HC Deb 19 January 2000 vol 342 cc865-6 4.53 pm
Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I seek your guidance on a procedural matter relating to the proposal to deal with the Disqualifications Bill next Monday and Tuesday. I know that that has not yet been confirmed by the Leader of the House, but I seek your advice, given that the proposal is, as I understand it, that there will be Second Reading on Monday followed by all remaining stages the following day. That appears to present consider difficulty to hon. Members in the tabling of amendments. Will you advise me and the rest of the House on how we can go about tabling amendments to a highly controversial Bill? Is there a way in which you or Madam Speaker can help hon. Members in the tabling of amendments, given the extraordinarily and, in my view, unacceptably short time that is being proposed between Second Reading of a controversial Bill and the remaining stages, which will be dealt with the very next day? I would appreciate your help and guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord)

Madam Speaker has asked me to let it be known that she understands the right hon. Gentleman's problem. The selection of amendments in Committee is likely to be for the Chairman of Ways and Means but, in the absence of any order to permit the tabling of amendments before Second Reading, Madam Speaker is sure that the Chairman of Ways and Means will be sympathetic to starred amendments.

Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Did you notice that, in the debate this afternoon, which lasted a considerable time, only one woman Member was fortunate enough to be called? I raise the matter because, in Northern Ireland, women's voices are not easily heard, and I should be grateful if, in future, the Speaker's Office would take that point on board.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am sure that the hon. Lady appreciates that Madam Speaker and the Deputy Speakers are entirely fair in selecting hon. Members, whether they are male or female. The hon. Lady made the point herself when she referred to a debate. It was, in fact, a statement, but it verged on a debate.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I appreciate the difficulties to which you referred, but I want to put it on record that the capital city of Northern Ireland, Belfast, had one representative in the Chamber, who was not called. It is the largest area of the Province, and the hon. Member representing it has served for the past year with the Royal Ulster Constabulary in a parliamentary police scheme.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I acknowledge the hon. Gentleman's point, but I am sure that he, too, will understand that we spent an extremely long time on the statement. We have other business to deal with, and we must move on.

Mr. William Ross (East Londonderry)

Further to an earlier point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on next week's business. Surely it is the usual procedure of the House not only to allow time between Second Reading and final stages, but between Committee and Report stages. They all seem to be rolled into one on the Disqualifications Bill. How on earth can we discuss it during Committee stage and table amendments for the remaining stages later on the same day? That does not make sense.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

There is no strict rule of the House, as the hon. Gentleman implies. I cannot add to my earlier comments.