HC Deb 30 January 1990 vol 166 cc173-81 4.23 pm
Mr. Robin Cook (Livingston)

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide for the appointment of a pay board to supervise a pay mechanism for annual increases in ambulance staff pay; and for connected purposes.

This afternoon, if it chooses, the House can divide on the Bill, but the public have already given their verdict on who has won the debate on the ambulance dispute. Across Britain—in opinion polls, in petitions, in donations and in today's rallies—the public have demonstrated how they wish the House to vote. If only the majority party would listen to the public. If those taking part in today's rallies had been in eastern Europe, Conservative Members would regard them as heroes for expressing their views.

The members of the public who attended those rallies were prompted by two motives. The first was to show support for the ambulance crews on whose skills in saving lives they depend in an emergency—skills that we all saw in action only last week, when crews who had not been paid since before Christmas turned out to tend the casualties of the gale-force storms. Let me warn Conservative Members, however, that a second motive also drove so many members of the public to take part in the demonstrations: impatience with a Government who had begun the dispute too afraid to go to arbitration, and who are now too stubborn to sit around the table and negotiate with staff unless those staff surrender first.

That impatience is now mixed with incomprehension at the fact that, throughout the five months of the dispute, the Secretary of State has not once sat down with the staff side in an effort to find a solution. Today's demonstration will have been worth while if it persuades him to take 15 minutes out of his time to do that now.

The dispute is now in its 20th week. There are different ways of measuring the cost of such a prolonged dispute. There is, for instance, the cost of human suffering—the suffering of accident victims who have been left longer in pain and distress before being attended to by staff without adequate training; the suffering of elderly and infirm patients who have been denied treatment at the day care centres that they have been unable to reach since September. It does not help those people for us to argue about who is to blame for the dispute. The only question that will help them is: who will solve the dispute?

There are, of course, other ways of measuring the cost. There is the price that has been paid in the morale of ambulance staff, who have seen their work devalued and their commitment exploited. Among the casualties of the dispute are the ambulance staff who have left the service and will not return when it is over. Among them is Malcolm Woollard, who last year received the "Ambulance Person of the Year" award.

Mr. Woollard is known to Conservative Members, because six years ago he worked for 17 hours on the shift that was called to the Grand hotel in Brighton. At the time he did not feel that his work was properly valued, because he had had the opportunity of an exchange of views with the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, who has just addressed the Chamber at such length. On that occasion the right hon. Gentleman spoke more crisply, saying to Mr. Woollard:

At least it makes a change from standing around at the county show. In the second month of the dispute, Mr. Woollard left the ambulance service for a job that pays him 50 per cent. more for working fewer hours. The longer that the dispute is allowed to continue, the greater will be the loss of skilled staff, and the lower will be the morale of those who remain.

It is also possible, however, to put a cash figure on the cost of the dispute. When we debated it three weeks ago, I put the total bill for police and Army cover at£10 million. It is now clear that my estimate was too cautious. It is evident from figures that I have since obtained that the cost of cover by the police alone now exceeds£13 million, while the bill for Army cover must now be well over£5 million. The Health Service is now paying the police and the Army£2 million a week to do a job that ambulance staff can do better. There is a cruel irony in that figure:£2 million is exactly 1 per cent. of the total ambulance pay bill.

Mr. Roger King (Birmingham, Northfield)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Nothing out of order has occurred.

Mr. King

A speech on a ten-minute Bill is supposed to describe the workings of the Bill, not a lot of emotion.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) is in order.

Mr. Cook

As I was saying,£2 million is exactly 1 per cent. of the total pay bill. In other words, in the time since the House last debated the dispute—three weeks ago—the Government have spent on makeshift cover as much as it would take to improve the offer by the amount that might bring back full cover. If the money to settle the dispute is there, why is it not used to settle it rather than to prolong it?

The object of the Bill is to extend to ambulance staff the same pay mechanism as is currently enjoyed by people in the other emergency services. The Secretary of State has been unable to sell to the constituents of any hon. Member the notion that ambulance staff are not entitled to the same treatment as people in the other emergency services because only one in 10 of their calls is an emergency. In the recent debate the Secretary of State, to confirm that claim, referred me to figures collected in York. I have taken his advice: I have looked up the York figures. Having done so, I have to tell the Secretary of State that those figures do not support his claim that only one in 10 of ambulance calls is an emergency. On the contrary, the figures show emergency patients, on the basis of the Secretary of State's own estimate, as representing one in five of all patients collected by the ambulance service, and, in terms of all mileage covered by the ambulance service, emergency calls take up not one in 10, or one in five, but more than one in four of all ambulance miles.

It is now clear that people in the ambulance service spend an even higher proportion of their time on emergencies than people in the other two emergency services. Therefore, there can be no reasonable grounds for denying them the same pay mechanism as is available to the people in the other two services. As someone once said,

All three deserve to have their pay negotiations put outside the arena of industrial dispute by being given firm and automatic linkage to national price or wage rises. That someone was, of course, the Prime Minister, on whose behalf a letter in those terms was sent to two ambulance men who had written to her. She was right then to recognise the logic of their case; she is wrong today in refusing to admit that the same logic still stands.

The Bill would give effect to that commitment by the Prime Minister. It would provide the pay mechanism that we know is supported by 40 out of 45 chief ambulance officers—the same local management to which the Secretary of State keeps promising local flexibility. It would give ambulance staff a guarantee that they would receive a fair award. More important, it would give public and patients a guarantee that this vital emergency service need never again be disrupted by dispute.

Today, the voice of the ambulance staff has been heard in rallies in every major town. That voice cannot be heard in this Chamber, so I shall let it speak for itself in the words of an ambulance man from Cheshire who wrote to me to describe the emergency work that deserves this pay mechanism. He said:

I have been assaulted, more than once, but once sufficiently to be paid a sum of Criminal Injuries Compensation; I have disarmed a youth of a razor blade with which he had slashed himself and his girl-friend; I have made my way across roofs in pouring rain to reach an injured person; … I watched a baby burn to death in a motorway crash and still had to go on functioning to tend the other injured, including the mother. I don't care whether you think my job is dangerous. I only think it is important and valuable to the community, and I will go on doing it whether they give me 11.4 per cent. or 6-5 per cent. or nothing at all. That ambulance man does not deserve nothing at all; that ambulance man deserves a just settlement and a fair pay mechanism. On this day when the public have demonstrated their support for the ambulance men's claim, I challenge Conservative Members if they dare to mark it by voting down a Bill that would provide a just settlement.

4.34 pm
Sir George Young (Ealing, Acton)


Mr. Speaker

Does the hon. Gentleman seek to oppose the Bill?

Sir George Young

Mr. Speaker——

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) was heard in silence.

Sir George Young

All Members of the House will want this industrial dispute brought to an early close. All Members have elderly or ill constituents who have been affected by the disruption over the past 20 weeks. Many of us are worried about the impact of the dispute on the volunteers who are trying to keep the service going and we are worried about the impact of the dispute on the families of the ambulance staff.

There is another matter on which I hope that we are all agreed. I should like to place on record my appreciation for the skills, courage and commitment of the ambulance men. That is not in dispute this afternoon. What is in dispute is the best way of recognising those qualities, which are shared by others in the NHS who work shoulder to shoulder with the ambulance men and who also display skills, courage and commitment. The solutions that the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) has put forward to the House will not heal the divisions in the NHS as he suggests that they would. They will simply sow new divisions in the NHS to replace any that he may have resolved.

The Opposition have repeatedly maintained that industrial disputes are best settled by employers and unions sitting around a table. They have often maintained that Parliament has no useful role to play by passing legislation. Today they have stood on their head—they now think that legislation will resolve the industrial dispute. It is wrong to raise the hopes of the ambulance men and their families, the ill and the general public by implying that the Bill holds the key to peace in the NHS.

Let me explain why. Pay review boards, as proposed by the hon. Member for Livingston, have been set up to settle the pay and conditions of professional staff who, first and foremost, have pledged renunciation of industrial action. That is why the Government gave the nurses a pay review board—something denied to them by the Labour party. In the dispute, the Confederation of Health Service Employees and the National Union of Public Employees —the unions representing the staff—have never suggested that they are prepared to forgo industrial action. They have not put that on the table because they cannot deliver it. Given the history of industrial disputes in which those two unions have been involved—in 1978–79, 1982–83, 1988 and the current year—it would be naive to believe that those two unions would ever forgo the strike weapon. Therefore, the first condition for a pay review board is not met. There is no equity in offering 22,000 people who have chosen to take industrial action arrangements that are confined to groups that do not strike.

The message that the House should send out today is that those who are involved in the dispute should return to the negotiating table. As we heard during Question Time, 84 per cent. of NHS staff settled their pay last year without recourse to industrial action—840,000 workers settled at less than 7 per cent. and 500,000 nurses received a 6.8 per cent. increase. Against that background, how does one begin to justify substantially higher pay rises for another group in the NHS? The offer on the table already gives salary increases of between 9 and 16 per cent. over the next 18 months, depending on location and on the extent of paramedical training. By the end of last month, the back pay available to those in dispute already totalled between£680 and£1,450. In London, the new rates offer between 10.9 and 16.3 per cent. and increases of 22 per cent. in overtime rates. In addition to those increases, there are, on the table, flexible local arrangements to help recruitment and to reward local productivity and other service improvements as well as a joint review of the 1986 salaries structure and a national framework for staff with intermediate medical skills.

With that on the table, and against the background of the settlements that I listed, I see nothing dishonourable in the unions saying, "Yes, we would like to return to the negotiating table. We would like to talk in particular about local bargaining"—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I ask hon. Members to stop the running commentary.

Sir George Young

I see nothing dishonourable in the unions saying that, and that they are interested especially in talking about local bargaining, which gives the opportunity for yet higher offers. That is the way forward, unlike this exercise in political opportunism, which seeks to raise the temperature when it should be lowered.

The Labour party never offered arbitration to NHS workers in dispute. It never offered a pay mechanism for ambulance staff. It did not even pay the ambulance staff as well as they are paid now, even before the present offer. For those reasons, I urge the House to oppose the Bill.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 19 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of public business):—

The House divided: Ayes 187, Noes 268.

Division No. 55] [4.39 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Fisher, Mark
Allen, Graham Flannery, Martin
Alton, David Flynn, Paul
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Armstrong, Hilary Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Foster, Derek
Ashton, Joe Foulkes, George
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Fraser, John
Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich) Fyfe, Maria
Barron, Kevin Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Beggs, Roy George, Bruce
Beith, A. J. Golding, Mrs Llin
Bell, Stuart Gould, Bryan
Bidwell, Sydney Graham, Thomas
Blair, Tony Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Blunkett, David Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Boateng, Paul Harman, Ms Harriet
Boyes, Roland Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Bradley, Keith Haynes, Frank
Bray, Dr Jeremy Heffer, Eric S.
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Henderson, Doug
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Hinchliffe, David
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Hoey, Ms Kate (Vauxhall)
Buchan, Norman Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Caborn, Richard Home Robertson, John
Callaghan, Jim Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Howells, Geraint
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Hoyle, Doug
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Cartwright, John Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Hume, John
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Illsley, Eric
Clay, Bob Ingram, Adam
Clelland, David Janner, Greville
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Cohen, Harry Jones, Ieuan (Ynys MÔn)
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Corbett, Robin Kennedy, Charles
Corbyn, Jeremy Kilfedder, James
Cousins, Jim Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Crowther, Stan Kirkwood, Archy
Cryer, Bob Lamond, James
Cummings, John Leadbitter, Ted
Cunliffe, Lawrence Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Cunningham, Dr John Litherland, Robert
Dalyell, Tam Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Darling, Alistair Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Loyden, Eddie
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'I) McCartney,Ian
Dewar, Donald McFall, John
Dixon, Don McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Dobson, Frank McLeish, Henry
Doran, Frank Maclennan, Robert
Duffy, A. E. P. McNamara, Kevin
Dunnachie, Jimmy McWilliam, John
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth Madden, Max
Eastham, Ken Mahon, Mrs Alice
Evans, John (St Helens N) Marek, Dr John
Fatchett, Derek Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Fearn, Ronald Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Maxton, John Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Meacher, Michael Short, Clare
Meale, Alan Sillars, Jim
Michael, Alun Skinner, Dennis
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Morgan, Rhodri Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Morley, Elliot Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Snape, Peter
Mowlam, Marjorie Soley, Clive
Mudd, David Steel, Rt Hon Sir David
Mullin, Chris Stott, Roger
Murphy, Paul Strang, Gavin
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Straw, Jack
O'Brien, William Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
O'Neill, Martin Taylor, Rt Hon J. D. (S'ford)
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Owen, Rt Hon Dr David Turner, Dennis
Patchett, Terry Vaz, Keith
Pendry, Tom Wallace, James
Pike, Peter L. Walley, Joan
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Wareing, Robert N.
Prescott, John Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Primarolo, Dawn Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Quin, Ms Joyce Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Randall, Stuart Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn Wilson, Brian
Richardson, Jo Wise, Mrs Audrey
Rogers, Allan Worthington, Tony
Rooker, Jeff  
Ruddock, Joan  
Sedgemore, Brian Tellers for the Ayes:
Sheerman, Barry Mr. Andrew F. Bennett and
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Mr. David Winnick.
Aitken, Jonathan Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Alexander, Richard Carrington, Matthew
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Chapman, Sydney
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Chope, Christopher
Amess, David Churchill, Mr
Amos, Alan Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Arbuthnot, James Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Colvin, Michael
Aspinwall, Jack Conway, Derek
Atkins, Robert Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Couchman, James
Baldry, Tony Cran, James
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Critchley, Julian
Batiste, Spencer Currie, Mrs Edwina
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Curry, David
Bellingham, Henry Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Benyon, W. Davis, David (Boothferry)
Bevan, David Gilroy Day, Stephen
Biffen, Rt Hon John Dicks, Terry
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Dorrell, Stephen
Body, Sir Richard Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Dunn, Bob
Boscawen, Hon Robert Durant, Tony
Boswell, Tim Eggar, Tim
Bottomley, Peter Emery, Sir Peter
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Evans, David (Welwyn hatf'd)
Bowis, John Evennett, David
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Fallon, Michael
Bright, Graham Fishburn, John Dudley
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Fookes, Dame Janet
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Forman, Nigel
Browne, John (Winchester) Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Forth, Eric
Buck, Sir Antony Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Budgen, Nicholas Fox, Sir Marcus
Burns, Simon Franks, Cecil
Burt, Alistair Freeman, Roger
Butcher, John French, Douglas
Butler, Chris Gale, Roger
Butterfill, John Gardiner, George
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Garel-Jones, Tristan
Gill, Christopher Mills, Iain
Goodlad, Alastair Miscampbell, Norman
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Monro, Sir Hector
Gow, Ian Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW) Morrison, Sir Charles
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Moss, Malcolm
Gregory, Conal Moynihan, Hon Colin
Grist, Ian Neubert, Michael
Ground, Patrick Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Grylls, Michael Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Hague, William Norris, Steve
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom) Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Oppenheim, Phillip
Hanley, Jeremy Page, Richard
Hannam, John Paice, James
Harris, David Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Haselhurst, Alan Patnick, Irvine
Hawkins, Christopher Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath)
Hayward, Robert Patten, Rt Hon John
Heathcoat-Amory, David Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Pawsey, James
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Porter, David (Waveney)
Hind, Kenneth Portillo, Michael
Holt, Richard Powell, William (Corby)
Hordern, Sir Peter Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Redwood, John
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Rhodes James, Robert
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Riddick, Graham
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Hunter, Andrew Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Irvine, Michael Rossi, Sir Hugh
Irving, Sir Charles Rost, Peter
Jack, Michael Rumbold, Mrs Angela
Jackson, Robert Ryder, Richard
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Sackville, Hon Tom
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Sayeed, Jonathan
Key, Robert Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Shaw, David (Dover)
Kirkhope, Timothy Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Knapman, Roger Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Knight, Greg (Derby North) Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Knox, David Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Shersby, Michael
Latham, Michael Sims, Roger
Lee, John (Pendle) Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Soames, Hon Nicholas
Lightbown, David Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Lilley, Peter Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant) Squire, Robin
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Stanbrook, Ivor
Luce, Rt Hon Richard Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Macfarlane, Sir Neil Stern, Michael
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Stevens, Lewis
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire) Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Maclean, David Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
McLoughlin, Patrick Stewart, Rt Hon Ian (Herts N)
McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael Stradling Thomas, Sir John
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Sumberg, David
Madel, David Summerson, Hugo
Major, Rt Hon John Tapsell, Sir Peter
Malins, Humfrey Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Mans, Keith Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Marland, Paul Temple-Morris, Peter
Marlow, Tony Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Thorne, Neil
Mates, Michael Thornton, Malcolm
Maude, Hon Francis Thurnham, Peter
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Townend, John (Bridlington)
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Tracey, Richard
Mellor, David Tredinnick, David
Miller, Sir Hal Trippier, David
Trotter, Neville Wells, Bowen
Twinn, Dr Ian Wheeler, Sir John
Viggers, Peter Widdecombe, Ann
Waddington, Rt Hon David Wiggin, Jerry
Wakeham, Rt Hon John Wilshire, David
Waldegrave, Rt Hon William Wood, Timothy
Walker, Bill (T'side North) Yeo, Tim
Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Waller, Gary  
Walters, Sir Dennis Tellers for the Noes:
Wardle, Charles (Bexhill) Mr.Nicholas Bennett and
Watts, John Mr. Tim Devlin.

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Against the background of which you are aware, may I ask whether there has been any request from the Department of Energy to explain the eyebrow-raising matter of the sponsorship of a senior civil servant, Mr. Bernard Ingham, in very extraordinary circumstances by British Nuclear Fuels, in the light of the answer that was given yesterday?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman raised that matter yesterday and I did look into it. I understand that he has received a letter from the Secretary of State.

Mr. Michael Brown (Brigg and Cleethorpes)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I draw your attention to the title of today's ten-minute Bill. You will note that the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) asked leave to bring in a Bill specifically

for the appointment of a pay board to supervise a pay mechanism for annual increases in ambulance staff pay". I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, first, to "Erskine May", page 464—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Is this not a re-run of what the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. King) has already said? I have ruled about that.

Mr. Brown

My point of order has nothing whatever to do with that raised by my hon. Friend. My point of order relates to something that occurred during the speech of the hon. Member for Livingston, which happens, by coincidence, to appear on the same page, page 464.

I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that "Erskine May" states, in the third paragraph on that page,

After a brief explanatory statement of the objects of the bill"— and then there is a footnote, No. 5, which reads: The mover should explain what the bill will do". There is then a further reference to a House of Commons debate in 1987. You gave the following ruling after the hon. Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) had presented the National Health Service (Provision of Services) Bill:

in making an application to bring in a Bill, it is necessary to describe what the Bill contains."—[Official Report, 16 December 1987; Vol. 124, c. 1112.] 1 draw your attention again, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that there were no details in the hon. Gentleman's application as to how the pay board was to be constituted, how it was to be supervised, who was to appoint it and to whom it should be accountable. I submit that that was a gross abuse of the procedure for presenting a ten-minute Bill.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I listened with care to what the hon. Member said and I gave a considered ruling, as I had had notice of his hon. Friend's point of order. I have nothing further to add to that. In any event, the matter is now irrelevant, because leave has not been given to bring in the Bill.

Mr. Graham Riddick. (Colne Valley)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can you assure me that if I queue up for hours and hours to get the right to present a ten-minute Bill, it will not then be hijacked by a Cabinet Minister and presented by that Minister?

Mr. Speaker

I hope that it will not be. I shall be on the hon. Gentleman's side.

Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask you to look at what happened during the ten-minute Bill, particularly the raising of a point of order in the middle of the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook)? It is a new development, as far as I am aware, for points of order to be allowed in the middle of a speech on a ten-minute Bill. It was not a genuine point of order; it was done because the points being made by my hon. Friend were effective and not liked by Conservative Members.

Mr. Speaker

Order. This takes time out of the Opposition's debate.

When a point of order is raised, it is necessary that the Chair hears what it is. If it needs immediate attention, the occupant of the Chair must deal with it. That was not so today and I ruled it out of order.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

On a mercifully brief point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sure that many hon. Members on both sides of the House feel that there is something undignified about somebody with the awesome responsibilities of the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) having to spend the night tossing and turning in the Public Bill Office. My point, which you may want to discuss through the usual channels, is that Standing Order No. 19 says that you have the power to permit, if you think fit, a brief explanatory statement from an hon. Member who makes an application to bring in a ten-minute Bill. May I put it to you, as the Back Benchers' tribune and on behalf of all Back Benchers, that in future you use your discretion only when it is a Back Bencher, and not a Front Bencher, who is trying to use this great privilege of the House?

Mr. Speaker

The limit for a ten-minute Bill is 10 minutes.