HC Deb 22 July 1996 vol 282 c33

Lords amendments considered.

4.9 pm

Mr. Nick Raynsford (Greenwich)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You will be aware of the huge volume of amendments with which the House is being asked to deal this afternoon—no fewer than 329. Some are minor and technical, but many are not. There are 31 new clauses and three new schedules; one of the new schedules is 21 pages long. The bundle of Lords amendments covers 85 printed pages, considerably more than most of the Bills that have been presented during this Session.

Is it not an abuse of parliamentary procedure for such an enormous volume of lengthy and substantial new legislation to be presented at this late stage in the proceedings, when there is no opportunity for detailed scrutiny? Does that not bring into disrepute our procedures, which are supposed to ensure that legislation is properly scrutinised? Does it not make it far more likely that—either during the next Session, or during the one after that—we shall have to deal with amendments tabled to remedy defects in legislation that has been drafted hastily, and has not been subject to proper scrutiny?

May I ask you to give the matter some thought and to advise us—not necessarily this afternoon—whether steps can be taken to ensure that, in future, the House is not asked to consider such an impossibly large volume of amendments so late in the process, when there is not adequate time for full and adequate scrutiny of the legislation?

The Minister for Local Government, Housing and Urban Regeneration (Mr. David Curry)

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. The number of amendments demonstrates the opposite of what the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Raynsford) suggested. In Committee, when a point was raised that I thought worthy of reflection, I said that I would take it away and look at it. That happened throughout our deliberations. We have shown that the procedures work, if hon. Members on both sides of a Committee want to secure the best possible form of legislation. Most of these measures are technical, and reflect the openness with which we debated the Bill.

Madam Speaker

I have noted the points raised by the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Raynsford). As he is fully aware, it is the Government who arrange the business of the House—the Minister has just explained that—and the Government will have noted what the hon. Gentleman had to say. Let me say for my part that I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is so familiar with the Bill that he is quite capable of coping with the business before us.

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