HC Deb 10 March 1988 vol 129 cc533-4

4.8 pm

Mr. Robin Cook (Livingston)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I raise with you the difficulty in which the House is placed as a result of the business statement relating to Monday? We have been invited to consider Lords amendments to the Social Security Bill on Monday, although some of them have yet to be debated in another place. This indecent haste poses a serious challenge and places an important duty on this House when scrutinising Government legislation.

There are two questions with direct relevance to your office, Mr. Speaker, that I wish to put to you arising from this difficulty. As the Lords have not considered some of the amendments before them, it is clear that we will have a proper marshalled list of amendments before us, at earliest, tomorrow—Friday. Therefore, it is technically impossible for us to table unstarred amendments for consideration on Monday — there are three or four Lords amendments that we would wish to amend. In addition, it is possible that some hon. Members, in good faith, have made arrangements to be in their constituencies tomorrow. Therefore, they will see the amendments for the first time on Monday and will be able to submit manuscript amendments only.

In those circumstances, I ask for your assurance that a star against an amendment on Monday will not be a bar to considering it for debate and that you will sympathetically consider a manuscript amendment from any hon. Member who does not have the opportunity to see the amendments until Monday.

Mr. Speaker

There have been exchanges across the Chamber on this matter, and I heard the Leader of the House say that he thought that further discussions might take place. If the business does come on on Monday, I shall most certainly bear in mind and deal sympathetically with the matter that the hon. Gentleman has raised.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your guidance as a new Member. Is it usual for something as important as this to be rushed through in such haste? I am one of those of whom my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) spoke, because I have to go home tonight for urgent business. I served on the Standing Committee and I am extremely disappointed that I will not have time to study in detail the amendments. I believe that this is an undemocratic way to carry on.

Mr. Speaker

I am not responsible for the management of business in the House, but, as I said yesterday, it is important to have adequate time to consider these important matters. The hon. Lady will have heard my comments today and, if she submits any amendments, I shall consider them sympathetically, although the matter may not arise if the business is changed.