HC Deb 03 June 1985 vol 80 cc14-5
21. Mr. Nicholas Baker

asked the Lord Privy Seal if he has received any representations about improvements in parliamentary procedures.

Mr. Biffen

Yes, Sir. The latest report of the Procedure Committee — the Second Report from the Select Committee on Procedure, Session 1984–85 — includes major recommendations for changes in the Standing Committee procedures of the House.

Mr. Baker

My right hon. Friend will be aware that the private Member's motion to be moved on Friday to ensure the debate of a Bill that has the support of the House is within the rules of order, and it is proper that it should be debated. However, does he agree that there is a procedural loophole here, at which both he and the Select Committee on Procedure should look, to see whether action can be taken to stop it? [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]

Mr. Biffen

My hon. Friend identifies that the procedures that are for debate in Friday are both in order and of general interest. I shall not now anticipate the remarks that I intend to make then.

Mr. Pavitt

Does the Leader of the House recall that, on a number of occasions, on a Friday, objections have been made and there have been requests from hon. Members on both sides of the House that the hon. Members concerned should be identified in Hansard and not remain anonymous? Has he looked at that, and will he try, with the Procedure Committee, to right that patent wrong?

Mr. Biffen

The Procedure Committee has reported on public Bills. But the hon. Gentleman is right to say that there are aspects of private Members' legislation which have given rise to anxiety in the past. I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman's point will have been heard by the Chairman of the Procedure Committee.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Would it not be for the convenience of the House if my right hon. Friend made available in the Vote Office the report of the Procedure Committee which led to both the starting and the terminal hours on Fridays being brought forward one and a half hours, which was not done with the object of undoing it by sitting later?

Mr. Biffen

I shall look into that.

Mr. Peter Shore

In respect of this Friday's innovation, to put at its lowest, and major misuse of parliamentary procedure, to put it another way — [Interruption]—does the right hon. Gentleman not think that it would be wrong to allow this proposal to go ahead without first referring it to the Select Committee on Procedure, so that we might have a proper report on what would be a most dangerous precedent?

Mr. Biffen

The very remarks of the right hon. Gentleman and the way that they have been received in the House today suggests that it is a topic far better dealt with within the parameters of the debate rather than at Question Time.

Sir Peter Emery

I refer to my right hon. Friend's original answer about the last report of the Procedure Committee. As it has considerable importance for the House, may we have his assurance that we shall debate it before the House rises for the summer recess?

Mr. Biffen

I have said already that the Committee's proposals will be debated. I do not want to be specific about the precise time. But since I am always under pressure for the House to rise before getting too far into August, my hon. Friend will understand that any debates which might occur with advantage in the autumn are considered prime candidates for that treatment.