HC Deb 07 July 1989 vol 156 cc583-4 9.36 am
Mr. Speaker

I have looked again, with great care, at the amendments to the Citizens' Compensation Bill to which the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Cunliffe) added his name yesterday. It is unusual for amendments in the name of an hon. Member in charge of a Bill not to be called, and perhaps I owe the hon. Gentleman an explanation. Incidentally, the House well understands why the hon. Gentleman was unable to add his name to the amendments before yesterday.

In the provisional selection list published yesterday afternoon, I was not able to select the amendments concerned, then standing in the name of the hon. Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Arbuthnot), because in my view they amounted to a wrecking of the Bill, which was given a Second Reading and approved by the Standing Committee. Since the hon. Member for Leigh added his name to the amendments, I have re-examined the position carefully, but as my judgment was based on the matter of order rather than on selection, I very much regret that I am unable to change my ruling.

Mr. Lawrence Cunliffe (Leigh)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Far be it for me to question your judgment and your ability to assess a situation that inevitably conflicts with the rules of the House, but I listened to your ruling with some dismay and disappointment because it means that the Bill will be hijacked to a large extent. Nevertheless, I honourably accept your ruling, Mr. Speaker, in view of your long experience and of my deep respect for you, which I shall always have.

Mr. Speaker

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his courtesy.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Nicholas Lyell)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Thank you for so carefully considering amendment No. I in particular—and we fully understand and respect your reason for not selecting it. I take this opportunity to say that the Government have looked very carefully at amendment No. 1 and are consulting the judiciary about minute details and certain aspects of it. Subject only to that, the Government are grateful to the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Cunliffe) for the opportunity that his Bill gives to debate that amendment. The Government looked for a way to take it into statute, and we will seek a future opportunity to bring to fruition that which the hon. Gentleman has given us an opportunity to start.

Mr. Frank Cook (Stockton, North)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. 1 too am aware of the great care that was taken not only last evening but in the early hours of this morning, and more recently, to ensure that the business put before the House today is fully within its rules. I cast my mind back to the Firearms (Amendment) Bill. Clauses that had been deliberately excluded by the Government during the earlier stages of the Bill were included on Report, a very late stage in the legislation. As a student of procedure, I am genuinely puzzled as to why changes can be permitted in one direction yet not in another.

Mr. Speaker

Perhaps the easiest way to deal with the matter would be for the hon. Gentleman and for the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Cunliffe) to come and see me privately about the matter when I shall be very happy to explain it to them.

Mr. James Arbuthnot (Wanstead and Woodford)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I too am grateful to you for having spent a good deal of time on considering whether the amendments should be dealt with. I have a great deal of sympathy for the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Cunliffe) who says that his Bill has been hijacked. It is now a completely different Bill from the one to which the House gave a Second Reading. In Committee the hon. Member for Leigh very sensibly, honourably and rightly dropped the first four clauses of the Bill, which were the main meat of the Bill. Another clause was added in Committee to deal with no-fault compensation. It was an entirely different clause and it led the Bill off in an entirely different direction. I am not sure that the House has given a Second Reading to the Bill that we are to discuss this morning and whether it now accords with the long title.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member puts his finger on the very point. If he cares to join the hon. Members for Leigh and for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook), I shall be only too happy to expand upon the matter.

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