HC Deb 20 April 1998 vol 310 cc501-2 4.48 pm
The President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mrs. Ann Taylor)

Following the statement of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, I should like to make a short business statement.

The business for Wednesday 22 April will now be as follows:

Proceedings on the Northern Ireland (Elections) Bill; followed by motions on the Northern Ireland (Entry to Negotiations, etc) Act 1996 (Referendum) Order, and the Northern Ireland (Entry to Negotiations, etc) Act 1996 (Cessation of Section 3) Order.

The business previously announced for that day will be taken at a later date. The business for the remainder of this week will be as previously announced.

The House may also wish to know that, subject to discussions through the usual channels, it is proposed that the business for Monday 27 April, Tuesday 28 April and Wednesday 29 April will be progress in Committee on the Finance (No. 2) Bill.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard (South-West Norfolk)

The Opposition are delighted to agree the progress of what we have been discussing for the past 80 minutes. That is welcome. I also thank the Leader of the House for agreeing to three days on the Floor to discuss the Finance (No.2) Bill, which we felt strongly about.

Mrs. Taylor

I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for her comments, and for the co-operation we have had in rescheduling the business for Wednesday, not only from the official Opposition but from other parties.

Mr. Andrew Stunell (Hazel Grove)

I welcome the circumstances that have made the change in business necessary. It will have the full co-operation of the Liberal Democrats.

Mrs. Taylor

We are having much co-operation on the matter. 1 trust that it will be maintained, that everyone will share the good will that has arisen from the statement of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and that we will be able to make early progress in the House to ensure that progress on peace is maintained.

Mr. Peter Brooke (Cities of London and Westminster)

Not having been in the House for the opening words of the statement of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Madam Speaker, I was, under your very proper rule, unable to take part in the exchanges. I take this early opportunity of congratulating the Government on their achievement, the leaders of the political parties in Northern Ireland on their generosity and courage, and the people of Northern Ireland on their resolution. I am delighted that we will be attending to this business on Wednesday.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.

Mrs. Taylor

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will have a positive contribution to make on Wednesday and on other occasions. I think that some hon. Members try to catch your eye, Madam Speaker, even though they have not been here for statements. I am sure that, if others followed the lead of the right hon. Gentleman, the House would respect them the more for it. I hope that he was in the House to hear the tributes paid to his work in Northern Ireland.

Madam Speaker

The right hon. Gentleman was in the House to hear the very considerable tributes that were paid to him. Indeed, I thought that he had been here for the entire statement. Had he stood, I would have called him, although I would have been remiss in doing so.

Mr. John Swinney (North Tayside)

Although I welcome the circumstances that have changed the business for Wednesday, they knock out the first day of the Report stage of the Scotland Bill. Can the Leader of the House say when she expects that business to be rescheduled?

Mrs. Taylor

I cannot give that decision today, but I hope in my business statement on Thursday to be able to cover the point.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham)

I am sorry to enter a dissenting note. As I understand it, the right hon. Lady proposes that the Committee stage and Report stage of Northern Ireland (Elections) Bill should be taken on Wednesday. That means that the House will go straight to the Committee and Report stages after Second Reading. Does she accept that that is in principle undesirable? I hope that she will allow some time to elapse.

The right hon. Lady will have noticed that we are talking about assemblies or parliaments for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but nothing for England. That highlights a question that those on the Government Front Bench will have to address.

Mrs. Taylor

I regret that the right hon. and learned Gentleman had to enter a dissenting voice. I should have thought that, given the nature of the business that we are discussing, it is desirable that we make as much progress as we can, as quickly as we can. It is not unprecedented to take Bills in this way. If we are all serious about wanting to make progress, which I believe is the general wish of the House, it is important that we take the Bill as speedily as possible.

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