HC Deb 25 October 1999 vol 336 cc750-60 6.26 pm
The Parliamentary Secretary, Privy Council Office (Mr. Paddy Tipping)

I beg to move, That there shall be no sittings in Westminster Hall under the terms of the Order [24th May] until Tuesday 30th November.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord)

With this it will be convenient to consider the following: That following the Order [24th May], Mr. Nicholas Winterton, Mr. John McWilliam, Frank Cook and Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody be appointed to act as additional Deputy Speakers at sittings in Westminster Hall during the next session.

Mr. Tipping

The motion supplements the motion which was agreed by the House on 24 May, to provide for an experiment with sittings in Westminster Hall. I will not repeat the points that were made on 24 May because the motion covers only two specific points. First, it enables the four senior members of the Chairmen's Panel to be appointed as additional Deputy Speakers to take the Chair during the sittings in Westminster Hall. They are all well known to the House for a variety of different reasons, but tonight, I shall stress only two: their impartiality in the Chair and, secondly, their well-known independence in debate on a range of different matters. All four can safely be called prominent supporters of the voice of the House.

The Members in question are the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) and my hon. Friends the Members for Blaydon (Mr. McWilliam), for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) and for Stockton, North (Mr. Cook). I believe that the House accepts that they are all well qualified to carry out the duties of the Chair during sittings in Westminster Hall.

The House will be grateful to those four Members for being willing to give up even more of their time in taking the Chair and ensuring that the proceedings in Westminster Hall, as an experiment, get off to a smooth and good start. The Chairman of Ways and Means will take the lead in those sittings. He and the existing Deputy Speakers will also take an active part in chairing proceedings.

The second part of the motion sets Tuesday 30 November as the starting date for such sittings. This is because the new Session is due to start on Wednesday 17 November. Starting the sittings in the second full week of the Session will give sufficient time for the Speaker's Office to conduct the ballots for Back-Bench Member debates on Tuesday 30 November and Wednesday 1 December. I want to make it clear that that means that there will be no morning sitting in the House on Wednesday 24 November.

6.28 pm
Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire)

As the Minister said, the motion arises from the debate that we had on 24 May, when, on a free vote, the House decided to proceed with sittings in Westminster Hall on an experimental basis. There are two parts to the motion. On the first, perhaps the Minister will confirm, if he catches your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the physical arrangements will be completed in time for the sittings to start on 30 November. Is he able to say anything about the likely business that will be taken in the week beginning 30 November? If this experiment is to take place and be successful, it is important that there should be a series of lively debates in the first week. Within the constraints of a ballot for the motions, I hope that the Government will do all that they can to promote the debates.

As the Minister said when dealing with the second part of the motion, the House is grateful to the four Members who are assuming additional responsibilities. It may not be a matter for the Minister, but will the Chairmen's Panel need reinforcement if some of the existing Chairmen are diverted into other responsibilities? If they are to be additional Deputy Speakers, and I think that the Deputy Speakers are paid for their work in that role, I wonder whether any additional remuneration—[Interruption.] I see the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) shaking her head sadly. She has probably answered my question. It seems that they will be Deputy Speakers in name.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

Whenever there is extra work and no pay, my name automatically leaps into the frame, in conjunction with various other right hon. and hon. Members, but when there is pay and no work somehow I mysteriously disappear off the list.

Sir George Young

The hon. Lady needs a good shop steward to represent her interests, because her generosity is clearly being abused on a monstrous scale. She has answered my question, but I hope that the Minister can reassure us that all the physical arrangements will be in place and that such decisions as the Government are able to take will be taken to ensure that the experiment starts. On that basis, I am happy to give my support to the motion.

6.30 pm
Mr. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock)

On a superficial reading of the motion, it would probably be anticipated that it will go through on the nod, but one or two comments should be made. The point made by the right hon. Member for North—West Hampshire (Sir G. Young) about payment is relevant. Incidentally, we should congratulate the Minister, because two reshuffles ago—that is of course not very long—he started to receive salary for the first time for his work as a Minister. Generally and in politics, I do not like the idea that people should do things for nowt instead of for the rate for the job.

The question of salaries for the new Deputy Speakers is not addressed in the motion, but I am worried that we may be making appointments in a flip way without thinking through the status appropriate to the office of Deputy Speaker and the duties involved. At some stage, the House should consider the possibility of appropriate remuneration and other benefits that accompany the office of Deputy Speaker, and the question whether Deputy Speakers appointed for Westminster Hall should be part of the wider team. I am mindful of the fact that the Canadian House of Commons has the same number of Speakers and Deputy Speakers as we have, but it has far fewer plenary sessions. I take my hat off to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and your colleagues because you sit in the Chair for many hours. There are not enough of you in the team and, in due course, we should consider whether the responsibilities of the new team of Deputy Speakers should be extended to this Chamber. If that happened, we would also need to consider the question of salary and—without embarrassing anybody by making a specific reference—the other emoluments and benefits that flow from the office.

I raise my second point with some hesitation, because all four of the hon. Members named in the motion are, to say the least, fine Members of Parliament. I consider them my friends and, contrary to their better judgment, they may have some regard for me. However, I do not believe that this is the correct way to appoint Deputy Speakers. This is the first time that we have appointed a plethora of Deputy Speakers in mid-Session. Those named are the four most senior members of the Chairmen's Panel and proven parliamentarians who are known for their impartiality, but if in future we come to appoint more second division Deputy Speakers—I do not mean that disparagingly—or indeed other Deputy Speakers, we should adopt a procedure on the same lines by which we elect the Speaker of the House.

Before the parliamentary recess, I talked to the Clerk about the procedures for this evening's motion and I asked him whether it would be possible to amend it or to divide the House. If the previous debate had continued, we would not even have been able to have this discussion, but the appointment of Members to senior offices of the House of Commons should be the subject of proper debate and involve nominations from the Floor of the House, not be handed down on the basis of seniority on the Chairmen's Panel. I hope that in future we might consider a similar selection process for the seven Deputy Speakers as applies to the election of the Speaker.

My final point may be seen as pedantic, but I first visited the House of Commons at the age of 12 and ever since I have steeped myself in its ritual and history. We are told that the sittings in Westminster Hall will be sittings of the House of Commons itself, not of a Committee. In that case, I would have assumed that the Mace would be present, as it is before us tonight, because I understood that without the Mace the House of Commons is not sitting. The Mace has been called a bauble and I did not write the rules, but I would like the point to be clarified. Is it in or out? If it is so important, it should be placed in Westminster Hall for the sittings, and if it is not, it should be put in a glass case.

Sometimes we rush to alter and vary rules and proceedings without thinking through the consequences, but the House is entitled to know whether it will be the House of Commons sitting in Westminster Hall. If so, what are the new rubrics and Standing Orders that take account of the fact that the Mace will not be in place? Perhaps we should have a whip-round to buy a new Mace.

Mrs. Ann Winterton (Congleton)

I suggest that the hon. Gentleman might borrow the mace from Congleton, from which the parliamentary Mace was copied some time ago. I am sure that the burghers of Congleton would be only too delighted to lend it.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Before the hon. Gentleman responds, I wish to point out that we are now straying some way from the motion.

Mr. Mackinlay

I am disappointed that you take that view, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because I am making a serious point about the Mace. Why should we be so arrogant as to change 600 years of history this evening? I was upset when the Prayers were altered arbitrarily. I would have liked to submit my version, but the changes just happened without discussion. For example, I notice that the phrase about laying aside "all partial affections" no longer appears. I shall not labour the point further, but the new status of Westminster Hall, and its place in our histories and traditions, should be made clear.

6.38 pm
Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst)

I wish to endorse the comments made by the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay). It is curious that we take great pride in the fact that we elect our Speaker—the voice of the House—but the Deputy Speakers and now these new appointments arise from that mysterious process known euphemistically as the usual channels. I am rather tired of the usual channels.

I had the privilege of accompanying the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association to Australia and to see the Main Committee in action. I also had discussions with the Clerks to the Main Committee. Afterwards, I was even more worried than before, when this ghastly new institution was introduced at Westminster. I did not know before that that party discipline in the federal Parliament in Canberra is even stronger than it is here and the opportunity for individual Members of Parliament to express views—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I remind hon. Members that the motion concerns simply the dates for sittings in Westminster Hall and the appointment of Deputy Speakers. It is quite tightly drawn.

Mr. Forth

In that case, I shall cast my remarks in such a way as to make it clear that I wish that the date proposed were different. I would prefer it to be postponed so that we could consider, for example, whether we have sufficient Standing Orders in place to protect the role of individual Members of Parliament, as the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) mentioned. Postponing the implementation of the Westminster Hall sittings and adjusting the motion accordingly would allow us to give further consideration to the question whether the Standing Orders that we have at present cover adequately the procedures necessary to protect the role of individual hon. Members.

I fear that the new process may gallop out of the control of hon. Members. I recall that we were told that only non-controversial business would be discussed in Westminster Hall. However, on my visit to Canberra I discovered that the Australian definition of uncontroversial business covers what is agreed through the usual channels, and that the role of individual Members there is almost zero. I worry that that is what will happen here unless we are adequately and fully protected by Standing Orders.

I hope that that problem will be given proper attention before 30 November. Although I could wish that that date could be put back to allow more time for that consideration, I hope that the point made by the hon. Member for Thurrock will not be forgotten. There may be scope now to examine how appointments—such as those contained in the motion or even, dare I say it, to the Chairmen's Panel—are made. At present, the process is rather mysterious. A more open process would enable the holders of such important jobs to have even more confidence than at present that they have the support and endorsement of rank-and-file Members of Parliament.

I hope that we can return to that matter in future, and I am grateful to the hon. Member for Thurrock for raising it.

6.43 pm
Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington)

Until about 10 minutes ago, I was not planning to speak in the debate, but I am worried by the wording of the motion. It describes the people who will be appointed to preside over proceedings in what, in effect, will be known as another place.

Mr. Mackinlay

No, it is the House of Commons. I must tell my hon. Friend, with the greatest respect, that I think that he is wrong. No doubt, my hon. Friend the Minister will confirm this, but we have been told that the sittings in Westminster Hall will be part of the proceedings of the House of Commons. I am not sure that I approve, but we have been told that those sittings will not be Committee sittings and that they will not be regarded as comprising another Chamber of the House.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

That is precisely my point: Westminster Hall will be another place in the sense that it will be another Chamber of the House of Commons, rather than a Committee.

The motion states: That … Mr. Nicholas Winterton, Mr. John McWilliam, Frank Cook and Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody be appointed to act as additional Deputy Speakers at sittings in Westminster Hall during the next session. However, the second report by the Modernisation Committee states: We therefore recommend that sittings in Westminster Hall should be chaired by the Deputy Speakers, and that the four members who have served longest on the Chairmen's Panel should be formally appointed by the House as additional Deputy Speakers to sit in Westminster Hall. We do not envisage that those Members would be subject to the restraints on political activity which apply by convention to the existing Deputy Speakers. I have always understood that Deputy Speakers in the House of Commons complied with the convention that constrained their political activities. It has only just dawned on me that the motion will establish a structure under which a Deputy Speaker will be free, for the first time, to be politically active on the Floor of the House of Commons. That might be misconstrued, both in the United Kingdom and in those other parts of the world where we are advocating the Westminster constitutional arrangement.

That is not a spurious point. I hope that the four eminently knowledgeable and sensible people referred to in the motion will not punish me in the future for my remarks this evening. However, the proposed change is an important one. The four hon. Members mentioned in the motion will be known as Deputy Speakers of the House of Commons. No distinction will be drawn outside the House between this Chamber and another Chamber—what I have called another place—of the House of Commons. The result will be that there will be two different types of Deputy Speakers: those who are able to engage in politics in the Chamber, and those who cannot. There is something wrong with that in principle.

However, there is a way to resolve the problem. We can describe the new appointments in a different way. They should not be referred to as Deputy Speakers of the House of Commons.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Campbell-Savours

I shall give way to the hon. Gentleman who, being one of the appointees, has an interest in the matter.

Mr. Winterton

Like the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), I had no intention of speaking in this debate on this motion. However, I hope that the Minister and my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young) will confirm that, although we shall be known as Deputy Speakers, we will be the Deputy Speakers who preside over proceedings in Westminster Hall. We will not preside in this Chamber of the House of Commons, even though Westminster Hall will be a complementary adjunct to the House of Commons as we know it.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

I warn hon. Members in advance that we will never be able to argue that distinction when we present the House of Commons to people in the United Kingdom or anywhere else in the world. They will simply not understand what we are talking about. To all intents and purposes we are creating, by means of this motion, four new Deputy Speakers in the British Parliament. Before we agree to the proposal, we should consider seriously its implications. The distinction drawn by the hon. Member for Macclesfield will not be understood outside the House of Commons.

Mr. Clive Soley (Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush)

As a member of the Modernisation Committee that was so keen on introducing this innovation, I must ask my hon. Friend to bear in mind that it is an experiment. As with any experiment, some of the complexities—such as the one that my hon. Friend has identified—require further consideration. Dealing with all such matters in advance in Committee would have caused our deliberations to go on for ever and a day. However, my hon. Friend is right to say that we must revisit the structure that is being established in this experiment.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

I have no objection whatsoever to the structure being created. I am in favour of it, and all hon. Members want it. However, I maintain that we should not call the four hon. Members mentioned in the motion Deputy Speakers of the House of Commons. To do so would be an error. I appeal to my hon. Friend the Minister to consider the matter very seriously. The motion is wrong. It will lead to misunderstandings and will create difficulties.

Mr. Forth

The hon. Gentleman may be slightly reassured to note that the motion specifies that the four hon. Members mentioned will be appointed to act as additional Deputy Speakers at sittings in Westminster Hall during the next session. The period is therefore heavily qualified. That might give hon. Members another opportunity to return to the matter, when we can deal with the points that have been raised. The words "during the next session" mean that a backstop is available. Does the hon. Gentleman agree with me that that is reassuring?

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Although I have invariably taken a different view from the right hon. Gentleman on the changes that have been introduced, he will know, from his own experience of dealing with questions of modernisation over the past few months, that such changes, once in place, become almost irreversible. The House accepts them if they appear to be working. The point on which I am focusing is very narrow. The House will not necessarily want to reconsider it unless a dispute develops internationally, perhaps through the Inter-Parliamentary Union or the CPA. I am simply alerting the House to a problem that I know will arise.

Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall)

In addition to the reassurances offered from both sides of the House, would it further reassure the hon. Gentleman if "additional" were given a capital A? The motion states that the four Members named will act as "additional Deputy Speakers". By making that "Additional Deputy Speakers", would we not make matters different? I take the hon. Gentleman's point that, if the experiment extends to a year and appears to be successful, the precedent may have been set.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman seeks a compromise, but even that arrangement would be wrong. The four Chairmen are not Deputy Speakers of the House of Commons as I understand that office. They would not avoid conflict in the Chamber. Indeed, some of the four appointees are controversial Members with very strong views. I welcome the controversy that they bring, and have done over the years, but giving those four hon. Members the title "Deputy Speaker" would undermine the position of Deputy Speakers under our current arrangements.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

At the risk of inflicting grave damage on the hon. Gentleman's reputation, let me say that I entirely agree with him. Does he agree that the issue is not whether the new arrangements work or not? In fact, we do not even know what "work" means in this case. If all we mean is that the four newly appointed "Deputy Speakers" should behave when they chair proceedings in Westminster Hall, we shall learn nothing that we cannot guess from the characters of the four distinguished hon. Members concerned. The point is that it is wrong in principle to designate them Deputy Speakers. It is clumsy and stupid, and we have an opportunity to prevent it.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman, and I have no difficulty in doing so as this is a House of Commons occasion, not a Government matter or a political debate. We are discussing the credibility and integrity of the House of Commons. I appeal to the Minister not to proceed with the motion as it stands. The four named hon. Members will be Chairmen of debates in Westminster Hall. We should call them Chairmen, not Deputy Speakers.

Mr. Soley

Let me try to take my hon. Friend with me. I agree that he is a great parliamentarian—[Interruption.] I think that he is. The House must face up to the fact that, if we are to modernise—and everyone keeps telling me that they want modernization—

Mr. Forth


Mr. Soley

Well, not everyone on the Opposition Benches, perhaps.

We cannot dot every i and cross every t, but we can revisit matters later. My hon. Friend is forgetting that, in addition to the ability of the House to revisit the matter, the Modernisation Committee will examine how the proposals work and will recommend changes if necessary. My hon. Friend's point is a good one, but we should not use it to hold back change.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

I believe that Governments can table motions at any time that they want. There is always time to debate a motion that must pass through the House of Commons. We have learned that lesson over the years. I have never been convinced by arguments about Government time.

I am worried—I shall repeat the point so that there is no misunderstanding—because the office of Deputy Speaker is a non-political office in this Parliament. It has been so during the 20 years that I have been a Member. Long should it remain so.

As of today, however, the office of Deputy Speaker will become a politicised appointment, from which its holders may argue a political case in the House of Commons. The very silence in the Chamber convinces me that many of the hon. Members sitting here know that I am right, and that that point had not dawned on them when they passed the Modernisation Committee's report. Members are considering what I am saying, because they know that there is truth in it. We are making a mistake, and I beg the Minister to withdraw the motion.

6.56 pm
Mr. Tipping

This has been a narrow debate around two issues. The first concerns the appointment of four people to chair sittings during the Westminster Hall experiment. The second is the date on which the experiment will start. I stress that we are discussing an experiment, perhaps one of the largest modernisation experiments that the House will consider during this Parliament. As with all experiments, some things will undoubtedly go right, and others wrong.

My hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) made his point well. Indeed, he made it three or four times to make sure that I got it. I did, and senior members of the Select Committee on Modernisation, including my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush (Mr. Soley), also got the point. Several hon. Members have tried to reassure my hon. Friend that we will examine the point and learn from the experiment.

I was asked whether Westminster Hall would be ready. Preparations are under way and we will be ready to start on 30 November.

I agree entirely with the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young) that Westminster Hall must get off to a good start. It is an important experiment, giving Back-Bench Members much greater opportunities. There will be 140 extra Back-Bench debates, the chance to debate three dozen extra Select Committee reports and the possibility of 17 or 18 general debates. Those figures give the lie to any suggestion that the Government are denying Back-Bench Members the opportunity to raise issues.

My hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) said that he had read the report and the motion superficially—

Mr. Mackinlay

No, I did not. I did not read them superficially. I said that anyone who read the motion superficially might think that it was about Deputy Speakers. It is, in fact, about much more.

Mr. Tipping

My hon. Friend used the words "on a superficial reading". One thing that I admire about my hon. Friend is that, when he reads things—even superficially—he has a tendency to read things into them. I can assure him that there has been no collusion between the usual channels about how the four names were selected. The method of selecting the names came directly from the proposals of the Modernisation Committee. Discussions have been held with the Chairmen's Panel, but the panel does not, in my experience, collude with the Government. The panel's voice is very much independent, no matter how uncomfortable that may be for the Government or for the Opposition.

We have had a long debate over whether the name Deputy Speaker is right. The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) pointed out that these would be additional Deputy Speakers sitting in Westminster Hall. These are new creatures, and their roles will develop. I do not say that we have necessarily got it right, and I repeat my undertaking to look again at that matter.

Mr. Bercow

The Minister has used the word experiment, a word used many times. If he insists on describing what we are doing as an experiment, with the unstated implication that it will be up for review, will he be good enough to tell us the criteria by which its success or otherwise will be evaluated? Will the criteria include the considerations to which the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) has drawn attention—that is, the capacity of people outside the House and outside the United Kingdom to interpret the difference between the additional Deputy Speakers and those who hold the existing office?

Mr. Tipping

That may well be one of the criteria by which the matter is judged. The issue of whether it is confusing to have one group of people bearing the name "Deputy Speaker" or one group with the name "additional Deputy Speaker" is a fairly small one by which to judge success. The success or failure of the body will depend on whether Back-Bench Members of Parliament have the chance forcefully and robustly to raise issues that affect their constituencies. It has been said that that is a separate matter, but, for me, it is the key issue.

Mrs. Dunwoody

I understand the problem that hon. Members express; I would be happy to consider some other title. I have been called many things in my life—not always parliamentary. Surely, we have overlooked one aspect of the matter; many members of the Chairmen's Panel have the ability to swap roles. When one is in the Chair, one is impartial. All of us also participate in other parts of the parliamentary programme. Indeed, if the Chairmen, who are all volunteers, or pressed men and women, were dependent on being chosen by the usual channels, the Chairmen's Panel would be very different from the one that we have at present. That is a mildly unrealistic description of the situation, if my hon. Friend the Minister will forgive for saying so. At present, all of us take the Chair, sit there for many hours and I hope—indeed I know—that we are impartial. However, we then do other things without any difficulty. If a change of nomenclature is all that is needed, I can think of a dozen different words—including some of the things that I would call some of my right hon. and hon. Friends.

Mr. Tipping

With her great experience, my hon. Friend makes the point fairly and more forcefully than I could. Earlier, the hon. Member for Macclesfield said that he wore two hats. If the experiment goes ahead, he will have yet another hat to wear.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

The Minister has provoked me. In fact, I wear three hats. If the motion is passed, I shall be wearing four hats. [Interruption.] I hear cries of "Big head". The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) is absolutely right; members of Madam Speaker's Chairmen's Panel undertake that job voluntarily and are wholly impartial when they are in the Chair. I point out to the Minister and to the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) that the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay) raised a number of issues. If the new additional Deputy Speakers for sittings in Westminster Hall were remunerated, the situation would be very different indeed. In that case, clearly, we could not operate both in the maelstrom of the House of Commons—taking party political positions—and as additional Deputy Speakers. However, at present, that is not what it is about; we are asked to undertake that additional duty voluntarily as Members of the House of Commons—all four of us have the great honour and privilege of accepting it.

Mr. Tipping

The hon. Gentleman wears many hats, some of them extremely large. I know the reason for that—his constituency is one of the centres of this country's hat-making trade. I am delighted that he so vigorously argues the case for Cheshire's hat-makers. However, he makes a serious point—as does my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody). At present, the fact that those posts are unpaid gives their occupants—whoever they may be—an independence. They are not linked to anyone's patronage, and all the proposed names will continue the long tradition of speaking vigorously and independently, while being fair, open and honest chairpeople.

Finally, I confirm that the Westminster Hall sittings will be complementary to those of this House; it will not be a Committee, but a complementary or alternative body to the House. The matter raises interesting questions about the Mace; the hon. Member for Congleton (Mrs. Winterton) is pursuing her own case—Cheshire Members are out in force tonight—to try to find a solution. We shall need to consider such issues.

Mr. Mackinlay

Paragraph 40 of the minutes of the Modernisation Committee for 3 February 1997 states: Ceremonial with or without a Mace and precise staffing requirements by a Serjeant at Arms, Doorkeepers, Office Keepers, Attendants and security staff will have to be discussed and agreed once more details of the Main Committee emerge. That implies that the House as a whole would approve what those arrangements should be. I am not sure that we have done so today, either in this motion or in our debate and vote on the thrust of the Committee's report. Unless I am mistaken, the matter has yet to be discussed. If we have resolved the matter, perhaps the Minister could explain when we did so, as it is not clear to me.

Mr. Tipping

As has been said, this is a fairly narrow debate. I remind my hon. Friend that the Modernisation Committee report was discussed earlier this year, when there was ample opportunity to make points such as those that he has just made.

I return to the point made earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush and myself: this is a big experiment and we shall not get it right immediately. I am going out of my way to be flexible and to point out that we may not have got it right, and we may not know all the consequences, but interesting issues are being raised. However, I give an undertaking—

Mr. Mackinlay

My hon. Friend is putting in the rivets as the ship goes down the slipway.

Mr. Tipping

I want the ship to sail; I want it to be one of which we can be proud. My hon. Friends, who are members of the Modernisation Committee and have worked hard on this matter, can be confident of our good will and of our further undertaking that we are prepared to consider the experiment, and will wish the ship godspeed.

Question put and agreed to.

Ordered, That there shall be no sittings in Westminster Hall under the terms of the Order [24th May] until Tuesday 30th November.

Ordered, That, following the Order [24th May], Mr. Nicholas Winterton, Mr. John McWilliam, Frank Cook and Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody be appointed to act as additional Deputy Speakers at sittings in Westminster Hall during the next session.—[Mr. Tipping.]