HC Deb 12 May 2004 vol 421 cc355-6 12.31 pm
Mr. Roger Gale (North Thanet) (Con)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will know that last evening the House debated Government business until about 7.20 pm. Thereafter, the House began an open-ended debate on a House of Commons issue, on a free vote. Before 10 pm, with hon. Members still wishing to speak, a Government Whip moved a closure motion. The occupant of the Chair, as he was entitled to, chose to accept that motion, and I have no quarrel with that. The motion then put to the House was, "That the Question be now put". That motion was carried by a considerable majority, but the main Question was not then put to the House. A decision on it was deferred until today, although it should properly have been voted on last night. As a result, only 3 per cent. of Members of the House of Commons were present to hear the debate, for which the main Question will be voted on, on paper, today. Mr. Speaker, can you rule that, in future, if a closure motion is moved, the vote on the main Question must be taken forthwith?

Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire) (Con)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I draw your attention to today's Order Paper? It shows that, again, we will probably be debating business of the House after 7 o'clock, and that a motion concerning deferred Divisions is down for debate. I seek your guidance on this matter: if we are discussing the business of the House, is the deferred Division procedure appropriate? All hon. Members should be able to have their say about the business of the House.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker—

Mr. Speaker

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will let me answer the first point raised by the hon. Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale), as otherwise I might forget what it was. In a sense, the hon. Gentleman made a very valid point, but the Question that was put yesterday was whether the House should vote on the matter under consideration. That matter was subject to the deferred Division procedure. However, the rules are flexible, and that flexibility can be achieved by means of discussion through the usual channels. It is not for me to decide such matters, as I am guided by the House. In future, the usual channels can request that a Division on a motion should not be deferred, but taken there and then. As the hon. Gentleman said, it is more likely that those who have heard the case made in the debate on a House matter will be able to vote when a Division is held immediately.

That brings me to the point raised by the shadow Leader of the House. He is part of the usual channels. I am not, so I place on him some of the burden in respect of these matters in future.

Mr. Forth

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sure that we are all very grateful for that advice, and I hope that it has been heard and taken to heart. Can you also confirm that in the event that an amendment is selected to a motion that would otherwise be subject to a deferred Division, the motion must then be voted on in the proper way, immediately following the debate? Members may wish to be conscious of that further procedural possibility, as I am sure you are.

Mr. Speaker

One can always depend on a Glasgow man to know procedure. The right hon. Gentleman is right, but when I consider amendments—as I considered the amendments he tabled last night—I do not take into consideration whether they are attached to a motion subject to a deferred Division. Therefore, that thought would not cross my mind one way or the other.