§ Mr. Harry Cohen accordingly presented a Bill to regulate the relationship between mortgagor and mortgagee: to make provision, in circumstances in which a mortgagor is unable to meet mortgage repayments, for shared ownership of a property between mortgagor and mortgagee; to permit local authorities and housing associations to assume the responsibilities and rights of mortgagees in certain circumstances; to require the Secretary of State to report to Parliament on the resources and requirements of local authorities and housing associations in respect of shared ownership of housing; to make provision for a mortgagee to rent a property to its mortgagor if he is in repayment arrears; to place a duty upon lending institutions to make arrangements for the management of a mortgagor's debt before seeking repossession of a property; to make the cost of shared-ownership purchases eligible for housing revenue account subsidy; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 20 July and to be printed. [Bill 183.]
§ Mr. Cryer
Yes. I noticed that you cautioned the hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman), who opposed the 185 Bill. You said that it was customary—as it is—for any hon. Member who opposes a ten-minute Bill to follow that opposition by pressing the matter to a Division.
Am I to understand, Mr. Speaker, that you did not call a Division on the ten-minute Bill because the sole voice against this excellent Bill was that of the hon. Member for Billericay, who was mistaken, as she usually is? It is a poor reflection on the Conservative Benches that they cannot find one supporter for their misguided representative.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Gentleman misunderstands the position. If an hon. Member opposes a Bill, he or she must shout "No" on the first occasion. When I put the question again, if my saying, "The ayes have it" is not challenged, a Division is not called. None the less, if an hon. Member speaks against a Bill, but does not carry it to a Division, he or she takes up the time of the House. There may therefore be a case for considering the procedure in the light of the time taken from subsequent debates.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I am still on my feet. This is an estimates day, which is a prized opportunity for Back-Bench Members—especially, in this case, Welsh Members and those from the south-west—to debate flooding. Points of order take up time, just as much as opposition to ten-minute Bills.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wonder whether one way of trying to overcome this problem—if you had the authority; obviously you would tell the House—might be that, if information was given to your office that an hon. Member wanted to oppose a ten-minute Bill, which is the normal procedure, that hon. Member could state whether he or she intended to seek a vote. It is a mockery if an hon. Member has 10 minutes in which to propose a potential Bill, but then another hon. Member, from another party, argues against it but refuses to call for a vote. Surely that is a waste of time.
I believe that the hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) refused to call for a vote because she knew full well that the Opposition would have won without hesitation. The hon. Lady therefore wasted the time of the House by putting forward a feeble case and then refusing to call for a vote. Surely that is a form of political cowardice.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Let me deal with one thing at a time.
I must, of course, operate the rules as they are at the moment. At the moment, I am required to give an hon. Member who wishes to oppose a Bill the opportunity to do so. What I was saying a moment ago was that, given the pressure of time on subsequent debates, perhaps the Select Committee on Procedure should now look at this matter again.
§ Mr. Tony Favell (Stockport)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wonder whether you share my boredom at bogus points of order being raised during television time. Would it not be a good idea if you were given a switch and could turn off the television cameras whenever an Opposition Member made a bogus point of order?
§ Mr. Speaker
I am somewhat of an expert in bogus points of order. The problem is that there seems to be a tendency to raise points of order during television time—I put it no higher than that, and I would not wish to make any accusations in the Chamber. We all know the television cameras transmit live until 3.50 pm and I have found from experience that, if there is no statement or private notice question, points of order tend to be raised and seem to cut off, almost automatically, at 3.50 pm. I sometimes wonder what the reason for that might be.
§ Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)
I waited until we were alone to raise this point of order. [ Laughter.] I could be wrong on this—I usually am—but has it not been the case until fairly recently that, when an hon. Member rises to oppose a ten-minute rule application, there is a vote? That was the convention. However, that has changed at some stage and an hon. Member is now allowed simply to voice opposition. I wonder whether you can confirm that, Mr. Speaker, because your point about this matter being considered by the Select Committee on Procedure is most relevant.
§ Mr. Speaker
The rule has always been that an hon. Member may speak against a Bill, provided that the shout of "No" is heard. That is the objection. However, I repeat that that is not a good practice and that we should consider whether to allow what are almost free kicks to continue in view of the time that we need in this place to debate other important matters.
§ Mr. Corbyn
Thank you for calling me, Mr. Speaker, at 4.2 pm. I welcome your suggestion that the Select Committee on Procedure should consider ten-minute Bills because, as you know, I take them seriously. A Bill is often introduced at this stage, carried without Division or, as in this case, carried with opposition but no Division, yet it can be killed off on a Friday afternoon by one of the Government Whips muttering, "Object."
When the Select Committee on Procedure considers this matter, perhaps it should also consider whether there might be some way by which, if an hon. Member goes to the effort of introducing a ten-minute Bill—a serious piece of legislation and a serious proposal—and it is carried at that stage, it cannot be objected to by the simple expediency of the Whips. We should ensure that it is properly dealt with and brought back to the House as a serious piece of legislation. It should not be dismissed as a mere 10-minute speech by one hon. Member.
§ Mr. Speaker
The danger is that the public could be misled by the procedure of the ten-minute rule. The Bill that the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) has asked leave to bring in today has not been passed. The hon. Gentleman has simply asked leave to introduce his Bill. 187 When the Select Committee on Procedure looks again at this matter, perhaps it might also reconsider the procedure whereby it is possible to introduce a ten-minute Bill after the last day on which there is an opportunity for its Second Reading on a Friday. In many ways, a ten-minute Bill is an empty gesture at this time of year.
§ Mrs. Gorman
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You have taken the opportunity to rebuke me for opposing a ten-minute rule Bill—which I did, but I also called "No"—and it was your choice to decide whether to call a Division. It ill behoves you, Mr. Speaker—[Interuption.]—to accept points of order which are critical from Opposition Members, who are not backward in opposing ten-minute rule Bills. There are few opportunities in the House for Back Benchers who feel strongly on subjects to make their views known. This has been one such occasion. I may be in a minority now but, to paraphrase Disraeli, there will come a time when the House will follow me on this subject.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Lady must not get upset. I was certainly not rebuking her. She was perfectly in order in doing what she did; she was following the procedure. I was questioning that procedure, not what the hon. Lady did.
§ Mr. Martin Flannery (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We are dealing with an important matter. The fact of causing a Division to take place is often a deterrent to hon. Members getting to their feet and speaking on an issue. The knowledge that one is about to cause a vote to take place by one's Opposition acts as a deterrent to speaking. Is a precedent now being created by which hon. Members will be able to air their views and then not have to do anything about it? If so, we shall be opening a whole can of worms, which could result in hon. Members airing their views, secure in the knowledge that they need not take the matter further.
§ Mr. Flannery
I hope that my hon. Friend will be quiet and heed what I am saying. I am making a sound point. Mr. Speaker and I fully appreciate the point I am making.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) is an old hand, and he must be aware that the point that he raises is precisely the issue that we have been discussing for the last 10 minutes or so. We have been agreeing that perhaps the procedure should be looked at, and I hope that it will be.