads column 950, he will see that what has been said today was also argued last night.

Mr. Proctor

I am sorry if I lost the point that the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney was making last night in the noise. Nevertheless, I am surprised that we did not have last night the rather lengthy debate that we are having now.

Mr. Spearing

The hon. Gentleman is under some misapprehension. Extended points of order, which are sometimes in order—the House had points of order, all of which were in order, for 14 hours on the European Communities Bill—are one thing, and a motion such as this on which speeches can be as long as may be and in which interventions such as this, which the hon. Gentleman has kindly allowed me to make, can be made is quite another. This is not a protest but a discussion of a motion which should be tabled only for specific, well tried and well justified purposes. Such motions usually go through on the nod but, because the Opposition believe that this purpose is not well founded, we are having proper debate and speeches. I hope that my extended intervention has been helpful to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Proctor

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for explaining why he thinks there is an extended debate on this motion and why there was none last night. My point is that if the anxiety had been as great last night as it obviously is today, it might have been possible to make some changes in today's business last night. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House must be aware that if such an adjustment had been made last night we might not have delayed the House so long on this motion. The debate on the Royal Air Force might have taken place today rather than on Thursday, although my right hon. Friend might give reasons why that was not possible.

I did not want anxiety on this matter to come only from the Opposition. Perhaps the only time that I have agreed with the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) was when he said that there will come a day when Conservative Members will find themselves on the Opposition Benches, including my right hon. Friend, who has rightly been called a House of Commons man. I am sure that he would be the first to object to such a motion if the roles were reversed.

5.17 pm
Mr. Peter Griffiths (Portsmouth, North)

I do not represent a London constituency and I have not taken part in previous debates on the Bill, but I have given my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport my general support.

When I came to the House today, one of my first actions was to see how long was the list of amendments tabled for the Committee stage. I assumed that it would run to a full page. I was amazed to find that only two groups had been selected, so I came to this debate. It occurred to me that if the Opposition Front Bench, with the resources available to it, had found it difficult to table the number of amendments that one normally expects, how much more difficult it must have been for Back Benchers.

If any point is missed during the Committee stage of a Bill by hon. Members or Front-Bench spokesmen there is normally time for reflection, consideration and consultation before Report stage. I believe that on this occasion the procedure proposed by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House is wrong. It removes the fail-safe opportunity to pick up at the Report stage the points that were either missed or could not be presented during the Committee stage.

This point goes wider than the merits, or otherwise, of the Bill that is to be discussed in Committee. I ask my right hon. Friend to consider whether it might be in the best interests of the House of Commons and of Back Benchers on both this and later occasions, when this procedure could be described as a precedent, if he were to accept that there is a belief on both sides of the House that it is undesirable for the Committee stage of a Bill to follow closely upon Second Reading and that it is even more undesirable for the Report stage of that Bill immediately to follow the Committee stage. Today's business covers not only the London Regional Transport (Amendment) Bill. The Trustee Savings Bank Bill is to be considered, followed by the milk supplementary levy motion. I ask my right hon. Friend to consider whether it would be a reasonable day's work for the House to complete the Committee stage of the London Regional Transport (Amendment) Bill and all stages of the Trustee Savings Bank Bill and the levy and to return to the Report and Third Reading stages of the London Regional Transport (Amendment) Bill on a later occasion — if necessary, tomorrow after the debate on the Royal Air Force.

5.21 pm
Mr. Denis Skinner (Bolsover)

The hon. Member for Portsmouth, North (Mr. Griffiths) has now broadened the attack on the Government for their handling of the business of the House. During this relatively short debate contributions have been made by hon. Members with many years' experience of this House, initially by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow—

Mr. Mikardo

No—Bethnal Green and Stepney.

Mr. Skinner

He is not right hon?

Mr. Mikardo

Yes, but he is the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney.

Mr. Skinner

My right hon. Friend made it clear that he could not remember any occasion when such a controversial matter had been brought before the House at such short notice. My right hon. Friend compared it to certain examples that he remembers well. I referred to Rolls-Royce which was in one hell of a mess. There was general agreement that Rolls-Royce ought to be nationalised. Rolls-Royce was nationalised under the last Tory Prime Minister. The present Prime Minister and the Leader of the House joined in that little escapade. On that occasion they were all in favour of nationalisation. We went into the same Lobby shouting and cheering and saying that Rolls-Royce should be shifted from the private sector, where it had failed, to the public arena.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell

I was against it.

Mr. Skinner

The right hon. Gentleman has made an important point. There was no vote. I imagine that on that occasion the right hon. Gentleman shouted, sometimes strongly and sometimes weakly, "No." The point is that the right hon. Gentleman threw the towel in at Wolverhampton before the general election in 1974. When he threw the towel in, he did a pretty fair job. I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that on this occasion you have grave doubts about the predicament in which you have been placed. On occasions like this it is apparent that you are stuck there like piggy in the middle. Hon. Members do not want you to be placed in that predicament. We will argue the toss with you, Mr. Speaker, when it matters, but this is not one of those occasions.

On this occasion, the Government have a massive majority of 147. It makes one wonder what the Government are up to. With their 147 majority they are trying to wheedle through this Bill on two successive days by means of their payroll vote and their prospective payroll voters who are waiting to go into the Lobby at a moment's notice. But last night, on fluoridation, they were not very keen. With all those payroll voters behind them the Government are capable of getting any piece of legislation through the House. Therefore, one is bound to come to the conclusion that there is something much more sinister about it. It is because it is sinister that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore), with all his experience, and my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), who began this procedural debate and who examines these matters in detail, raised this matter. When my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South has spotted something on the Order Paper and raises a point of order in the PLP and subsequently on the Floor of the House, you can bet your bottom dollar that, 85 to 40 on, he is right. That is so on this occasion.

Mr. Brian Sedgemore (Hackney, South and Shoreditch)

My hon. Friend says there may be something sinister about this. Does he think it is sinister that the Attorney-General is sitting on the Back Benches? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]

Mr. Skinner

I have a little note here. When the Attorney-General walked in I put down, "Attorney-General. Prime Minister missing, on holiday." [Laughter.] Yes, I believe that it is sinister. The Attorney-General wandered into the debate because he, too, is concerned. The Attorney-General can get up, if he likes, but I do not expect him to jump up and contradict the Leader of the House. However, as a Law Officer who is not on holiday and who is taking a long and detailed interest in the matter, perhaps we ought to hear his view, along with all the other many and varied views.

During this attack there have been speeches from only two Conservative Members, apart from the Leader of the House and the Secretary of State. Both put forward the constructive argument that the Leader of the House should take this back whence it came. In fact, the hon. Member for Portsmouth, North (Mr. Griffiths) made the constructive suggestion that the House should deal with whatever is on the Order Paper today. The Trustee Savings Banks Bill was opposed on Second Reading. It will no doubt be opposed during its remaining stages. There will be argument and discussion and, no doubt, a vote. Is that not sufficient? It is to be followed by the milk supplementary levy.

Then the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) joined in. I put it to you, Mr. Speaker, that although we may not agree on some issues, we are not all that far apart on the Common Market, as we see this ramshackle organisation fall to the floor. We are enjoying that. However, the right hon. Member for South Down follows these matters meticulously, as does my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South. He made it clear, in as strong a voice as possible, that this matter should be reconsidered. The right hon. Member for South Down is an old ex-mate of the Leader of the House. I wonder whether he has paid sufficient attention to the remarks of the right hon. Member for South Down? If we allow this Bill to proceed, there will be more occasions of this kind. It is a scandal. With a majority of 147 the Government can push anything through the House. With their majority they can trample all over parliamentary democracy. They say that they were elected to look after the freedom of the people of Britain, yet this is what the Government are up to.

The breadth of the attack has not included the Social Democrats and the Liberals. They talk about freedom of information, being in favour of peace and other wonderfully abstract things, but when it comes down to the real nitty-gritty of fighting for parliamentary democracy, where are they? Not a single Social Democrat has spoken in the debate. [Interruption.] Here they are. It is just possible that at the tether end of the debate one of them will be trying to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker—a typical Liberal intervention. They have probably had a meeting about joint selection and failed to reach agreement again.

Many hon. Members who pay a lot of attention to procedural detail have said, almost in unison: take it back. Look at all the time that we have wasted, Mr. Speaker. You could have been having your tea, but you are very concerned about the matter. I do not know what discussions you had with Mr. Deputy Speaker but the chances are that you said to him, "Look, I am not leaving the Chair on this important House of Commons matter. It is one at which I should be present." That in itself broadens the attack. Hardly anyone is left to support the motion.

Mr. Sedgemore

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. He was referring most solic—most solicit—he was referring to the close relationship which existed between the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) and the Leader of the House. Is it not a shame that former philosophical bedfellows should now be kicking each other out of bed?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I know that the hon. Member for Bolsover is solicitous of my welfare, but he must stick to the motion. I really would like to go and have my tea.

Mr. Skinner

I do not think, Mr. Speaker, that you should go for your tea until I have done.

Before my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) intervened, stuttering and stammering — unusually for him because he has been in the law courts and knows all about it and will probably try to catch your eye later—I was going on to say that sometimes Back Benchers argue with the Leader of the House about business. That is fair and above board, but often the issue is a bit narrow.

However, this time it is different, because the Opposition Front Bench has sussed this out as well. It is not just the Back Benchers who are saying it is wrong. The Opposition Front Bench has said it is wrong as well, so there have been none of the usual arrangements to get the matter through. Why? They have been trying all day to table amendments. Any hon. Member knows that any Front Bench Member should be able to table more than the paltry few amendments that have appeared today on a matter of such major importance. The real reason is that they have not had the time to table them and to make sure that they are acceptable to you, Mr. Speaker.

One thing that worries me is that the debate might be closured. The Government have a majority of 147 and many Tory Members are stuck outside the Chamber who, unlike the Attorney-General, have never come in to listen to the arguments. They are stuck in the woodwork somewhere. If you, Mr. Speaker, decide to go for your tea at about 6 pm, a Tory Whig could move the closure of the debate. That would make the matter even worse. We are arguing why the business should be taken off, but the Government can come along, in almost dictatorial fashion, and move the closure. It is not for me to tell you your job, Mr. Speaker, but I am suggesting that the debate should not be closured, in view of the number of hon. Members who have taken part and who still want to take part.

Mr. Spearing

Does my hon. Friend remember that when I first opposed the motion I said that a closure would be a possible course of action for the Leader of the House and that I hoped that he would not take it? But my hon. Friend is perhaps slightly mistaken. As I understand it, a Government Whip may claim to move the closure but whoever is in the Chair at that time—be it you, Mr. Speaker, or Mr. Deputy Speaker — is under no compulsion to accept it. I hope, Mr. Speaker, that you or your Deputy, in view of the importance of the principle of what we are debating, would not accept that closure until there had been a proper debate. My hon. Friend is on an important point when he mentions democracy. If the Government really cared for that, the motion would not be before us at all.

Mr. Skinner

In contrast to my attempts to be more delicate, my hon. Friend has, in his blunt fashion, put his finger on it. I would not try to put words into your mouth, Mr. Speaker, but my hon. Friend, who studies such matters in great detail, has put his finger on it. We would not look kindly on a closure motion on this debate.

There was a lot of talk last week—we all heard it—about agreement between the two sides of the House. There is no agreement on this matter, yet the Prime Minister stood at the Dispatch Box and played merry hell because my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition would not tell her that he agreed with her or believed her on this, that and the other. What nonsense it makes. Last week all the newspapers said that the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister could not agree and that parliamentary democracy was at stake and would be ruined. Yet here we are a week later and the Government are saying, "To hell with agreement. We are not bothered about agreements with the other side. We are going to steamroller this thing through and we do not care what the Labour Front Bench says. We do not care what the Liberals say." They have just arrived—

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)


Mr. Skinner

—and one wants to speak. Yes, the hon. Gentleman may, in his squeaky, piping voice.

Mr. Hughes

I do not know whether I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that introduction, but I should like to remind him that it is not just the Opposition who can make life difficult. When the hon. Gentleman and I were here at 2 am today, we had another closure. On that occasion, Conservative Back Benchers were making life difficult. It is now becoming apparent that almost no business can be got through the House with agreement without resorting to procedural devices. I have not been here as long as the hon. Gentleman. Perhaps he will tell us when that was last the case. It is certainly the first time since I have been here that we have had so many procedural tricks.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not pursue something which is purely hypothetical.

Mr. Skinner

That admonition is absolutely right, but the hon. Gentleman has made a germane point and yet missed it. The hon. Gentleman said that he was up all night—at least, he was up until about 3 am—and that the Government were in a mess. That is part and parcel of the problem. The Government have lost control of their business, so much so that last night they could not keep 100 Tory Members here to closure the debate. This is germane, Mr. Speaker, because the hon. Gentleman wanted to table an amendment to the Bill and he was in bed. He did not get back until 4 am. All those hon. Members who did stay, especially Opposition Members, who were worried about fluoridation got home late and could not get up in time—

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is interesting to hear about last night, but the motion on the Order Paper is about today's business. The hon. Gentleman is a good parliamentarian and must stick to the motion on the Order Paper.

Mr. Skinner

The point that I am trying to illustrate is that every hon. Member can play his or her part in the Bill. If they wish, they can table amendments. It should have been debated tomorrow. Anybody who stayed up late last night and did not get here as early as they otherwise might—especially the Liberals, who are not as quick on their feet as most people—has been unable to table amendments. Because this business has been brought on today, hon. Members have not had time to put down amendments. The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) inadvertently stumbled across an argument, but failed to appreciate it fully.

Then there is the question of the urgency of the matter.

Mr. Deakins

Before my hon. Friend leaves the question of amendments, will he bear in mind the fact that not only do hon. Members on both sides of the House wish to table considered amendments for the Committee stage, but we may wish to take amendments if there is a Report stage? If we go straight from Committee to Report, there will be no time for us to table amendments.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Deakins) is absolutely on the point. That is what the motion is about and that is what the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) should confine his remarks to.

Mr. Skinner

I am confining myself to the generality of the argument and my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Mr. Deakins) has put his finger on the nub of the issue. We have been prevented from carrying out our duties.

Mr. Mikardo

There will be no Report stage.

Mr. Skinner

That is correct. My hon. Friend is on the button again.

The Secretary of State for Transport talked about the urgency of getting the Bill through. We believe that that is a phoney argument. I suggest that it is as phoney as the arguments used by, let us say, the Central Electricity Generating Board, which has lost £2,000 million and is being allowed by the Government to borrow ad nauseam as long as the Government can drive the miners into the floor. The Government allow the CEGB to borrow £2,000 million, but they are not prepared to allow London Regional Transport to borrow £50 million. It is a bit of nonsense.

Mr. Tony Banks

In fact, LRT has external borrowing powers which it could use. The Secretary of State gave it those powers. There is no question of urgency about its money.

Mr. Skinner

The same is true of a lot of industries and organisations. The Government will allow them to borrow. The Secretary of State says that the Government need to get the Bill through today to get the £50 million so that the matter can be resolved. It is nonsense, because the Government are prepared to let other utilities borrow £2,000 million or any other amount when it suits their purpose. They are not worried about bringing Bills before the House then.

Those are the arguments that have been relayed by my hon. Friends. There is no alternative to the case that they have put. Unusually, the Leader of the House was not able to sustain his argument against the right hon. Member for South Down. He has not been able to convince hon. Members that the Government's proposal makes sense. There ought to be discussions between the usual channels to facilitate the proper progress of business today.

There are various options. One was put by the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Proctor) and I have put another. No doubt my hon. Friends on the Front Bench have other ideas in mind. It is a scandal that the House should be asked to allow the Bill to go through in one day. It is a vital piece of legislation. The Government should withdraw the motion and let us get back to normal business.

5.44 pm
Mr. Brian Sedgemore (Hackney, South and Shoreditch)

It is a pleasure to speak in the debate and I feel humble to be following so many distinguished hon. Members from both sides of the House.

It is with some trepidation that I follow my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). The last time that we spoke together was at the Chesterfield by-election, when he followed me. My reception was excellent, but his was stupendous. It is always that way; he is always pinching my lines.

The debate is important because it goes to the heart of the British constitution. As it has unfolded, it has reflected enormous credit on Back-Bench Members and one cannot help contrasting that credit with the grave dishonour that the debate has reflected on the Government. We are witnessing the arrogance of the Executive. We have tried to put aside party politics and no one has tried to score party points. We have treated the matter as a high constitutional issue.

One of the most difficult aspects of the British constitution is the awkward relationship between the Executive and the legislature. There is a series of checks and balances—an ebb and flow. Sometimes it seems that the Executive is in charge, and occasionally it seems that the legislature is in charge. Today, the Executive is seeking to trample on the legislature.

Mr. Corbyn

My hon. Friend is involved in the Committee stage of the Bill that will abolish much of local government in this country. Will he advise the House on the close relationship between the attempt to destroy local government in London and other places through rate capping and the attempt to get this Bill to precepting authorities before 6 March?

Mr. Speaker

Order. That would not be in order. Hon. Members must stick to the motion.

Mr. Sedgemore

It would be improper for me to try to draw parallels between the guillotine on the Local Government Bill and the attempt to take the remaining stages of this Bill in one day.

It is important that the relationship between the Government and Back-Bench Members on both sides of the House should operate on principles of equity and natural justice. The Government must recognise that Back-Bench Members will make legitimate demands about the Committee, Report and Third Reading stages of a Bill. One demand will be that we have time to consider what has happened in Committee before we have to deal with the Report stage.

I can think of only two precedents for what the Government are doing. The first was the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1974, which went through Parliament in one day. I did not agree with that. The second precedent was the Bill to nationalise Rolls-Royce when that company was going bankrupt. Although that company may have been trading illegally at the time, I do not believe that there was an argument for pushing the Bill through so quickly. Therefore, if there was no case for haste with those Bills, which appear to have been far more important and urgent than the London Regional Transport (Amendment) Bill, there surely cannot be a case for haste today.

Mr. Barron

I was working in the coal mines when the Conservative Government nationalised Rolls-Royce and put the Bill through in one day. Can my hon. Friend tell me what opportunities there were for tabling amendments to that Bill? It seems that we are to have no opportunity to put down amendments on this Bill.

Mr. Sedgemore

My hon. Friend was working in the coal mines and I was working in the law courts, so neither of us can say with clarity what happened on that occasion. If the Leader of the House is given leave to speak again, perhaps he will be able to enlighten my hon. Friend.

If we follow precedent, our position must be based on trust and agreement between both sides of the House. It is difficult to understand how there could be agreement between both sides of the House in this case. We are dealing not only with a Bill that is consequent upon a previous public ownership Bill and certain borrowing requirements, but with an astonishingly important consitutional issue — retrospective legislation. This legislation seeks to legalise the illegal actions of the Secretary of State for Transport. How could there be agreement that the Report stage should follow immediately on the Committee stage when we are dealing with this constitutional issue? How could there be agreement when we note that Mr. Justice McNeill did not merely criticise the Secretary of State? His criticism was so condign as to make those of us who are capable of reading between the lines of the law reports believe that he was talking with incredulity about the right hon. Gentleman's irrationality. That is why it is extremely difficult to have any agreement on the truncating of debate.

Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)

I do not wish to dwell too long on that fact, even though I was at the Rolls-Royce technical college when Rolls-Royce was nationalised. I remember the occasion very well because, as an apprentice, I was called into the main meeting room to hear the decision. Does my hon. Friend accept that the principle of retrospective legislation, of which the Secretary of State may well be in favour at present, will not sit so easily on the right hon. Gentleman's shoulders if, as I hope, a future Labour Government use that same principle to bring back those Clay Cross councillors who, 13 years ago, under the Housing Finance Act 1972, were disfranchised for defending working people?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I hope that the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) will not follow that line either.

Mr. Sedgemore

I can barely resist those temptations, Mr. Speaker, but, under your stern instructions, I absolutely refuse to follow my hon. Friend's point. I do not know why he is trying to lead me down those devious routes. I know that it will put me in bad favour with you, Mr. Speaker, and I shall be desperate to catch your eye next Monday afternoon during the debate on the rate capping order.

I know, if only because I discussed this matter with him before he stood up to speak, that my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover has an important point to make about the way in which the Secretary of State for Transport misled the House over fiduciary and financial issues. I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman made out a case for bringing the Report stage on immediately after the Committee stage. He claimed that this had to be done because London Regional Transport would run out of money this week. I must say, for my sins, that I was trained as an economist. I know that it is not true that LRT will run out of money this week. It is grotesquely misleading for the Secretary of State to tell us that it will. Just as the Central Electricity Generating Board has external borrowing limits, so too does London Regional Transport. I am not saying that LRT has external borrowing limits up to £2 billion like the CEGB. I doubt that the CEGB has such limits anyway. LRT does, however, have external borrowing limits amounting to at least £50 million.

The Secretary of State for Transport owes us an explanation of why, in saying that the Report stage should immediately follow the Committee stage, he argued the fiduciary case. The right hon. Gentleman cannot justify that case. I am willing to allow him to intervene to apologise for misleading the House. I note that the right hon. Gentleman is not rising to meet the challenge. He is not prepared to apologise for misleading the House on important fiduciary and financial issues.

It is a sorry state of affairs when we have Secretaries of State who are prepared to mislead the House and who, when they are given the opportunity to withdraw, sit sullenly in their seats, turned away from the Member who is addressing the House of Commons. That is the kind of democracy in which we live. That is the arrogance of the majority and of the Executive which we have come to expect.

Mr. Cohen

Last night, when accused of misleading the House, the Secretary of State said that the matter was sub judice to him, although it was not sub judice to anyone else. Does the same consideration apply to what the right hon. Gentleman said today at the Dispatch Box about this matter being urgent? It might be urgent to him, although it is not to anyone else.

Mr. Speaker

I ask the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch to resist that temptation as well.

Mr. Sedgemore

Absolutely, Mr. Speaker. I know something about the sub judice rule, but it would take much of the time of the House if I went into the various refinements of the arguments between my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) and the Secretary of State for Transport. Again I accept your invocation, Mr.

Speaker. It would be extremely remiss of me if I were to follow the path down which my hon. Friend tried to send me.

I am concerned about the practical difficulties that have been raised by this motion. I am one of those hon. Members who have been locked in a Committee Room for two days and two nights a week considering the Local Government Bill, which seeks to abolish the GLC and the metropolitan county councils. We sat until midnight last night dealing with certain clauses. The Bill is fiendishly complicated. The debate on it drains one of nervous energy and physical stamina. I went home feeling like a wet rag last night. I got up at half-past five this morning, knowing that I would have to read Hansard to ascertain what happened yesterday on Second Reading. I had barely started dealing with half a dozen letters and opening some of my papers—I do not have a red box; in fact, I have a blue box—when the telephone started to ring, and I have been interrupted ever since. My only chance to read yesterday's debate on Second Reading has come while I have been sitting here trying—occasionally, because the debate is so important — to glance at what was said yesterday.

I am a London Member and represent the poorest borough in this country which is desperately worried about having to pay a share of the £50 million to the Secretary of State. Is the House really asking me, as one who sat up last night until midnight dealing with a major Committee, who got up at half-past five this morning, and who has been interrupted in the middle of all his business, to table on Report amendments which will arise out of Committee proceedings which I have not even seen? No one in his right mind would ask a Member of Parliament to do that. It is asking too much, even of someone of my capacity and energy. I cannot do it. I honestly say that it is beyond my capabilities.

Mr. Skinner

Frayed at the edges.

Mr. Sedgemore

My hon. Friend may laugh and sneer. This is what makes Members of Parliament snap. I do not know why my hon. Friend is goading me in this fashion. We have on occasions walked around St. James's park talking as colleagues and trying to help each other. Now my hon. Friend is trying to put all these severe parliamentary pressures on to me. I do not find it funny, and I hope that my hon. Friend does not either.

Mr. Skinner

I have been reselected.

Mr. Sedgemore

It is not just a matter of how many hours there are in a day. The answer is 24, and that is not enough. I am concerned also because there are a number of bus garages in Hackney, South and Shoreditch and in Hackney, North. I had an agreement that, before the Report stage and after the Committee stage, I would go to some of those bus garages and consult the work force about possible amendments to the Bill. After going to see the work force, I would go to the GLC. I wanted to talk to my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) and Mr. Ken Livingstone about the kind of amendments I should table on Report.

That has become impossible because of the time scale. It need not be impossible, and that is where the Leader of the House can help us. There is no reason why that impossibility should be created. I do not believe that the motion was tabled for political malice or spite. All hon.

Members have said that we have an extremely good Leader of the House, who is interested in the wishes of Back-Bench Members.

Mr. Skinner

It is a lifetime tarnished.

Mr. Sedgemore

I do not believe that. We are having a series of rows, which there was no need to have.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am the last person who would wish the hon. Gentleman to snap. If he would bring his speech to a conclusion, perhaps we could both go and have a cup of tea together.

Mr. Sedgemore

That is the sort of offer that I cannot refuse. In fact, I should like a rock cake, if that is all right. However, before we have our cup of tea together, I wish to emphasise the point that we could have had the debate on the Royal Air Force today. I do not know why we cannot do that, and have the Committee and Report stages tomorrow, or the Committee stage today and the Report stage tomorrow. What prevents us from doing that? I know that there is a different Whip on the two matters.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am sorry to keep stopping the hon. Gentleman, but that matter could legitimately have been argued last night when the business statement was made. It cannot be argued on the motion this afternoon.

Mr. Sedgemore

That point has been argued today by at least five hon. Members. I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but I am rather shocked that the hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch should have fewer rights than more distinguished, older and abler hon. Members. However, I obey immediately because I am anxious for that cup of tea.

My final point relates to incompetence. Even when I am in control — I am at breaking point now — it seems appalling that because of the incompetence of the Secretary of State for the Environment, compounded by the incompetence of the Secretary of State for Transport—a parliamentary Tom and Jerry show—hon. Members should face this impossible position. It is time that the legislature stood up to the Government and asserted its rights.

Mr. Deakins

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The motion before the House is presumably amendable, as it is a motion. Would it be in order for the Leader of the House to move a manuscript amendment to the motion to remove from the motion any reference to Report and Third Reading, or to Third Reading, so that at least hon. Members would have a break and an opportunity to consider the stages that we are to rush through today, before the Bill is passed? If that were in order, would you accept it?

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is a hypothetical question. No such suggestion has been made to me.

6.4 pm

Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)

I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that that can soon be remedied. Our two and a half hours of debate bear a remarkable, striking and important similarity to our five hours of debate between 10.30 pm and 3.30 am last night. Throughout the two debates there has not been one speech from Conservative Back-Bench Members in support of the Front Bench. Every speech from those Back-Bench Members has opposed the Govenment's proposal. We can hardly be surprised that that is the case. The Secretary of State, who has an unlimited capacity to turn almost everything that he touches to farce, is in danger of making a farce of the procedures of the House. That is not a trivial or laughing matter, although during the recent contributions the Secretary of State seemed to regard it as such.

Many hon. Members have said that we regard the Leader of the House as an honourable man, and we mean it sincerely and truly. We have a high regard for the way in which he carries out his duties, but he will know, as most hon. Members know, that it takes a long time to build up a reputation in the House, and that a reputation can be destroyed in one debate. I ask him to consider seriously our points. I call on him, as his hon. Friends have done, to protect the House from an important abuse that otherwise may be committed today.

The Secretary of State is in danger of creating a precedent that he, his party, me and many of my colleagues would regret. If the precedent is created and the course of action is acceptable to the Tory party when it is in government, it will be acceptable to the Labour party when we are in government. I do not want any mealy-mouthed interventions in future, if we behave—

Mr. Michael Brown (Brigg and Cleethorpes)


Mr. Williams

I shall give way in a moment. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has discovered an interest in the subject.

Mr. Brown

I have been here throughout the debate.

Mr. Williams

In that case the hon. Gentleman should have spoken because his interests and rights are endangered. The Secretary of State may create a precedent that the House will regret, especially the Conservative party when it is in opposition.

Mr. Proctor

Will the right hon. Gentleman think again about his comment that, if and when there is a Labour Government, he would use the same procedures that are threatening Back-Bench Members now? Will he reconsider that remark because it is not an appetising threat to my right hon. and hon. Friends?

Mr. Williams

The House runs on precedent. If the Government are allowed to create this precedent this week, they can use it again next week. If they create the precedent and use it again, the Labour party will also be free to use it. That is how the House works, and that is why it is important that we do not allow the precedent to be created. The hon. Member for Beverley (Sir P. Wall) has been here longer than I and he knows that.

Mr. Michael Brown

I have grave misgivings about the resolution for all the reasons given during the debate. Although I understand that it would be entirely reasonable for any Labour Leader of the House to claim that precedent is the basis for using the device we are debating, the right hon. Gentleman does not strengthen his case to resist the precedent by suggesting that his party will use that device.

Mr. Williams

The hon. Gentleman must understand that today, as last night, the Leader of the House calls on precedent in support of what he seeks to achieve. Our argument, which is what the argument of every hon. Member should be, is that the motion is a gross abuse of any precedent for the timetabling of the activities of the House. The Leader of the House mentioned previous occasions of crisis, but there is no suggestion of a crisis today.

The Secretary of State tried to justify the accelerated timetable. In his speech last night he said that the money was needed for the transport authority to be able to pay its development land tax. I invite him to tell us what change has taken place since last Thursday in relation to the transport authority's commitments on development land tax. Secondly, he said that the action was necessary because of the transport authority's duties in relation to voluntary severance pay. I invite him to tell us what changes have taken place in that regard since last Thursday that make it necessary to bring the timetable forward.

The third and final support for the Secretary of State's case was that insurance claims would have to be met by the transport authority. This is my third invitation. Will the Secretary of State tell us now what has happened since last Thursday in relation to insurance claims that has made it necessary for us to deal with this legislation today rather than tomorrow? I look forward to hearing the right hon. Gentleman's list of changes.

Mr. Ridley

The right hon. Gentleman is mixing two completely separate matters. If he had followed our debate yesterday he would be aware that we were talking about the cash surplus that was carried through into the next financial year and the accrued liabilities which could be set against it. He has been quoting some of the figures partially and incorrectly. What I said this afternoon was on a completely different matter. It was that LRT's cash balances will go into the negative before the end of February—that is different from before the end of the financial year—unless those sums are paid.

Mr. Williams

Let me be clear about what the right hon. Gentleman is saying. He is saying two different things. First, he is making it clear that nothing has changed since last Thursday and, secondly, he is giving us our point. He is saying, "Because you have not had time to read Hansard thoroughly to study what was said last night, it is conceivable that you might not have understood what was said." That is what my right hon. and hon. Friends have been saying. Conservative Members could be in the same position at some time.

The stages of the legislative programme in the House have not been arrived at accidentally. They are not arbitrary. They are not pure quirk. They are there because they serve a purpose. There is a gap between the stages because it serves a purpose. It is necessary, for example, as the right hon. Gentleman has tried to demonstrate, for hon. Members to have an opportunity to check what happened during the previous stage. That is especially important when we are dealing with someone like the right hon. Gentleman who has such a remarkable record of getting things wrong. That becomes doubly important—

Mr. Ridley


Mr. Williams

If I got it wrong, why are we going through this farce today? Who got it wrong? Whose legislation was wrong first time round? The right hon. Gentleman does not just have a proven track record of inaccuracy and ineptitude; in his reply last night in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. Stott) he introduced a new set of figures about which no one had previously heard. We should have wanted to check them if they had come from a competent Minister. We certainly want to check them coming from him.

After Second Reading it is normal for hon. Members to want an opportunity to consult, check and consider their amendments. As my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) said in an intervention, last night she had to dive straight from handling the debate to handing in amendments which were due to be debated today. Most of us are not lawyers. Unlike some right hon. and hon. Members, we do not have a legal training. It is not uncommon for some of our amendments to be ruled out of order or be improperly drafted. That is not shameful; it is normal. We know that. The way in which we conduct our affairs normally ensures that if we get things wrong we have time to obtain advice from the Clerks and to put in suitably worded amendments. That will go if we accept the precedent that the Leader of the House is in danger of imposing.

We have heard constantly from the Government—I say this sincerely enough, I hope, for the Leader of the House to take note—about the sanctity of the law, but we must understand that in the House there is also the sanctity of the law-making process. Arbitrary law is not just bad law, it breeds disrespect for the law. We should honour procedures, and breach, change or bend them only when there is no alternative for the working of the House.

A Government with a majority of 147 could have bulldozed the legislation through the House tomorrow as they had originally intended. Instead, they are bringing it forward by a mere 24 hours. They are treating the House with disdain. Neither the Leader of the House nor the Secretary of State has given a significant or meaningful reason for the change. The only reason given is that it is for the convenience of the Executive. It has nothing to do with the needs of the House or the legislative requirements of the transport authority.

Mr. Deakins

My right hon. Friend is being overfair to the Government by saying that it is for the convenience of the Executive. I should have thought that it was extremely inconvenient for the civil servants and the Ministers in the Department of Transport who had been working on the assumption that they could consider amendments. Amendments must be considered in the Department. The Department is suffering as well. I suspect that this is being done solely for the convenience of the Ministers who were leading the debate on Monday.

Mr. Williams

With the Secretary of State's record, I suspect that he does not want us to have time to check the figures that he provided last night. We are due to have a ten minute Bill to which we are all looking forward with great anticipation. I ask the Leader of the House not to give a final decision now. He should take the opportunity to have a discussion through the usual channels to see whether they can find a way to resolve the matter, because the principle that is at stake tonight is important to Back Benchers on both sides of the House.

If we are not careful and we do what the Leader of the House is asking, we shall be adding to the Secretary of State's proven contempt for the law-making processes of the House.

6.17 pm
Mr. Biffen

By leave, Mr. Speaker, I wish to address a few remarks to the House to conclude the debate. It has been a wide-ranging and, I think, truly important debate, which reveals how the House feels about its procedures. The House has tackled the issue from a variety of standpoints, and I must at once acknowledge, I suppose, with some charity the concept that I have become the victim of fallen innocence in this matter. I feel no different now than I did 24 hours ago—to every problem I bring the same wearied sense of realism.

I should like to assure the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) that none of his opponents would in any sense characterise what he or his hon. Friends have said as obstructive. The debate has truly been about the relationship between the House and the Executive, which is as old as Parliament itself. Anyone tracing the debate will conclude that the measure outlined in the business of the House motion is not one that would ever be lightly sought by the Executive. It is not a measure that is readily granted by Parliament. Much of this afternoon's debate has demonstrated that.

The objections to the motion are, first, that all remaining stages are taken in one sitting. That was objected to, especially by the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson). That prospect for the treatment of this Bill was always evident, in the sense that the motion was published to relate to the Bill had it been debated tomorrow rather than today. However, added to that was the second and in a sense fortuitous factor that all the remaining stages should be taken upon the day successive to Second Reading — the point made particularly by the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell).

I was immediately aware that that was the particularly controversial aspect of the arrangement of Government business, and that is why I readily agreed with the point observed by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks). It was one of the consequences, fortuitous and unintended, of the altered business as a result of the different treatment of the rate-capping orders. I had to make the judgment—bearing in mind that I wished to recreate the business at extremely short notice and to take account as far as possible of the desire for a continued responsible working programme for Parliament — whether I would undertake this device which is sanctified by precedent and in my hands, I realise, creates a precedent.

Although that was not an easy judgment, I was none the less much persuaded by the problem of speed which was implicit in the legislation. The word "crisis" is not perhaps the one that I would choose, but often when a matter becomes relevant consideration turns on the speed with which measures are required. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport spoke on that matter.

Mr. Williams

Will the right hon. Gentleman amplify why it is so important that this legislation should be considered today rather than tomorrow, and why tomorow was adequate when he announced the business last Thursday?

Mr. Biffen

The split between today and tomorrow arose as a consequence of the general upheaval that flowed from the necessity to take the rate-capping order on Monday.

Mr. Tony Banks

The Leader of the House will be aware that it was speed, undue haste, that got us into this mess to start with — undue haste on the part of the Secretary of State, and his failure to consult.

Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman said that it was a difficult choice to make. He could have brought forward the debate on the Royal Air Force, because no resolution is attached to that. A resolution is attached to this legislation, and it will cost the ratepayers £50 million.

Mr. Biffen

I realise that point. Doubtless we could all make business programmes, just as we could all select cricket teams for an Australian tour. I assure the hon. Gentleman that I had to go through the range of agonies before I made the judgment which is now at stake and will soon be subject to the vote of the House. The hon. Gentleman is of course right in saying that, whenever one operates under constraint of speed, the political process is that much more difficult.

I very much hope that the House will proceed to vote for the motion on the business of the House. I very much take account of the constructive suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth, North (Mr. Griffiths), but I still feel that it is appropriate that the House should—

Mr. Williams

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way? This a is very important point

Mr. Biffen

I know that it is important, and for that reason I will shortly give way. I none the less feel that it would be preferable for us to proceed to authorise the business that was announced last night to give some certainty to a programme of business that has already been subject to overmuch adjustment.

Mr. Williams

I apologise for having interrupted the right hon. Gentleman. Will he consider accepting my invitation to have discussions through channels during the succeeding ten-minute Bill? Since he seems unwilling to make the concession for which we ask of removing the business from today's Order Paper, would he consider as an option that might meet some of our concern allowing a separate Report stage?

Mr. Biffen

I recommend to the House that the motion under consideration should be secured. I go further and say that of course I have noted what the right hon. Gentleman says about the usual channel discussions. I agree that this matter would be better discussed through the usual channels, so that it may proceed as he has requested.

Mr. Spearing

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Biffen

No, I will not give way. I am on my last sentence.

We are shortly coming to a vote. The House records its view by votes, but after the votes have been recorded the voices linger. I know perfectly well from the volume, intensity and quality of the voices that have been heard this afternoon that the House has the deepest unease about this kind of procedure. I think that that unease is common to both sides of the House and will moderate and qualify whatever sense of precedent may be held about the outcome this evening.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 256, Noes 180.

Division No. 116] [6.25 pm
Alexander, Richard Haselhurst, Alan
Ancram, Michael Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Arnold, Tom Hawksley, Warren
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Hayes, J.
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Hayhoe, Barney
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset) Hayward, Robert
Baldry, Tony Heddle, John
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Henderson, Barry
Bellingham, Henry Hickmet, Richard
Bennett, Rt Hon Sir Frederic Hicks, Robert
Best, Keith Hind, Kenneth
Bevan, David Gilroy Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Holt, Richard
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Hordern, Peter
Boscawen, Hon Robert Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Bottomley, Peter Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Hubbard-Miles, Peter
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Hunt, David (Wirral)
Bright, Graham Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Hunter, Andrew
Browne, John Irving, Charles
Bruinvels, Peter Jackson, Robert
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A. Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Budgen, Nick Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Burt, Alistair Jones, Robert (W Herts)
Butterfill, John Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Carttiss, Michael Kershaw, Sir Anthony
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Key, Robert
Chapman, Sydney King, Roger (B'ham N'field)
Chope, Christopher King, Rt Hon Tom
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n) Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Knowles, Michael
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Knox, David
Clegg, Sir Walter Lamont, Norman
Cockeram, Eric Latham, Michael
Colvin, Michael Lawrence, Ivan
Conway, Derek Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Cope, John Lee, John (Pendle)
Cranborne, Viscount Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Crouch, David Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Currie, Mrs Edwina Lester, Jim
Dickens, Geoffrey Lightbown, David
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Lilley, Peter
Dunn, Robert Lloyd, Ian (Havant)
Durant, Tony Lord, Michael
Fairbairn, Nicholas Luce, Richard
Farr, Sir John Lyell, Nicholas
Favell, Anthony McCrindle, Robert
Fletcher, Alexander McCurley, Mrs Anna
Fookes, Miss Janet Macfarlane, Neil
Forman, Nigel MacGregor, John
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Forth, Eric MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Fox, Marcus Maclean, David John
Franks, Cecil Madel, David
Freeman, Roger Major, John
Gale, Roger Malins, Humfrey
Galley, Roy Malone, Gerald
Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde) Maples, John
Garel-Jones, Tristan Marland, Paul
Glyn, Dr Alan Marlow, Antony
Goodhart, Sir Philip Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Goodlad, Alastair Mates, Michael
Gorst, John Mather, Carol
Grant, Sir Anthony Maude, Hon Francis
Greenway, Harry Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Gregory, Conal Mellor, David
Grist, Ian Meyer, Sir Anthony
Grylls, Michael Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Moate, Roger
Hampson, Dr Keith Moore, John
Hanley, Jeremy Morris, M. (N'hampton, S)
Hannam, John Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Hargreaves, Kenneth Moynihan, Hon C.
Mudd, David Steen, Anthony
Murphy, Christopher Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Neale, Gerrard Stevens, Martin (Fulham)
Needham, Richard Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Neubert, Michael Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Nicholls, Patrick Stewart, Ian (N Hertf'dshire)
Normanton, Tom Stokes, John
Norris, Steven Sumberg, David
Onslow, Cranley Tapsell, Sir Peter
Oppenheim, Phillip Taylor, John (Solihull)
Ottaway, Richard Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Page, Sir John (Harrow W) Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Page, Richard (Herts SW) Temple-Morris, Peter
Parris, Matthew Terlezki, Stefan
Patten, J. (Oxf W & Abdgn) Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Pawsey, James Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Thornton, Malcolm
Pollock, Alexander Thurnham, Peter
Porter, Barry Townend, John (Bridlington)
Portillo, Michael Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Powell, William (Corby) Tracey, Richard
Powley, John Trippier, David
Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Trotter, Neville
Raffan, Keith Twinn, Dr Ian
Renton, Tim van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Rhodes James, Robert Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Viggers, Peter
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Waddington, David
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Waldegrave, Hon William
Rifkind, Malcolm Walden, George
Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Wall, Sir Patrick
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Waller, Gary
Robinson, Mark (N'port W) Ward, John
Rossi, Sir Hugh Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Rost, Peter Watson, John
Rumbold, Mrs Angela Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Wheeler, John
Sayeed, Jonathan Whitfield, John
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Whitney, Raymond
Shelton, William (Streatham) Wiggin, Jerry
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Winterton, Mrs Ann
Silvester, Fred Winterton, Nicholas
Skeet, T. H. H. Wolfson, Mark
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Wood, Timothy
Soames, Hon Nicholas Yeo, Tim
Speed, Keith Young, Sir George (Acton)
Speller, Tony Younger, Rt Hon George
Spencer, Derek
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Tellers for the Ayes:
Squire, Robin Mr. Ian Lang and
Stanbrook, Ivor Mr. Peter Lloyd.
Stanley, John
Abse, Leo Canavan, Dennis
Alton, David Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y)
Anderson, Donald Carter-Jones, Lewis
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Cartwright, John
Ashdown, Paddy Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Ashton, Joe Clarke, Thomas
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Clay, Robert
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Barnett, Guy Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)
Barron, Kevin Cohen, Harry
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Coleman, Donald
Beith, A. J. Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.
Bell, Stuart Cook, Frank (Stockton North)
Benn, Tony Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Corbett, Robin
Bermingham, Gerald Corbyn, Jeremy
Bidwell, Sydney Cowans, Harry
Blair, Anthony Craigen, J. M.
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Crowther, Stan
Boyes, Roland Cunliffe, Lawrence
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Cunningham, Dr John
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)
Bruce, Malcolm Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)
Caborn, Richard Deakins, Eric
Campbell-Savours, Dale Dewar, Donald
Dobson, Frank Maxton, John
Dormand, Jack Maynard, Miss Joan
Douglas, Dick Meacher, Michael
Dubs, Alfred Meadowcroft, Michael
Duffy, A. E. P. Mikardo, Ian
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Eastham, Ken Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Evans, John (St. Helens N) Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Ewing, Harry Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Fatchett, Derek Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Faulds, Andrew Nellist, David
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn) O'Brien, William
Fisher, Mark O'Neill, Martin
Flannery, Martin Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Forrester, John Park, George
Foster, Derek Patchett, Terry
Fraser, J. (Norwood) Pavitt, Laurie
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Pendry, Tom
Freud, Clement Penhaligon, David
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Pike, Peter
Gourlay, Harry Powell, Rt Hon J. E. (S Down)
Hamilton, James (M'well N) Prescott, John
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Radice, Giles
Harman, Ms Harriet Redmond, M.
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)
Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith Richardson, Ms Jo
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Haynes, Frank Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Robertson, George
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall) Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Home Robertson, John Rogers, Allan
Hoyle, Douglas Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham) Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)
Hughes, Roy (Newport East) Rowlands, Ted
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S) Sedgemore, Brian
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Janner, Hon Greville Shore, Rt Hon Peter
John, Brynmor Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Johnston, Russell Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Silkin, Rt Hon J.
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Skinner, Dennis
Kennedy, Charles Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)
Kirkwood, Archy Smyth, Rev W. M. (Belfast S)
Lambie, David Snape, Peter
Lamond, James Soley, Clive
Leighton, Ronald Stott, Roger
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Strang, Gavin
Lewis, Terence (Worsley) Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Litherland, Robert Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Tinn, James
Loyden, Edward Wainwright, R.
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
McKay, Allen (Penistone) Wareing, Robert
McKelvey, William Williams, Rt Hon A.
Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Wilson, Gordon
Maclennan, Robert Winnick, David
McNamara, Kevin Woodall, Alec
McTaggart, Robert Young, David (Bolton SE)
McWilliam, John
Marek, Dr John Tellers for the Noes:
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Mr. Nigel Spearing and
Mason, Rt Hon Roy Mr. Tony Banks.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Ordered, That, notwithstanding the practice of the House relating to the interval between the various stages of a Bill brought in on a Ways and Means Resolution, more than one stage of the London Regional Transport (Amendment) Bill may be proceeded with at any sitting of the House.