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Business Of The House

Volume 938: debated on Monday 7 November 1977

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On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will know that on Friday the normal motion was passed through the House dealing with the division of Private Members' business—that is, the division between Private Members' Bills and Private Members' motions.

This is a matter that was raised in the House on 11th July, as the Lord President knows. I asked him then whether
" before he tables the motion next Session about Private Members' Bills and motions he will consult hon. Members in all parts of the House "
—by which I meant outside these two magic Front Benches—about the division of time given to Bills and motions. If I recollect correctly, there was a growl of approval from many parts of the House to that effect, except, of course, from the two Front Benches. Members prefer to use the time usefully for Bills and not to waste it on motions which have no effect.

The Lord President replied that there was a good deal in what I said. He went on:
" I am prepared to consult to see whether we can alter the balance. If that were to be done, it would have to be done with the concurrence of Private Members generally."
That is certainly true. He ended :
" I shall consult before the next Session."—[Official Report, 11th July 1977 ; Vol. 935, c. 29.]
As the Lord President knows, I heard from him last week that he had, indeed, consulted, through the usual channels—so-called ; and that means that the two Front Benches do not want to make any change. There has not been the consultation with other Members in the House. But the motion on the subject was put down on Friday, a day on which there could not even be 24 hours' notice to any Member that that motion was to be taken.

I realise that this is something for the Lord President to answer rather than for you, Mr. Speaker, bat I hoped that you would give him the opportunity to say that there will be another chance for me to table an amendment to that motion in order to increase the amount of time usable on Bills at the expense, slightly, of the time usable upon motions. Insofar as it is in your hands, Mr. Speaker, to permit such an amendment at some time to be selected, I hope that you will be prepared to select it in view of the categorical assurance that I received on 11th July from the Lord President.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. Michael Foot)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I shall certainly look at the question whether my hon. Friend should be given another chance. But it is the case, of course, that it would be a chance in addition to the one that he had before. In the reply I sent to him, from which he has quoted a part but not the whole, I expressed some sympathy with the general view that he has put on the matter. There are others in the House who take a different view. But I am quite prepared to have further consultations on the general question how we should divide Private Members' time. I have indicated that in my reply to my hon. Friend, and I think that that is as far as we can carry the matter now.