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Social Security Bill (Allocation Of Time)

Volume 979: debated on Monday 25 February 1980

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

7 pm

I beg to move, That the following provisions shall apply to the remaining proceedings on the Bill:—

Committee

1.—(1) Subject to sub-paragraph (2) below, the Standing Committee to which the Bill is allocated shall report the Bill to the House on or before 6th March 1980.

(2) Proceedings on the Bill at a sitting of the Standing Committee on the said 6th March may continue until 11 pm whether or not the House is adjourned before that time and if the House is adjourned before those proceedings have been brought to a conclusion the Standing Committee shall report the Bill to the House on 7th March 1980.

Report and Third Reading

2.—(1) The proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading of the Bill shall be completed in two allotted days and shall be brought to a conclusion two hours after Ten o'clock on the second of those days; and for the purposes of Standing Order No. 43 (Business Committee) this Order shall be taken to allot to the Proceedings on Consideration such part of those days as the Resolution of the Business Committee may determine.

(2) The Business Committee shall report to the House their resolutions as to the Proceedings on Consideration of the Bill, and as to the allocation of time between those Proceedings and Proceedings on Third Reading, not later than the fourth day on which the House sits after the day on which the Chairman of the Standing Committee reports the Bill to the House.

(3) The resolutions in any report made under Standing Order No. 43 may be varied by a further report so made, whether or not within the time specified in sub-paragraph (2) above, and whether or not the resolutions have been agreed to by the House.

(4) The resolutions of the Business Committee may include alterations in the order in which proceedings on Consideration of the Bill are taken.

Procedure in Standing Committee

3.—(1) At a Sitting of the Standing Committee at which any Proceedings on the Bill are to be brought to a conclusion under a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee the Chairman shall not adjourn the Committee under any Order relating to the sittings of the Committee until the Proceedings have been brought to a conclusion.

(2) No Motion shall be moved in the Standing Committee relating to the sitting of the Committee except by a Member of the Government, and the Chairman shall permit a brief explanatory statement from the Member who moves, and from a Member who opposes, the Motion, and shall then put the Question thereon.

4. No Motion shall be moved to postpone any Clause, Schedule, new Clause or new Schedule but the resolutions of the Business Sub-Committee may include alterations in the order in which Clauses, Schedules, new Clauses and new Schedules are to be taken in the Standing Committee.

Conclusion of Proceedings in Committee

5. On the conclusion of the Proceedings in any Committee on the Bill the Chairman shall report the Bill to the House without putting any Question.

Dilatory motions

6. No dilatory Motion with respect to or in the course of Proceedings on the Bill shall be moved in the Standing Committee or on an allotted day except by a Member of the Government, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

Extra time on allotted days

7.—(1) On an allotted day paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to the Proceedings on the Bill for two hours after Ten o'clock.

(2) Any period during which Proceedings on the Bill may be proceeded with after Ten o'clock under paragraph (7) of Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) shall be in addition to the said period of two hours.

(3) If an allotted day is one to which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 stands over from an earlier day, a period of time equal to the duration of the Proceedings upon that Motion shall be added to the said period of two hours.

Private Business

8. Any private business which has been set down for consideration at Seven o'clock on an allotted day shall, instead of being considered as provided by Standing Orders, be considered at the conclusion of the Proceedings on the Bill on that day, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to the private business for a period of three hours from the conclusion of the Proceedings on the Bill or, if those Proceedings are concluded before Ten o'clock, for a period equal to the time elapsing between Seven o'clock and the conclusion of those Proceedings.

Conclusion of Proceedings

9.—(1) For the purpose of bringing to a conclusion any Proceedings which are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee or the Business Sub-Committee and which have not previously been brought to a conclusion, the Chairman or Mr. Speaker shall forthwith put the following Questions (but no others), that is to say—

  • (a) any Question already proposed from the Chair;
  • (b) any Question necessary to bring to a decision a Question so proposed (including in the case of a new Clause or new Schedule which has been read a second time, the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill);
  • (c) the Question on any amendment or Motion standing on the Order Paper in the name of any Member, if that amendment or Motion is moved by a Member of the Government;
  • (d) any other Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded;
  • and on a Motion so moved for a new Clause or a new Schedule, the Chairman or Mr. Speaker shall put only the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill.

    (2) Proceedings under sub-paragraph (1) above shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the Sittings of the House.

    (3) If an allotted day is one on which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) would, apart from this Order, stand over to Seven o'clock—

  • (a) that Motion shall stand over until the conclusion of any Proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion at or before that time;
  • (b) the bringing to a conclusion of any Proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion after that time shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the Proceedings on that Motion.
  • (4) If an allotted day is one to which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 stands over from an earlier day, the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion on that day shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the Proceedings on that Motion.

    Supplemental orders

    l0.—(1) The Proceedings on any Motion moved in the House by a Member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order (including anything which might have been the subject of a report of the Business Committee or Business Sub-Committee) shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion one hour after they have been commenced, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to the Proceedings.

    (2) If on an allotted day on which any Proceedings on the Bill are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee the House is adjourned, or the sitting is suspended, before that time no notice shall be required of a Motion moved at the next sitting by a Member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.

    Saving

    11. Nothing in this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee or Business Sub-Committee shall—

  • (a) prevent any Proceedings to which the Order or Resolution applies from being taken or completed earlier than is required by the Order or Resolution, or
  • (b) prevent any business (whether on the Bill or not) from being proceeded with on any day after the completion of all such Proceedings on the Bill as are to be taken on that day.
  • Re-committal

    12.—(1) References in this Order to Proceedings on Consideration or Proceedings on Third Reading include references to Proceedings, at those stages respectively, for, on or in consequence of, re-committal.

    (2) On an allotted day no debate shall be permitted on any Motion to re-comit the Bill (whether as a whole or otherwise), and Mr. Speaker shall put forthwith any Question necessary to dispose of the Motion, including the Question on any amendent moved to the Question.

    Interpretation

    13. In this Order—

    "allotted day" means any day (other than a Friday) on which the Bill is put down as the first Government Order of the Day provided that a Motion for allotting time to the Proceedings on the Bill to be taken on that day either has been agreed on a previous day, or is set down for consideration on that day;
    "the Bill" means the Social Security Bill;
    "Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee" means a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee as agreed to by the Standing Committee;
    "Resolution of the Business Committee" means a Resolution of the Business Committee as agreed to by the House.

    Guillotine motions are traditionally occasions for sound and fury. I had thought that this evening's debate might have followed the same pattern. However, judging by the empty Opposition Benches, it does not look—[ Interruptions.] My hon. Friends know well that it is for the Government to move the motion. The sound and fury should come from the Opposition and, to judge from the empty Benches opposite, there will not be much tonight. However, I accept that ritual protests do not necessarily signify nothing. On the contrary, the House rightly and zealously safeguards its rights and Ministers who seek support for a timetable motion must satisfy the House that such a motion is inevitable as being the only way in which a conclusion will be reached by a required date.

    The reason why the Government believe that the time table is necessary for the Bill is that the Bill must be law by the end of May. The reason why we must have the Bill by that time is linked with the annual process of uprating social security benefits in time for them to take effect by the due date next November. Even in a normal year, the process takes from between four and a half to five months, because, as the right hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) knows—he held office in the previous Government—every supplementary benefit allowance has to be adjusted manually in the local offices of the Department to take account of the changes in the rates of benefit that were announced by the Government earlier in the year.

    However, this year the process is bound to take a little longer because of the need to take on board the many detailed changes in the supplementary benefits system that are proposed in the Bill. Because the time estimated for the necessary procedures to be completed is over six months, it is essential that the process should start during May so that it may be completed by November.

    I do not need to rehearse tonight the changes that we seek to achieve by the Bill. It proposes a number of important alterations in our social security system to save expenditure, to simplify the structure of the system and to comply with the European Community's directives. I do not doubt for one moment that some of the provisions of the Bill are controversial, but, provided that they can command a majority in this House and in another place, controversy is no reason for holding them up indefinitely. Indeed, delay could prove expensive. In May, the Department will begin to issue claimants' order books for the new amounts. The orders will be payable from November under the new and revised rules. Books will be issued at an average rate of about 100,000 a week. The House will see that that leaves little margin for errors or delay.

    I should like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the staff in the local offices who carry out this onerous task each year. I recognise that this year they will be faced with additional work and I know that they will cheerfully take that on board. If the Bill were delayed beyond the end of May, revised order books would already have been issued on the basis of changes contained in the Bill. The danger is that any further changes made to the Bill thereafter would require the recall and reissue of books to make the further revision that the Bill would then make necessary. The House will readily understand that this would impose not only an intolerable burden on the staff in my Department and considerable trouble and irritation for claimants but it would also impose additional and unnecessary expense.

    Will the right hon. Gentleman give the House one example of what has to be put on the order book for this coming November which is contained in the Bill so that the holding up of the Bill will prevent the isssue of new order books?

    I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman was listening to what I was saying. The Bill makes a number of changes in the benefit entitlement of those entitled to supplementary benefit. When the new order books go out they go out for a sum of money, an order payable to the beneficiary. If the order books had been drawn up on the basis of the provisions in the Bill and, thereafter, the Bill was altered because it had been delayed, the order might well be wrong and it would have to be recalled and sent out again.

    The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that an order book is for a sum of money.

    That is right. Therefore, if there is a change in the law after an order book for a given sum of money has been sent out and that sum requires to be changed, what I was saying is exactly right. The book has to be recalled and a substitute sum put in.

    But—this time—the Bill is before the House, and if it remained before the House because we took too long to debate it the complications that I explained would be expensive. That is why it is essential for the Bill to become law by the end of May.

    Working backwards, that means that we have to send the Bill to another place in time for it to have its Second Reading there before Easter. That means, in turn, that the Bill needs to come out of Committee by about 6 March in order to allow enough time for proper consideration by the House on Report and Third Reading. I have to tell the House that, on the basis of the experience in Committee so far, there seems little prospect of achieving that timetable without the motion before us.

    Perhaps I should give the House a few facts and figures.

    I should like to develop my argument on this point. I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman now; I shall give way to him later. [Interruption.] If I want instructions from the Labour Chief Whip, I shall ask for them.

    So far there have been 14 Committee sittings, including two all-night sittings occupying in all about 60 hours of debate. Of the 18 clauses in the Bill, the Committee has not yet reached clause 6. Of the five schedules, three remain to be debated. The proceedings on this Bill in Committee are taking longer than for any social security Bill since the start of the scheme in 1948. [Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Salford, West says that there are reasons for that. I shall come to those reasons.

    Of course, I do not deny that the Bill is an important one. So was the Social Security Act 1973, which introduced the new pensions scheme. That Act had over 100 clauses and 28 schedules, and it was disposed of in about 85 hours of debate. This Bill has only 18 clauses and five schedules, yet, at the pace at which it has been debated so far, it will take twice as long to complete. That is absurd.

    I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way; after all, I am a member of the Committee and he is not. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that his last remarks are not true. What is true is that the Bill is almost a complete dismantlement of the social security system as we have known it and as it has grown up over many years. Therefore, discussion of it is bound to take longer than any previous Bill.

    I rather wish that I had not given way to the hon. Gentleman. The statement that he made is so absurd as to be beyond credibility.

    We must remember that, in this Bill, nearly two sittings of the Committee went by before the Opposition turned to the substance of the Bill at all. The Committee took only five hours merely to secure the sittings motion—which was in the normal Tuesday and Thursday morning form—and the procedure motion which did no more than set out the convenient order in which the clauses of the Bill should be discussed. Therefore, it took five hours for the sittings motion and the procedure motion. That compares, for instance, with the time taken on the sittings motion for the Social Security (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill in 1977, which started with a much more controversial afternoon sittings motion, and yet that motion was debated for 50 minutes only. Not to put too fine a point on it, the Opposition have a perfect right to debate the provisions of the Bill in detail. However, they have chosen to do so in a manner that leaves little doubt that it was their intention from the outset to force a guillotine motion. Those five hours spent on the sittings and the procedure motion speak for themselves.

    Would the right hon. Gentleman address himself to the point? We were asking for a statement from the Government on shortfall. We had to wait two weeks for that statement. As a result, millions of pensioners were denied their rights.

    My right hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary have made it perfectly clear—as I have read in Hansard—that that statement was totally irrelevant to anything in the Bill. The Bill does not affect the question whether the Government make up the shortfall. Five hours' discussion on the sittings and procedure motions speak for themselves. Indeed, when the Government Whip moved the closure on the sittings motion at the end of the first sitting, the hon. Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett)—already a veteran of the Education (No. 2) Bill Committee—said:

    "Opposition Members will feel that they have to use the only procedure they can, namely, to extend debate unreasonably."—[Official Report, Standing Committee E, 22 January 1980; c. 51.]
    The hon. Gentleman was immediately rebuked by the Chair for using the word "unreasonably". He hastened to withdraw it. The hon. Member for Stockport, North laid bare the Opposition's tactics from the first day of Committee.

    The closure was moved because most of us felt that the Government should make up the shortfall in pensions. If a statement had been made earlier, there would have been no need to spend time on that. However, the Government were determined to rob pensioners.

    Whether the Government should make up the shortfall had nothing to do with the question whether the Committee should sit on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. The hon. Gentleman has laid bare the absurdity of the Opposition's position.

    I do not doubt that, in the Opposition's eyes, clause 1 is little to their liking. It breaks the link with earnings as a basis for the statutory uprating of pensions. They debated that clause for nearly 12 hours. As a result of long-drawn-out debates on procedure, on the sittings motion and on clause 1, the Committee did not reach the heart of the Bill—the reform of the supplementary benefits system—until nearly midnight on 12 February, during the course of the eighth sitting. No detached observer could conceivably argue that that was a sensible use of the Committee's time.

    Some Opposition Members were more concerned to drive the Government into a guillotine motion than to debate the Bill in a sensible, orderly or rational manner. I use the word "some" advisedly. It is clear that the Opposition have been at sixes and sevens about their tactics.

    Yes. Some Opposition Members, including the hon. Members for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) and for Stockport, North recognise the importance of supplementary benefits reforms. They have been genuinely anxious to debate them properly. However, the right hon. Members for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson) and Salford, West chose to play it differently. They have consistently wasted the Committee's time with points of order, dilatory motions and long interminable speeches. As the record shows, such speeches frequently called for intervention by the Chair. That is sad. The right hon. Member for Salford, West was previously the Minister for Health and Social Security. Under his aegis the review report "Social Assistance" was prepared.

    There is, and has been, wide recognition that the suppementary benefits system is too complicated. It leaves too much to the discretion of officials. It is difficult for claimants to understand. It is difficult for them to know their rights. It was the Government of the right hon. Member for Salford, West who published the report. His Government launched consultations on it. That report and those consultations provide the basis for the reforms detailed in schedule 2 of the Bill. All of us—the Government, officials of the Department, claimants and their advisers—could have benefited from the detailed contributions and experience of the right hon. Gentleman. Instead, we have had little but time-wasting frivolity and fractious opposition.

    The public must ask themselves why the Opposition have fallen so far short of the occasion. Several Opposition Members have been dismayed at the way in which the right hon. Member for Salford, West has chosen to conduct himself. If proof be needed that the right hon. Gentleman's objective had always been to force us into introducing the guillotine, the House should consider what happened in the Standing Committee last Thursday afternoon, after my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House had announced this motion. In marked contrast to the barely visible progress of earlier weeks, the Committee proceeded to deal promptly and expeditiously with several amendments of substance.

    I do not care whose amendments they were. If the guillotine motion had not been announced, Opposition Members would have debated those amendments interminably.

    If the hon. Gentleman is trying to catch the eye of the Chair, he is acting in a peculiar way.

    It is not as if Ministers had been unwilling to give the Committee as much help as possible. We made available numerous notes on clauses. They were quite lengthy and they set out the provisions in considerable detail. We also gave the Committee notes that indicated how the extensive regulation-making powers would be used. Much detail was filled in by parliamentary questions and by letters that had been written to spokesmen for the Opposition and to other members of the Committee. Ministers have sought to hold nothing back from the Committee. However, that did not stem the lengthy and tedious time-wasting tactics of the Opposition.

    If the Opposition had not wasted so much time at the outset of the Committee, they would have had plenty of opportunity to debate the Bill properly and there would have been no necessity for this motion. The motion is therefore their responsibility. There should be no mistake about that. About 5 million people depend upon the supplementary benefits system. However, in the eyes of the Labour Party, the virility symbol of a guillotine motion is much more important than parliamentary scrutiny of those people's interests.

    The timetable provides for at least eight further sittings of the Standing Committee. It will be for the Business Sub-Committee to determine how that substantial allocation of further time shall be allotted to the clauses and schedules. The only constraint that this motion imposes is that the proceedings in Standing Committee shall be ended by 11 pm on Thursday 6 March. Two days are allotted for Report and Third Reading. Perhaps, in order to allay anxiety, I should say that the Government have no plans to introduce new clauses in Committee or on Report that would represent major new departures of policy.

    Of course, we must reserve the right to table amendments and new clauses. However, I can go further tonight than I did in a letter to the right hon. Member for Salford, West after the Second Reading debate. I then assured him that if major changes in the law were to be introduced full time would be given to debating them in the House. I can now say that we do not intend to introduce any such major new clauses.

    Will the Secretary of State confirm that he does not intend to introduce a new clause to deal with benefits to strikers' families? Will he also confirm that he will not be able to change the regulations in that respect through the Bill?

    The firmest answer that I can give is that we will not be able to change the regulations through the Bill.

    Therefore, in addition to 60 hours of debate that the Bill has already had, there will be scope for nearly 30 more hours in Committee and for 17 hours on Report and Third Reading. That is a fair allocation of time which should provide ample opportunity for the Bill's provisions to be debated properly.

    Timetable motions are never popular with Oppositions, but this motion is essential if Parliament is to reach a conclusion on the Bill. Pension and other social security payments which are due to many millions of our fellow citizens will then be adjusted in time for the payments to reach them from the uprating date in November.

    I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to support the motion in the Lobby.

    7.20 pm

    The Secretary of State comes second hand to the Bill. Unfortunately, he was not a member of the Standing Committee. I appreciate that his Department has two Bills going through the House, but he is not a member of the Health Services Bill Committee. Of the two Ministers con- ducting the Bill in Committee, one was a full-time member and the other a part-time member.

    The Secretary of State referred to our "dilatory" attitude. On the morning after an all-night sitting I moved a motion, which the Chair accepted, to terminate the debate. The Under-Secretary of State asked me to withdraw that motion so that we could finish the debate on that clause and examine Government amendments. I agreed to withdraw that motion without debate. Was that a dilatory motion? The Under-Secretary of State replied to the debate and a vote took place. About 10 Government amendments were accepted without debate or vote.

    We do not accept that there was any undue delay. We debated the sittings motion, faced with the reality that pensioners did not know whether the Government planned to make good the shortfall that was revealed by the publication of the earnings figures from November to November. That would leave pensioners 2 per cent. short in the money to which they are entitled. The Government met their commitment on prices, November to November, which the previous Government said they would meet, but we had to wait until the following week before the right hon. Gentleman said that the pensioners would not receive their due in relation to earnings. We were angry at the Government's response. If we had not put on the pressure in Committee we should not have received the reply from the Secretary of State that we eventually received.

    Instead of moving a guillotine motion, the Secretary of State should be in his office deciding how he will carry out the judge's ruling on the removal of the Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham area health authority. He should decide whether he will carry out his duty as prescribed by the law. Perhaps we shall hear more at another time. We shall not let that issue go.

    We make no apology for debating in detail the change in the method of assessing pensions, from earnings and prices to prices alone. Pensioners will be denied a share of any increased properity in our society when earnings rise at a higher rate than prices. If that principle had been applied between 1974–79 a married couple would now be £5 a week worse off. We are talking about benefits, not only to pensioners but to the disabled and 1½ million other people who receive long-term benefits. We are talking about a change that will affect 10 million people. If that does not warrant a major debate I do not know what does. We had good cause to debate that subject.

    We were told by the Minister for Social Security that apart from clause 1 the Bill was not controversial. I hope that he has changed his mind. He has heard some of the debate on the Bill's major aspects, not least those contained in schedule 2. The Government cannot rewrite the whole of the social security system and say that it is uncontroversial. Major changes are proposed. I give credit to my hon. Friends who pursued the major issues in order to elicit information from the Ministers.

    The Minister for Social Security once said that he would not speak for more than five minutes because he wanted to be concise and to the point. A few days later he was on his feet for over 45 minutes because we were trying to elicit information which unfortunately he could not give. We were told that a small number of people would lose and that others would gain by varying amounts under the Bill's provisions. However, in a written answer on 10 December the Under-Secretary of State admitted that there would be 1·8 million losers and only 700,000 gainers, and that more than 300 claimants would lose over £1 a week. Is that a small number? Is that noncontroversial? We had a duty to debate that issue at length. I make no apology for it.

    In this century there is no precedent for legislation taking away the rights of the poor on that scale. It has not happened since the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834, which tried to abolish outdoor relief. That failed, but it caused untold misery. The only guillotine on a social security Bill since 1945 was on the National Health Service Bill 1961, which raised national insurance contributions to an unprecedented level. That happened under a Conservative Administration. There has never been a guillotine on a social security Bill introduced by a Labour Government. Perhaps my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals) will be able to confirm that there has not been a guillotine motion on a health services Bill.

    For the sake of accuracy, I am sure that the right hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals) will confirm that the Health Services Bill 1976 was guillotined by the Labour Government.

    I was dealing basically with social security Bills. Perhaps my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North will deal with that later.

    On the question of the supplementary benefits review, our earlier report said:
    "Neither the Government nor the Supplementary Benefits Commission are committed in any way at this stage to any of the views expressed or possibilities for change discussed."
    The report's foreword, which was underlined by my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North and myself, made this absolutely clear. It said:
    "We want to hear the comments of all concerned—interested organisations and the public—before taking any decisions about the future shape of the scheme."
    This invitation launched one of the most important exercises in open government yet undertaken. Public meetings and seminars were held all over the country and members of the review team attended those meetings to discuss and explain their proposals. The Labour Government welcomed and encouraged public debate in the full knowledge that such debate would not be confined to discussion of nil-cost reforms. At the meetings members of the review team themselves stressed that the Government were not committed to a nil-cost package. The SBC also joined in the debate and published its own response to the review. It firmly rejected the nil-cost approach. Although the SBC and Ministers are advised by the same officials, there is nothing in the commission's response to suggest that it thought that the Government were in any way committed to action on a nil-cost basis. That needs to be put on the record.

    A major difficulty about debating this Bill is that the Government's intentions are still shrouded in uncertainty and ambiguity. The supplementary benefits review and the public debate that followed should have culminated in a major White Paper. Instead, the Government issued a miserable six-page document, which is an insult not only to Parliament but to all those who have contributed to the debate throughout the country.

    The Bill is a mere skeleton, which leaves nearly all the rules to be laid down in the regulations. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell us now when we will get those regulations. We are debating in the dark. In Committee we asked Ministers time and time again how various matters would be affected by the regulations. The Ministers were unable to tell us.

    My second point is that we do not believe that it is satisfactory to have a one-and-a-half-hour debate when the regulations come before the House. Because we felt that the regulations were of such importance, we proposed in Committee that they should go either to a Select Committee of the House or to the new body that is being set up. We felt that the new body should meet in public so that people could be aware of its discussions and the problems arising out of the regulations. We are entitled to a statement from the Government, because we are still debating in the dark.

    The right hon. Gentleman really must not mislead the House. Many hon. Members here today are not members of the Standing Committee and they may not realise that notes on clauses, totalling 40 pages of details of what was likely to go into the regulations, were made available to every member of the Committee. Moreover the right hon. Gentleman has not acknowledged the fact that the Government accepted the Opposition's amendment No. 221 to provide that the major regulations bringing in the scheme would be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure and not the negative resolution procedure as had been originally intended. The Government have gone a long way to meet the Opposition's wishes on this matter.

    They have not gone nearly far enough.

    I wish to outline to the right hon. Gentleman a number of points, because the present Supplementary Benefits Act covers important matters which are now to be left to regulations. The present Act sets out details of earnings and other resources to be disregarded. It also includes rules for calculating the amount to be added for rents and other housing costs. The present Act sets out the detailed rules regarding the reduction of benefits on leaving a job voluntarily or refusing suitable employment. None of these points is covered in schedule 2. That is the importance of having the regulations and having the debates in an open manner.

    Within a few days of the issue of the notes on clauses I put 44 questions to the Secretary of State on aspects of the scheme that were not fully explained in the annex. The answer that he gave me was evasive and not full enough, and did not meet many of my points. It did not cover major aspects of the scheme on rent additions and clothing grants. Ministers themselves do not know how the new scheme will work. One thing has become clear from the dribs and drabs of information that we have managed to extract—this is not a nil-cost package at all.

    The annex says that "additional requirements", now known as "exceptional circumstances additions", will be broadly the same as under the existing policy of the SBC, but it is now clear that the Government regard the policy of paying heating additions to families with young children and people over 75 as a one-off exercise. Ministers have said that they are still considering what to do about fuel costs in 1980–81 and future years. Whatever they may decide, it is clearly not included in the costing of the Bill.

    The Secretary of State confirms that. Yet the savings listed in the financial memorandum to the Bill do not include this item. Therefore, there is an unadmitted profit of about £11·5 million from this item alone. One could give other examples as well.

    Why do we need so much more information? The first reason is the loss of discretion. This is one of the major changes that the right hon. Gentleman makes in the scheme. He is giving people legal rights in place of discretionary payments. But the Government seem bent on taking away the powers to meet needs that are now not covered by the regulations. At present the SBC lays down broad policy but can always stretch the rules to meet unanticipated needs. My right hon. and hon. Friends have given countless examples in Committee of cases where needs are given at the last minute in exceptional circumstances. Therefore, exceptional needs grants must be made on a one-off basis and perhaps in an area where they have never been made before or for all sorts of national and local disasters.

    We must be sure that the regulations will be wide enough to give benefit officers all the powers that they will need. That means detailed probing of every aspect of the scheme. That is what we are doing and that is what we will continue to do. We make no apology for it. It is no use waiting until the regulations are published. Unless the Government make special arrangements for prior consultations, it will be too late to amend the regulations by then. The right hon. Gentleman has confirmed that at present he is not prepared to make any alterations.

    We cannot responsibly let this Bill reach the statute book without insisting on full disclosure about the effects on individual claimants, particularly those who stand to lose. It is one thing for the Government to increase benefits by regulation; it is quite another to cut them. If the Government want powers to do that we must know exactly how they intend to use such powers, and it is not good enough for Ministers to tell us that they have not yet decided. We do not acecept that.

    That is one of the reasons why the Secretary of State should be on the Committee. The Under-Secretary has been left to carry a very heavy burden. I know that I will damage her if I start praising her across the Floor of the House, but she has carried a great deal of the weight, and not least through the two all-night sittings. But she is the junior Minister. The senior Minister has not been present through the important parts of the Bill.

    It has been explained to the right hon. Gentleman privately and at least once publicly in the Committee that on medical advice I did not stay very late when the Committee went through the night. I have of course attended all the daytime sittings and have taken a considerable part in discussion. I had thought that there were limits to the bad manners and the bad taste of the right hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme). My position has been explained to him and he need not keep on talking about it.

    I hear what the right hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Prentice) says. However, after one all-night sitting he was not prevented from holding a press conference the following morning and speaking on the radio and giving television interviews all day after not being present in the Committee the night before. I tell the right hon. Gentleman that he has treated the Committee with contempt by not being properly represented. I make no apologies for raising the matter.

    We have been told that one of the noncontroversial aspects of the Bill is the abolition of the SBC and the intention to make individual benefit officers responsible for decisions on individual cases. It was clear from the outset that some co-ordinating machinery would be needed—benefit officers could not operate without central guidance. The White Paper does not mention—we needed to extract the information from the Secretary of State—that this central guidance will be provided by a chief supplementary benefit officer. The Bill does not mention that, either. Such guidance will be central to the operation of the scheme and yet we are told by Ministers that it will not be published. How can Ministers say that?

    The chief supplementary benefit officer, like local benefits officers, will be an independent statutory official. He will not take orders from the Secretary of State, and if he wishes to offer guidance to local officers he will have the right to do so. How can Ministers say that this independent official—not yet appointed—will not exercise that right?

    A number of proposed amendments will afford the Committee the opportunity to probe the role of this officer. Ministers have sought to show that his guidance will be of no interest to claimants and that it will not be practicable to publish his notes on guidance. They have misled the Committee on both points.

    The chief officer will advise not only on Questions of legal interpretation but on vital questions of policy, such as the rules for deciding whether a rent or board and lodging charge is reasonable and should be met in full. His advice may be summarised in a handbook. We need to know about the Social Security Advisory Committee as well as the publication of the handbook.

    The advisory functions of the SBC have become increasingly important. Will the new chief officer be able to do what the SBC does? Will his department have a full-time chairman? What power will the new body have to demand information from officials and Ministers? These are questions to which we have not received answers in Committee and I now ask them in this House because I believe that I am entitled to do so.

    Will the new advisory committee have free access to relevant departmental files, as does the SBC? Will it have free access to local offices? Will it be free to make and publish reports of its own choosing on questions of policy, as the SBC now does? On the other hand, will it, like the Social Security Benefits Commission be subject to ministerial veto on publication? Will the new body be able to commission research? What will be its relationship with the SBC inspectorate on which the present Commission relies for much of its information about the operation of the supplementary benefits scheme?

    These are a few of the questions that need to be answered. The Government cannot dismantle and remove a system that has been built up over many years, replace it with another system, and not answer these questions. The attention of the Secretary of State is being diverted at the moment, but we need answers to these questions.

    We believe that this guillotine is unnecessary, because when the Government decided to make these changes they should have taken the time factor into account and brought the Bill forward sooner. My right hon. and hon. Friends were prepared to discuss in some detail the questions that I have asked. Many of them were not answered in Committee and have not yet been answered, but we will continue to press for answers.

    I fear for many of the claimants when this new Bill becomes an Act. Discretion will be removed, and there will be major change. We do not know the nature of the new body that will replace the SBC. We do not know how it will operate, what kind of personnel will be appointed, and what freedom and independence they will enjoy.

    The SBC was developed over a number of years and enjoyed a measure of independence that at times allowed it to be critical of me and my right hon. Friends. The SBC had the right to be critical and to publish its views in the public interest. Now the Government intend to sweep it away and we have no guarantee that the new body will have the same guaranteed independence.

    This Bill has 18 clauses and five schedules. It is a small Bill in those terms, but it is a Bill of great importance to millions of claimants. Those claimants are mostly from the poorer section of our community. We make no apology for what we have done in Committee, because we believe that we did it on behalf of people who needed representation. We shall continue that representation and when we come back into office we shall remove some of the worst effects of this Bill.

    7.47 pm

    The attitude displayed by Labour Members is perhaps not wholly attractive to those of us who reflect that between March 1974 and March 1979 the Labour Government tried to apply the guillotine to no fewer than 12 Bills. They were successful on 11 occasions. It is true to say that more guillotines were applied during that period than in any other comparable period of government in our political history. Therefore the attitude displayed by the Opposition, though wholly predictable, is not attractive.

    Of course some of us were not here then, but I can judge historical matters clearly even though I was not here.

    When one considers these matters, one realises that it is not surprising that Labour Members should go through this pantomine of disgust and dismay. In part they are trying to persuade their supporters in the country that they are doing their stuff. In part also—and this is a much more respectable reason—they are frustrated because their attempts to delay the progress of Government policy are being defeated.

    I do not blame Labour Members for trying to delay the progress of Government legislation. That is a perfectly proper and legitimate action. But if it be proper and legitimate to delay Government measures by prolonged debate, hon. Members who do that must not come to this place and grumble when the Government bring forward a timetable motion. Either both are equally proper, or both are equally improper. One cannot have it both ways.

    That view was clearly shared by the Labour Government when they introduced timetable motions on no fewer than 12 Bills—the Finance Bill 1974, the Industry Bill 1974, the Petroleum and Submarine Pipe-lines Bill 1974, the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Bill 1975, the Dock Work Regulation Bill 1975, the Health Services Bill 1975, the Rent (Agriculture) Bill 1975, the Education Bill 1975, the Scotland and Wales Bill, the Scotland Bill, the Wales Bill, and the European Assembly Elections Bill. On all those matters of major constitutional importance the Labour Government produced timetable motions. Perhaps they were right, but if so their attitude today is 'wholly and manifestly wrong.

    7.51 pm

    This has been a pretty bad day for the Secretary of State [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I will tell hon. Members why. First, the right hon. Gentleman was told by the High Court that he acted illegally in sacking an area health authority—and presumably closing down St. John's and St. Olave's hospitals. I hope that tomorrow he will have the courtesy to explain to the House what action he intends to take following the High Court's decision.

    Is the right hon. Gentleman aware—I ask this also of the hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg), who made an interesting speech—that, in the whole period of Labour Government, from February 1974 to May 1979, only one Bill from the Department of Health and Social Security, which is the Department which we are discussing tonight, was made the subject of a timetable motion? That was done not to curtail time for debate but in order to give more time. At that time, as the Secretary of State seems to have forgotten, we had a "hung" Committee, which absolutely refused to allow us to meet more than two mornings a week.

    The motion before the House on the Health Service Bill on 20 July 1976 contained the following provision:
    "The Standing Committee on the Health Bill shall meet at half-past Ten o'clock and half-past Four o'clock on each day (except Mondays and Fridays) on which the House sits on or after the 21st day of July 1976".— [Official Report, 20 July 1976; Vol. 915, c. 1606.]
    That motion was intended only to ensure adequate time for discussion.

    Secondly, it is a bad day for the Secretary of State when he brings forward such a disgraceful motion as this. During five years the Labour Government put through the House such measures as the Child Benefit Act, a new pensions scheme, the invalid care allowance, a mobility allowance, the Children's Act 1975, the Adoption Act 1976, the Nursing Homes Act, the Pensioners Payments Act, the Nurses, Midwives and Health Visitors Act 1979, the Pneumoconiosis etc. (Workers' Compensation) Act 1979. and plenty more. We got all those measures through the House, yet on the first measure that the Secretary of State has introduced he has to try to reduce the time for debate.

    It is the Government's own fault that they have got into this appalling mess. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) said, if there was a timetable problem, why did they not introduce the Bill earlier? They must have known that many of the issues had to be debated not only in the country but in Committee and, as eventually will happen, on the Floor of the House. It was the Government's own fault.

    The Secretary of State was not himself made a member of the Committee, presumably because he trusted implicitly in the judgment of the Minister of State, who, for reasons which I am sure we all understand, cannot attend night sittings. What a way for Ministers to run a Standing Committee! This is appalling.

    It is monstrous that such an important Bill, affecting the lives of so many millions of citizens, should face the chopper. The Bill provides for a major restructuring of our social security system. It denies retirement pensioners and others a statutory right which the Labour Government gave them to share in rising living standards. Perhaps there will be no rising living standards under this Government, but it was a right which we gave the pensioners and which this Bill seeks to remove. It will affect occupational pensions, family income supplement, child benefit, disablement pensions, industrial injuries compensation, supplementary benefit, including the Supplementary Benefits Commission, and the whole appeals system, including appeals for war pensioners. As a war pensioner myself, I should have declared an interest earlier.

    I wonder whether the Secretary of State has asked himself why the Labour Government succeeded in getting through their measures of social reform without resort to gagging the debate.

    Not just that, although I understand my right hon. Friend's remark. It was because the measures which we introduced were beneficial to our people—they were compassionate and caring. The Government are having trouble with this Bill because its main purpose is malevolent, because it is taking away the rights of people in a way that was never explained at the election. If it had been explained, I believe that the result of the election would have been very different.

    The Bill is malevolent in damaging the social welfare of the largest group of all—the pensioners, who should be deeply sickened by the Secretary of State's decision, presumably agreed with his Cabinet colleagues, that a guillotine should be imposed on a measure of this dimension.

    It was a little ironical to hear Lord Thorneycroft on the radio this morning, as I was shaving, telling us that Tory policy was a combination of toughness and compassion. I suppose that the noble Lord has thus divided the Cabinet into those who are tough and those who are compassionate. However, I have not noticed any of them queueing up for the title of "compassionate". They wish to be "toughies", and the Secretary of State himself is one of the toughies. He has cut pension entitlements, he is freezing child benefits, he has threatened—to do him justice he is not doing it in this Bill but will need another Bill—to slash unemployment benefit, sickness benefit and supplementary benefit. We are glad that those cuts will not be made in this Bill, but the Secretary of State has not said that they will not be put into effect.

    Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is not a case of the Government freezing child benefit, but that they have cut it in real terms by not increasing it? Child benefit is already worth£1 less in real terms than when the Government came to office.

    I did not develop the argument, but I am happy to follow what my hon. Friend says. I agree that the Government are doing that—first by cancelling the November increase, then by not having an increase this April, and thirdly by putting a cloud over the decision whether there will be an increase next November. That must mean that family support in real terms will decrease, and the faster inflation rises the more rapidly will it decrease.

    The right hon. Gentleman has been doing his stuff as a toughie and showing that he can hit people where it hurts. At the general election he talked a lot about caring, but that election is light years away from the present situation. Another of my successors—I must admit that they are rather a rum lot—the Minister of State, Treasury, seemed to be the only Minister ready over the weekend to defend the Prime Minister and the unacceptable face of Toryism. He made a remarkable statement, which is relevant to what we are discussing tonight. He attacked those within his own party who were
    "in the grip of an alien economic dogma which takes a caring, even a paternalistic, position".
    My God, those are strong words! "Caring" is now "alien" by modern Tory standards. The hon. and learned Gentleman was speaking as a Treasury Minister. As I have said before, the right hon. Gentleman, from the moment he became Secretary of State, has never behaved like a Secretary of State for Social Services. He has behaved as it he were still a Treasury Minister.

    The Minister of State, Treasury said that the country had chosen the sharper medicine which the Government were offering. It is not medicine. It is poison. It is strychnine. I believe that tonight's motion shows on which side of the great divide the Secretary of State is. He is a hawk, though perhaps sometimes in dove's clothing, through and through. It is disgraceful that he is determined to reduce the time of Parliament to consider this measure, important as it is.

    The right hon. Gentleman challenged me about the Health Services Bill of 1976, which one must accept was a controversial measure. Yet he has not challenged the fact that we introduced a timetable motion only to give the House time to discuss it. It would be monstrous if this Parliament were to decide tonight—

    I am afraid that I cannot answer that. It would be out of order for me to do so. I am saying that it is wrong of the Secretary of State, his ministerial colleagues and those of his Cabinet colleagues who support him, to decide to impose a guillotine on a Bill which makes fundamental changes. I do not deny that some parts of it are good, but some parts are malevolent and damaging to the interests of the poorest and most needy people in our society. To rise, as he did, and say that the time of Parliament to debate the Bill must be cut is an absolute disgrace.

    8.3 pm

    I have spent many a long and happy hour during the past five weeks in Committee Room 12. It is a matter of great regret to me that tonight we shall have to pass a timetable motion because of the way in which Opposition Members have con- ducted themselves in that Committee Room.

    It is about a week less one hour since we were about to go into Committee Room 12 at 9 o'clock and were due to remain there until six minutes to 12 the following day. On 22 January, when we first met, we met from 10.30 am until 1 pm and we discussed the sittings motion. Two days later we met again on the Thursday at 10.30 am, and again we discussed the sittings motion very nearly until the end of that sitting at 1 pm.

    We have heard certain remarks from Opposition Members about the conduct of Ministers and attendances in Committee. I am sure that the House will not take it amiss if I go through some of the performances that I have observed during the 60 hours or so that I have sat there. I have sat mostly in silence, my well-known reticence greatly to the fore, because I thought that this was a Committee in which I could educate myself by listening to the remarks, comments and, indeed, the wisdom offered by Labour Members.

    The Opposition are led by the right hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme). It is of particular interest to me to listen to the right hon. Gentleman, because one of my ancestors was the Member of Parliament for Salford. From 1832 to 1857, Joseph Brotherton had the previlege of representing that borough. I believe that his major contribution to the House was that he used to make sure that it went to bed fairly early. Therefore, he too would approve of the timetable motion that we are discussing and which we shall pass tonight.

    The right hon. Gentleman has basically made somewhat niggly contributions to our discussions. He seemed to be more interested in making personal points, particularly about my right hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security, than in taking the argument to its logical conclusion, unlike some of his hon. Friends who serve on the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman is supported by his right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson). His right hon. Friend shows a considerable knowledge of the subject, and he is by no means loth to air that knowledge in the Committee. I imagine that if we were to add up the column inches in Hansard of those who have contributed to our Committee discussions, we would probably find that the right hon. Member for Brent, East has contributed more than any other, in length if not in substance.

    I see sitting on the Opposition Benches the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. Stallard) He is the light relief paraded by the Opposition during our time upstairs. I notice that the hon. Member for Southampton, lichen (Mr. Mitchell), who is one of our joint Chairmen, is no longer present. That is a pity, because I should like to pay tribute to the way in which he handles our affairs in general and the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North in particular. Again, a study of the record of our deliberations will show that on numerous occasions the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North has been brought to order by the Chair. He indulges in brinkmanship to such an extent that it would make John Foster Dulles appear to be a very cautious man indeed.

    The hon. Member for St. Pancras, North tells us that more is going on in his constituency than in any other constituency in the country. He goes through the hierarchy of all the committees in his constituency, and as the Chairman begins to rise to his feet he says in that lovely lilting voice of his "But, of course, I realise, Mr. Chairman, that if I go further along that road you will rule me out of order." Then he goes off again at another tangent. That is an amusing contribution to our discussion, but not, I fear, of great use to progress on the Bill.

    There are two other Labour Members who I believe have tried to make serious contributions to our deliberations. If I may echo the words of the right hon. Member for Salford, West, I hope that I shall not do them any harm by giving praise to them. The hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) is well known for his activities in the Child Poverty Action Group. I remember three or four years ago doing a radio broadcast with him, and I realised then what an extraordinarily nice and sincere man he was. He has a tremendous grasp of his subject. Most of his interventions are very pertinent and to the point. He performs the duty of opposition exceptionally well in that he probes and pushes and makes sure that the Minister gives the answer that he is seeking.

    In that the hon. Gentleman is aided greatly by the hon. Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett). I did not know the hon. Gentleman very well until the Committee started sitting five long weeks ago. Again, he shows a remarkable knowledge of his subject, even though he moved an amendment very formally indeed at our last sitting which his right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East took over so that he could have time to study it and see what he was talking about. However, having studied it he came across very well.

    The hon. Member for Barking (Miss Richardson), on the very first amendment that was proposed, gave us a most interesting talk on maternity benefits as paid in Albania, Taiwan and Manchuria. I think that she went through most of the 131 countries that appeared on the league table of who pays what. It was educational, but the vast majority of what she said was not germane to the discussion of the Bill.

    The hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Ellis) has also made contributions to our discussions. I am happy to say, for our sake, that they were not as long as some of those of his right hon. and hon. Friends, but they were none the worse for that. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State pointed out that the Bill contained 18 clauses and 5 schedules. After 60 hours and 14—

    Will the hon. Gentleman enlighten the House as to his contribution to the Committee proceedings?

    I shall do so with the greatest pleasure. I have regarded the Bill as giving me the opportunity not only to look at the legislation but to be educated. I was invited to intervene by the hon. Member for Birkenhead on his amendment. I made a brief intervention. The hon. Member had so thoroughly destroyed his own amendment that there was nothing that I could usefully contribute, so I resumed my place. It must be remembered that it is not always he who makes the most noise who contributes most to the Committee proceedings. It is by my assiduous attention and support for the Government in passing this necessary legislation that I am rendering a good service to my constituency, to my Government and to the nation.

    I digress. I am like the right hon. Member for Salford, West and some of his hon. Friends. I allow myself to be led astray. I was speaking about the form of the Bill. There are 18 clauses and 5 schedules. After 60 hours of discussion, where are we? We have reached clause 5. We still have 13 clauses to discuss, and we are still discussing schedule 2, which is the meat of the Bill. Schedule 2 contains the vast majority of the pages in the Bill, and we are still ploughing our way through it.

    When he proposed the motion, my right hon. Friend mentioned the remarkable change of attitude and the change of pace in Committee proceedings last Thursday afternoon after the Business Statement. Until 4.30 pm last Thursday, progress was still very slow. Comparatively, after that time, we made tremendous progress. That gives the game away.

    I believe that the hon. Members for Birkenhead and Stockport, North have tried to make positive contributions to the deliberations, but other Labour Members have been filibustering and delaying for the sake of it. The Secretary of State had no option but to introduce this motion, and I am confident that the House will support it tonight.

    8.14 pm

    I should like to add a number of reasons to those already put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) for opposing the guillotine motion.

    I begin, not by following the speech of the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Brother-ton), but by taking up the challenge thrown out by the Secretary of State about the length of time that we have spent discussing the Bill. He suggested that we had spent enough time on it and that this was an ordinary Bill and ranked with any other Bill in regard to the guillotine motion.

    In developing that argument—obviously he had other engagements and did not have the time to listen fully to the debate —he showed appalling ignorance of British history. Over the past 400 years this Chamber has been concerned with extending rights. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries our main concern in Parliament was to extend our legal rights before the courts. During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries we were concerned with extending our political rights, the franchise and our economic and welfare rights. What is so special about the measure that we have spent so many hours discussing in Committee is that, for the first time, rights are being taken away.

    The Leader of the House is to wind up the debate, and I offer him a challenge. I ask him to name one measure in this area, put forward by a Tory Government, a Liberal Government or a Labour Government, which has reduced people's rights since the Poor Law Amendment Act came into force in 1834. That is the measure of the Bill that we have been debating. Up to now, every Government, whatever their political complexion, have talked about extending the rights of people, whether middle class or working class. The extent of the reactionary revolution of this Government is seen by the nature of the Bill. On other occasions Governments have put forward guillotine motions for good reasons. Can we honestly vote for a guillotine motion tonight, when, for the first time in 400 years, we are cutting back on people's rights? I repeat my challenge. I ask whether any Government have put forward a measure which has cut back on people's welfare rights in the manner in which this Bill seeks to do it. If the hon. Member can name one such measure, I shall be happy to vote with the Government tonight.

    The loss of rights can be seen in four ways. There are many others which I am sure hon. Members will develop, but for the sake of brevity I shall deal with only four. First, the Bill cuts the rights of pensioners. My right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West has already talked about the pledge—which was not only talked about but was enacted by the Labour Government—to increase pensions in line with earnings or prices, whichever was the greater. He reminded the House of the effect of that on the living standards of pensioners. If we had operated under the old Tory formula, pensions today would be £5 lower.

    If the measure which is being debated in Committee were on the statute book, and if this month the Government had to bring forward a pension uprating because earnings were running ahead of prices, pensions for a married couple would be increased by an extra 50p compared with the prices formula. The Government are cutting the rights of pensioners and all other claimants on long-term benefits. We are talking about cutting back the entitlement of one in four and one in live people in Britain.

    We are also cutting back on claimants' rights—those dependent upon supplementary benefit. One might not have thought that to be a serious infringement of living standards if one had just read the White Paper on the proposed reform of the supplementary benefits scheme. In that White Paper we are told that only "a small number" will lose, but, thanks to our probing, both by parliamentary questions and in Committee, we now know what the Government mean by "a small number". Approximately 1¾ million people will lose under the scheme, and only 750,000 will gain.

    Compliments have rightly been paid to the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security for the way in which she has dealt with the Committee proceedings. However, a good head and a pleasant smile are not an effective cover for what she proposed in Committee. She said that she would like to have proposed more but that there was no money available. That was a statement from a member of a Government who, in the last Budget, reduced taxation by £4·6 billion and ensured that the richest 7 per cent. of the community picked up 34 per cent. of the tax cuts, and the poorest 10 per cent.—some of the people with whom we are dealing in the Bill—managed to corner 2 per cent.

    So much, then, for the argument that there was no money available to implement a reform more generous than on what is called the nil-cost basis. There has been an erosion and a cutting back of the rights of those on supplementary benefit.

    The working poor are also lined up for the chop in this measure. As some hon. Members will know, those in full-time work are not eligible for supplementary benefit, but under the present rule they can get what are called exceptional needs payments to help out with a clothing bill or with a pressing fuel bill. As a result of the cut in the rights available to those who may be said to earn their poverty in this country, their entitlement will be removed. That is the third group that will lose entitlement.

    The last group that I want to mention are the school leavers—those who in the summer holidays will lose their right to supplementary benefit. Here we are talking of the disfranchising of well over 400,000 young people. The hon. Lady and I represent an area in which large numbers of young people will leave school the summer and for whom there will be no jobs. But they will have no right to benefit, as compared with those who left school last year. In my constituency there are now well over 7,500 people unemployed, and there are 202 vacancies. Those young people who join the dole queue in the early summer will, thanks to this measure, now lose their right to supplementary benefit.

    This is a measure the like of which Parliament has never debated before. For 400 years Parliament has not been concerned with cutting back on rights. Parliament's job has been to extend people's rights. That is a powerful reason why there should be no guillotine motion on a Bill which seeks to cut back on rights for the first time in 400 years.

    My right hon. Friend spoke about the people with whom we are dealing in the Bill. We are talking about some of the very poorest people in the community. The supplementary benefit system is the safety net for those who are, in a very real way, down on their luck. About 8 million claims a year for supplementary benefit are met, and 5 million people are regularly dependent on what they can gain each week from the Supplementary Benefits Commission.

    In its evidence to the Royal Commission on the distribution of income and wealth, the SBC reported in the following terms about the living standards of some of the very poorest people in Britain. It pointed out that the benefit paid out by the Commission
    "strongly suggests that the supplementary benefits scheme provides, particularly for families with children, incomes that are barely adequate to meet their needs at a level that is consistent with normal participation in the life of the relatively wealthy society in which they live. This impression is borne out by the extent to which we find it necessary to make use of our discretionary powers to provide more than the minimum levels of benefit determined by the scale rates."
    At another point the Commission reported that
    "the overriding priority in reforming the supplementary benefits scheme is to increase the level of benefits for families with children and for all claimants who have to live on the lower ordinary scale rates".
    That is the report from those in charge of today's poor law scheme.

    One crucial way in which the commission has tried to take the pressure out of the system is by awarding exceptional needs payments, particularly for clothing. My right hon. Friend stressed this. If we consult what we have called in the Committee the "red missal" to see who will, and who will not, get their rights to clothing grants, we find that when the new regulations are in force—we have not seen them—the purchase of essential clothing, where the need has arisen other than by wear and tear, will not be allowed.

    At the present time most grants are given because clothing just wears out, and claimants have to manage on 89p a day to cover all the needs of children between the ages of 5 and 10. No wonder the claimants cannot cover their clothing needs! But up to now they have been helped. When the Bill comes into force, if the regulations are as we think they will be, those claimants will be disfranchised. That is why we have been pushing and struggling to see the regulations, so that we may debate in detail how the everyday circumstances of Britain's poor will be affected adversely by the Government's measure.

    I oppose the guillotine motion also because the Bill will cut back on poor people's legal rights. The disputes of poor people—if they are not caught catching something off the back of a lorry—are settled not in courts of law, where our disputes are settled, but in the tribunals of the Welfare State. The Bill, in an effective and vicious way, cuts back on the scope of independent adjudication.

    Up to the present time a claimant has been able to go to an appeal tribunal to dispute a decision by the Supplementary Benefits Commission. If that decision has not been based in law—in other words, if it is not governed by the Act but merely by the regulation in the A code, as it is called—the claimant has a good chance of overturning the decision and improving his lot and that of his children. But under the terms of the Bill the regulations in relation to what were previously discretionary policies will become law in the same way as the Bill will become law. The scope for independent adjudication will therefore be cut drastically. That is why so much of our time has been spent in pleading for sight of those regulations which, in some awful way, as we believe, will affect the living standards of claimants.

    I oppose the guillotine motion because there are some massive issues in the Bill that we have not even debated. For example, we have not yet debated the correct rates for children, yet the hon. Lady and many of my hon. Friends know how vital an issue this is. We have not yet discussed how Governments of both major parties, Labour and Tory, have-discriminated unfairly against the longterm unemployed—the very poorest of those on supplementary benefit. There has been no mention at all of child benefits and of the importance that many of us on each side of the Chamber attach to those benefits.

    I hope that the Government will give way on something this evening. I expect that they will carry the guillotine motion, with or without my vote, but I hope that they will say something positive about the regulations, because these will have an enormous effect on the living standards of Britain's poor. We must in some way debate those regulations in detail, whether in the Bill or in a supplementary Bill, or before a Select Committee. This is not just to try to trip the Government. We can do it within their nil-cost corset, if that is what they wish, but we can make the Bill a better one if we are given time.

    It is crucial that we have a full debate on the new body. I voted with the Government to wind up the Supplementary Benefits Commission. I expressed the feeling of my constituents. I expressed their hatred of the present system. They do not regard it with the same favour as the academics in the poverty lobby do. They regard it as they did the old unemployment assistance board, and that is the name they still use.

    I look for something better from this Bill If something better is to come from the Bill, clause 8 is crucial, because it will lay down the powers of the new body. I hope that we can debate that fully and extend in a real way—not in a way that threatens the Government, whoever may be in Government at the time —the independent standing of that body, to enable it to speak for those in our community who are too often silent. Again I make the plea. Will we be given concessions on the regulations? Will we be given concessions on debating the new body?

    I return to my first point. For 400 years this Parliament has concerned itself with extending rights. This Bill, for the first time, cuts back on the rights of the poorest in our community. If that is not a reason for opposing a guillotine motion, I do not know what is.

    8.30 pm

    I am not surprised that the Government are now, through the use of the guillotine, seeking to stifle further thorough examination of the Bill. They do so, in my opinion, because we in Committee are getting far too close to the heart of the matter for their comfort. Throughout the process of our analysis of each clause of the Bill we have been able, by probing amendment after probing amendment, gradually to expose the Bill for the king-sized Treasury rip-off that it is.

    From the very first day we debated clause 1(1) we were told not to pay too much attention to the written word. Instead, we were told that we should place our blind and unquestioning trust in this Government. On that first day we were given vague assurances on the £26 per year shortfall; yet eventually, four sittings later, the Government reneged on their commitment to pay that shortfall and have demonstrated just how trustworthy they are.

    Whenever my hon. Friends on the Committee managed to expose individual clauses and subsections for the hollow platitudes that they turned out to be, the senior Minister on the Committee, the right hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Prentice), constantly told us that it was our duty to place our abiding trust and faith in the Secretary of State, on whom the Bill will confer absolute discretionary powers.

    All the authorities I have read on the subject, from Walter Bagehot downwards, indicated to me, in no uncertain terms, that it is the duty of Her Majesty's loyal Opposition to regard all Government-sponsored legislation with the utmost mistrust. That is our task. However, I well understand the confusion of the right hon. Member for Daventry on the matter. After all, he spent so little time in opposition that he may well have forgotten that principle.

    Whenever I study the Bill I am reminded of the Christmas treat that traditionally I have to give to my children—nowadays, it is my grandchildren, unfortunately. I always have to take them to see Walt Disney's film "Jungle Book". Our favourite scene in that film is where the poor little jungle boy Mowgli is being hypnotised by the snake. While poor little Mowgli is being enmeshed in the serpent's coils the serpent is repeating "Trust in me. Trust in me". How much the Bill is like that!

    When we ask how the powers of discretion will be used we are told to trust in the Secretary of State. When we ask about the clause that says
    "To be determined as the Secretary of State deems to be expedient"
    we are told to trust in the Secretary of State. We are told that the Secretary of Sate will have powers to make and break regulations as he sees fit. When v e gently inquire as to what those regulations are likely to be, we are told to trust in the Secretary of State.

    We are told that the earnings relationship is to be abolished and that the Secretary of State will have reference to prices only when we gently ask which index, if any, he will use, we are told to trust in the Secretary of State and not to worry.

    I know that comparisons are invidious and I certainly do not wish to give offence to anyone at this time—least of all the "snake". But unlike Mowgli in "Jungle Book" we are not so easily hypnotised. As time goes on it becomes more apparent that this Bill is the confidence trick to end all confidence tricks.

    The Secretary of State is not a member of the Standing Committee; he is not even present now. My guess is that in our search to find him to place our trust in him—unless the guillotine prevents us —we shall eventually unwrap that last clause of the Bill and find out that we have a gift-wrapped vacuum. I fear that by that time the Secretary of State will have been spirited away by the Prime Minister. Of course, that is the con trick of all time—it is called "Find the Lady".

    8.35 pm

    I am very pleased to have caught your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I almost missed doing so, as a relatively new Member. This is my first experience of such a debate.

    The tactics that have been employed by hon. Members on both sides of the House in the handling of this Bill have been quite fascinating. The hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) almost brought tears to my eyes a few moments ago. However, in Committee, all through the night on a couple of occasions and all through the next forenoon as well, he quite frequently could not refrain from laughter. As a relative newcomer, I found that the peculiar thing about it that I could not understand what was so funny about the Bill's contents:

    I am glad to have the hon. Member's explanation. However, as I was sitting behind Tory Members, I did not see them asleep; nor did I hear them called to order for that indiscretion.

    Does my hon. Friend agree that in no way would either of our two admirable Chairmen allow any member of the Committee to do anything quite as out of order as to go to sleep?

    Whether or not I was asleep, I was sorely tempted on a number of occasions to mention that had the proceedings been conducted under the rules of the radio programme "Just a Minute", in which repetition, hesitation and deviousness are not allowed, Opposition Members would most certainly have been ruled out of order and would not have been able to continue for even a minute. However, they managed to ramble on for an interminable time— especially the hon. Member for Birkenhead.

    This evening the hon. Member mentioned the interests of brevity. Surely, the way in which he has demonstrated this evening that he can get across his point of view about these poor, needy people who are to be so disadvantaged by the Bill shows that he could have used that weapon of brevity to get his case across far more effectively than by almost putting even me to sleep throughout the night in the early part of the Committee stages.

    I did not lengthen the Committee proceedings. I did not rise to speak. As a relatively new Member—I was about to say "young", but the word is "new"— I felt it my duty to sit quietly and to listen and learn, rather than to hope that others would learn from listening to me.

    I should like to say a word about the poor. I have been quite poor. I have seen many people in hill farming areas in Scotland who by no stretch of the imagination could be described as rich. They have sustained themselves almost by living off the land—eating rabbits, hares and the occasional braxy sheep. Such conditions have bred strong and resolute countrymen, who have sustained this country through war and peace for many years.

    Human society can progress only in an evolutionary upward direction against a certain degree of adversity. If we take away all adversity so that the so-called poor have an adequate lifestyle, whether they do anything or not, we shall not be doing a service to this country or to humanity.

    The Bill will draw in the reins slightly and provide a better base for looking after the genuine needy. Therefore, it will do a tremendous service to the nation. I have pleasure in supporting the timetable motion. We must get the Bill through to start building the broad base that has been eroded over the years.

    8.42 pm

    I congratulate the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Myles) on being the first Conservative Member to have spoken in favour of the Bill. Traditionally, in guillotine debates two arguments are deployed by those in favour of the Bill. One is to say that it is a good measure and the second is that we should get on with it quickly. The hon. Gentleman said that this was a good measure. I am not sure whether the Government Front Bench would agree with him in his remarks about the poor.

    The Secretary of State seemed to have little understanding of what has gone on in Committee. He suggested that I had been delaying the proceedings. Then he seemed to suggest that both my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) and I had been probing the Bill sensibly. If he had read the proceedings carefully, he would have had some idea of what we were talking about. He suggested that we were delaying and speeding up proceedings at the same time. I suggest that that is somewhat difficult to understand.

    The truth is that the Secretary of State has not considered the Bill carefully at all. He complained that we had reached only clause 5 and got half way through schedule 2. If he studied the Bill carefully he would see that almost all the meat is in those parts of the Bill to which I have referred. The Bill makes provision for enabling regulations to be made. If, instead of making provision for regulations to be made, the Secretary of State had put them in the Bill as clauses, the Bill would probably have contained between 60 and 70 clauses. If so, the progress so far would be considered remarkable. If Opposition Members had wanted to delay progress on the Bill we would not have made anything like the progress that has so far been made.

    All contributions by Opposition Members have been constructive and probing either of the Bill or of other information that hon. Members have a right to have from the Government. If the Government took account of the way in which they ought to be trying to get a Bill of this kind through the House by making occasional concessions when good arguments are put forward, they would have been able to make really rapid progress. But we have had hardly one concession.

    There are 10 or 12 major interest and pressure groups that are concerned with the Bill. They have all been feeding information into the Committee. It is remarkable that not one Conservative Back Bencher has taken the trouble to take up the issues. The one exception is the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Benyon), who has tabled one amendment. He is the only Conservative Member on the Back Benches in the Committee Room who has taken the interest to probe.

    It is remarkable, but hardly any Conservatives have been present for the debate. The Government Whip in Committee has been telling his Back Benchers not to speak. Tonight he has been in a panic. He has been dashing hither and thither trying to persuade his colleagues to make speeches. The truth is that hardly any Conservative Members are concerned to ensure that people receive their benefits. It seems that their concern is to take benefits away from people.

    We are sorry to learn that the Minister of State has been too sick to address the Committee and to answer our questions for most of the proceedings at night. However, he has found it possible to appear on television and to engage in press conferences. It seems that he has been trying to outdo the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) in his attack on scroungers. The Minister of State should be trying to ensure that people receive their rights and obtain the benefits to which they are entitled. He has done little or nothing about that in Committee. He has been intent upon getting publicity throughout the country. It seems that he wants to prove that he can be harsher than most Tories. Bearing in mind his ministerial responsibilities, he is a disgrace.

    I turn to some of the major issues with which we have to concern ourselves. We have found it almost impossible to ascertain from the Government their policy about taking away benefit from the families of strikers. We all know that the Tory Party keeps saying that it will take action, but until tonight we had not received a categorical assurance from the Government that they would not introduce such a measure by the back door by means of the Bill.

    The hon. Gentleman has attacked my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat). Does he accept that my hon. Friend has received a remarkable amount of support for his point of view from ordinary rank and file members of the public?

    The most remarkable feature about the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South and the Minister of State is that they are trying to create a myth that there are far more scroungers than those who deserve help and do not get it. There are more who underclaim benefits than those who overclaim. That should be recognised.

    When the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South was receiving tremendous publicity about scroungers he said that countless cases had been brought to his attention. My right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) and I asked for the evidence to be sent to us. We analysed the hundreds of instances that had been brought to the hon. Gentleman's attention. Only a handful of them amounted to anything that could be called scrounging. The hon. Gentleman had a most successful publicity drive, but in terms of anything that was real there was nothing.

    I agree with my right hon. Friend's comments. The Minister of State is saying that his Department is hard pressed and does not have the resources to help people claim benefits. However, it is able to find resources to chase after those who are supposed to be defrauding it. When the Government announce that they are introducing more staff to catch VAT and income tax defrauders, we shall believe that there is some justice and even-handedness in the Government's approach.

    We took a long time in Committee to ascertain the Government's attitude to benefit for strikers' families. The major issue arose of what they would do about the pensions shortfall. Pensions were uprated last autumn and pensioners were robbed of about 50p this year. We know now that that will be for each year. It took a long time to get the Minister to come clean in Committee about that.

    There are the questions of the maternity and death grants. Every year that goes by without uprating those benefits means that they lose their value. The Minister told us that it was up to the pensioners and those claiming the maternity and death grants to make sacrifices in order to get the economy right. As we have gone through area after area, the Minister has said that there is no money available to improve benefits. I challenge the Minister to tell us tonight the sac- rifices that he expects people on his income and similar incomes to make in order to get the economy of the country right. If he could tell us that, we would have more sympathy when he says that it is up to the pensioners, the expectant mothers and the elderly who have problems raising the money to bury their dead to make sacrifices.

    There is the problem of the fuel rebate scheme. By now, the Government should have told people about that scheme. They found it easy enough to announce that they wanted to put up gas prices and introduce an effective gas tax. Constituents have come to me and asked if they can be moved from their homes because their fuel costs are too high and they do not want to be there to face next winter's high fuel costs. It is time that the Government told people what they are going to do about a fuel subsidy for next winter, before more and more people are frightened into moving from dwellings where their heating costs are too high into cheaper dwellings. Throughout the passage of the Bill, the Government have given no indications of what they will do about a fuel subsidy.

    I suggest that the Government have not spent anything like enough time looking at the implications of taking away supplementary benefit from school leavers. We have been moving slowly in this country towards a uniform leaving date for all school leavers at the end of the Whitsun holidays. Now, with the way in which the benefit is drawn up, the Government are giving a major incentive to families with children on low incomes to let their children leave at Easter and not stop on for the last six or seven weeks in order to take exams and—hopefully—pass them. When the Minister held office in the Department of Education and Science, he put forward proposals to try to achieve a common leaving date. Yet, now, in this existence, he is making it less likely that children will stop on. If a child does stop on at school until Whitsun and does not get a job, that family will end up about £100—probably about £140—a year worse off.

    During the passage of the Bill, realistic demands have been made on the Government to tell the House what they will do about child benefit. Yet we have heard nothing about that. There have even been pleas from the Tory women's conference on that matter, yet there has been stunning silence. On all these matters, if there had been some information and concessions from the Government, they would have found that the Bill would have made reasonable progress. If the Minister wants to introduce this sort of measure, he must tell the country that there will be equality of sacrifice and he should not demand that the least well off —the pensioners, the sick and the poor— make all the sacrifices.

    8.53 pm

    I am indeed pleased to follow the hon. Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett). It was a pleasure that I had on many occassions during the discussions on the Education (No. 2) Bill in Committee, when for hour after hour I had the pleasure of hearing him, and seldom was I really bored. However, he may have strayed from his usual high standard of debate tonight. It was unfair of him to say that Conservative Members are not concerned about people getting benefits. He is re-echoing the old myth that only Labour Members have a monopoly of compasssion. That is not so.

    Conservative Members also feel for their constituents. I shall dwell on that point later in my speech.

    I served with some pleasure on the Committee which considered the Education (No. 2) Bill. I found that experience valuable, informative, interesting and stimulating. I am sure that the hon. Member for Stockport, North will agree with me. It was an experience that is not to be forgotten. I can now readily appreciate what my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) meant. He said that friendships made during the long and arduous hours of Committee debate continued throughout the lifetime of not one, but several Parliaments. I certainly feel that to be the case.

    One of the effects of a guillotine motion is that it concentrates the mind. Before the guillotine came down, a word was never used when a sentence could be found. A sentence was never used if a paragraph could be found. If Opposition Members had an opportunity to rewrite the Ten Commandments they would need not two but 20 tablets of stone. It is a mistake to equate the quality of debate with its length.

    It is also only fair to remove some of the hyprocrisy that surrounds the argument on motions of this sort. We should remember that all Governments have introduced guillotine motions in order to get business through the House.

    I recognise clearly that it is the job of an Opposition to oppose. By the same token, an Opposition must be responsible. I am sure that Opposition Members will agree that it is not right for a minority to delay the wishes of the majority. Perhaps we should ask ourselves how far a minority should go in preventing majority legislation from being enacted. I understand that the Committee has completed clause 5 and schedule 2, after about 60 hours of deliberation. Clauses 16 to 18 are still to be discussed. Three more complete schedules await discussion. However, the Committee has sat for at least two full nights. One may ask whether the Government are not entitled to bring forward such a recommendation after 60 hours of discusssion. I hope that hon. Members will accept it. It is also fair to remember that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has indicated that no new clauses will be introduced.

    The Bill should be enacted before the end of May so that social security benefits can be uprated at the appropriate time, in the autumn. No one should prevent that from taking place, for whatever reason. If the legislation is delayed, it will involve major administrative problems. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security will forgive me for saying that her Department already has administrative problems. I have written to her on several occasions about delays in the payment of child benefit. That has been a major problem in my constituency. I have received many complaints concerning the slowness and the inaccuracies that occur.

    I do not wish to create further opportunities for more delays in the payment of those benefits. All hon. Members must be aware of the difficulties caused to families when they do not receive the appropriate child benefit. I make no apology for raising the issue of child benefit, nor for my defence of it. I am a family man with six sons. My eldest son is 23 years old and my younger children are now 16.

    As our children grow older, the benefits that should accrue to me are perhaps steadily diminishing. The hon. Member for Stockport, North is right in assuming that at least one on these Benches takes advantage of child benefit. My wife would be delighted to tell the hon. Member how much child benefit is appreciated in the Pawsey household.

    Should not child benefit have been increased this year to take inflation into account? If it had been increased a little more than necessary, it would have done much to reduce the poverty trap.

    The hon. Member for Stockport, North will know my feelings on this issue. When we discussed clause 23 of the Education (No. 2) Bill, my argument was that it was wrong for child benefit to be used to defray part of the transport costs of getting children to school The hon. Member will recall—and I can say that without fear of contradiction because he was a diligent member of the Committee on that Bill—that I voted against clause 23. I crossed the Floor of the House as an indication of where I stood on the transport clause. I make no apology for expressing anxiety about child benefit I hope that the Government will take note of my anxiety about the delays in child benefit payments. I hope that they will do everything in their power to ensure that they are made promptly.

    9.2 pm

    In the interests of brevity, I shall not allow myself to be provoked by the speech of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Pawsey). I forgive him for his lack of knowledge, since he is not a member of the Committee. I do not believe that he has studied the Bill. If he had, he would not have treated it in that fashion.

    We are not dealing with a simple enabling Bill to enable the Government to introduce regulations that might or might not alter benefits. We are dealing with a major piece of complicated legislation which dismantles the whole social security system. That view is held by many volunteer and statutory organisations.

    I do not apologise for the time that we spent in Committee on the sittings motion. Only hours before that motion was moved we were confronted with an announcement that the estimated up-rating of benefits had fallen short by about 1·7 per cent. We rightly asked how we could go into a Committee on a Bill the first clause of which dealt with the uprating of benefits until we knew what the Government intended to do about shortfall. If the intention had been to honour their moral obligation, we should have accepted that.

    Naturally, we probed, pushed and begged the Secretary of State to make a statement to the Committee about the Government's attitude to shortfall. We learnt the official Government attitude via a planted question. The minute we knew, discussion began. There was no question of filibustering. We made a genuine attempt to find out the Government's policy. When we discovered the policy, it was even worse than we feared, and so we continued with our speeches and probing.

    Can the hon. Member explain why the Chairman has had to call him to order on a number of occasions for straying from the point? It seems that that has happened very frequently.

    I do not necessarily consider that that is any indictment. The fact that we are dealing with such a confusing and complicated Bill—and that has been admitted by both Front Benches —means that it is inevitable that hon. Members will stray from the point. I freely admit to a certain amount of confusion and lack of understanding.

    We are faced with a Bill which tells us that regulations will be laid on almost every aspect of social security. But we have had no sight of any of these regulations. We are discussing the Bill in a vacuum and in the absence of a major part of its content—the regulations. Therefore, it is natural that we should try to find out the extent of these regulations and the powers of the people who will implement them. What part will Parliament play in the regulations? These are a few of the issues which cannot be skimped.

    It has been said that we have been debating the Bill for 50 to 60 hours. But already we have dealt with 50 to 60 amendments. Bearing in mind that our debates have included two major discussions, we have spent less than an hour on most of the amendments, and that does not seem a particularly long time.

    Will my hon. Friend tell the House that when we were discussing clause 1 on the linkage of pensions with prices rather than earnings he spoke as the joint chairman of the all-party group in the House for pensioners, and as such he was reflecting a view that is shared on both sides of the House?

    That is absolutely true. I put forward the view that has been supported in early-day motions both in this Parliament and in the previous Parliament by hon. Members on both sides.

    If right hon. and hon. Members had studied the Hansard reports of our Committee proceedings as closely as they claim, they would have seen that on many occasions Labour Members have maintained the quorum, even though that is a Government responsibility. We maintained the quorum in order to continue the discussion on these important matters. That did not happen when I was a Whip in a previous Government. The minute we lost the quorum, Conservative Members walked out of the Committee. Therefore, as we have maintained the quorum, the argument about our filibustering falls.

    I am extremely concerned about the abolition of the Supplementary Benefits Commission. This is an area of contention between hon. Members, even on our side of the Committee. That is the way it should be. But we have all argued for the publication of the regulations and the lifting of secrecy on coding. We all want more benefits to be understood by more claimants. But I do not think that we need to abolish the SBC in order to bring that about. Nor do we have to abolish the SBC in order to publish the regulations. Or is it to inform some claimants exactly how their benefits are arrived at?

    It was not necessary to abolish this important and semi-independent buffer between the Executive and the claimant. That buffer often came down on the side of the claimant and it was not necessary to abolish it simply in order to do away with secrecy.

    I argued that we should have maintained at least a strong element of discretion such as existed under the SBC. That discretion will disappear under the new regulations. I now argue that it is impossible to legislate for the various emergency and urgent needs payments and the circumstances that create those emergencies and urgencies in these regulations. There must be a certain amount of discretion. If the Government abolish discretion and institute a set of rigid regulations, they will create more difficulties. I contend that it will not be long before the Government will need to bring in a Bill amending this Bill in order to reintroduce that important element of discretion.

    My hon. Friend has not touched upon the effect that the Bill will have on the disabled. Can he tell us how much time was spent discussing the effects of the Bill on the war disabled? Can he say how much attention was given to the loss there would have been to the 100 per cent. disabled war pensioner if, over the last five years, his pension had been linked only to prices and not to increases in earnings or prices, whichever was the more beneficial? Is my hon. Friend satisfied that the Committee gave enough attention to the problems of the disabled?

    I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that intervention. I intend to mention the disabled. The whole area of discretion is important and could be discussed for a whole debate in this Chamber, let alone in less than an hour in Committee. That issue, together with the uprating of the maternity grant—a grant which still stands at £25 and which has not been uprated for many years—are important matters for many people. They merit lengthy discussion, as does the death grant.

    That grant has claimed the attention of hon. Members on both sides of the House. Early-day motions have been signed by hundreds of hon. Members in support of uprating the death grant. There are 39 voluntary organisations linked in the Dignity and Death Alliance arguing for an uprating of the death grant. Those organisations have spent hours and months campaigning and arguing for this benefit and we are accused of filibustering because we spent less than one hour discussing these benefits and their uprating.

    It is ludicrous for anyone to say that there has been any deliberate filibustering. There may have been an element of levity. That is inevitable in any Committee. But there has been serious discussion on the uprating of those benefits. We shall continue that discussion and the issues indicate the seriousness of our discussions in Committee.

    Even more serious is the effect of these complicated regulations on the important issue of single homeless. It is not a party issue since there is all-party interest in some aspects of single homelessness. However, when it comes to the vote, arguments from Tory Members disappear. The Labour Party is left to prove—as has always been known—that it is the party of caring and compassion and that the crocodile tears are shed by Conservative Members. On successive occasions in Committee we have seen Conservative Members who have signed early-day motions and spoken on these issues voting against a minor amendment to modify— not dramatically change—the present position. Not one of those hon. Members has deviated from the line laid down by the Whips.

    Therefore, it is left to us to argue about the heating allowance—which also affects millions of old people and must be the most relevant possible argument at the moment. It is not just the heating allowance but the introduction of a comprehensive fuel policy, which has yet to be discussed. Will it be included in regulations? We do not know—the Government have not let us see any. We are entitled to probe and to know what goes into the regulations, but when we try they bring forward a guillotine.

    The pattern of the Government is to time the guillotine to fall just when the discussion is becoming most embarrassing to them. We saw this with the Education (No. 2) Bill. Just as we approached the embarrassing public discussion of the effect of Government cuts on school meals and transport, the guillotine was introduced. In this Bill, we are about to discuss the effects on the disabled, the long-term unemployed, the single homeless and the mentally handicapped, and the composition of the new advisory body and all the regulations. These could be embarrassing areas for the Government and that is when they introduce the guillotine.

    Who is next? At what point will the Government guillotine the Housing Bill? Probably just before we discuss the rent increases. All embarrassing debates have to be truncated and shovelled into two or three sittings. Far from our filibustering, if it had not been for us there would have been no serious discussion at all of benefits, uprating and the welfare of millions of the most vulnerable in our community. That is what we are about and will continue to be about. I hope that the House will reject the motion to allow us to continue that process.

    9.17 pm

    I am not sure that I need that kind of help.

    I came into the House when my party was in Opposition, when it was easy and entertaining to listen to the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) ranting and raging about how shocking it was that he had to put guillotines on five Bills in an evening—or perhaps only one or two. It is entertaining to listen to and it is entertaining to make a speech in Opposition saying that 60 hours so far have not been enough and that 30 hours to come will mean that it is impossible to debate matters of interest. I find that a seducing argument from the Opposition Benches, but not from these.

    The hon. Member for St. Pancas, North (Mr. Stallard) said that the Bill dismantles the social security system as we know it, but it is important that the Bill should be the start of rebuilding the system as we want to have it. No one who has read the written answer in column 312 of today's Hansard about percentage increases in social security benefits would argue that it is a consistent pattern. As the hon. Gentleman said, the maternity grant and the death grant are alone in having been unchanged since 1975. The Committee discussion so far, which has included the amendment on the maternity grant being extended on a non-contributory basis in time, is a step forward. I hope that the Government will soon be able to extend the death grant to the very elderly, who do not get it at the moment. Progress can be made in small stages.

    The reason why I support the motion is that it will make it possible to bring back to the Floor of the House a Bill that does not and was not designed to cover all the issues of social security, so that on Report and Third Reading we will be able to put down markers and make arguments about how improvements can be made.

    Will the hon. Gentleman explain why he was kept off the Committee, since he could have put down some effective markers and made better contributions than some of his hon. Friends who were on the Committee?

    The simple answer is that I find it more interesting to serve on the Foreign Affairs Committee because Committee stages of foreign affairs issues tend to be taken on the Floor of the House and I do not have to spend all my time listening to the speeches of Opposition Members, first, because if I agree with them there is no need to listen, and, secondly, if I disagree I do not want to listen anyway.

    I hoped that this Bill would put forward the arguments in regard to child benefit that I have put forward before I entered the House, when I was in opposition, and now that I am supporting the Government. It is important to recognise that we shall not achieve the increases in child benefit that we want until we can get across the message about the mess that our social security system is in. That was a mess which was left by the previous Government, and the Government before them. If one goes all the way back to 1945, one will see that no Government have had sufficient pressure put on them, both within the House and outside, by people who are informed about the mess that we are in at present, as well as the opportunities for the future. The sooner that we can get rid of this Bill and get on to dealing with the major changes and reconstruction in social security, the better.

    For example, if the timetable motion is passed and we come on to Report and Third Reading, I should like to raise the question why the TUC, in its leaflet "Save our Children", talks about school transport, school meals and other things but omits the two vital words "child benefit". That is obviously a slip, but it should not be possible for the TUC to make that kind of slip.

    If on Report there is an amendment about indexing child benefit, does it mean that the hon. Gentleman will not make a TUC slip and will vote with us?

    I never want to commit myself in advance, but that sounds like the kind of thing of which I would be very much in favour.

    Incidentally, I do not believe that anyone on the Opposition Front Bench failed to vote in favour of the Labour Government's objection to indexing child benefit when the matter was raised in the last Parliament. Almost without exception, and given the instructions by its Whips as well as the arguments put forward by the right hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals), the whole of the Labour Party fell into line and voted in the No Lobby.

    Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that it would be unwise to index child benefit until it is at a proper level? Surely he must know perfectly well that that was the reason why we have waited for the time when it would be proper to index child benefit.

    I suspect that in a quiet way the right hon. Gentleman is really saying that he is awaiting the arrival of his hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field), who would make sure that indexation is the least that happens. There is not the slightest question of child benefit falling in real terms or of it falling behind the increases in other tax allowances.

    The CBI, like many other bodies, recognised the importance of raising child benefit with regard to the incentive to work argument, but it also recognised, quite rightly, that the public sector borrowing requirement is affected by an increase in child benefit and, more than that, that because of the switch from tax allowance to cash payment public expenditure appears to rise. Obviously, in terms of Government accounting, it does rise. But the PSBR—this is an argument that I know will be of interest to my right hon. Friends, because I am sure that it is one that they put forward at Cabinet meetings—is affected just as much by an increase in child benefit as it is by an increase in tax allowances.

    The real question is, what is the right thing to do? We all know that the right thing to do is to increase child benefit. However, the problem is how that will be seen in the country, and it is seen not too well, because some people believe that there is still a child tax allowance. We know that that has been removed. Some people believe that because child benefit rose by £1 last year, everyone with a child is £1 better off. They forget about the abolition of the residual child tax allowance.

    Those are the sorts of arguments on which we should be spending 60 hours in Committee and two days on Report. It is vital that we pass the Bill, with a debate on Report and on Third Reading. Let us at least try to reconstruct a social security system that tries to make sure that help is given where it is needed.

    If we find that we do not have enough money for all our aims and ambitions, we must face the real questions. Do we want to give arbitrary increases in pensions, or do we want to decide the right level of increase of pensions, and the right level of increase for child benefit? It is as important to give aid to pensioners as it is to give aid to families with children. In the years since 1955 we have signally failed to do that. I hope that we do better in the future.

    9.26 pm

    The hon Member for Woolwich, West (Mr Bottomley) made some interesting points, which I am sure we would all be happy to debate. However, he overlooks the fact that, in our view, the Government are bringing forward the Bill as their idea of reviewing the social security system. Even if we rush through the Bill and it reaches the statute book, I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman will have the opportunity to discuss child benefits and pensions. I believe that when the Bill is passed the Government will then say that they have tidied up the system and that that is the end of the matter.

    I do not wish to malign the hon. Gentleman by suggesting that he has not read the Bill, because even if he has read it he will find it difficult to understand. The Bill is vastly complicated and extremely technical. Some Labour Members are experts on social security matters, and in Committee even they questioned the meaning of parts of a schedule.

    I may be in a minority of one, but I do not object in principle to the timetabling of Bills. I can see a case for whichever party is in government discussing at the appropriate time a proper and adequate timetable motion. When I was a member of the Select Committee on Procedure, I argued for that, although my argument did not hold sway. However, I am opposed to the Government's bringing forward a guillotine motion in the middle of deliberations on a Bill, because it puts the matter out of focus. If there had been a timetable motion at the beginning of the proceedings on the Bill we could have decided, in the proper manner, which were the most important clauses and schedules and allocated the right amount of time to them.

    We are now faced with a few more weeks of Committee sittings and with having to make last-minute and rapid arrangements on which clauses should be discussed and in which sittings. I do not object in principle to the timetabling of Bills but I do object to the way in which the guillotine motion has been put forward now.

    Many references have been made to the importance of the Bill. One of the ways in which that was illustrated was in the amount of run-up to the Bill. First, there was the review, and the social assistance document was published. That document provided all sorts of organisations throughout the country with the opportunity to produce evidence and to give their views on what the document should contain. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme) said, we then had a measly six pages from the Government as their contribution to the discussions, and finally the Bill. We spent a good deal of time and placed ourselves very well on the question of the review and the social assistance document and the responses to it.

    We then suddenly galloped forward into an ill-considered Bill which is difficult for us to understand, and much more difficult for the people outside who are wondering what is to happen to their benefits. After all, it is for them that we are legislating. We are not legislating for a cosy group of people in this place; we are legislating for hundreds of thousands of people in different groups, all of whom will be affected by the passing of one regulation or of one part of one schedule or of one clause. We are therefore right to give the utmost consideration to the way in which the Bill is drafted.

    The Minister for Social Security took exception to the fact that we referred to his absence. It has always seemed to me that if someone has to be absent for a very good reason, that is perfectly satisfactory. It is perfectly acceptable for someone to say "I am very sorry, but my doctor says I ought not to be here. Blessings on you. Carry on all night, but I am unable to do so". No one would have raised the slightest objection if that had been said. But we sat for the whole of the first all-night sitting without any reference that I can recall being made to why the Minister was absent. It was only during our second all-night sitting that his deputy—who did so very well for the Tory Government on that evening and the previous one—referred to the fact that the Minister was unwell. I had not known that he was unwell. Had I known, I might have had a little sympathy for him. It was rather odd that the reason should have been given at the last moment.

    Does my hon. Friend agree that it was extraordinary that the Government took us through the night knowing very well that the Minister in charge of the Bill would not be there? It was the Government's responsibility, not ours.

    My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. We did not ask for two all-night sittings. We manfully put up with them—I use that term because I suppose one cannot say "personfully"—but I have a feeling that if there had not been all-night sittings, and if the hours had been more sensible, there might have been a bit more progress. Who knows? We all got tired. I do not think that this House legislates very well when it sits up all night and debates drag on. Arguments tend to get repetitious. That cannot be denied. Shorter debates are much to be preferred.

    Various hon. Members have referred to the many parts of the Bill that are contentious and difficult to understand. The hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton) made a rather slighting reference to the maternity grant, which is important. As he well knows, his hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Mr. Benyon) tabled an amendment which was accepted by the Government—

    I made no slighting reference. I merely referred to the amiable way in which the hon. Lady rambled round Albania and all points north, south, east and west, when discussing the maternity benefit.

    It was necessary to show how much better other countries were doing as regards maternity benefit than we were. The point was relevant. Perhaps the hon. Member for Louth was being condescending about me and not about the grant.

    We have also had an important debate on the EEC directive about equal treatment for women on social security matters. We were right to have that considerable debate, because that directive extends the social security right of men to women. We had a long exchange about the way in which the Government changed the words "equal treatment" to "similar treatment". We had to obtain the dictionary, as I recall, to discover how relative the word "similar" was to "equal". These are not trivial things. They are important.

    Nobody denies that this Bill is important, but we want to see that each bit of it is scrutinised in the best possible way. Above all, we want to see that the regulations are brought forward properly so that they can be debated and understood, not only by this House but by every man, woman and child who will be affected.

    9.35 pm

    I am tempted by the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Miss Richardson)—though I will do my best to resist it—to discuss the more general question whether more timetable motions should be introduced in the House. I have always rejected that general proposition. It would be a mistake. The effect of having timetable motions on all Bills would reduce pressure on Governments and ensure that they did not have the same requirement to give the House an explanation of their policies. I hope that the House of Commons will never adopt that course. However, my hon. Friend the Member for Barking and others hold the view that more timetable motions should be introduced, and I am sure they will continue to argue about it. But I trust that the decision will not be made to resort to them automatically. As everyone knows, occasionally guillotines have to be introduced.

    Earlier there was some reference to detached observers. In a way, I suppose that I am a detached observer, because I have not played any part in this Bill. In that sense, I suppose that I am in exactly the same position as the Secretary of State who is in charge of the Bill. I understand that he has been a detached observer throughout all the proceedings. We welcome his maiden speech in the debate today. He may have made a few oblique references to the Bill on Second Reading, but I gather that in Committee he has had little, if anything, to say on the subject.

    Considering the Secretary of State's speech today, I do not think that he has appreciated, in any sense whatever, our feelings about the significance of the Bill. One aspect of the Bill which I do not deny has already had some discussion is that which breaks the connection between the earnings and prices. We believe that to be a major change of a disastrous character. Some of us object to it all the more strongly because we remember the contribution made by an old comrade, Brian O'Malley, who was one of those primarily responsible for working out the way in which that link should be made. It is a tragic state of affairs that a Bill should be brought forward that destroys that link.

    It is a pity that the whole House, and those who are entering the Chamber now, was not present to listen to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field). He set out the ways in which the Bill marked a serious departure in the whole of our development of social policy. He said that this was the first Bill for 400 years—to use his own description—that, in this area, had sought to take away the rights of working people and others.

    I thought that that was a very daring challenge. I wondered whether it could be compared with what was done by the Conservative Government in 1934, when they introduced the measures which established the Unemployment Assistance Board of that time. But I think that my hon. Friend has an argument, in that they were regulations and not a Bill. My hon. Friend's expert knowledge on this subject is acknowledged in all parts of the House. If this is the first occasion on which rights of this character are taken away by such a Bill, all the more shocking is it that it should be done under the kind of procedures which the Government are proposing.

    One of the aspects of the matter that has had a great historical part in discussions in the House was the introduction of the Unemployment Assistance Board in 1934. In a sense, that was the ancestor, or predecessor, of the Supplementary Benefits Commission. There have been variations and alterations since the Unemployment Assistance Board was introduced. It was detailed debates in the House of Commons—and when those detailed debates are derided great mistakes are made—that transformed the board introduced in 1934 into the very much superior and very much improved organisation, the Supplementary Benefits Commission.

    I understand what my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead says. None of us accepts that the Supplementary Benefits Commission is perfect. All of us have had cases involving it that we have wished to raise. None the less, I believe that those of us who have taken up many cases in our constituencies—I presume that this applies to pretty well all hon. Members —will have seen, especially in recent years, how well the Supplementary Benefits Commission has sought to perform its independent task of trying to ensure that people entitled to benefits get their rights. It is that Commission and its present independence of position that the Bill will undermine.

    At any rate, the removal of such a Commission as that, a Commission which plays a very big part in the lives of the poorest people of this country, is a matter which should be debated in detail. Every opportunity should be given, especially to Opposition Members who perhaps have experience in their constituencies of the detailed operation of the Commission and previous bodies. It is a tragedy for the country and for the proper conduct of its social services that this part of the Bill should not be subject to the most detailed discussion and to the possibilities of improvement in the process of the Committee stage.

    In the same way, the child benefits scheme, to which references have been made, was one of the greatest reforms introduced by the previous Government, and already the present Government have been injuring the way in which it operates, in seeking to undermine it. In this Bill there should be full opportunity for the House of Commons to put that right.

    At the beginning of his remarks, the Secretary of State said that he would not be introducing any major new clauses. I am not quite sure whether he made that comment as an aspersion on the Secretary of State for Education and Science, who did exactly that in the way in which he sought to operate under the guillotine. We are very glad to have the undertaking from the Secretary of State that no serious new clauses will be introduced by the Government. But we want to introduce new clauses that try to remedy some of this Bill's great deficiencies. Time for that is to be restricted, thanks to the Government's decision.

    My right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Ennals) referred to a broadcast this morning of a speech delivered by Lord Thorneycroft. I am not sure whether I am entitled to quote Lord Thorneycroft. [AN HON. MEMBER: "No."] In that case, I have to spare the House the words of Lord Thorneycroft. I can well understand how Conservative Members are eager to be spared them. Perhaps I may paraphrase what he said. The words in The Times are not quoted, so I am sure it is not out of order. Therefore, Conservative Members who are so eager not to hear the words of their chairman will have to listen to them. The Times states:
    "Lord Thorneycroft, of course, knows, and feels, that it is the compassionate side of this Government's politics that has been lacking in public, and that some Cabinet members are restive about that."
    I do not know whether those who are restive are the wets or the hawks and I am not sure which are represented better on the Government Front Bench. However, I am sure that if any of the wets are removed, the Minister of State, who will be replying to the debate, will be eager to take their place.

    There is another report of which I hope the House will take note before we pass from the motion, which appeared in The Observer yesterday. It is a most excellent report by Adam Raphael, that newspaper's political correspondent. He said:
    "This is government by lurch, screech, hunch and firing from the hip. No wonder we are in trouble."
    I am sure that view can be well shared by all Conservative Members. This is the first Government in history to introduce a guillotine by firing from the hip. That is one of the many records that they are establishing.

    I believe that right hon. and hon. Members as a whole must recognise that this measure will do great injury to the House of Commons as well as to multitudes of people throughout the country. It is a matter of great significance that never in our parliamentary history has a social security measure introduced by a Labour Government required a guillotine motion, whereas almost every socal security measure introduced by a Tory Government over the past 10 years has had to be subject to such a motion.

    No. I made an offer to the Minister to cut our time, but he did not want to accept it. I shall sit down in a moment.

    It is wrong for the House to pass this motion in the disgraceful manner in which the Government propose.

    9.43 pm

    The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) said that he would resist the temptation offered to him by his hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Miss Richardson) to discuss the proposition that timetable motions were good in general and that we should have timetable motions on all measures. He having resisted that temptation, I, too, must resist it. However, I am tempted by it, because I assure the hon. Lady that she is in a minority not of one, but of at least two, because I have taken that view for a very long time. Debates having been guillotined become better debates. Speeches are briefer, arguments are crisper, issues are clarified and the quality of the debate is improved. However, I must resist the temptation to expand on that proposition.

    If the right hon. Gentleman was not in favour of regular guillotines, in practice he sailed pretty close to the wind. He stands alone among Leaders of the House in having introduced five guillotine motions on one day. Having said what I did earlier, of course I approved of his action then. Indeed, my votes for those guillotine motions are among the very few votes that I cast in my final months in the Labour Government that I do not regret.

    It is extremely bizarre that the right hon. Gentleman, with that record, should have been nominated by the Opposition to make the ritual protest against the motion before the House. He said that he was a stranger to the Bill. Indeed he is. He showed that by many of his remarks. For example, he praised the speech made by his hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) and paid tribute to his knowledge of this subject. I agree. I think that his hon. Friend has great knowledge and understanding of these matters.

    The right hon. Gentleman attacked the Bill because it proposes to abolish the Supplementary Benefits Commission. It escaped his notice that the hon. Member for Birkenhead agrees with the Government on that issue and voted with the Government.

    The right hon. Gentleman did not have much to say against the guillotine. Curiously enough, that applies to all those who have contributed to the debate. The speeches that we have heard from Labour Members have, to some degree, been a repetition of Second Reading speeches and Committee arguments. I have heard little or no argument to the effect that the hours that remain for debate in Committee will be inadequate.

    We have already had over 60 hours of debate in Committee. The timetable motion will provide for over 30 more hours. There will have been a total of between 90 hours and 100 hours available to debate the Bill. The hon. Member for Birkenhead says that we must have a proper debate on child benefit, a proper debate on the problems of the long-term unemployed and a proper debate on the powers of the new advisory committee. Of course we must. We can and we shall have such debates. There is ample opportunity this week and next week to debate these matters, but "ample" does not mean "unlimited". However, we shall have time to debate all these issues.

    I shall deal with at least three of the arguments advanced by the right hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Orme). Many of his arguments were repeated by other Opposition Members. They concerned proposals contained in the Bill and were not directly concerned with the motion before us. However, they are important matters and I shall comment on them.

    First, the regulations will be laid before the House immediately after Royal Assent. The right hon. Gentleman complains about that. Surely that is the usual procedure. We are debating primary legislation that will empower us to issue secondary legislation. The secondary legislation will follow the primary legislation. That is the normal procedure, and we shall follow it. What we have done is more than almost any Government have ever done to inform a Committee and a wider public of the proposals.

    We have published a booklet of 120 pages. Those pages comprise the notes on clauses that are available to the Committee. The last 40 pages comprise an annex that describes our proposals in details on many of the regulations in so far as we have finalised our proposals. They have been supplemented in recent weeks by answers, by correspondence with the right hon. Gentleman and by information given in Committee. We have leaned over backwards to give the maximum information about the regulations that we propose.

    Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman talked about claimants' rights, as did so many other Labour Members, including the hon. Member for Birkenhead. The Bill is essentially a measure to increase claimants' rights. It is essentially a Bill to allow claimants and their representatives to know where they stand. The publication of regulations in the way proposed in the Bill will set out clearly claimants' entitlements.

    Entitlement in areas that have been grey until now will be made much clearer. What is more, there will be reinforcement by growing case law because of the new right to appeal to the commissioner. The whole system will be set out in a new and enlarged handbook that will be available to claimants and their representatives. The Bill is a measure that is designed to increase understanding and people's knowledge of their rights.

    The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the powers of the new advisory committee. We have not yet reached clause 8 in Committee, which deals with those powers. We could have reached clause 8 if Opposition speeches had been briefer. However, we shall reach it shortly and we shall be able to deal with it.

    I put the debate in the context of the Bill itself. It is an 18-clause measure. Clause 1 is very controversial. The Government accept that. We recognised that the Opposition would want to debate clause 1 in depth, and so they did. The rest of the Bill is not fundamentally controversial. It may contain points of argument, but the Opposition did not divide in Committee on clause stand part on the other clauses—nor did they intend to. I should have been surprised if they had done.

    The most important part of the Bill, apart from clause 1, is the part that reforms the system of supplementary benefit. The genesis of that was the consultative document issued by the previous Government. In that document, the key words were that it was a net nil cost package. The right hon. Gentleman told us that that did not commit Ministers, but it was the nature of the document that it was nil net cost and our Bill is nil net cost.

    Why has there been such a long-winded Committee stage? It was because Opposition Members moved amendment after amendment to increase public spending. I have had some arithmetic done on the amendments. Of the amendments that Opposition Members have moved and that we discussed so far, the net cost would be £1,073 million a year—over £1 billion a year. If we add to that the amendments that remain to be discussed they would cost another £1½ billion, making £2½ billion a year altogether. In other words, the Opposition prolonged the debates in order to make promise after promise to spend other people's money in a way they know that they would not have done if they had been in government. It is all very well for Opposition Members to say that they were not committed to the nil net cost package, but they know that the public expenditure figures that they handed on to us did not contain a penny piece of provision for their amendments.

    The timing of our operation is governed by the need to put the reforms into practice in time for the November uprating. As my right hon. Friend told the House earlier, we need five or six months in order to amend the individual claims of beneficiaries. It is a more complicated operation this year because it is in a new legal framework. Therefore, we need Royal Assent towards the end of May and the Bill must go to the other place for Second Reading before Easter. We need to come out of Committee by 6 March—in other words, Thursday of next week.

    So far, we have debated five clauses out of 18 and rather less than two schedules out of five. The hon. Member for Stockport, North (Mr. Bennett) said that we had debated most of clauses 1 and 2, which are the largest and most controversial parts. That may be so, but there is a great deal left and there is infinite scope for discussion on the new clauses because of the way in which the long title inevitably had to be drawn. The debate could have gone on in Committee week after week. In fact, we could have been out of Committee by now if the matter had been handled in a sensible and business-like way.

    The right hon. Member for Salford, West says that there was no filibustering. How on earth does he explain the first two mornings when the Committee sat? There were two and a half hours of debate in order to decide the question that we would sit on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The debate was finished in that two and a half hours only because the Government Whip moved the closure. When he did that, there were shouts of protest from the Labour members on the Committee. On the second morning we made the decision to debate the clauses in order—1, 2 and 3—and to take the schedules in relation to the clauses to which they

    Division No. 195]

    AYES

    [10 pm
    Adley, RobertButler, Hon AdamFraser, Peter (South Angus)
    Aitken, JonathanCadbury, JocelynFry, Peter
    Alexander, RichardCarlisle, John (Luton West)Gardiner, George (Relgate)
    Alison, MichaelCarlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Gardner, Edward (South Fylde)
    Amery, Rt Hon JullanChalker, Mrs LyndaGarel-Jones, Tristan
    Ancram, MichaelChannon, PaulGlyn, Dr Alan
    Arnold, TomChapman, SydneyGoodhart, Philip
    Aspinwall, JackChurchill, W. S.Goodhew, Victor
    Atkins, Robert (Preston North)Clark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)Goodlad, Alastair
    Atkinson, David (B'mouth, East)Clark, Sir William (Croydon South)Gorst, John
    Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Gow, Ian
    Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)Clegg, Sir WalterGower, Sir Raymond
    Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyCockeram, EricGray, Hamish
    Bell, Sir RonaldCope,JohnGreenway, Harry
    Bendall, VivianCormack, PatrickGrieve, Percy
    Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon)Corrle, JohnGriffiths, Eldon (Bury St Edmunds)
    Benyon, W. (Buckingham)Costain, A. P.Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
    Best, KeithCranborne, ViscountGrist, Ian
    Bevan, David GilroyCrouch, DavidGrylls, Michael
    Biffen, Rt Hon JohnDean, Paul (North Somerset)Gummer, John Selwyn
    Biggs-Davison, JohnDorrell, StephenHamilton, Hon Archie (Eps'm&Ew'll)
    Blackburn, JohnDouglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesHamilton, Michael (Salisbury)
    Blaker, PeterDover, DenshoreHampson, Dr Keith
    Body, Richarddu Cann, Rt Hon EdwardHannam, John
    Bonsor, Sir NicholasDunn, Robert (Dartford)Haselhurst, Alan
    Boscawen, Hon RobertDykes, HughHastings, Stephen
    Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West)Eden, Rt Hon Sir JohnHavers,Rt Hon Sir Michael
    Bowden, AndrewEdwards, Rt Hon N. (Pembroke)Hawkins, Paul
    Boyson, Dr RhodesEggar, TimothyHawksley, Warren
    Braine, Sir BernardElliott, Sir WilliamHayhoe, Barney
    Bright, GrahamEyre, ReginaldHeddle, John
    Brinton, TimFairbairn, NicholasHenderson, Barry
    Brittan, LeonFairgrieve, RussellHeseltine, Rt Hon Michael
    Brocklebank-Fowler, ChristopherFaith, Mrs SheilaHicks, Robert
    Brooke, Hon PeterFarr, JohnHiggins, Rt Hon Terence L.
    Brotherton, MichaelFell, AnthonyHill, James
    Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe)Fenner, Mrs PeggyHogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham)
    Browne, John (Winchester)Finsberg, GeoffreyHolland, Philip (Carlton)
    Bruce-Gardyne, JohnFisher, Sir NigelHooson, Tom
    Bryan, Sir PaulFletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh N)Hordern, Peter
    Buchanan-Smith, Hon AlickFletcher-Cooke, CharlesHowe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
    Buck, AntonyFookes, Miss JanetHowell, Rt Hon David (Guildford)
    Budgen, NickForman, NigelHowell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
    Bulmer, EsmondFowler, Rt Hon NormanHunt, David (Wirral)
    Burden, F. A.Fox, MarcusHunt, John (Ravensbourne)
    Butcher, JohnFraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)Hurd, Hon Douglas

    referred. In other words, we decided to take schedule 1 after clause 2 and schedule 2 after clause 5. Surely, such matters could have been passed as a formality. In fact, we debated them for over two hours and, again, closure was moved on the motion of the Government Whip.

    That sort of farce brings Parliament into disrepute. The disrepute becomes worse when the Opposition go through the ritualistic protest against the guillotine motion. In terms of time, this is a generous guillotine motion, but they are going through the usual ritual. The public outside are fed up with the ritualistic mock warfare in this place. They want real debates on matters that concern them. The Opposition should ask themselves what they are doing to advance the reputation of Parliament.

    Question put:—

    The House divided: Ayes 307, Noes 252.

    Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)Morris, Michael (Northampton, Sth)Skeet, T. H. H.
    Jenkin, Rt Hon PatrickMorrison, Hon Charles (Devizes)Speed, Keith
    Jessel, TobyMorrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)Speller, Tony
    Johnson Smith, GeoffreyMudd, DavidSpence, John
    Jopling, Rt Hon MichaelMurphy, ChristopherSpicer, Jim (West Dorset)
    Joseph, Rt Hon Sir KeithMyles, DavidSpicer, Michael (S Worcestershire)
    Kaberry, Sir DonaldNeale, GerrardSproat, Iain
    Kellett-Bowman, Mrs ElaineNeedham, RichardSquire, Robin
    Kimball, MarcusNelson, AnthonyStainton, Keith
    King, Rt Hon TomNeubert, MichaelStanley, John
    Kitson, Sir TimothyNewton, TonySteen, Anthony
    Knight, Mrs JillNormanton, TomStevens, Martin
    Knox, DavidNott, Rt Hon JohnStewart, Ian (Hitchin)
    Lamont, NormanOppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs SallyStewart, John (East Renfrewshire)
    Lang, IanOsborn, JohnStokes, John
    Latham, MichaelPage, John (Harrow, West)Stradling Thomas, J.
    Lawrence, IvanPage, Rt Hon Sir R. GrahamTapsell, Peter
    Lawson, NigelPage, Richard (SW Hertfordshire)Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW)
    Lee, JohnParkinson, CecilTebbit, Norman
    Lennox-Boyd, Hon MarkParris, MatthewThatcher, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
    Lester, Jim (Beeston)Patten, Christopher (Bath)Thomas, Rt Hon Peter (Hendon S)
    Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Patten, John (Oxford)Thompson, Donald
    Lloyd, Ian (Havant & Waterloo)Pattie, GeoffreyThorne, Neil (Ilford South)
    Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)Pawsey, JamesThornton, Malcolm
    Loveridge, JohnPercival, Sir IanTownend, John (Bridlington)
    Luce, RichardPeyton, Rt Hon JohnTownsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)
    Lyell, NicholasPink, R. BonnerTrippier, David
    McCrindle, RobertPollock, AlexanderTrotter, Neville
    Macfarlane, NeilPorter, Georgevan Straubenzee, W. R.
    MacGregor, JohnPrentice, Rt Hon RegVaughan, Dr Gerard
    MacKay, John (Argyll)Price, David (Eastleign)Waddington, David
    McNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury)Prior, Rt Hon JamesWakeham, John
    McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)Proctor, K. HarveyWaldegrave, Hon William
    McQuarrie, AlbertRaison, TimothyWalker, Rt Hon Peter (Worcester)
    Madel, DavidRathbone, TimWalker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire)
    Major, JohnRees, Peter (Dover and Deal)Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
    Marland, PaulRees-Davies, W. R.Waller, Gary
    Marlow, TonyRenton, TimWalters, Dennis
    Marshall, Michael (Arundel)Rhodes James, RobertWard, John
    Mates, MichaelRhys Williams, Sir BrandonWarren, Kenneth
    Mather, CarolRidley, Hon NicholasWatson, John
    Maude, Rt Hon AngusRidsdale, JulianWells, John (Maidstone)
    Mawby, RayRifkind, MalcolmWells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)
    Mawhinney, Dr BrianRoberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)Wheeler, John
    Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinRoberts, Wyn (Conway)Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
    Mayhew, PatrickRossi, HughWhitney, Raymond
    Mellor, DavidRost, PeterWickenden, Keith
    Meyer, Sir AnthonyRoyle, Sir AnthonyWiggin, Jerry
    Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch)Sainsbury, Hon TimothyWilkinson, John
    Mills, Iain (Meriden)St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon NormanWilliams, Delwyn (Montgomery)
    Mills, Peter (West Devon)Scott, NicholasWolfson, Mark
    Miscampbell, NormanShaw, Giles (Pudsey)Young, Sir George (Acton)
    Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)Shelton, William (Streatham)Younger, Rt Hon George
    Moate, RogerShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
    Monro, HectorShepherd, Richard (Aldridge-Br'hills)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
    Montgomery, FergusShersby, MichaelMr. Spencer Le Marchant and
    Moore, JohnSilvester, FredMr. Anthony Berry.
    Morgan, GeraintSims, Roger

    NOES

    Abse, LeoBrown, Ron (Edinburgh, Leith)Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
    Allaun, FrankBuchan, NormanDavies, Ifor (Gower)
    Alton, DavidCallaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)Davis, Clinton (Hackney Central)
    Anderson, DonaldCallaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)Davis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford)
    Archer, Rt Hon PeterCampbell, IanDeakins, Eric
    Armstrong, Rt Hon ErnestCampbell-Savours, DaleDean, Joseph (Leeds West)
    Ashley, Rt Hon JackCanavan, DennisDempsey, James
    Ashton, JoeCant, R. B.Dewar, Donald
    Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham)Carter-Jones, LewisDixon, Donald
    Bagier, Gordon A. T.Cartwright, JohnDobson, Frank
    Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)Clark, Dr David (South Shields)Dormand, Jack
    Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)Douglas, Dick
    Beith, A. J.Cohen, StanleyDouglas-Mann, Bruce
    Benn, Rt Hon Anthony WedgwoodColeman, DonaldDubs, Alfred
    Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)Conlan, BernardDunn, James A. (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
    Bidwell, SydneyCook, Robin F.Dunnett, Jack
    Booth, Rt Hon AlbertCowans, HarryDunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
    Boothroyd, Miss BettyCraigen, J. M. (Glasgow, Maryhill)Eadie, Alex
    Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur (M'brough)Crowther, J. S.Eastham, Ken
    Bradley, TomCryer, BobEdwards, Robert (Wolv SE)
    Bray, Dr JeremyCunliffe, LawrenceEllis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire)
    Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Cunningham, George (Islington S)Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)
    Brown, Ronald W. (Hackney)Cunningham, Dr John (Whitehaven)English, Michael
    Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)Dalyell, TamEnnals, Rt Hon David

    Evans, loan (Aberdare)Lofthouse, GeoffreyRobinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)
    Evans, John (Newton)Lyon, Alexander (York)Rodgers, Rt Hon William
    Ewing, HarryLyons, Edward (Bradford West)Rooker, J. W.
    Faulds, AndrewMabon, Rt Hon Dr J. DicksonRoss, Ernest (Dundee West)
    Field, FrankMcDonald, Dr OonaghRoss, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
    Fitch, AlanMcElhone, FrankRoss, Wm. (Londonderry)
    Flannery, MartinMcGuire, Michael (Ince)Ryman, John
    Fletcher, L. R. (Ilkeston)McKay, Allen (Penistone)Sandelson, Neville
    Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)McKelvey, WilliamSever, John
    Foot, Rt Hon MichaelMacKenzie, Rt Hon GregorSheerman, Barry
    Ford, BenMaclennan, RobertSheldon, Rt Hon Robert (A'ton-u-L)
    Forrester, JohnMcMahon, AndrewShort, Mrs Renée
    Foster, DerekMcMillan, Tom (Glasgow, Central)Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
    Foulkes, GeorgeMcNally, ThomasSilkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
    Fraser, John (Lambeth, Norwood)McNamara, KevinSilverman, Julius
    Freeson, Rt Hon ReginaldMcWilliam, JohnSmith, Rt Hon J. (North Lanarkshire)
    Garrett, John (Norwich S)Magee, BryanSnape, Peter
    Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)Marks, KennethSoley, Clive
    Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr JohnMarshall, David (Gl'sgow.Shettles'n)Spearing, Nigel
    Ginsburg, DavidMarshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)Spriggs, Leslie
    Golding, JohnMarshall, Jim (Leicester South)Stallard, A. W.
    Gourlay, HarryMartin, Michael (Gl'gow, Springb'rn)Stewart, Rt Hon Donald (W Isles)
    Graham, TedMason, Rt Hon RoyStoddart, David
    Grant, John (Islington C)Maxton, JohnStolt, Roger
    Hamilton, James (Bothwell)Maynard, Miss JoanStrang, Gavin
    Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)Mellish, Rt Hon RobertSummerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
    Harrison, Rt Hon WalterMikardo, IanTaylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West)
    Hart, Rt Hon Dame JudithMillan, Rt Hon BruceThomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
    Hattersley, Rt Hon RoyMiller, Dr M. S. (East Kilbride)Thomas, Mike (Newcastle East)
    Haynes, FrankMolyneaux, JamesThomas, Dr Roger (Carmarthen)
    Healey, Rt Hon DenisMorris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wythenshawe)Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
    Heffer, Eric S.Morris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw)Tilley, John
    Hogg, Norman (E Dunbartonshire)Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)Tinn, James
    Holland, Stuart (L'beth, Vauxhall)Moyle, Rt Hon RolandTorney, Tom
    Home Robertson, JohnNewens, StanleyUrwin, Rt Hon Tom
    Homewood, WilliamOakes, Rt Hon GordonVarley, Rt Hon Eric G.
    Hooley, FrankOgden, EricWainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
    Horam, JohnO'Halloran, MichaelWalker, Rt Hon Harold (Doncaster)
    Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)O'Neill, MartinWatkins, David
    Huckfield, LesOrme, Rt Hon StanleyWeetch, Ken
    Hudson Davies, Gwilym EdnyfedOwen, Rt Hon Dr DavidWellbeloved, James
    Hughes, Mark (Durham)Palmer, ArthurWelsh, Michael
    Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen North)Park, GeorgeWhite, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)
    Hughes, Roy (Newport)Parker, JohnWhite, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
    Janner, Hon GrevilleParry, RobertWhitehead, Phillip
    Jay, Rt Hon DouglasPavitt, LaurieWhitlock, William
    John, BrynmorPendry, TomWilley, Rt Hon Frederick
    Johnson, Walter (Derby South)Penhaligon, DavidWilliams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
    Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rhondda)Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down)Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)
    Jones, Barry (East Flint)Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)Wilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
    Jones, Dan (Burnley)Prescott, JohnWilson, William (Coventry SE)
    Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldPrice, Christopher (Lewlsham West)Winnick, David
    Kerr, RussellRace, RegWoodall, Alec
    Kilroy-Silk, RobertRadlce, GilesWoolmer, Kenneth
    Kinnock, NeilRees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds South)Wrigglesworth, Ian
    Lambie, DavidRichardson, JoWright, Sheila
    Lamborn, HarryRoberts, Albert (Normamon)Young, David (Bolton East)
    Lamond, JamesRoberts, Allan (Bootle)
    Leadbitter, TedRoberts, Ernest (Hackney North)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
    Leighton, RonaldRoberts, Gwllym (Cannock)Mr. George Morton and
    Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Robertson, GeorgeMr. Hugh McCartney.
    Litherland, Robert

    Question accordingly agreed to.

    Ordered,

    That the following provisions shall apply to the remaining proceedings on the Bill:—

    Committee

    1.—(1) Subject to sub-paragraph (2) below, the Standing Committee to which the Bill is allocated shall report the Bill to the House on or before 6th March 1980.

    (2) Proceedings on the Bill at a sitting of the Standing Committee on the said 6th March may continue until 11 pm whether or not the House is adjourned before that time and if the House is adjourned before those proceedings have been brought to a conclusion the Standing Committee shall report the Bill to the House on 7th March 1980.

    Report and Third Reading

    2.—(1) The Proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading of the Bill shall be completed in two allotted days and shall be brought to a conclusion two hours after Ten o'clock on the second of those days; and for the purposes of Standing Order No. 43 (Business Committee) this Order shall be taken to allot to the Proceedings on Consideration such part of those days as the Resolution of the Business Committee may determine.

    (2) The Business Committee shall report to the House their resolutions as to the Proceedings on Consideration of the Bill, and as to the allocation of time between those Proceedings and Proceedings on Third Reading, not later than the fourth day on which the House sits after the day on which the Chairman of the Standing Committee reports the Bill to the House.

    (3) The resolutions in any report made under Standing Order No. 43 may be varied by a further report so made, whether or not within the time specified in sub-paragraph (2) above, and whether or not the resolutions have been agreed to by the House.

    (4) The resolutions of the Business Committee may include alterations in the order in which proceedings on Consideration of the Bill are taken.

    Procedure in Standing Committee

    3.—(1) At a Sitting of the Standing Committee at which any Proceedings on the Bill are to be brought to a conclusion under a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee the Chairman shall not adjourn the Committee under any Order relating to the sittings of the Committee until the Proceedings have been brought to a conclusion.

    (2) No Motion shall be moved in the Standing Committee relating to the sitting of the Committee except by a Member of the Government, and the Chairman shall permit a brief explanatory statement from the Member who moves, and from a Member who opposes, the Motion, and shall then put the Question thereon.

    4. No Motion shall be moved to postpone any Clause, Schedule, new Clause or new Schedule but the resolutions of the Business Sub-Committee may include alterations in the order in which Clauses, Schedules, new Clauses and new Schedules are to be taken in the Standing Committee.

    Conclusion of Proceedings in Committee

    5. On the conclusion of the Proceedings in any Committee on the Bill the Chairman shall report the Bill to the House without putting any Question.

    Dilatory motions

    6. No dilatory Motion with respect to, or in the course of Proceedings on the Bill shall be moved in the Standing Committee or on an allotted day except by a Member of the Government, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

    Extra time on allotted days

    7.—(1) On an allotted day paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to the Proceedings on the Bill for two hours after Ten o'clock.

    (2) Any period during which Proceedings on the Bill may be proceeded with after Ten o'clock under paragraph (7) of Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) shall be in addition to the said period of two hours.

    (3) If an allotted day is one to which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 stands over from an earlier day, a period of time equal to the duration of the Proceedings upon that Motion shall be added to the said period of two hours.

    Private Business

    8. Any private business which has been set down for consideration at Seven o'clock on an allotted day shall, instead of being considered as provided by Standing Orders, be considered at the conclusion of the Proceedings on the Bill on that day, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to the private business for a period of three hours from the conclusion of the Proceedings on the Bill or, if those Proceedings are concluded before Ten o'clock, for a period equal to the time elapsing between Seven o'clock and the conclusion of those Proceedings.

    Conclusion of Proceedings

    9.—(1) For the purpose of bringing to a conclusion any Proceedings which are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee or the Business Sub-Committee and which have not previously been brought to a conclusion, the Chairman or Mr. Speaker shall forthwith put the following Questions (but no others), that is to say—

  • (a) any Question already proposed from the Chair;
  • (b) any Question necessary to bring to a decision a Question so proposed (including in the case of a new Clause or new Schedule which has been read a second time, the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill);
  • (c) the Question on any amendment or Motion standing on the Order Paper in the name of any Member if that amendment or Motion is moved by a Member of the Government;
  • (d) any other Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded;
  • and on a Motion so moved for a new Clause or a new Schedule, the Chairman or Mr. Speaker shall put only the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill.

    (2) Proceedings under sub-paragraph (1) above shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the Sittings of the House.

    (3) If an allotted day is one on which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) would, apart from this Order, stand over to Seven o'clock—

  • (a) that Motion shall stand over until the conclusion of any Proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion at or before that time;
  • (b) the bringing to a conclusion of any Proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion after that time shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the Proceedings on that Motion.
  • (4) If an allotted day is one to which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 stands over from an earlier day, the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion on that day shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the Proceedings on that Motion.

    Supplemental orders

    10.(1) The Proceedings on any Motion moved in the House by a Member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order (including anything which might have been the subject of a report of the Business Committee or Business Sub-Committee) shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion one hour after they have been commenced, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to the Proceedings.

    (2) If on allotted day on which any Proceedings on the Bill are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee the House is adjourned, or the sitting is suspended, before that time no notice shall he required of a Motion moved at the next sitting by a Member of the Government for varying of supplementing the provisions of this Order.

    Saving

    11. Nothing in this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee or Business Sub-Committee shall—

  • (a) prevent any Proceedings to which the Order or Resolution applies from being taken or completed earlier than is required by the Order or Resolution, or
  • (b) prevent any business (whether on the Bill or not) from being proceeded with on any day after the completion of all such Proceedings on the Bill as are to be taken on that day.
  • Re-committal

    12.—(1) References in this Order to Proceedings on Consideration or Proceedings on Third Reading include references to Proceedings, at those stages respectively, for, on or in consequence of, re-committal.

    (2) On an allotted day no debate shall be permitted on any Motion to re-commit the Bill (whether as a whole or otherwise), and Mr. Speaker shall put forthwith any Question necessary to dispose of the Motion, including the Question on any amendment moved to the Question.

    Interpretation

    13. In this Order—

    "allotted day" means any day (other than a Friday) on which the Bill is put down as the first Government Order of the Day provided that a Motion for allotting time to the Proceedings on the Bill to be taken on that day either has been agreed on a previous day, or is set down for consideration on that day;
    "the Bill" means the Social Security Bill;
    "Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee" means a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee as agreed to by the Standing Committee;
    "Resolution of the Business Committee" means a Resolution of the Business Committee as agreed to by the House.