HC Deb 28 November 1988 vol 142 c433
83. Mr. Alton

To ask the Lord President of the Council if he has any plans to seek to implement the recommendations of the Bow Group that additional time be provided in some circumstances to enable completion of consideration of private Members' Bills.

Mr. Wakeham

Any changes in the present arrangements for the consideration of private Members' business would be a matter for decision by the House.

Mr. Alton

Given the imminence of a debate on procedure and also the next private Members' ballot, is it not time that the right hon. Gentleman brought forward proposals, perhaps based on some of the recommendations of the Bow Group, to cover such matters as injury time, when time has been lost for various reasons, or for razor motions, to allow the House to decide whether additional time should be given so that important private Members' Bills can complete their stages, if that be the wish of the House?

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the beat-the-clock tactics that are so often used against controversial private Members' Bills bring the House into disrepute?

Mr. Wakeham

The question of time for private Members' Bills is something which the House might, at some stage, wish to reconsider. I am open minded on the matter and should prefer to hear the views of the House. That is one reason why I arranged for a procedure debate to take place later this week. I do not believe that the appropriate way to proceed is necessarily on the basis of a recommendation from even such a distinguished body as the Bow Group. However, if it is the will of the House to change the procedure, we can think about that at a later stage.

Mr. John Marshall

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is profoundly unsatisfactory that the House can spend many hours and days debating a topic such as abortion, but, due to the delaying tactics of a minority, no final decision can be taken, despite very strong public opinion that a change in the law is overdue?

Mr. Wakeham

I certainly deplore delaying tactics. Debates should be conducted in proper accordance with our traditions and order. For a long time private Members' legislation has been subject to an overall time constraint, although this Government have allowed more time for such legislation than was the previous practice.