HC Deb 23 April 2001 vol 367 cc40-1


(Clauses 1 to 3 and 16 to 53 and Schedules 4 to 11)

Considered in Committee, pursuant to Order.


4.42 pm
Mr. Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South)

On a point of order, Sir Alan. It is appropriate to draw to your attention to the fact that we are witnessing today a historic breach of the conventions of the House, in that the timetable motion limits the flexibility of the Opposition in today's debate. May I quote briefly from "Parliament: Functions, Practice and Procedures" by J. A. Griffith, emeritus professor of public law, Michael Ryle, a former Clerk of Committees in the House of Commons, and Mr. Wheeler-Booth, Clerk Assistant in the House of Lords? It says, on page 253: after second reading, which provides an opportunity for a broad debate on the Government's tax proposals against the background of the national economy, the committee stage of the bill is now divided between a committee of the whole House and a standing committee. The motion to commit certain clauses to a committee of the whole House (and sometimes new clauses on specified matters) is moved by the Government, but the choice of which matters should be considered in this way is, in practice, largely left to the Opposition. The timetable motion means that the Opposition have very little opportunity to raise the matters that they wish to raise. No new clauses are permitted by the timetable motion.

All the clauses on the aggregates levy—clauses 16 to 49—are being taken on the Floor of the House, and all the serious clauses on that tax come at the beginning of the group of clauses, so have to be finished by 7 pm. The matter has not been left to the Opposition. If there were no 7 pm deadline, it would be easy to address those serious matters within the time scale. Perhaps this is a matter for the Procedure Committee to revisit, because the procedures and conventions of the House have been quite dramatically flouted today.

The Chairman of Ways and Means (Sir Alan Haselhurst)

The hon. Gentleman will understand that this is not a matter on which the Chair can rule, as it is determined by other means. I have allowed the hon. Gentleman to make his point, but it now seems to be a matter of his approaching the Chairman of the Procedure Committee if he would like the matter to be examined further.

Mr. Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton)

Further to that point of order, Sir Alan. I wish to associate the Liberal Democrats with the request made by the hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway). Is it possible for you to consult the Government Whips to see whether they would be prepared to reconsider their position, given the strong feeling throughout the Opposition parties that there should be a chance for other issues to be debated during the Committee Of the whole House?

The Chairman

I am always ready to try to use my beneficial influence wherever possible in the House, but what the hon. Gentleman is suggesting is outwith what I am permitted to do, especially in the absence of a Business Sub-Committee, for which no provision was made on this occasion.

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