§ As amended ( in the Standing Committee), considered.
§ Mr. Speaker
We now come to the Report stage of the Criminal Justice Bill. Before we proceed, it might be of assistance to the House if I say a word about new clause 17, entitled "Modification of criminal law relating to abortion" in the name of the right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine) and other hon. Members.
It is a long-standing rule of the House, referred to on page 522 of "Erskine May", that a Bill may not be proceeded with if a Bill containing similar provisions has already been given a Second Reading in the same Session. As the Abortion (Amendment) Bill has been read a Second time and is still before the House, it would not be in order to import provisions similar to the terms of that Bill into the Criminal Justice Bill. The new clause is therefore out of order and was not available for me to select.
As to other new clauses that have not been selected, I shall not depart from the standard practice of not giving reasons for my selection.
§ Sir Bernard Braine (Castle Point)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Not for one moment would I challenge your decision on the matter. I am familiar with the passage on page 522 of "Erskine May". You will remember, however, that, a little further on on that page, "Erskine May" states that, if the first Bill were to be withdrawn, a new clause such as the one put down in my name and those of other hon. Members, if selected, would certainly be in order for inclusion in the second Bill, in this instance the Criminal Justice Bill.
I trust that you will be aware, Mr. Speaker, of the immense dissatisfaction—indeed, anger—felt in many parts of the country and here at the way in which the Abortion (Amendment) Bill, which not only had a Second Reading, to which you have alluded, but a Committee stage and debate on Report, with a majority thoughout its stages, was frustrated by procedural devices, if I may put it in the kindliest way. You will know too that the Government have offered no facilities for providing the time in which the vital votes on that Bill, which would have taken only a matter of minutes, could be taken. Therefore, I ask for your guidance as to whether, in the event of the Bill being withdrawn, it would be in order for new clause 17 to be selected for debate at a later stage in the consideration of the Criminal Justice Bill.
§ Mr. Speaker
That is a hypothetical matter. If the right hon. Gentleman considers that that is an action that he should take, the new clause would undoubtedly become available for selection.
§ Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill)
Further to the point of order raised by the right hon. Member for Castle Point (Sir B. Braine), Mr. Speaker. I put it to you that there will be considerable consternation, bewilderment and, indeed, a little cynicism that the House will today be able to provide so much time to debate the restoration of the death penalty, whereas we shall find no time to debate the further passage of a measure that has achieved considerable support in the House and would actually save life. Given that, in 1967, 25 hours of 743 Government time were provided for the 1967 legislation to make progress, would it be proper for you to have discussions with the Government to find ways in which the House could reach a resolution of the matter? If that were not to be done, would it not continue to bring the House and its institutions into disrepute?
§ Mr. Speaker
It is not a matter for me to have discussions on matters of that kind. As the whole House knows, I am bound by the rules laid down under the Standing Orders. If the House wishes to change them, it is a matter for the Procedure Committee.