HC Deb 12 November 1991 vol 198 cc1001-2

Ordered, That, at this day's sitting, the Ways and Means Motion and the Motion relating to Local Government Finance Bill (Allocation of Time) may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.—[Mr. Wood.]

10.38 pm
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The whole House will feel that what happened between 10 o'clock and 10.20 pm was unsatisfactory. I appreciate that it was extremely difficult for you to decide what to do in the circumstances of some hon. Members being unable to get into the House. The information that you had extended the Division time by 10 minutes was available to those of us in the House, but not to those outside it. As I understand it, some hon. Members could not get into the House before the Division was completed. Could you give some thought to what happened? We hope that it will never occur again, but if it does, may we have clear guidance so that those outside the House will know that if the police warn that it is unsafe to come into the House the Division either will or will not be extended? The present situation is unsatisfactory. I hope that clear guidance can be given in case this happens again.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I raised a point of order earlier. I recognise the difficulty of your position and the difficulty that arose. May I ask you to consider what happened in case it should recur, which we all hope it will not? Surely a Division should be brought to a conclusion only when hon. Members have unimpeded access to the House in accordance with the Sessional Orders. If there is any question about that, the extended time limit tends to be arbitrary, so I ask that consideration be given to the matter.

Mr. Speaker

I shall reflect carefully on the matter. I had to exercise my discretion and I decided in the light of the report from the Serjeant at Arms that 10 minutes was an adequate period. I hope that this will not happen again. If I had decided to call the Division again, up on the screen would have gone the sign "Division Off" and Members would have drifted away. I have to exercise discretion. If hon. Members know that there is to be a Division at 10 o'clock, they should get here well on time.