HC Deb 09 January 2001 vol 360 cc891-2 4.24 pm
Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your guidance on a point of order of which I have given you some advance notice. As you will know, it relates to the conduct of yesterday's first Programming Sub-Committee of the Vehicles (Crime) Bill. Specifically, a number of my hon. Friends and I, and the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Russell), were gravely concerned to discover two facts at that meeting yesterday. I recognise that it might not be possible to give an immediate ruling, but some guidance would be appreciated.

The first fact is that we were told that the meeting was along the lines of a Select Committee, with no verbatim account of the meeting's proceedings or even a set of minutes, although it was not clear that there was any evidence in the Sessional Orders that it was to be constituted as a Select Committee and there was no resolution of the House to that effect.

Secondly, we were told that, on the principle of the model of a Select Committee meeting without a witness, the proceedings were to be held in private, although, again, there was no evidence as to why that is so.

Furthermore, we were very concerned because a Minister, a shadow Minister and two Whips were on the Sub-Committee. That did not seem coincidental and bore no resemblance to a Select Committee, but rather to a Standing Committee of which the Programming Sub-Committee was a sub-set.

Given that the Sessional Orders, part I, section C (3), specify that all members of the Sub-Committee should be members of the Bill Committee, it is clear that there is no resemblance whatever to a Select Committee. I and my hon. Friends should much appreciate guidance, on the basis of that arrangement, on when and where and under whose authority it was approved, and whether it is up for consideration in the future.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman was kind enough to give me some notice of the matter. Perhaps I can look into his point relating to membership. On his other points, it is the practice of the House that proceedings of Business Sub-Committees under Standing Order No. 120 are analogous to those of a Select Committee. While deliberating, therefore, Business Sub-Committees sit in private. Programming Sub-Committees under the Sessional Order should, in logic, follow the same rules as their task is similar.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Another matter that arises concerns the motion offered to such a Programming Sub-Committee by the Government and any opportunity, or lack of it, by other members of the Sub-Committee to submit amendments. Could you give some consideration to whether ground rules should be laid down as to the notice given of such a resolution and, therefore, the opportunity given for hon. Members properly to submit amendments, preferably in writing, so that the Sub-Committee can give the matter proper consideration? That seems so far not to have been the case.

Mr. Speaker

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to think about that matter.