HC Deb 15 April 1993 vol 222 cc959-1001

Considered in Committee [Progress, 30 March]

[MR. MICHAEL MORRIS in the Chair]

4.5 pm

The Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Michael Morris)

I have an announcement to make before the Committee discusses amendment No. 57. It is a reasonably long statement.

I am prepared, at the appropriate time, to select for separate Division amendments Nos. 225 and 268, both in the name of the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash), amendment No. 426, tabled by the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown), the leader of the Liberal Democratic party, and, finally, amendment No. 420 in the name of the right hon. and learned Member the Leader of the Opposition.

I have received from all parts of the Committee requests for separate Divisions, on e considerable number of amendments that have been included in the groups that have been debated. As the Committee knows, in deciding whether or not to allow separate Divisions, the Chair is exercising its power over the selection of amendments which is conferred on it by Standing Order No. 31. As stated in "Erskine May", page 405, it is not the practice for the Chair to give reasons for such decisions. I do not propose to do so in individual cases.

However, I think that it would be helpful if I mentioned one very basic requirement which I am sure that, on reflection, members of the Committee will appreciate: that to be selectable for a separate Division the purport of an amendment needs to have been substantially covered during the course of the debate on the group in which it has been included. I am afraid that this simple criterion cannot be said to apply to a great many of the requests that I have received, and that therefore many of the relevant amendments do not get to first base in terms of selection for a separate Division. This is an obvious point, but I thought it might be useful if I were to put it on the record. Nevertheless, hon. Members will find that I have selected for separate Division a number of amendments and new clauses coming from different parts of the Committee.

As the Committee knows, on 30 March I made a separate announcement about my decision on a separate Division on amendment No. 27, to which some rather special circumstances apply. Since then I have received a number of representations on this matter. I have listened to the arguments, as I promised to do, and I have, to the best of my ability, taken into consideration the particular circumstances of the case. However, I am not minded to alter my previous decision not to select amendment No. 27 for separate Division.

Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. I have listened with great care to your statement, and I want to begin by thanking you for your patience in listening to my representations yesterday with respect to amendment No. 27. Although I have always, throughout the many years that I have been a Member of Parliament, respected the authority of the Chair, I must ask you to think again about your decision on amendment No. 27. That amendment meets the criteria you have just described in outlining the reasons behind your decision. It was the subject of the longest debate we have had throughout the Committee proceedings. The amendment is in order. It was selected for debate. It stands in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.

At no time during that debate, or subsequently in the weeks intervening until 30 March, was there any suggestion that my announcement to the House during my speech on amendment No. 27—that the Opposition would ask the Committee to divide upon it—was to be contradicted. It was therefore something of a bombshell to hear your ruling on 30 March.

I think that that ruling, which you, Mr. Morris, are now saying must be sustained, is a very odd and dangerous procedural precedent. I certainly cannot recall, in 23 years in Parliament, any precedent of this kind in all of the Committee proceedings in which I have played a part either as a Minister or as a member of the Opposition Front Bench. There may be precedents but I am not aware of them, and no one can show me any.

The reality is, we are told, that the Government are now to accept new clause 75. They are running away from a Division in the House of Commons on new clause 75, so your original argument in the submission of 30 March that you would accept a Division on new clause 75 but not on amendment No. 27—an argument, incidentally, that I never accepted because we did not regard them as alternatives—no longer stands because there is not now to be a Division in Committee on new clause 75. The Government have caved in on that aspect, as we understand that they are to do on amendment No. 420 and perhaps on others as yet unannounced.

I believe that the case for a Division on amendment No. 27 remains as overwhelming as it always has been, and that view is widely shared in the Committee. My view and our arguments, the nature of the amendment and its importance, were not affected by the very dubious ruling, which is itself contested, given by the Attorney-General and expressed to the House by the Foreign Secretary as a way of getting the Government off the hook on this crucial issue.

For all those reasons, I ask you to reconsider the unprecedented announcement that you have made to the Committee today.

Several hon. Members


The Chairman

Order. I owe it to the right hon. Gentleman to respond to him immediately.

I have thought very deeply about this particular case. I thought about it originally because, while it is not for me to take into consideration political dimensions—and it is not—I have to be sure that the procedures I follow are ones that have logic on their side. I went very deeply into this matter all the way through and, indeed, it does not need me to remind the right hon. Gentleman of the number of references to it that I made.

I started with a reference in column 685 when the original point was raised following the right hon. Gentleman's intervention in column 402. I made a further announcement three days later in column 1026, and yet a further one some seven days later in column 483. I made yet another announcement in column 1271 before I made the substantive statement in column 161 on 30 March.

I must tell the right hon. Gentleman and the Committee that, in reaching a decision, I have to follow the traditions of the Chair that I now hold and recognise that they are there as guidance given to the Chair over time and that the Chair has to carry out the duties imposed on it. It is not a particularly easy decision on occasions. I know what the easy decision would be on amendment No. 27, and if I were to take it I would be the hero of part of the Committee. Nevertheless—[Interruption.] Order. If the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) and other hon. Members want to go outside, that is entirely up to them.

The easy decision would have been to have accepted, revised and looked again. Nevertheless, the Committee and the House have asked me to assess the merits of all the amendments and whether or not there should be a vote. I have spent many hours in preparation and many hours coming to a decision and I must tell the Committee that it will have to accept that, in the end, I have to make a judgment.

4.15 pm
Dr. Cunningham

Further to that point of order, Mr. Morris. Again, I listened carefully to what you told the House, and I noticed that you did not challenge my contention that your decision sets a precedent for the Chair in such circumstances. I repeat that I believe it to be a dangerous and extraordinary precedent. Having listened carefully to what you said, I can see in your statement no legitimate reason or argument for preventing the House from voting on amendment No. 27. You have certainly advanced no argument; there are no procedural arguments, and no arguments of precedent or order, to prevent the House from having a legitimate vote on the amendment.

I ask you again to reconsider your judgment. Many people far beyond the confines of the Chamber will feel that the House of Commons has been cheated of a legitimate reason to have a vote. I do not use that word lightly, but because I am singularly unconvinced—I believe that the majority of the Committee is unconvinced—about the reasons for your decision. With all due respect to the Chair, I say that, if we are not allowed to vote on amendment No. 27 during the Committee stage, we shall demand of Madam Speaker the right to reintroduce the issue and debate and vote on it during the Report stage.

Several hon. Members


The Chairman

Order. I shall respond briefly to the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham).

I think that the Committee needs reminding that it is settled practice of the Committee and of the House that the Chair does not give reasons for decisions. The Chair has listened to the representations. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept that I have listened attentively to him and to his colleagues at an hour suitable to them on a number of occasions. I say to the right hon. Gentleman again that I have made the decision on the best advice and on my own judgment, and I have to stick by that.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Stephen Dorrell)

On a different point of order, Mr. Morris. It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I say that, of the four amendments that you announced that you would call for a vote, the Government do not intend to resist amendment No. 420.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Morris. Although we greatly appreciate the enormous number of hours that you have devoted to the debate, may I ask you to consider two additional points that you may not have been able to consider before? The first is that the protocol which is the subject of amendment No. 27 calls on my constituents to pay money to the European Community for the social chapter applying to the other 11 members. Clearly that is a decision which Members of Parliament should make. It is the kind of thing that Parliament discussed in the time of King Charles: should we pay money or should we not?

May I ask you, Mr. Morris, if there is not some way in which the House of Commons can be allowed to decide, yes or no, whether our constituents should be forced to pay money for the social chapter of the other 11 member states? If we do not have the opportunity to decide, the money will simply be paid over whether we want to pay it or not.

The second issue is that of precedent. I have looked thoroughly through "Erskine May" and all the other basic information available, and I can find only two examples in the history of the Commons of such a decision being taken. One dates from 23 March 1964 and the other from 11 June 1968; both involved Back-Bench amendments, not official Opposition amendments, and in neither case was the decision delayed until weeks after the debate had taken place.

In view of the fact that you have served the Committee so superbly, Mr. Morris, and given so much of your time, and as you have listened to all the arguments and weighed all that has been said, will you tell us what on earth is the argument against letting the House of Commons decide whether we want to pay money to Brussels? Surely, as that is a taxation issue, we should be able to decide yes or no.

The Chairman

The hon. Member was kind enough to write to me on 5 April asking me to take into consideration those very points——

Sir Teddy Taylor

Not both of them.

The Chairman

With respect, the point about 11 June and the one point on 12 June are in his letter; perhaps he has forgotten exactly what he wrote about. At any rate, on 5 April he wrote to me a two-page letter and I can assure him that I have been over it with a fine-toothed comb. It was one of the factors that had to be taken into consideration in coming to my decision.

Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber)

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. From the beginning of this Committee there has been a clear wish on the part of a large number of hon. Members to be able to express a view on whether the United Kingdom should adhere to the social chapter. Are our procedures such that there is no way of taking such a vote, even if—as you, I think, argue—following the Attorney-General's ruling, a vote on amendment 27 would be virtually symbolic? Nevertheless, it would be a vehicle by which the Committee could express a view, and there is no doubt that it wishes to do so.

The Chairman

I am not sure that I can answer the hon. Gentleman's point of order, because part of it was not a point for me as Chairman. He was thinking aloud, if I may put it that way.

Sir Peter Emery (Honiton)

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. I am most concerned about what is happening here at the moment. I do not believe that the Committee does itself any credit—and there is certainly not a precedent—when it challenges the ruling of the Chair on the amendments selected. There are ways in our procedure for that to happen, but it is not the custom for the Chair to be put under pressure by arguments about the decisions that the Chair has made in order to carry forward the debate in the Committee. It would set a very bad precedent in our procedure if, every time there was a decision that some hon. Member did not like, we got into a debate about whether we ought to have a vote on it. We have received your ruling, Mr. Morris. I believe that it should be followed and that we should get on with the debate. Enough time has been wasted.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

Further to the point of order raised by the right hon. Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery), Mr. Morris. I think that all hon. Members would agree that, whatever the merits of any decision, the difficulty which you and the Committee face is the fact that, surprisingly enough, this Bill is not to ratify the treaty. The brevity of the Bill, coupled with the complexity, length and, indeed, importance of the two or three treaties to which it refers are the basis of our problem. So I wish to raise three points of order relating, in the reverse order, to your announcement.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) referred to the Report stage. Can you tell us whether, to your knowledge, the ruling that you have just made prevents amendment 27 from being again tabled, debated and decided on Report, because I am quite sure that nobody wishes to cheat Parliament of an opportunity to vote on an amendment that has been selected, moved, debated, but not put?

The second point relates to the statement that you made about the selection of amendments for subsequent vote. I think you said that you were not able to select many of them because, although they had been selected for debate, during the course of the relevant debate the matters contained in those amendments were not covered. Am I right in saying that there seems to be some disequilibrium between the opportunity for debate, your opportunity for selection and the rules relating to the closure? Can we refer that to the Select Committee on Procedure?

The third matter relates to your list of amendments Nos. 225, 268, 426 and 420 for Division. May I confirm that those are to be taken immediately after the conclusion of the debate on amendment No. 57—perhaps today? If that is so, can you give us any idea of the new clauses and other amendments, to which you referred, which will be voted on before we reach the new clauses on the referendum, which I fancy will be next week some time? Unless we know that, hon. Members will not know what matters they are expected to vote on when we return on Monday.

The Chairman

There are some important points to answer there. I cannot make any decision that affects the Report stage. That is a matter for Madam Speaker and for her alone. On the question about Select Committee on Procedure, the Chairman of that Committee is present and he will have noted the hon. Gentleman's point.

On the question of separate Divisions—this is an important point—immediately following the conclusion of the debate on amendment No. 57, to be moved by the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor), there will be a separate Division, if so moved, on amendment No. 225, followed by a Division on amendment No. 268, if so moved, and followed by a Division on amendment No. 426, if so moved. At that point, we shall reach the clause stand part debate. After a Division on that, we shall have a Division on amendment No. 420, although I understand that there was an earlier statement on that amendment. That is the position on the hon. Gentleman's three points.

Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. Following the explanation that you were good enough to give the Committee about why some amendments were not eligible for selection, does it not follow that, if some hon. Members had made shorter speeches, more amendments would have been eligible for selection?

The Chairman

Well over 100 hon. Members have contributed to substantive debates on amendments.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. My point is simple. Does not the Government's announcement during business questions that they did not propose to oppose new clause 75 have a bearing on your ruling? You could have found out about that only at the same time as other hon. Members. That must be a relevant factor in the ruling that you have been working out over the past few days. Given that that is a very recent change in circumstances, does it not mean that you should be allowed time for further consideration?

The key factor was that there were two amendments on the same point which were both available for Division. Now that we know that the new clause will not be opposed by the Government, surely that has a bearing on the decision that you have had to reach on amendment No. 27. Should you not ask, Mr. Morris, for some further time for reflection? Given the recent announcement, that would be well understood by all members of the Committee.

The Chairman

The announcement was as new to me as it was to the hon. Gentleman. I heard it on the monitor in my room at the same time as it was heard by hon. Members who were in the Chamber. I immediately sat down with my senior advisers and reflected on whether it did have any further impact on the lengthy discussion I had had earlier. I came to the conclusion that it did not.

Mr. Nicholas Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. Would you be good enough to expand a little on what you said about giving no reasons? That seems to have caused some misunderstanding among some members of the Committee. It is said that you appeared on "The Parliament Programme", which seems to many members of the Committee a very unusual thing for a Chairman to do. It is further said that you gave reasons for your decision not to allow a debate on amendment No. 27 on "The Parliament Programme". It may be——

The Chairman

Order. I gave no reasons at all.

4.30 pm
Mr. Burgen


The Chairman

That seems to be the substance of the hon. Gentleman's point of order. If he will withdraw that point——

Hon. Members


Mr. Budgen

I withdraw it.

The Chairman

If the hon. Gentleman has the transcript and says that I said that, he should produce it. If not, I shall be grateful if he will take my word and withdraw.

Mr. Budgen

I withdraw it. However, I understand—and I do not have the transcript—that you gave an explanation of your ruling in which you said that the Bill had received a substantial majority on Second Reading.

The Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman ought either to come better prepared with his point of order or to accept the ruling I have given. I have said to the Committee that in this day and age, if the responsible media approach the Chairman for a general discussion on an issue of major importance to the nation, I have some obligation to the media.

Mr. Bryan Gould (Dagenham)

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. I have no wish to enter into a discussion of your reasons for the ruling on amendment No. 27, although I very much support the remarks by my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) when he addressed that issue. However, it is clear that your ruling is not supported by the official Opposition. So far as one can judge, it is not supported by any of the Opposition parties, and it is almost certainly not supported by a large number of Conservative Members. It may well be the case that your ruling is contrary to the wishes of the majority of the Committee.

My question to you is this: if that were the case, what remedy is available to the Committee? One obvious remedy would be to move and to attempt to carry a motion of no confidence in the Chair. I assume that no one would wish to see that draconian step taken, but if that majority exists, is there some procedure which would allow that majority opinion to be expressed in such a way as to ensure a vote on amendment No. 27, which the majority of the Committee may wish to take place?

The Chairman

It is the lot of the Chair to make impartial rulings. Impartial rulings sometimes support the majority of the Committee and sometimes the minority, but they have to be made on the best judgment of the Chair, and I have done my best and come to that conclusion.

Mr. William Cash (Stafford)

In 1976–77, the Speaker of the House of Commons was asked to consider the question of hybridity. I understand from readings of Mr. Speaker Thomas that, as you pointed out, Mr. Morris, guidance is taken from the advisers and the Clerks of the House on decisions of this importance, and that initially the decision was taken that the Bill concerned would not be regarded as hybrid. However, it turned out that strong advice was given, contrary to what the Government draftsmen had been suggesting, that in this instance the Bill should be referred to examiners. Therefore, there is a precedent for a change in advice. Furthermore, it is perfectly clear that in relation——

The Chairman

Order. Maybe I shall let the hon. Gentleman continue, but I must not let him proceed on that point, because matters of hybridity are for the Speaker and not for me as Chairman of Ways and Means. If the hon. Gentleman has representations to make, they should be to Madam Speaker and not to me. I hope that there is some other element he wishes to raise.

Mr. Cash

Yes, indeed. It was not the question of hybridity, but the question that you raised, Mr. Morris, on the extent to which, as a matter of practice, you would rely on guidance from the Clerks of the House. It therefore follows that it is possible, even in matters of grave constitutional importance, for that guidance to be reviewed.

Just now in your statement, you put enormous emphasis on the length of the debate. I concur strongly with the remarks by the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) and my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) about the money question. There is no doubt whatever that there was a lengthy debate. Indeed, it was followed by a further debate, in respect to which the Attorney-General made his submissions, which was followed by yet another debate. In those circumstances, I ask you, Mr. Morris, to review your decision.

There can be no doubt, both as a matter of practice and of length of time, that amendment No. 27 has been thoroughly debated and should be put to a vote. There is no precedent for such a situation to have occurred in the history of the House. In the light of those circumstances, I ask you to review your decision and take further guidance from the Clerks of the House.

The Chairman

I shall make two points in response to the hon. Gentleman. First, it is true that I get guidance, but I do not shirk making a decision. The decision rests on my shoulders alone and I have made it to the best of my ability—and so be it. Secondly—this is an important point and I am disappointed that the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) has not yet understood it, although we are entering the 20th day of Committee—it is not the length of time that is important. What is important is the content of the debate.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. You said earlier that the decision which you had to make in this regard was hard. You could have taken the easy option. You could have taken the democratic option. You could have taken the option which said that a majority of the Committee wanted to vote for the social chapter, as provided for in amendment No. 27. Therefore, I believe that people outside the Committee—whatever the Government may think—will think that this is a crazy place when we can debate at length amendment No. 27 relating to the social chapter and they can see on BBC Ceefax at half-past one today what your decision will be in advance of what you have said now. [Interruption.] Yes, it was announced on BBC Ceefax at half past one today that the Chairman of Ways and Means will rule that there will be no vote on amendment No. 27.

They call it democracy. They call this place the mother of parliaments. We have the whole united Labour party in favour of amendment No. 27. We have the Liberal Democrats, for what it is worth. We have the other minority parties. There are about 26 rebels who want to vote for amendment No. 27, yet in this tin-pot little arena we have a Chairman of Ways and Means telling us that we cannot have a vote. My view is that this is a stitch-up—and has been from the beginning. This is a conspiracy with the Government of the day. Amendment No. 27 was the only real chance that we had of defeating Maastricht and the Chair has not given us the chance to carry out a proper democratic vote.

The Chairman

I simply make one point: what appeared on Ceefax was absolutely nothing to do with me.

Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills)

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. The difficulty for the Committee is that, through the mechanism of this Bill, we will be enacting a treaty which is attracting great constitutional interest. It is moving us from democratic accountable government to undemocratic accountable government, as has been explained. Therefore, we are looking at a constitution behind the mechanism of a Bill.

Effectively, you accepted the closure on some of the amendments on which some of us tried to speak and on which some of us were not called. What is the meaning of this place, as the fulcrum of democracy, if you deny us the right to vote on the motions and amendments on which we seek to vote? Clearly, that is encapsulated in your decision on amendment No. 27. It is highly unsatisfactory. What is the purpose of the House of Commons if it cannot determine the constitution of the United Kingdom?

The Chairman

The Committee has had 19 days on this Bill and is now entering the 20th day.

Mr. Shepherd

On a point of order——

The Chairman

Order. The hon. Gentleman has already raised a point of order and perhaps I can rule on that. If he goes through the list of amendments that the Committee has debated, he will find that there is a representative from the group that he has been assisting. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) signed a great number of amendments, and I think he will find that the vast majority of them were debated.

Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney)

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. After a major amendment was properly selected by you, moved and fully debated in the House of Commons, we now face the extraordinary situation that we are denied an opportunity to vote on it. That could surely be justified only if the House were offered an alternative amendment of the same significance on which to vote. That is patently not so, as has been revealed by the Government's announcement that they are prepared to accept new clause 75, whereas they know very well that they cannot and will not accept amendment No. 27. That is to me the heart of the Bill and the debate, as I am sure that it is to many other right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the Committee.

Mr. Morris, you heard the Government's announcement just a few minutes before you came into the Chamber. I have no doubt that you are a quick thinker, but I believe that the amendment raises such important matters that we are justified in asking you to reflect further on your decision.

The Chairman

The right hon. Gentleman is an experienced parliamentarian, so I take seriously the point that he has raised. I did reflect. There were 15 minutes or thereabouts between my seeing the announcement on the monitor and my coming into the Chamber. In that time I had to decide whether to change the decision that I had come to during the lunch break. I decided on balance that, despite the announcement, the basis on which I had reached my conclusions was unchanged. Therefore, I have to stick by that decision. I am sorry, but I am not persuaded that, even in the newly changed circumstances, a vote would be appropriate.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. As Chairman of Ways and Means, you are not the King's man or even the Queen's person. You have a particular responsibility for money Bills and budgetary matters. You are the custodian of the democratic rights of the House. Your responsibility with regard to the disbursement of public moneys is clear: it is to the House and those to whom we, as elected representatives, are responsible. They look to us to ensure that our democratically expressed authority is given before their moneys are disbursed.

In this case, moneys are being disbursed for the implementation by the other members of the Community of the social chapter, to which we in the United Kingdom are not a party. To those outside it will look the most extraordinary anomaly, which is surely worthy of explanation, that, after long debate, we should not be allowed to vote on amendment No. 27. We have had a debate. Why, after that long debate, should we not be allowed to vote? Can you please, Sir, in this exceptional case, explain to us how on earth we can go back to our constituents who sent us here and say, "We debated long and hard on your behalf, but we were denied a vote by the Chairman of Ways and Means, who is responsible to the House and the country for the disbursement of public money and the democratic authority that goes with it"?

The Chairman

The hon. Member's colleague wrote me a long letter on that particular point. I weighed up the points and came to the conclusion that I reached. I am afraid that the hon. Member will have to accept that.

Mr. James Molyneaux (Lagan Valley)

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. We on this Bench would be the first to testify to the tolerance and diligence that you have shown in attempting to assess the views of the Committee as a whole, and not of any particular faction thereof. You would have been assisted in that regard if the Committee had not carried closure motions, thereby terminating many debates which would have given you a wider picture.

However, the same cannot be said of the amendment which is the subject of our discussion now. The debate was conducted in a constructive spirit by everyone who spoke, in the full expectation that they would be permitted the opportunity to vote on amendment No. 27 in the light of all that had been said during the debate. To some extent, through no fault of your own, you were bounced into a position today by an unexpected announcement made in an offhand way—I mean no disrespect to the Leader of the House: the announcement was simply drawn out in answer to a question. You had little time to reflect on the changed position.

In the light of what has happened and the way in which you have been caught off guard, and as you said just now that the matter was of supreme importance to the nation, I join the right hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Stepney (Mr. Shore) in asking you, with great respect, to think again.

4.45 pm
The Chairman

I am grateful to the right hon. Member. The whole procedure for amendment No. 27 has been a moving target. As the Committee will be aware, I made it clear on several occasions before I made the announcement that the whole issue was a changing scene. I can do no better than read to the Committee column 483 of the Official Report of 4 March. I said: We are still some way off having to consider anything to do with amendment No. 27. As the hon. Gentleman will know, attempts are being made by hon. Members on both sides of the House to produce more amendments relating to this broad area. It would be wrong of me to make a judgment at this point on whether other amendments—or how many of them—may exist by that time."—[Official Report, 4 March 1993; Vol. 220, c. 483.] I have had to make judgments continually as we have gone along. I have based them on extensive documentation which I have kept on each and every amendment, not least amendment No. 27. That is the basis on which I came to my conclusion.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. Few people in the House will understand better than me the burdens which you carry, because I seek in some modest way to share those responsibilities as a member of your Chairman's Panel. However, do you accept that many hon. Members will be deeply saddened and very shocked by the announcement which you have made to the House this afternoon? I am sure that you accept that leaders of political parties, Privy Councillors, Her Majesty's Opposition and numerous Conservative Members believe that amendment No. 27 is critical. You said in your opening statement and have subsequently repeated several times that the amendment was widely debated at great length and in depth. Many hon. Members who were not called to speak would have sought to do so if the Chair had not yet again accepted the closure.

Mr. Morris, you have a critical constitutional job in the House of Commons, to be guided not only by those who advise you but by the precedents of the House. But you surely also have a duty to the genuine Back Benchers of the House to ensure that the House can divide on critical issues. I am sure that I do not need to remind you or the Committee that amendment No. 27 is one of the most critical in the debates that have taken place during the Committee stage so far.

In addition, as my hon. Friends on both sides of the Committee have said, the amendment relates to money. Exceptional circumstances surround the statement that you have made. You stated that you were aware only 15 minutes before you assumed the Chair of the Committee that the Government were prepared to accept new clause 75, which deprives the House of Commons, and therefore the people of Britain, of the opportunity to decide one of the most fundamental issues contained in the Bill which we are debating in the Committee on their behalf.

As a member of your Chairmen's Panel, in view of the exceptional circumstances, because it was unfair that you had to reach a decision in just 15 minutes, and as many of Her Majesty's Privy Councillors have intervened to request that you review your decision——

The Chairman

Order. The hon. Member will recognise that tedious repetition is not something that any Committee is advised to follow and, as a good Chairman, doubtless he would rule it out of order, as I am now ruling that part of his remarks out of order. I recognise that, whatever decision I took today, one part of the Committee would be well pleased and one part would be upset—[Interruption.]—but that is the lot of the Chairman. It is the lot that I have to accept and I willingly accept it. In the end, I must make a decision.

Mr. Geoffrey Hoon (Ashfield)

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. I have no wish to complicate matters still further or make your already difficult job still more difficult. But I invite you to look again at amendment No. 453, which stands in my name. You might feel, on having looked at that amendment again and on further reflection, that it affords you an opportunity to achieve a compromise between the various views that have been expressed so far. With your indulgence, I will explain why.

Amendment No. 27 deletes the whole of the protocol, and that deletion led the Attorney-General to say that the Government could ignore any vote on amendment No. 27 since it was, in effect, a double negative. Leaving aside the merits or otherwise of the Attorney-General's opinion, many members of the Committee are unhappy about new clause 75, which stands in my name and that of others, because they feel that it is too remote from the debate that has already taken place on amendment No. 27, and I appreciate that point of view.

That is why I invite you, Mr. Morris, to look again at amendment No. 453, since it achieves the deletion of that part of the social protocol that allows the United Kingdom Government an opt-out. So although it is a deletion and remains in order, consistent with the acceptance of amendment No. 27, it would, if accepted, force the British Government to accept the protocol on social policy.

It has been accepted as being in order, it would give you the opportunity of a compromise, it does not fall foul of the Attorney-General's opinion—whatever the merits or otherwise of that—and it would perhaps allow the Committee the opportunity of the kind of vote which was anticipated on amendment No. 27 but which will not, if your ruling persists, now take place. That is why I urge you, with respect, to look again at amendment No. 453.

The Chairman

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and he is right, in that I had to consider amendment No. 453 very closely. I reached my decision having done so.

Dr. Cunningham

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. In view of the obvious disturbance and unease in the Committee, and the unusual course of events—to put it no more strongly than that—I beg to move, That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again. I hope that you will grant that motion.

The Chairman

The Question is that I do report Progress. As many as are of that opinion say aye, to the contrary no.

The Committee proceeded to a Division

Dr. Cunningham

Further to my point of order, Mr. Morris. I submit that the Committee should have an opportunity to debate the motion that I moved. I understand that it is debatable and I urge you to allow it to be debated.

The Chairman

The right hon. Member asks whether a motion to report Progress is debatable. It is. After he had moved it, I quickly looked round the Chamber and did not immediately see hon. Members rising to speak to it—[Interruption.]—but I may have been mistaken. I now make it clear that a modest debate on the motion should take place.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. Do I understand that the Division is off? If so, could it be made clear that it is off at this stage and that a debate on the motion to report Progress will now take place?

The Chairman

The Division is off.

Sir Peter Emery

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. While it is, of course, for you to decide whether the motion should be debated, it being debatable, do you agree that if you considered that we should proceed without a debate, it is within the power of the Chair so to proceed? In other——

The Chairman

Order. It was not my wish to prevent a debate. I did not see any hon. Members rise to debate the matter, but, clearly, as there was a misunderstanding, I am allowing a debate.

Mr. Peter Bottomley (Eltham)

On a point of order, Mr. Morris.

The Chairman

Is it a new one?

Mr. Bottomley

Yes. Am I right in saying that it was within the power of the Chair to allow a debate to take place and to call the Division off even if no hon. Member was standing a t the time the vote was called?

The Chairman

Whether or not that be the case, it is clear that there was confusion, and hon. Members were not entirely clear what was going on. I hope that it is now clear that we are debating the motion to report progress. I call the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) to open the debate.

Dr. Cunningham

I am sure that at least that decision and ruling will have majority support in the Committee this afternoon, Mr. Morris, even if others which you have given have not. It is important that we have an opportunity to discuss the events of the past hour. It is clear that the Government announced their decision on new clause 75 with little time for you, let alone the rest of the Committee, to reflect on the significance of that in respect of your provisional ruling of 30 March.

The Opposition have never accepted that amendment No. 27 and new clause 75 were alternate—that one vote and one decision on one of those issues replaced or obviated the necessity for a Division in the Committee on the other. We have always challenged that position, and we continue to hold that view.

Other than the adjournment of these proceedings to enable discussions behind the Chair to take place, the motion now before the Committee is the best way to proceed. Hon. Members in all parts of the Committee, not excluding the Government, should have a chance to assess the impact of your new decision, Mr. Morris. The reality is, as many hon. Members have made clear, that there is majority support in the Committee for a Division on amendment No. 27.

I recognise that amendment No. 27 has not been formally moved, but it was among a group of amendments that were discussed, it is in order, it stands in the name of the Leader of the Opposition and I maintain, as I said on a point of order, that the decision to disallow a vote on amendment No. 27 has no precedent. You have not challenged that argument, Mr. Morris, and I repeat it now.

Even as events have been unfolding in the Chamber, Ministers have been briefing the press to the effect that the Government are willing to accept new clause 75 because they will ignore the outcome of a vote on that issue. It is extraordinary that even while this discussion and disagreement is taking place——

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones)

The hon. Gentleman has made a serious charge. Perhaps he will name those Ministers.

Dr. Cunningham

Yes, I will in due course, Mr. Morris—but not for the moment, thank you very much. I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman is one of them.

5 pm

Mr. Garel-Jones

The right hon. Gentleman has made a very serious charge. Perhaps he will name those Ministers. If not, perhaps he will withdraw his remark.

Dr. Cunningham

No, I have no intention of withdrawing my remarks—none at all. The right hon. Gentleman knows what has been the Government's briefing, which has been going on at exactly the time as we have been discussing these issues in the Chamber. I stand by what I said. I have no intention of withdrawing my remarks.

It is obvious that your ruling today, Mr. Morris, which will deny the Committee an opportunity to vote on amendment No. 27, will allow a discredited Government to escape the consequences of a potential defeat in the House of Commons and to ignore the will of the Chamber on Divisions on other issues before the Committee—and I do not withdraw my remarks but stand by them absolutely.

That will frustrate the will of Parliament by avoiding a vote on amendment No. 27 and the outcome of a potential defeat on new clause 75. As I said several times this afternoon, those circumstances are without precedent. I made the point and repeat it now, that it is our intention to press for the substance of amendment No. 27 to be brought before the House on Report. It would be outrageous if, following a review of your decision, Mr. Morris, or subsequently, Parliament were denied an opportunity to express a view.

On this occasion—this is not always true—I share absolutely the view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). I am delighted to be able to say that.

Mr. Skinner

I think that I had better write that down.

Dr. Cunningham

But I do not want to ruin my hon. Friend's reputation.

People throughout the country will be astonished that, after all the arguments on the importance of the social chapter issue for the public, the House of Commons will not have an opportunity to record its view. Because the public will feel that they and their representatives have been cheated in being prevented from expressing their view, the whole standing of our proceedings in this place will be brought into disrepute. The public will really come to believe the argument that is all too often expressed these days: that the House of Commons has simply become a rubber stamp for any decision that the Government want to railroad through the Chamber.

That is an onerous charge to make, and I do not make it lightly. The Chair should reflect carefully on the consequences of public disillusionment about a ruling of such significance after so many hours of debate and discussion, on a subject of such importance.

Mr. Michael Spicer (Worcestershire, South)

I have been listening to the right hon. Gentleman with great interest: Why is it that members of the Labour Front Bench have left is so late to make a public fuss about amendment No. 27? They knew before Easter which way the decision was likely to go—the Chairman of Ways and Means had already made his announcement. He might have had time to reflect and reached a different decision, had there not been some rather quiet getting behind the pillars by members of Labour's Front Bench, who came forward with an alternative amendment to provide some kind of excuse for not taking amendment No. 27. Why has Labour come out in this way at the last moment?

Dr. Cunningham

I regard the hon. Gentleman's intervention as pure garbage and I am sorry that I gave way to him. For the record, you, Mr. Morris, made your provisional ruling on 30 March—a few days before the House rose for the Easter recess. You properly and generously offered to listen to my representations about your ruling. On reflection, I decided that I should establish precedent and examine parliamentary records during the Easter recess and then see you, Mr. Morris. I wrote seeking a meeting with you before the House resumed earlier this week.

You had an opportunity to listen to my representations only a little while ago and made your definitive ruling only today. So that puts all the nonsense in the hon. Gentleman's intervention into perspective. There is no question of our making an argument late in the day about the significance of amendment No. 27.

I spoke in the debate on amendment No. 27 on behalf of my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition, the shadow Cabinet and myself. I said then, and have repeated many times since, that we expected the Committee to divide on that amendment. I repeated those arguments on 30 March and again today. To suggest that we suddenly decided, at the last moment, to make a fuss about amendment No. 27 is complete and absolute garbage.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

If, as it appears, the Committee will be able to make few decisions on issues of substance in this major constitutional issue and if the public take the view that legislation has been railroaded through the House of Commons without proper scrutiny and the House being allowed to do what it should, is there not a case for the other place examining the issues in more detail and taking a more radical view than it might otherwise do—as the only bulwark of democracy in this country?

Dr. Cunningham

I have never regarded the other place as a bulwark of democracy, so it is difficult to accept the hon. Gentleman's argument. The overwhelming majority of our fellow citizens rightly regard this Chamber as the bulwark of democracy—and it is in this Chamber that the critical decisions must be taken. In these circumstances, it is the duty of the Chair and of advisers to the Chair to find an opportunity for the House of Commons to record a view on amendment No. 27. If that cannot be done in Committee, it should certainly be done on Report. I will not resile from that view and those arguments.

Mr. Richard Shepherd

The Chair's decision is of enormous constitutional importance. We will commence consideration of the Finance Bill in Committee on Monday week. If the Chair so chose, it need not accept votes on major issues of public policy and expenditure raised by members of the Labour Front Bench in Committee. The principle that has just been announced is of fundamental importance.

Dr. Cunningham

I wholly agree with that intervention. I repeat that the Chair is setting a dangerous precedent, when amendments regarded as in order, selected for debate and debated at length are not selected for a Division, against the majority views of the Committee.

Mr. Cash

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that on 30 March 1993, the Chairman of Ways and Means stated: Right hon. and hon. Members will see that I have selected for debate new clause 75 on transferred powers (commencement). As a corollary, I do not propose to select amendment No. 27 for debate or for separate Division."—[Official Report, 30 March 1993; Vol. 222, c. 161.] Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that, as there was a so-called swap by way of corollary, it is at the heart of the question of the distinction—made by the right hon. Gentleman—between the content of amendment No. 27 and the content of new clause 75, which deals with the agreement of a future motion? Amendment No. 27 deals with the immediate question whether or not the social protocol should be excluded. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree?

Dr. Cunningham

We have always made it clear, and I am happy to do so again in response to the hon. Gentleman, that we have never accepted that amendment No. 27 and new clause 75 presented an either/or situation. We did not accept the argument that one could be exchanged for the other. The amendments have different impacts on the legislation. We had different reasons for tabling them and they provide quite separate opportunities for the Committee to express a view on different aspects of the legislation. That is why we could not accept your provisional ruling, Mr. Morris, of 30 March that, by agreeing to have a vote on new clause 75, we were accepting that there would be no Division on amendment No. 27.

Sir Ivan Lawrence (Burton)

I accept that the right hon. Gentleman is expressing the attitude of the Opposition. However, the Chair has decided that new clause 75 should be an alternative because of the use of the word "corollary". If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that that is a misunderstanding of his intention, would he consider withdrawing new clause 75? If that happened, it could no longer be said that the acceptance of that new clause stops consideration of and, one hopes, a vote on amendment No. 27. If the right hon. Gentleman is serious in his opposition to this matter, as I assume he is, perhaps he will seriously consider asking his colleagues to withdraw new clause 75. If that were done, the Chair would be placed in the position of accepting a vote on amendment No. 27.

Sir Teddy Taylor

Think about it.

Dr. Cunningham

In response to that sedentary intervention and to the legitimate intervention of the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Sir I. Lawrence), I have thought about it, but I dismissed it. It was in order to consider all these matters that I did not seek to discuss the position with you, Mr. Morris, immediately after your ruling on 30 March.

These are important matters, and we wanted time to reflect on their consequences and check the precedents. As I have said several times, I concluded that we were always right to argue that the two amendments were not alternatives, but that the Committee was perfectly entitled to vote on both of them. They are quite different in nature and intent and I saw no reason to accept the argument that we could have one or the other but not both. There is no precedent for that argument and no procedural argument in favour of that proposition. I did not feel obliged to accept it and I do not accept it now.

It has been to the benefit of the Committee, and I hope to your benefit, Mr. Morris, to allow this motion to be debated, not least because it gives another chance for reflection—what in old-fashioned jargon used to be called a cooling-off period—in which we can assess the issues. It would be remiss of me not to repeat that your ruling is seriously challenged by the Leader of the Opposition, the shadow Cabinet and the Opposition. It is not legitimate or fair to the Committee or to our constituents to deny a vote on amendment No. 27. I emphasise again that in discussions with you, Mr. Morris, and subsequently with Madam Speaker on Report, we shall continue to explore the possibility of a legitimate opportunity for the Committee to express a view on this issue.

Mr. Quentin Davies (Stamford and Spalding)

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. At the beginning of his speech, the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) undertook to name the Ministers whom he alleged had been briefing the press outside. He has noticeably failed to do so. Would it be in order for the right hon. Gentleman to speak again to fulfil that pledge and demonstrate the seriousness of what he was trying to say?

The Chairman

That is not a matter for the Chair.

Mr. Garel-Jones

The right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) made three points and I shall seek to deal with them. He advanced the proposition, which may or may not be the case, that the majority of members of the Committee wished to have a Division on amendment No. 27. In response to that, Mr. Morris, you said that it is not always the Chair's duty to respond to the majority. Whether there is or is not a majority, it is extraordinary for the Opposition to propose that a majority should decide whether there should be a vote. [Interruption.] If I may say so, minorities who often seek the protection of the Chair would find the use of a Government majority to thwart their opportunity to express their opinion extremely inconvenient.

5.15 pm

Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman said that the Government were seeking to escape a vote on the social chapter. The opposite is the case, because by accepting new clause 75 we are allowing the Committee an opportunity fully to debate the social chapter. Thirdly, the right hon. Gentleman made a series of allegations about Ministers. He has not substantiated those, nor will he be able to do so.

Dr. Cunningham

Downing street is giving a briefing on the view of Ministers. If the right hon. Gentleman is not one of the Ministers who holds the view that I have expressed, he should come clean and tell us on which Ministers' behalf Downing street is giving that briefing.

Mr. Garel-Jones

It may come as a surprise to the right hon. Gentleman when I tell him that I am perfectly well aware of the briefing that is emanating from Downing street and elsewhere. It is not what the right hon. Gentleman has alleged.

Mr. Salmond

I am strongly in favour of the motion to report progress. My first reason for that support is for your benefit, Mr. Morris, in your difficult job of chairing the Committee. That was mentioned in a point of order, and it is by far the most important reason. I fully accept that you found out about the Government's attitude to new clause 75 some 15 minutes before you came to the Chamber to rule on the matter. That was clearly the most important event this afternoon. Almost casually, in the middle of business questions, the Leader of the House observed that the Government had a mind to accept new clause 75.

Before that, it was sustainable, although incorrect, for people to talk up the importance of new clause 75 and describe it as a time bomb ticking away under the Government. As soon as the Leader of the House made his observation, it was clear that the Government regarded new clause 75, irrespective of briefings being given by Downing street, as much less a time bomb and more a damp squib. That must fundamentally change your observations about the relative merits of amendment No. 27 and new clause 75.

I make it clear that in my point of order I did not in any way doubt the fact that you, Mr. Morris, had no prior knowledge of the Government's announcement. On the contrary, I was reinforcing the point, because you were in the same position as other hon. Members and had no knowledge of the Government's apparent change of tack on new clause 75. It is inconceivable that you did not have the time that should have been allowed to make a decision of this magnitude. That is the fundamental reason for reporting progress. We must have time for proper consideration of the relative merits under the new circumstances of amendment No. 27 and new clause 75.

The hon. Member for Copeland spoke about a cooling-off period. Many people would benefit from reconsideration. People outside observing events in the Chamber today and in the past few months may wonder whether this is the place for matters such as Maastricht and the social chapter to be ultimately decided. I do not think that there has been anything so edifying about our proceedings this afternoon that it would suggest to the wider public that this Chamber is capable of making—or will even be allowed to make—decisions on issues of such fundamental constitutional importance as the concept of the social chapter.

I hope that, in the time for reflection that the motion to report progress will allow, those on the Labour Benches will look at the question of a referendum on that vital issue, a decision on which will be coming up next week, and at the amendments tabled today to the clauses in a referendum. They would allow for a vote in that referendum on the social chapter and allow the public to make a decision on the matters that will so manifestly not be allowed to be decided, or be capable of being decided, in this place.

Sir Teddy Taylor

I am grateful that the Opposition have tabled the motion in this way, without making any criticism of you, Mr. Morris. As you have kindly referred to the letter that I sent you earlier this month, I should like to read out the last paragraph, which says: Could I also take the further opportunity of saying in all sincerity as someone who has been around the Euro debates for a long time, that many of us consider you have handled these rather difficult and touchy debates with great courtesy, efficiency and consistency in such a way that no one has a feeling of unfairness. I meant that sincerely, simply because, although I say nasty things about people, I appreciate that you have performed your role, Mr. Morris, with the courtesy and fairness that is appropriate to the Chairman of Ways and Means.

I support the motion for three reasons. First, things have changed dramatically in the recent past. The statement by the Leader of the House, which came only a few minutes before your statement, Mr. Morris, and no doubt after it was written and then typed, has changed the situation dramatically. They might even be aware of that in Harrow, if they were prepared to listen. The Leader of the House said that the Government, who we understand have been phoning up people in America to ask them whether they would be voting against new clause 75, will now support it. That is a wholly new situation.

You have fairly said, Mr. Morris, that the intention of the Labour party in amendment No. 27 was the same as the intention of the Labour party in new clause 75. The difference is that we shall not have a vote on anything relating to the social chapter before the Queen has to sign Royal Assent. Therefore, the situation has changed dramatically. If we do not have a vote on amendment No. 27, there will be no opportunity for Members of Parliament to express their view on anything relating to the social chapter before the Bill becomes law. That justifies a period of reflection by you, Mr. Morris, on the judgments that you have arrived at, I am sure fairly and reasonably.

The second argument that I should like hon. Members to consider is whether there might be a case for a vote on amendment No. 27 in view of the astonishing statement made by the Foreign Secretary—the second statement on the Government's attitude to amendment No. 27. Hon. Members will appreciate that we had had a statement from the Minister of State which was made with the full authority of legal advice of the Foreign Office, but that the second statement said that that was all wrong and had to be reconsidered.

The astonishing thing was not that the Minister of State was wrong—we have become accustomed to that in these debates—but what happened after that statement. The Foreign Secretary then said that, even if we voted out the protocol from British law, he would still sign the treaty with the protocol in it and, to that extent, Britain would be obliged, under the terms of the treaty of Rome, to pay its share—one twelfth—of the costs of the agreement of the 11 on the social chapter. That is unusual, because the principle involved is whether it is a Community obligation.

Under the treaty of Rome, if an item of spending is a Community obligation, then Britain is obliged to pay, but if it is not a treaty obligation, there is no obligation to pay. In view of the strange and astonishing statement made by the Foreign Secretary, even if we vote against the proposal, it will still happen, and our constituents' money will be paid over. The issue has to be considered carefully by someone else. The only someone else is a court of law, which should have the opportunity to say whether it is right that, even if we remove that section from British law, we shall still have to pay the money.

I have a third argument, which I hope that the Committee will consider. It is a privilege to have hon. Members present to listen to the debate on Maastricht, because the great tragedy has been the low attendance in the debates. I am sure it is not because hon. Members are lazy—I know that they are all hard-working, decent, honourable Members, and that includes my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes). However, they do not want to listen to the arguments on Maastricht because, while they know what great damage it will do, they are not sure what they can do about it.

Those hon. Members should appreciate that amendment No. 27 is not about the social chapter, as I am sure that they have been led by the Foreign Office and others to believe. It is about whether their constituents, including those from Harrow, will have to pay over cash to the EEC for the social chapter of the 11 other member states. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East thinks that it is a good idea to pay over money to Brussels, irrespective of the reason, but whether we want to or not, the point is that we should decide. The crucial issue is the old one of no taxation without representation.

Why on earth should my constituents or those of any other hon. Member be obliged to pay over money to Brussels for someone else's social chapter without their Members of Parliament having the right to decide yes or no? That is the issue over amendment No. 27. Some people would think that we should pay over the money and others that we should not. Therefore, I hope that it will be possible, over the weekend, before we return to the debate on Monday, for you and your officers, Mr. Morris, to think carefully about whether it is right and proper to ask taxpayers to pay money without giving the House of Commons the opportunity to say yes or no.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

Does my hon. Friend remember the perceptive remarks, made after the statement by the Secretary of State, of the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston)? He said that, where there is a political will, there is a legal way. Are we not facing a situation in which the Government are determined to get this through come hell or high water, whether or not it is democratic?

Sir Teddy Taylor

I know that my hon. Friend has more experience of the workings of the House, as a Chairman of Committees, than I do. I am sure that there is a great deal in what he says but, if we start talking about those issues, we shall get away from the basic, simple issue that we are meant to be discussing. My hon. Friend has spoken with great sincerity on something that is important and right. However, let us concentrate on the simple and basic issue of whether it is right for people who have fought hard to come to the House of Commons and become Members of Parliament, who have done their best to serve their constituents, to sit back and allow taxation to be paid over without having the opportunity to express their view.

My hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) hit the nail on the head, as he so often does. He said that, if we allow this huge precedent to go through, other taxation issues, on which Members of Parliament will not be allowed to express their view, will be allowed to go through.

Mr. Cash

Does my hon. Friend agree that the important point that he is making about taxation and our duties to our constituents goes to the heart of the treaty? Under the proposals of stage 2, not even to mention stage 3, the whole question of the basis on which our constituents will have their monetary affairs decided, public expenditure, the exchange rate mechanism, and other policies, are intimately bound up with the question of money. It is the prerogative of the House of Commons to decide those issues. That will be affected not only by the provisions that I have referred to, but by the provision to which my hon. Friend referred, in relation to the social chapter.

Sir Teddy Taylor

My hon. Friend is right to make that important and huge point about the destruction of democracy, which those who follow these debates know is happening. However, as I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), there is no point in debating such great issues when what we are deciding on this motion is a simple issue.

5.30 pm
Sir Ivan Lawrence (Burton)

As a parliamentarian of great experience, does my hon. Friend agree that the spending of money will not be addressed by their Lordships when they consider the matter in the other place? Therefore, if we are deprived of an opportunity to vote on this money matter, there will be no vote on it in Parliament. That is thoroughly undesirable and that is why we in this House have been given the power to consider monetary matters and the other place has not. With that power goes the right to vote on the issue.

Sir Teddy Taylor

As usual, my hon. and learned Friend is right. That was to be my fifth point, although I may not have expressed it so fairly and clearly. If we do not vote on the amendment on the control of cash, the other place will not be able to.

The fourth point that I was about to make concerned the question of precedent. I hope that it will be possible to reflect during the weekend. I have been searching for precedents but I can find only two. One was on 23 March 1964 and the other was on 11 June 1968. Both related to Back-Bench amendments and neither was in relation to an official Opposition amendment or announced, as in this case, weeks after the debate took place.

Finally, I appeal to the Liberal Democrats. The sad thing is that, as those who have fears about proportional representation know, at present the Liberal Democrats basically decide everything. I think that they know that this particular motion will not be decided by those who share my views, by the Opposition or by the Scottish Nationalists who attend these debates so regularly and who contribute in such a fair and objective way; it will be decided by the Liberal Democrats.

The Liberal Democrats have a simple decision to make. Is it right and proper that we should reflect over the weekend about whether it is a good or bad thing to vote on amendment No. 27? That is all we ask. We are not seeking to overturn the Government. We are in no way seeking to cast any reflection on the Chairman of Ways and Means, for whom I have a greater regard than any previous Chairman because of what he has done throughout this long Committee. If anyone doubts that, they should have been here to see how he has gone out of his way to protect minorities.

We are not trying to overturn the Government or the treaty. [Interruption.] I am. Make no mistake about it. I shall do everything in my power to stop the treaty being ratified because it is an affront to destroy people's democracy and to take rights from them without giving the people an opportunity to have their say. However, that is the third great argument, and I cannot get into that. The crucial thing is to appreciate that we are considering something simple and basic. The only issue is whether the Chairman, with the help of his advisers and in the light of a new situation which arose only 15 minutes before he rose to speak, should have the opportunity to reflect on whether we should vote on amendment No. 27. That is all we are asking for.

The Liberal Democrats have a great tradition of fighting for people's rights. History shows how the Liberal Democrats represented free trade and how, despite all the difficulties facing them, they have gone out of their way to do what they think right in fighting for people's rights and for democracy. I hope that on this one occasion they will say that it is not a question of being for or against Maastricht, or for or against the Government, but a question of what is right and proper for a democratic House of Commons.

It would be an affront to our constituents if we were to in any way permit taxation to be applied without a vote of the Members of the House of Commons. In view of the Government's astonishing decision to support new clause 75 instead of opposing it, it would be an affront not to reflect on that further. Therefore, I hope that, in the unique power and opportunity that they now have, the Liberal Democrats will vote to think over the matter during the weekend. Such a decision would not bring down the economy or the nation; it just means thinking about something for a few days.

Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber)


Mr. Skinner

The right hon. Gentleman is going to vote to beat the rail strike.

Sir Russell Johnston

It is all a bit messy. I have never really participated in any debate quite like this before. We are debating a motion to report progress. Usually such a motion is about getting on with the business, but this is about not getting on with the business. The effect of agreeing to the motion will, presumably, be a short further delay in the Committee stage—and to beat the rail strike, as the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) rightly pointed out, but that is incidental.

As the House knows, the Liberal Democrats believe in getting the Bill through as expeditiously as possible. Usually, therefore, we would oppose a motion of this sort if we felt that it was being introduced to prevent that. We do not agree with those who have sought, by all means possible, to delay the Bill, and we also regret that the Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen, being declared supporters of Maastricht, have at no stage sought a reasonable, even a behind-the-Chair, agreement with the Government about rational progress in the timetable of the Bill. That would have been the right thing to do.

The motion has been moved because of amendment No. 27, the idea being, as expressed by the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), to allow time for reconsideration. That is odd in a way, too, because we are not supposed to debate your ruling, Mr. Morris, at all. Yet, in a way, we are, or at least we are running close to it. That is also odd.

According to the Attorney-General, amendment No. 27 would have no legal effect whatever and, therefore, it would not matter if it were agreed to. The right hon. Member for Copeland said that that was open to question. The higher metaphysics of the law will always produce something that is open to question. I am quite prepared to accept that what the Attorney-General says is true. I do not know. I have no means of arguing in any sensible way against it. However, it would nevertheless be a symbolic vote. There is no doubt about that—I think. But I am not even sure about that in a way. [Laughter.] Hon. Members laugh, but consider this——

Mr. Skinner

What does the right hon. Gentleman tell the electorate?

Sir Russell Johnston

Will the hon. Gentleman be quiet for a minute?

The Euro-sceptics on the Government Benches would vote for amendment No. 27 because they do not believe in it. Practically all of them being to the right of the Conservative party, they are against the social chapter. Therefore, many Conservatives, and perhaps—with all respect to the right hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor)—a critical number of Conservative Members would vote for the social chapter because they were against Maastricht and for no other reason.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the Conservative party, a number of Members who are in favour of the social chapter would, in these circumstances, vote against it. So hon. Members may laugh and say, "Ha ha, he cannot make up his mind," but I am just trying to point out to the Committee that none of this is simple and easy. To claim that in some way or other this vote produces a clear result and shows what hon. Members think is not true. Therefore, it is difficult.

Sir Ivan Lawrence

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Russell Johnston

Yes, but, alas, I am not right hon. yet.

Sir Ivan Lawrence

I see that the hon. Gentleman is blushing. It is quite clear what the attitude of the Committee is to the mistake I made, so I wish the hon. Gentleman good fortune.

Is the hon. Gentleman, as the spokesman for the Liberal party, prepared to accept the expenditure of money by other countries without the House having the right to vote on that expenditure? If so, how does he equate that decision with the traditional view of the Liberal party about spending and the need for parliamentary approval?

Sir Russell Johnston

I do not deny that the issue is important, but it is not what we are talking about in this argument. We are talking about a large number of hon. Members who wish to express a view about whether Britain should accept the social chapter. I was simply pointing out that the trouble is that, because of the nature of the break-up of support in the Committee—unless we have a free vote—it will be very difficult to secure a result that genuinely reflects views. That is a big problem.

As for the basic issue and the business statement about new clause 75, I have not had a proper opportunity to think it over. It was described by some as the "Semtex amendment" that would explode everything; it was said to be a very pertinent amendment. It was the replacement of amendment No. 27—there is no doubt about that; that is how it was conceived—and now, suddenly, we can accept it; it does not matter; it is all right; no problem. I find that very difficult to rationalise.

For once in my life I am prepared to agree with the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor)—even at great risk to my privy councillorship—that a pause for consideration is sensible in the circumstances.

You, Mr. Morris, have chaired the Committee in a magnificent and fair way. Nothing that I say in any way reflects on you.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

I trust that the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn arid Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) will soon become a right hon. Member and that—having announced his aspirations in a delightful way—he has not sabotaged them with his final sentences.

As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Sir I. Lawrence) rose to intervene, I heard some of my hon. Friends say, from a sedentary position, "Be kind to him, Ivan." They were willing him to vote on their side. He has clearly satisfied their demands and they will therefore support any recommendation that may be made in that regard. I was glad that the hon. Gentleman ended with a tribute to you, Mr. Morris, because I believe that anyone who is fair-minded and has watched the proceedings of the Committee can only come to the conclusion that you have performed an exceptionally difficult job extremely well.

There can have been few occasions during the post-war history of Parliament when minorities have had a better opportunity to voice their legitimate opinions. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East acknowledges that.

What troubles me is that in another guise—until the hon. Gentleman defused the situation with his speech—we came close to embarking upon a criticism of a ruling of the Chair. That is a very dangerous precedent to establish. The right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) talked about dangerous precedents; if there is a dangerous precedent at issue this afternoon, it is that. The cornerstone of the House and the whole constitution of this country is the impartiality of the Chair. I believe, Mr. Morris, that you have upheld that extremely well since you acceded to the post of Chairman of Ways and Means. I hope that you will long continue to hold that office.

One expert in procedure, who contributed a particularly perceptive point of order this afternoon, is the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing). We do not always agree on political issues, but I yield to none in my admiration for him as an expert on procedure in the House. He made the important point—which has been taken up by others—that there will be a Report stage. On Report, certain things will obviously be debated; it is up to Madam Speaker precisely what they will be.

5.45 pm

When the House first meets in any new Parliament, the first thing that it does is to elect a Speaker—someone elected by the House in whom the House, by that election, reposes, its trust and confidence. It seems to me, Mr. Morris, that there should be no challenging of your ruling, which you have made with expert advice. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), I speak as a member of the panel of Chairmen. It is not easy to come to decisions on amendments, and there may well be an amendment about which there are passionate views, but which is just out of order; or it may not be possible to select it or call it for voting. You have made your decision honourably and rightly, Mr. Morris, but there will be another opportunity to debate it. It would be far better if we proceeded with our discussions today.

Mr. Spearing

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he said about me, although it is not necessarily true. But he has just gone a shade further than he really needs to. I think that he is right to say that "we hope" that there will be that opportunity, but I hope he will agree that there is no guarantee that there will be.

Mr. Cormack

I am sorry if I was not entirely clear. I said that we know that there will be a Report stage. What I was seeking to say is that, because we know that there will be that Report stage, it would be far more sensible not to attack, directly or indirectly, the ruling of the Chair and to accept that he has—whatever we may think of his ruling—agonised over it. It would now be appropriate for those who feel strongly about the issue to make representations not to the Chairman, but to Madam Speaker. She will have ample time between now and the Report stage to reflect on all the issues and, having taken advice and, in her wisdom, to decide whether she feels this issue should be put to the vote. I accept that my hon. Friends feel very strongly about the issue, but the Committee is not being denied a final opportunity this afternoon.

Mr. Richard Shepherd

The worry for many of us on both sides of the Committee is that the ruling that has been made sets an important constitutional precedent and therefore can be cited again. I asked earlier about the Finance Bill. Here we have a precedent relating to the expenditure of money, in which the Chairman may decide—as a matter of power taken unto himself, on the authority of the House—that questions which are of importance to our perception on behalf of our constituents or this country may not be put to a vote. That is what we are challenging, and surely we are right to challenge it.

Mr. Cormack

I do not believe that my hon. Friend is correct in his deductions and conclusions. I do not believe that any Chairman of the Finance Bill Committee—I have done the job myself on a couple of occasions—would act in the way that my hon. Friend suggests or supposes.[Interruption.]

We are all entitled to our opinions. I do not believe that the Chairman of Ways and Means, in taking his decision today, has in any way created a dangerous constitutional precedent. What I am saying—and I appeal to all members of the Committee—is that we damage our Chair at our peril and to the danger of our Parliament.

Mr. Salmond

Does not the hon. Gentleman consider that the real damage to the Chair came from the announcement during business questions which put the Chair in the almost impossible position of having only 15 minutes to consider this vital matter? Does he accept that the real damage to the Chair came from his own Front Bench?

Mr. Cormack

The point that I make once again—and it is the most important point of all—is that this is not the final opportunity. There is to be a Report stage. It is entirely up to those hon. Members who feel strongly on the issue to make their detailed representations to Madam Speaker, who will have not 15 minutes but probably far more than 15 days to come to a decision. I believe that it would be in the interests of the Committee and of those who still look to the House of Commons for some sort of democratic guidance to get on with the business that we are supposed to be discussing.

Mr. Spearing

You have decided, Mr. Morris, that we should debate the motion to report progress. I view that as a procedural safety valve. It allows pause for reflection, at least for a short while. We shall then decide whether to have a longer period for reflection. I support that, for a number of reasons which are self-evident.

May I take up the point made by the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) about another opportunity for further representations, an opportunity which may or may not arise? On this issue, I disagree straight away, perhaps unusually, with my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), who said that the whole thing was a stitch-up. I happen to believe that, as far as we can provide for it, the procedures of the House are there to prevent stitch-ups. Occasionally there are attempts to have stitch-ups, but in my experience when someone in some way tries to stitch up something, we usually run into procedural trouble.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

Like today.

Mr. Spearing

Yes, indeed. I said that someone may try to stitch up something. When, therefore, we get into procedural trouble, the yellow lights flash, not just for those who may have precipitated the situation but for Parliament itself.

People complain that Parliament is not dealing properly with the Bill. That, I suggest, may be because of the nature of the Bill and the nature of the material—just as the body tries to reject something that is indigestible and that may come up in the other direction.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

The hon. Gentleman is renowned in the House of Commons for his understanding of its procedures. Can he quote to me any precedent when a leading Opposition motion, in the names of official Opposition spokesmen, pressing for an amendment has been refused on any major piece of legislation going through the House of Commons?

Mr. Spearing

I do not want to go too far down that road. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I know of no precedent in that respect. I bear in mind the terrible difficulties faced by any occupant of the Chair, whoever it may be. Therefore, I can divine certain reasons why the decision has been made, but it does not mean that, if I were the occupant of that Chair, I would come to the same conclusion. I intend to devote the rest of my remarks to saying why it should be possible for a decision on amendment No. 27 to be taken. I hope, Mr. Morris, that you will take that remark in the spirit in which it is proffered.

To revert to the question of yellow flashing lights, this is not the first problem that we have encountered. There has been a succession of constitutional and procedural hiccups along the way. To take the treaty that we are discussing, it was published four weeks after the general election, which was supposed to give the House of Commons a mandate to pass it. That, surely, was a major constitutional hiccup that we should not forget.

Furthermore, this is a treaty to amend another treaty, which would produce a third treaty. That is not before us, either as a treaty or in the Bill. The Minister of State is not here. When we asked him on several occasions whether he would print that treaty—for it will be a treaty of union, if it goes through—he said no. The Government are not prepared to produce a document that would certainly result from the Bill being passed and the treaty ratified.

There is also the fact that one member of the European Community has said no to the treaty. Unanimity, however, is required. Many people thought that that was it—that we would not proceed with the Bill because, under article 236, there was no unanimity. But some people said, "Oh, no, there is going to be some arrangement." So the Prime Minister said, "All right, we'll pause now," which was quite fair, "but we'll have a vote as to whether to proceed at all."

At Edinburgh a decision was taken by the Council of Ministers that has no vires whatsoever. The Minister of State agreed only yesterday that it makes no difference at all to Denmark's obligations. Denmark's referendum, therefore, is a repeat of something to which the Danish people said no. That is another curious constitutional hiccup along the way.

Then we had the debate which the Prime Minister offered. It was a most dramatic and extraordinary parliamentary occasion and was won by a few votes. All sorts of accusations were made. If that vote had not gone the Prime Minister's way, we should not have embarked upon the proceedings on this Bill, would we—or re-embarked upon them? That was another curious incident in the night, as Conan Doyle would have said.

The Bill is very brief. It details with over 200 articles of a treaty and 16 protocols, but we decided to discuss the contents of that treaty in a tiny Bill. Of course, there are procedural difficulties which you, Mr. Morris, and the rest of us have had to grapple with. The media say, "Can't Parliament get its act together?", even though Parliament is being asked to digest something that is highly indigestible.

That brings us to the difficulties of today. We all knew, including you, Mr. Morris, that at about 4 o'clock today we should reach crunch time. So many issues had to be decided all at once. We had to know your decisions on amendments Nos. 27 and 75; we had to know what debates we were to have; we had to know which amendments had or had not been selected; we had to know what the result of the vote immediately after the debate would be. Into that maelstrom of decision taking and 10 minutes before that announcement was due to be made, the Government made an announcement of their own, which could change the complexion of the debate altogether.

We are therefore in the position—and you, Mr. Morris, are in the most unenviable one—of having all these things coming together procedurally at one moment. Of course, there are difficulties. I put it to you that the reason for the difficulties is that most constitutional and parliamentary proprieties have been ignored. Nothing so far may have happened that is outside the rules of procedure, but those rules have been stretched to breaking point.

We have to ask who is responsible for stretching constitutional practice and the rules of the House of Commons to breaking point and, moreover, in what cause they have done it. Having asked a rhetorical question, I shall give a factual answer. The cause for which they have done it is to pass power away from the House of Commons. Is that an honourable cause? Is it honourable to stretch the rules of procedure? No.

Therefore, we come to the unenviable decision that you, Mr. Morris, have to make on amendment No. 27. I can see that there are some reasons for it, but I would also suggest to you that there are other reasons which should be taken into account. I put it no higher than that. People look to the House of Commons to provide parliamentary practice as it should be. I would not put it as high as that. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover said that this is the mother of Parliaments. I believe, as Lord St. John Stevas would say, that that is wrong. It is the United Kingdom which is the mother of Parliaments. Nevertheless, the procedures of this place are the envy of some other Parliaments that I could name.

What do we do? The procedure is that we have a motion, question, debate and decision. Everything is decided in that way. That is the sequence of events and the rules are fairly clear. If a motion or an amendment is selected, there is a motion to move it. The Chair then proposes the question that the motion or amendment be made. We then have a debate, followed by a procedure for closing the debate and a decision. I remind the House that, at that point, an hon. Member is entitled to request to withdraw the motion. Only one out of 600 or so hon. Members has to say no for the decision to be made because the question has been put and the debate has been conducted.

People outside and in the world as a whole will see that an important question has been put, whatever its purport and whether it means nothing or everything. They will see that it has been debated, but then, for some curious reason, the House is denied the opportunity of coming to a decision. They will realise that something is wrong. It will be not only the yellow lights that are flashing, but red ones, and doubly red ones at that.

Just as justice has not only to be done but be seen to be done, so our debates must lead to a decision. If they do not, democracy had better look out.

6 pm

Sir Peter Emery

I am concerned about this debate because it seems that, although it is wrapped in cotton wool, there is a criticism of decisions made by the Chair. Following the speech of the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), we are beginning to talk about democracy and also about destruction, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor). It is strange that, although more than 240 hon. Members voted for the Bill on Second Reading, some now believe that democracy is being frustrated because a small minority who oppose the Bill find that they cannot get exactly what they want.

Several hon. Members


Sir Peter Emery

I have no intention of giving way.

Another issue of great importance is the fact that your decisions, Mr. Morris, whenever they are made, should be accepted without question by any hon. Member. If there is any doubt about that——

Mr. Marlow

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. In view of the line that my right hon. Friend is taking, will you advise the Committee whether it is in order for hon. Members to change their minds about the Bill? Second Reading took place nearly a year ago and many events have occurred since then. My right hon. Friend is suggesting that it is not in order for hon. Members to change their minds.

The Chairman

That is not a point of order for the Chair. I hope that we can now listen to the right hon. Gentleman, who is dealing with important matters.

Sir Peter Emery

Under the Standing Orders as set out in "Erskine May", it is absolutely clear that, in a debate on a motion to report progress, the Chair does not give reasons for its decisions on selecting amendments——

Mr. Cash

On a point of order, Mr. Morris.

The Chairman

Is it a new point of order and a matter for the Chair?

Mr. Cash

It is indeed. My right hon. Friend is referring to "Erskine May", a pretty weighty matter in itself. He is telling us that, under Standing Orders, the Chair does not give reasons for the selection or otherwise of amendments. If he had read further and glanced at page 405, he would have seen that it is modern practice, not a question of Standing Orders, whether a reason should or should not be given for selecting amendments. He should perhaps cast his eye down and read a little more carefully.

The Chairman

That has nothing to do with the Chair. We should let the right hon. Gentleman make his speech as he wishes to make it.

Sir Peter Emery

If my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) wants the reference, it is page 405, the third paragraph and the last sentence. That is the end of the sentence.

The Committee knows that there is something inherently wrong with our challenging the Chair on its decision whether or not to select amendments. When that happens, we get ourselves into exactly the situation that we are now in. We are having a debate——

Mr. Wilkinson

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. I am sorry to interrupt my right hon. Friend in full flow, but surely the motion we are debating is whether we should report progress. No one is suggesting any criticism of you, Mr. Morris, and my right hon. Friend is wrong to infer that we are.

Sir Peter Emery

Obviously, I have been listening to a different debate from my hon. Friend. If the debate is not about whether an amendment should or should not be selected and voted on, I do not know what the devil it is about. For my hon. Friend to suggest that that is not the point of the motion to report progress shows that he is as much out of touch on this aspect as he is on the whole of Maastricht.

It is absolutely clear to me that the moment the Chair bends over backwards to be generous and give reasons for its decisions, it opens itself to the sort of problems that have arisen today. It is interesting to note that when you decided, Mr. Morris, that there should be a vote on new clause 75 in place of amendment No. 27, there was no major criticism of you. If we had proceeded to a vote on new clause 75 and the Labour party and its allies had won, there would have been much rejoicing and a belief that the Government had been defeated. Now that the Government are willing to accept the new clause, there is no rejoicing. This motion is merely another attempt to snare the Government.

Those who talk about money should reconsider the original debates on the Single European Act. The way in which control over money matters was handed over then is much greater than anything suggested in the Bill. People should realise that there is a lot of pseudo-rhetoric which has nothing to do—[Interruption.]

Several hon. Members


The Chairman

Order. The right hon. Gentleman has the right to be heard. Hon. Members may not agree with him, but they should listen. He is a senior Member of the House.

Mr. Marlow

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. I have been listening with great interest to my right hon. Friend. I dare say that he is coming to a conclusion. May I simplify matters by suggesting that what he wants to say is that the House should not vote on anything?

Sir Peter Emery

No one has made that suggestion. That is exactly the calibre of debate that we have when we get ourselves into this situation.

I repeat for the last time that in future the Chair might be best advised not to bend over backwards to help some hon. Members who have been pressing for reasons but to reach a decision without giving reasons, as "Erskine May" suggests. We should not then have a debate, and there would not be the sort of problem that we have at the moment.

Mr. Skinner

I do not know whether I shall be smearing anybody, but at the outset I say that the decision made today by the Chair was appalling. I do not accept for one moment anything other than what my instincts tell me. When I spoke before Easter, when a short statement was made about new clause 75, I stood where I am standing now and said to you, Mr. Morris, that I smelt a rat. I believe that events have proved that I was right.

At the very beginning we were told that our only real opportunity to defeat the Government was the social chapter. It is true that we defeated them on the Committee of the Regions, but nobody really expected that. However, when it comes to main Maastricht issues, everybody—everybody in the media and even millions of people outside who do not follow such events carefully—knew, because of all the comments that had been made, that the social chapter was the one issue on which the Government stood to lose. At the beginning things were difficult because some of the Tories who voted against Maastricht were a bit unsure of their ground on the social chapter—I fully understand that. But after a while they came to the conclusion that that was the only way that they could undermine the treaty. The whole Labour party was going to vote in the same way; the Liberals, for about the only time, were going to vote that way too, and so were all the other minority parties.

What the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) says about people outside not understanding the issue is fanciful. They understand only too well that the Government were in peril on amendment No. 27. When new clause 75 was tabled, some of us suspected that there was some murky work afoot. I have never taken the view—you in the Chair can accept this or not, Mr. Morris—that the Chair of the House of Commons is immune from the Government and the establishment. You can call that criticism, or call it what you like, but I have never varied from that point of view. Events show me that, generally speaking, the Government are expected to get their measures through. That is what it is all for. The establishment is there to win and the Opposition are there to try to defeat it on occasions. I went through the whole period 1974 to 1979, and I know what happens when the Chair is faced with a dilemma. I saw it all then, so I do not want any lectures about the idea that somehow or other Mr. Morris should be immune from criticism.

We are debating an issue that is in a time warp. Maastricht is about yesterday; it is not about tomorrow. The treaty is all about an issue that is past its sell-by date, and some Tory Members know that. They may understand it for reasons different from those that influence us, but they are strong enough to stand up against the treaty. Thousands of other people in the Tory party must support what they have done over the past few weeks.

What has happened with all the jiggery-pokery? When the Government first realised that they were in a mess they brought out the Attorney-General. You can believe him if you like, but he is a member of the Cabinet and his job was to lay a trail to try to separate the Tory rebels, the Liberal Democrats and the Labour party. That is what the game has been all about from the beginning, because there was a majority for amendment No. 27. How could the Government get off the hook? Then, suddenly, new clause 75 appeared. I do not know who invented that, which heads were discussing the issue—[HON. MEMBERS: "The Opposition."] I know whose names are on the amendment paper, but I wondered whether there had been other discussions.

Let us assume for a moment that the new clause was tabled innocently. The Government realised straight away what a great opportunity it presented. What a chance to try to shift the debate on to another issue. I believe that the stage was then set for a betrayal. That is why I said what I did at that time.

Today at 1.30 on the BBC Ceefax, there it was. Ceefax said that there would be a ruling in the House of Commons today and that the Chairman of Ways and Means would not allow a vote on amendment No. 27. I came to the House and mentioned that to one or two people and they asked me whether I had got it right. I said that I had read the item several times. So it was no surprise to me when a further trail was woven in the Committee today. However, in the 23 years that I have been in the House, including my early days when I used to listen to the arguments in Committees, I have never known of one occasion when the Chair has not allowed a vote on an amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition—although there have been many occasions when the tin-pot Liberals have moved an amendment and the Chair has said that, on balance, a vote would not be allowed.

6.15 pm

I find it odd that people in the other countries can have a referendum but we cannot even have a vote in the House of Commons. The Danes can have a referendum; they have even had to have a second one, and I hope that people will be singing, "Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen" again in a few weeks' time. The Danes might save us all the bother. The French and the Irish can have referendums but the Prime Minister, banging the Dispatch Box, told us, "We do not do things like that here; we discuss things line by line and clause by clause, and we vote on the issues. That is our wonderful parliamentary democracy. It is not for us to have referendums or to go to the people; we have a super democracy that enables us to decide." That was until the Government realised that they would lose. Then they conveniently found ways and means to dodge the column. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ways and Means."] I choose my words carefully.

This is a sad day. You can call it democracy if you like, but I do not believe that Maastricht is about democracy; it is about selling out to Brussels, Germany and all the rest. It sickens me to think that, after the halcyon days of the Common Market are over, some people here still believe in it; they are stuck in that little cocoon in which the Rome treaty and the Maastricht treaty will bring in all the goodies for Britain. Let us understand that treaties do not last for ever. Why should this treaty last much longer than it already has?

What has happened today is a disgrace. Millions of people out there will say, "Why should we bother sending MPs to Parliament? Why get involved?" When Members get to Parliament some of them betray their promises; I understand that. They may not do it for Machiavellian reasons, but none the less they do it. But we have seen an example of something else today, and it has not been about run of the mill Members of Parliament or Governments; it has been a conspiracy in which the decision has been made that, having been prevented by the Government from having a referendum, the British people are to be stopped from even having a vote, through their representatives, on the crucial issue. Everybody knows—the dogs were barking it in Bolsover—that the Government were in trouble on amendment No. 27. Every inch of print on Maastricht has been mainly about this issue, as have all the comments that have been made. Then we have the appalling experience of finding out that there will not be a vote.

They call this place the mother of Parliaments. They tell the eastern countries to copy us, that they have never understood democracy. They say, let us take it to Czechoslovakia, Romania and Bulgaria; let us tell them how to do things, because we are super-democratic. Yet, when we can have as many votes as we like on all the little issues, when 60 people go into the Lobby, on the crucial issue, when it seemed that the Government were in peril, the official Opposition and the other Opposition parties, and those on the Conservative Benches who were going to join us, have been deprived of the crucial vote. It stinks to high heaven.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

There have been many tributes to the Chair during this Committee, and I would like to pay tribute to the Chairman for the imaginative way in which the proceedings have been conducted this afternoon.

We had to imagine that the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) was standing when the Division was called; we had to imagine that he was wearing a hat when he was seated and raised a point of order, because he got that wrong; and we have to imagine that he is listening to the debate on reporting progress—a debate that was accepted on his motion.

Just to remind the Committee of what is happening, we are debating a three-clause Bill that fills one side of a sheet of paper. It is a debate which has been going on, in effect, for nearly a year, following a Second Reading in which the House, with a majority of well over 200, gave its blessing to the principle of the Bill. It is my belief that when we come to the Third Reading, we will have a majority of between 250 and 300.

I believe that the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) was right in saying that the Government's tactics were designed to divide hon. Members on the Conservative Benches who are flatly against the Bill, because they are flatly against the European Community; from the Labour party——

Mr. Wilkinson

No: it is about a referendum.

Mr. Bottomley

If my hon. Friend will listen to me with his ears, rather than use his mouth, for a moment, I will make my point.

The Government are trying—I think rightly—to divide those who are against the European Community from the Labour party, whose official policy is to support the Bill. When the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) ended his speech with a great shout about the powers that he believed were to be transferred to the European Community, he was shouting against the official policy of the Labour party.

One of the difficulties for people trying to follow these debates is that they get the impression that the Labour party has lost its principles over Europe. They expect the Labour party to be opposed to Europe. The Labour party has changed its policy, but many of its supporters and many of its Back Benchers reject that change of policy. That is why the present leader of the Labour party, who in the late 1970s voted against his party when it was opposed to the European Community, is now supporting the European Community against some of the votes in the Committee that would make it possible for us to endorse the European Communities (Amendment) Bill.

I believe that it comes down to the disappointment of those who expected to get approval of new clause 75, or at least to have a jolly good row and argument about it, and would have lived with the fact that they could not get a vote on amendment No. 27. Now that they have heard that the Government are minded to accept new clause 75, they are in a similar position to Lord Denning, I think it was, who, when he heard that the House of Lords had upheld his view on an appeal, shook his head sadly and said that he still thought that he was right.

My view is that those who are desperately keen to use the social chapter element to try to wreck the progress of this Bill through the House are in great fear that, by getting a vote on the social chapter after the Bill has had its Third Reading, they will have to decide whether to vote against the social chapter, which they are against, or to vote for it in the hope that it will do more damage.

In the mid-1980s I was asked by a Belgian Minister why so many people in Britain opposed the fifth company directive and Vredeling—in effect, the predecesors of the social chapter. I said that half the people who opposed them had never read them, and the other half had read them. He said that nobody had ever explained it to him that clearly before.

We have to accept that the social chapter does not apply to people in most white collar occupations; the limits on hours and the like do not apply to European Commissioners. The social chapter applies only to working people, who are the ones who get the overtime from the extra hours.

The fact that the Labour party is arguing for that and being joined by some of my hon. Friends demonstrates clearly that the Committee ought not to pass this motion, but that we ought to make progress by returning to the new clauses and amendments, and to the Bill itself. I hope that within a few weeks we shall be able to say to the country, as I say to my association, that the Bill should be passed and we should go on trying to build a better future for this country in partnership within Europe.

Mr. George Stevenson (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

I have one basic proposition to offer in support of the motion that the Committee report progress. As a relatively new Member—although I do not know how long one can continue to describe oneself as new—I found the contribution of the hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley) very flippant. I believe that all hon. Members, irrespective of their points of view, must recognise that there are serious and fundamental issues at stake.

If new clause 75 was ever a time bomb—with all due respect to my hon. Friends, I doubt that—it has become a damp squib. That is because we have had a shameful example of manoeuvring by the Government this afternoon and we should not be duped by it.

Many of us were in the Committee, Mr. Morris, when you took your original decision and I do not believe that any rules were breached. I believe that your decision was reached in good faith and that you continue to operate in that way. When the decision was referred to by right hon. and hon. Members at that time, you beseeched us to read new clause 75 before making up our minds.

I left the Committee worried about this, but nevertheless prepared to accept that you had taken the view that this fundamental issue of the social chapter needed to be debated and voted on by the Committee and by the House. You had decided that new clause 75 made it possible to meet this objective and was therefore the new clause that should be voted on. But there was never any doubt in my mind—although I am prepared to accept your advice, Mr. Morris, and that of hon. Members with more experience than I have—that the Committee wanted to vote on the clause concerned with the social chapter.

We are now to be denied that right and I am not prepared to consider satisfactory the point made by the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack), who said that there would perhaps be an opportunity at Report stage for this vital issue to be resurrected. There is no guarantee of that, as right hon. and hon. Members have said. Therefore, this fundamental issue will remain subject to a decision that may or may not allow the will and wishes of the House—or allow the will and wishes of your good self, Mr. Morris, as you took the original decision—to be expressed through a vote.

6.30 pm
Mr. Cash

As the hon. Gentleman has recalled the suggestion made by the Chairman of Ways and Means that he should read new clause 75 with more care, did he also note that the Chairman said of the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham): I have given a substantive answer and made an offer to the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham). I suggest that the hon. Gentleman reads new clause 75 with a little more care."—[Official Report, 30 March 1993; Vol. 222, c. 164.] In other words, there was a supposed trade-off being offered between amendments Nos. 27 and 75. The Chairman went on, in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow), to say: "I listen to submissions." In other words, we can now make indirect submissions through the debate, and that will, I hope, be an oppportunity for the Chairman to listen to the respectful remarks currently being made.

Mr. Stevenson

I am prepared to accept the hon. Gentleman's reading of the record because that is a matter of fact, but I cannot accept or otherwise the interpretation he puts on it, as I am sure he will understand.

In all the deliberations of the Committee on this fundamental issue, there has never been any doubt that, one way or another, it must be voted on. I wanted a vote on amendment No. 27 because it had been debated at length. In my naivety, perhaps, I thought that that would be the case as, I have no doubt, did the Government at that time. I agreed entirely with the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) about new clause 75, which I have read on many occasions. I certainly do not agree with the interpretation of many right hon. Members and hon. Members that it is an alternative to amendment No. 27. Nevertheless, one is prepared to accept that there are different points of view. I repeat that in all this discussion there has never been any doubt that a vote should be taken.

The machinations of certain hon. Members, who want to sweep the issue under the carpet and to pretend that nothing has happened so we should continue with the debates, are not good enough. If such machinations had happened in local authorities, those same hon. Members would be jumping to their feet and condemning those local authorities as undemocratic. That is what we are in danger of becoming here.

I hope that the motion will be supported. If there was ever a time that the Committee needed to stand back and to reflect on what was happening and to what we were being asked to agree, this is it. I beseech the Committee to support the motion. Let us reflect on the situation, which has changed as a result of what I consider to be the quick and clever manoeuvre by the Government of seeking to support new clause 75.

Mr. Richard Shepherd

We are debating a motion to report progress. For me, progress has been too rapid. Earlier, Mr. Morris, you drew attention to the number of days during which the Bill has been debated in Committee. I reflect that we had, for example, fewer than six hours on citizenship. That is the most profound concept, which touches on who we are and what we are about—the very nature of our society. Yet in 1981, when you and I were both Members of Parliament, Mr. Morris, we spent 51 days on the British Nationality Bill, with a guillotine, and with three days on Report. How can anyone think that 22 or 23 days is sufficient to discuss the nature of the British constitution, which is fundamental to our view of democracy, and how we control the laws, the Government and the instruments of power in our society?

The Government send junior Ministers to argue what they claim is their central policy—the ratification of Maastricht. We should remember that the intent of the ratification of Maastricht is to remove beyond the call of the British people and the British voter powers to affect the central finances of their state. That will determine their levels of employment, their interest rates, output and deflation which are central to the control of the civil society of the United Kingdom.

Intolerant Members say, "How outrageous it is that we have spent as many as five hours discussing this point." I am glad that the hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) is here. Now that I have him in my sights, I know that he is attending part of the debate—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] That is a cheer. All too often the impatient outside are those who are not prepared to attend the debate inside. They can therefore announce that these are trivial matters. In fact, the Bill contains acceptance of the concept that its measures should be irrevocable and irreversible. There is no mechanism in the Bill for winding back its provisions, despite the disaster of the exchange rate mechanism.

An important point worries me about your ruling, Mr. Morris. I share the view of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). The House of Commons and its Committees must be able to discuss everything, including the conduct of the Chair. That point is at the heart of how we satisfy the needs of our constituents. I do not make the point lightly. When I watch the progress of business—I know that I must have misunderstood, Mr. Morris—I have seen you share the attention of the Deputy Chief Whip, I have seen you looking at the clock at quarter to the hour and I have seen a nod go between you. I foolishly conceived that as an agreement that there would be an acceptance of a closure motion. I know that that must be wrong, so I make the point with diffidence. However, the watching of each day and the timing of each debate has caused us to gallop through some of the most profound concepts.

We had a Home Secretary who was not quite sure whether the Queen became a citizen. He saw no reason why not. The matter is taken with that amount of levity. We are talking profoundly about our institutions; that is all that the debate has been about. That is why, when we argue our contentions, we think that it is appropriate and proper that the Bill should have been proceeded with at a more gentle pace. The constitution of the United States was not formed in 22 days. The Government, no less, cannot send more than two Cabinet Ministers—their Front-Bench team—to argue propositions that affect the nature of our constitution. I am afraid that that approach has characterised the debate.

The principle, which I raised with the right hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), to whom I am extremely grateful for introducing this debate, that the Chair may now not accept amendments that would allow us to vote on finance during the passage of the Finance Bill is important. What is left to us of our control over the economy will require us from time to time to vote on it. Yet no Minister makes much of that. Ministers say that these are not considerable matters.

Our argument is that this is not finally a matter for the House of Commons, because we are only the surrogates for the people out there. I, like all hon. Members, stand here because people voted for me. We are trying now to take away the effectiveness of that vote. That decision should be taken solemnly, yet we cannot table an amendment requiring a referendum because, we are told, there is no money resolution. That is curious, because the Bill is an amendment to an earlier Act that had a money resolution.

We asked the Government how, if amendment No. 27 were passed, they could pay money to the other 11 parties, outside the treaty itself. How could that be? How is it that two answers are sometimes cited? One is that the original money resolution of 1972 gives authority for every subsequent payment and therefore will be paid out of the Consolidated Fund. Yet when I or any hon. Member says that there should be a referendum, we then have to go round the most fanciful track, play cat and mouse with the Chair, go upstairs to Mr. McKay to seek advice and we are then told that it can only be done in a courted and difficult manner. Why can we not be direct on such an important matter?

If the ruling stays or sticks, the country and the House, until such time as the powers are transferred, can have no certainty that it can earnestly, properly and appropriately discuss the business of the British people. The Government are prepared to cast away the powers by which they may save them.

When we come to the Budget, which concerns after all the bill for the exchange rate mechanism, and the finance for all the extra costs on electricity and gas because of coal that have to be paid for by pensioners, all those costs result from the Bill arid the ERM.

We know full well that the ERM, on the day's negotiations and failures of businesses, costs between £10 billion and £20 billion. We are hoping to raise on that wretched energy measure, which is a temporary, emergency expedient on 17.5 per cent. of fuel bills, only about £6 billion or £7 billion over three years. It is nonsense, yet, to save the concept of Maastricht, we are prepared to expend the wealth and well-being of ordinary people in Britain.

We are raising taxes, we are setting aside election pledges that we solemnly gave because of the effects of the ERM, yet because we have progressed the Bill in the way that we have, how do we discuss the ERM? I did not get to speak on it—of course not. In debate after debate, many hon. Members have failed to get the opportunity to speak, and that is in Committee. Ministers tell us that they do not intend to give way to people who want to wreck the Bill.

Let us look at the sequence of the Bill. We are told that we have had an important vote on it. During the general election the treaty was not available in English. It was not published until one week before Second Reading. All the new Members, who now form a large part of the House, had one week in which to weigh the contentions. The Government claim, by some amazing transference, that a mandate was secured on something that the public could not have read, even if they had wished to read it.

Now that we come to take the matter seriously—I have tried to be a serious member of the Committee and have sat through the long hours, and tried to move or help my hon. Friends move amendments to be debated—we have not been called. We are told by the Chair that because we have not debated the issue on which we have not been called, we are not allowed to vote on it although it was in a group of amendments and we made references to it or tried to vote on it under an umbrella.

I return to citizenship, on which we spent less than six hours, and again I use the comparison of the British Nationality Act 1981. How much more trivial that was because of one important difference—we could change it. If we got it wrong, the House had the power to call it back, but under this Maastricht nonsense, what is the mechanism by which we may call it back?

If there is anger in my speech, it is at the facetiousness with which the Committee is treated, when I see new Members such as the hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Luff) getting red in the face and pointing to my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Mr. Cash) and shouting out, "You are finished, Bill Cash." Why? Because an hon. Member wished to raise matters that are meant to be disposed of for ever, not just for this year or next year, not determined by a general election, as all that has been swept aside.

We are shifting our seat of government from the control of the people to an unelected bureaucracy, a Council of Ministers that meets in secret who will rule on transport, education and the whole range of apparatus of the state, including setting up an independent central bank well beyond the call of any one individual nation.

When we grind on about the consequences of the ERM and when the Government bring it back in the middle of the night, as they did two weeks ago, and when they guillotine it like this, I learn one thing from the progress of the debate. I think that the guillotine is God-awful. The Government used to tremble before they introduced it because it is an abatement of the freedom of speech of the House which is the representative of freedom of speech. I have now seen that, with a compliant Chairman of Ways and Means, one can effect the guillotine much more by the closure.

I say all those things advisedly because I have had 22 days to reflect on progress and there is no purpose to my being in the House if I cannot speak clearly, loudly and honourably the beliefs that I hold for my nation. If I cannot do that, and if we are closed down, the process of today whereby a clear precedent is being set means that, if we are ever in opposition and wish to vote on something, the Chairman of Ways and Means, on a matter affecting the finance and taxation of the people, may say no.

6.45 pm
Dr. John Cunningham

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 556, Noes 9

Division No.231] [6.45 pm
Adams, Mrs Irene Bray, Dr Jeremy
Adley, Robert Brazier, Julian
Ainger, Nick Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)
Aitken, Jonathan Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)
Alexander, Richard Browning, Mrs. Angela
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby) Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Budgen, Nicholas
Allen, Graham Burden, Richard
Amess, David Burns, Simon
Ancram, Michael Burt, Alistair
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Butler, Peter
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Butterfill, John
Arbuthnot, James Byers, Stephen
Armstrong, Hilary Caborn, Richard
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Callaghan, Jim
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Ashby, David Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Ashton, Joe Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Aspinwall, Jack Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Canavan, Dennis
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Cann, Jamie
Austin-Walker, John Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Carlisle, John (Luton North)
Baldry, Tony Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Carrington, Matthew
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Cash, William
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Chapman, Sydney
Barnes, Harry Chisholm, Malcolm
Bates, Michael Churchill, Mr
Batiste, Spencer Clapham, Michael
Battle, John Clappison, James
Bayley, Hugh Clark, Dr David (South Shields)
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Beith, Rt Hon A. J. Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif)
Bellingham, Henry Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Clelland, David
Bennett, Andrew F. Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Benton, Joe Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Beresford, Sir Paul Coe, Sebastian
Bermingham, Gerald Coffey, Ann
Berry, Dr. Roger Colvin, Michael
Betts, Clive Congdon, David
Blackburn, Dr John G. Connarty, Michael
Blair, Tony Conway, Derek
Blunkett, David Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Boateng, Paul Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Body, Sir Richard Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)
Booth, Hartley Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Boswell, Tim Cope, Rt Hon Sir John
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham) Corbett, Robin
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Corbyn, Jeremy
Bowden, Andrew Cormack, Patrick
Bowis, John Corston, Ms Jean
Boyce, Jimmy Couchman, James
Boyes, Roland Cousins, Jim
Bradley, Keith Cran, James
Brandreth, Gyles Cummings, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence Gerrard, Neil
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John Gill, Christopher
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) Gillan, Cheryl
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon) Godman, Dr Norman A.
Dafis, Cynog Golding, Mrs Llin
Dalyell, Tam Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Darling, Alistair Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Davidson, Ian Gordon, Mildred
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral) Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Gorst, John
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Gould, Bryan
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Graham, Thomas
Davis, David (Boothferry) Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambs SW)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l) Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Day, Stephen Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Denham, John Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Deva, Nirj Joseph Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Devlin, Tim Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Dewar, Donald Grocott, Bruce
Dickens, Geoffrey Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Dicks, Terry Gunnell, John
Dixon, Don Hague, William
Dobson, Frank Hain, Peter
Donohoe, Brian H. Hall, Mike
Dorrell, Stephen Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie (Epsom)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Dover, Den Hampson, Dr Keith
Dowd, Jim Hannam, Sir John
Duncan, Alan Hanson, David
Duncan-Smith, Iain Hardy, Peter
Dunn, Bob Hargreaves, Andrew
Dunnachie, Jimmy Harman, Ms Harriet
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Harris, David
Durant, Sir Anthony Harvey, Nick
Dykes, Hugh Haselhurst, Alan
Eagle, Ms Angela Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Eastham, Ken Hawkins, Nick
Eggar, Tim Hayes, Jerry
Elletson, Harold Heald, Oliver
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward
Enright, Derek Heathcoat-Amory, David
Etherington, Bill Henderson, Doug
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield) Hendry, Charles
Evans, John (St Helens N) Heppell, John
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Hicks, Robert
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L.
Evennett, David Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Faber, David Hinchliffe, David
Fabricant, Michael Hoey, Kate
Fenner, Dame Peggy Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Home Robertson, John
Fishburn, Dudley Hood, Jimmy
Fisher, Mark Hoon, Geoffrey
Flynn, Paul Horam, John
Forman, Nigel Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Forth, Eric Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Foster, Rt Hon Derek Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Foster, Don (Bath) Hoyle, Doug
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley) Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)
Fraser, John Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Freeman, Roger Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
French, Douglas Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Fry, Peter Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Fyfe, Maria Hunter, Andrew
Galbraith, Sam Ingram, Adam
Gale, Roger Jack, Michael
Gallie, Phil Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Galloway, George Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Gapes, Mike Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Gardiner, Sir George Jamieson, David
Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan Janner, Greville
Garnier, Edward Jessel, Toby
Garrett, John Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
George, Bruce Johnston, Sir Russell
Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side) Merchant, Piers
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Michael, Alun
Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys MÔn) Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)
Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O) Miller, Andrew
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW) Milligan, Stephen
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Mills, Iain
Jowell, Tessa Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)
Keen, Alan Moate, Sir Roger
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Kennedy, Charles (Ross,C&S) Monro, Sir Hector
Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn) Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Key, Robert Moonie, Dr Lewis
Khabra, Piara S. Morgan, Rhodri
King, Rt Hon Tom Morley, Elliot
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil (Islwyn) Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe)
Kirkhope, Timothy Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Kirkwood, Archy Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Moss, Malcolm
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Mowlam, Marjorie
Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n) Mullin, Chris
Knox, David Murphy, Paul
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) Needham, Richard
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Nelson, Anthony
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Neubert, Sir Michael
Legg, Barry Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Leigh, Edward Nicholls, Patrick
Leighton, Ron Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Lennox-Boyd, Mark Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Norris, Steve
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Lidington, David O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)
Lightbown, David O'Brien, William (Normanton)
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter O'Hara, Edward
Litherland, Robert Olner, William
Livingstone, Ken O'Neill, Martin
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Oppenheim, Phillip
Llwyd, Elfyn Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Lord, Michael Ottaway, Richard
Loyden, Eddie Page, Richard
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Paice, James
Lynne, Ms Liz Parry, Robert
McAllion, John Patnick, Irvine
McAvoy, Thomas Patten, Rt Hon John
McCartney, Ian Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Macdonald, Calum Pendry, Tom
McFall, John Pickles, Eric
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Pickthall, Colin
MacKay, Andrew Pike, Peter L.
McKelvey, William Pope, Greg
Mackinlay, Andrew Porter, Barry (Wirral S)
Maclean, David Porter, David (Waveney)
McLeish, Henry Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Maclennan, Robert Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
McLoughlin, Patrick Powell, William (Corby)
McMaster, Gordon Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)
McNamara, Kevin Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
McWilliam, John Prescott, John
Madden, Max Primarolo, Dawn
Madel, David Purchase, Ken
Mahon, Alice Quin, Ms Joyce
Maitland, Lady Olga Radice, Giles
Major, Rt Hon John Randall, Stuart
Malone, Gerald Rathbone, Tim
Mandelson, Peter Raynsford, Nick
Mans, Keith Redwood, John
Marek, Dr John Reid, Dr John
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S) Richards, Rod
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Richardson, Jo
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn) Robathan, Andrew
Martlew, Eric Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Maxton, John Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Meacher, Michael Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Meale, Alan Roche, Mrs. Barbara
Mellor, Rt Hon David Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Rogers, Allan Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Rooker, Jeff Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Rooney, Terry Temple-Morris, Peter
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Thomason, Roy
Ross, William (E Londonderry) Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Rowlands, Ted Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Ruddock, Joan Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Ryder, Rt Hon Richard Thurnham, Peter
Sackville, Tom Tipping, Paddy
Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Salmond, Alex Tracey, Richard
Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas Tredinnick, David
Shaw, David (Dover) Trend, Michael
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey) Trimble, David
Sheerman, Barry Trotter, Neville
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Twinn, Dr Ian
Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian Tyler, Paul
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Vaz, Keith
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Viggers, Peter
Shersby, Michael Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Walden, George
Short, Clare Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold
Simpson, Alan Wallace, James
Sims, Roger Waller, Gary
Skeet, Sir Trevor Walley, Joan
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E) Ward, John
Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury) Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Smith, Rt Hon John (M'kl'ds E) Wareing, Robert N
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent) Waterson, Nigel
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Watson, Mike
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S) Watts, John
Soames, Nicholas Wells, Bowen
Soley, Clive Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Spearing, Nigel Whitney, Ray
Speed, Sir Keith Whittingdale, John
Spellar, John Wicks, Malcolm
Spencer, Sir Derek Widdecombe, Ann
Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset) Wiggin, Sir Jerry
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Wigley, Dafydd
Spink, Dr Robert Wilkinson, John
Spring, Richard Willetts, David
Sproat, Iain Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Squire, Robin (Hornchurch) Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Wilshire, David
Steen, Anthony Wilson, Brian
Steinberg, Gerry Winnick, David
Stephen, Michael Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Stevenson, George Wise, Audrey
Stewart, Allan Wolfson, Mark
Stott, Roger Wood, Timothy
Strang, Dr. Gavin Worthington, Tony
Straw, Jack Wright, Dr Tony
Streeter, Gary Yeo, Tim
Sumberg, David Young, David (Bolton SE)
Sykes, John Young, Sir George (Acton)
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury) Tellers for the Ayes:
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Mr. Peter Kilfoyle and Mr. Eric Illsley.
Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Skinner, Dennis
Cryer, Bob Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Knapman, Roger
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Tellers for the Noes:
Lewis, Terry Mr. Peter Luff and Mr. Andrew Rowe.
Marlow, Tony
Redmond, Martin

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question put accordingly and agreed to.

Committee report Progress; to sit again tomorrow.

Mr. George Robertson (Hamilton)

On a point of order, Mr. Morris. Is it not an extraordinary event in the House of Commons that at the end of a Committee stage, the Government fail to produce tellers, having shouted in the first instance against the motion? Can the country outside reflect on the seriousness of Her Majesty's Government not even having the courage to produce tellers to allow a vote to proceed with their own business? Given that already today they have announced that they will not contest new clause 75 or oppose amendment No. 420, are they not a Government in minority, without authority who now run away from every possibility of being defeated on the Floor of the House?

The Chairman

That is not a matter for the Chair.