HC Deb 20 May 1994 vol 243 cc1033-5 9.35 am
Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will be aware of the feeling among right hon. and hon. Members on this side of the House that we would prefer not to be here this morning but somewhere else. Although we should prefer to be in Edinburgh if this business were not before the House, we are here because there is an opportunity to push on with and to further the rights of disabled people, as there is a Bill before the House this morning that concerns them.

We are most concerned that, in the hallowed area of private Members' time, a large number of amendments have yet again been put down to Bills that were previously thought to be non-controversial. In a week in which we are supposed to have some kind of dignity in the House and an end to hostility just for one week, it looks as though the Government have used a particularly underhand method to block a very important private Member's Bill.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)

That matter is not really for the Chair, so I will not comment on it.

Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Both you and Madam Speaker have been consistently kind and helpful to right hon. and hon. Members who have raised in recent days procedural and other queries about the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill whose resumed Report stage is timed for later today and whose fate is of the deepest concern to 6.5 million disabled people.

Clearly there is time for the first four Bills on the Order Paper to complete their stages in this House today if hon. Members make brief speeches. May I urge you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to give that guidance—if only, as my hon.

Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) said in tribute to the memory of our late colleague, John Smith, whose support for the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill was so widely admired.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The Chair cannot possibly give such guidance, but recognises that the sooner that we get on with the business, the more likely we are to meet the right hon. Gentleman's aspirations.

Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If the House should proceed this morning in anything like the fashion that it did on the previous two Fridays in respect of private Members' Bills, hon. Members would bring the House into serious disrepute.

With regard to a point of order that I raised at the beginning of last Friday's sitting, I have written to my right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery), the Chairman of the Procedure Committee, asking whether it will review our procedures on private Members' Bills. I believe that that should be done as a matter of urgency. Meanwhile, I urge you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to use any influence that you may have, even if you have no formal powers, to encourage hon. Members to debate all four Bills for which Madam Speaker has selected amendments in a reasonable fashion and not at disproportionate length so that we may complete our proceedings on them.

If, unfortunately, the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill does not receive a Third Reading today, will you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, convey to the Leader of the House the fact that we look forward to his making a statement as a matter of urgency on the Government's plans to fulfil the resolution of the House of 29 April to provide sufficient time to complete the proceedings on that Bill?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I understand that the hon. Gentleman's submission to the Procedure Committee has been taken up by that Committee, and I am sure that the House is grateful to him for taking that matter forward. It is entirely for the hon. Gentleman himself to raise such matters with the Leader of the House.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will recall that, a week yesterday, when tributes were paid to the late leader of the Labour party, John Smith, at the end of my remarks I called on the House to pass the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill in tribute to his memory, and said that that would be in keeping with the spirit of the House, because, as you know, a motion was passed two or three Fridays ago which called on the Government to give additional time.

As the House is to rise a day early next week, when most people thought that it would sit to 27 May, is it not possible for you to use what influence you have—I know that it is limited, but it is an important Bill, as most of us become disabled at some point in our lives, and it concerns 6.5 million people—to see whether that additional day could be used for us to debate the Bill?

May I finally ask you to invoke the 10-minute rule for speeches today? I know that that is not written into the Standing Orders, but it would be a considerable gesture.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Gentleman will know that the 10-minute rule is outside the current Standing Orders. On future business, I suggest that we wait to see how we get on today. The Chair, of course, will ensure that Members stay in order, and therefore we can make some progress.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As the Member in charge of the third Bill on the Order Paper today—the Sale of Goods (Amendment) Bill—may I clarify a point? Neither I nor my hon. Friend the Minister is responsible for any amendments. It is our earnest hope that the Bill will be discussed briefly and concisely so that we can pass on to the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill.

Mr. James Clappison (Hertsmere)

Further to the points of order on the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I seek your guidance on a procedural matter for the smooth running of that Bill. I tabled an amendment which was not selected for debate and was not debated the last time that the Bill came before the House. It does not appear on the Order Paper for debate today, and so I understood, therefore, that it would not be debated, but hon. Members with more experience of the House than I apparently believe that it may play some future part in the Bill and may be debated today. Can you confirm that my amendment will play no part in the debate today?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Gentleman will know that the only amendments that can be debated are those that are selected.

Mr. Nigel Waterson (Eastbourne)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is right to bear in mind that, despite the valid comments about the Civil Persons (Disabled Persons) Bill, there are three other Bills on the Order Paper before it, one of which covers an important natural resource; the others cover important matters of consumer protection. Is it in order for the hon. Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry), speaking on the radio this morning, to describe them as Mickey Mouse Bills? I should not have thought that that was the kind of language that one would expect from a Member of the House. I wonder whether you are in a position to rebuke the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I did not hear the radio broadcast, and I certainly will not comment on it. Therefore, without further ado, the Clerk will now proceed to read the Orders of the Day.