HC Deb 13 June 1988 vol 135 cc77-8

As amended (in the Standing Committee), further considered.

7.3 pm

Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The other day, Mr. Speaker declined a motion to refer the Bill back to Committee. I should like your advice about whether we can refer some parts of the Bill back to Committee.

We are deeply concerned that the Government have introduced so many amendments and new clauses, which were not debated in Committee, that they are again changing the nature of the Bill. We object not only to the iniquitous voting system whereby even the dead have votes, but to the fact that we have been unable to debate the Welsh housing corporation and new clause 47. The social landlords, charter—to which the Minister referred in Committee and said that he felt that it was necessary to refer it back to the House—is not available, although there is a pamphlet about the powers that are available.

On the Government's own admission, they have tabled 15 new substantive amendments. In only one part of the Bill they have tabled 15 new amendments, 19 technical ones and 18 as a result of concessions made in Committee.

I wonder whether you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, or Mr. Speaker, would consider referring back those parts of the Bill that were not debated in Committee. I understand that it may not be possible to take the amendments today, but could you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, give the House some guidance about whether they could be considered at a later stage? Do they necessarily have to be taken on Report? If so, one of the problems is that the issues will have been debated in a wider way rather than in the detailed way that they would have been discussed in Committee, had the Government been able to get their act together and deliver the Bill in a proper form on Report.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall not repeat the points made by the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley), with which I agree.

When we debated the procedure of the Report stage with Mr. Speaker last Thursday, the Minister—I thanked him for this at the time—suggested that he might be able to make available to hon. Members some notes on the new elements in the Bill. Obviously that matter does not directly concern the Chair, but it may influence the timetable. Substantial new matters are coming before the House for the first time, one of which is specifically referred to in the press release that the Government issued last week. It relates to a matter that probably will not come before the House until Wednesday in part IV of the Bill, which concerns what the Government think is tenants' choice. In that press release, the Minister for Housing and Planning said that the amendments would be supplemented by an account, intended to help informed debates at the Report Stage, of how we expect the scheme as a whole …— to work. As I said on Thursday, it is difficult for Opposition Members and Conservative Back Benchers to know what amendments to table before the House rises today, because we are not aware of the Government's proposals. I ask for your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on how time can be made available to table the appropriate amendments so that they can be debated before we complete the Report stage.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

I shall deal first with the points made by the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley). The selection of a recommittal motion is a matter for Mr. Speaker to consider ai the appropriate time. As to timing, page 573 of "Erskine May" makes it clear that a motion to recommit a Bill on consideration may be made only at the moment when that stage is entered upon—in this case, that was last Thursday —or immediately after the stage is concluded. Such a motion is therefore hypothetical with regard to today's business.

I appreciate the points made by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) and the difficulties that may arise. As we proceed with the debate, the hon. Gentleman will have to take opportunities when he can to table further amendments if he thinks them appropriate.

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