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Motions And Bills (Amendments)

Volume 981: debated on Wednesday 19 March 1980

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On a point of order Mr. Speaker. This point arises out of Monday's debate on the Olympic Games, although it is in no way concerned with the substance of that debate. My point is purely procedural. Yesterday the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. McGuire) raised with you a point about the selection of amendments, and he sought clarification about the selection last Monday. In reply, you pointed out that you were bound by precedent, in as much as when an amendment was tabled in the name of the Leader of the Opposition all your predecessors had always felt obliged to give priority to that amendment.

You went on to point out that the House did not give you the power to choose another amendment and that if you were to be able to do so there would have to be a motion on the Order Paper empowering you to call another, if it were for the purpose of a Division.

I perhaps misunderstood exactly what you meant by that, Mr. Speaker, and possibly other right hon. and hon. Members are in the same position. I understand that such a motion could only be moved by the Government. That being so, it is for the House to consider whether, on days when both Front Benches have publicly announced that there is to be a free vote, the inhibition on your selecting amendments for a vote is appropriate in those circumstances.

I do not know whether the matter has arisen on previous occasions. The last thing that any of us would wish to do would be to fetter your discretion, but if it is the case that a motion enabling more than one amendment to be called can be moved only by the Government, I hope that on any future occasion, whatever the issue may be, if both Front Benches have announced a free vote the Government will table such a motion so that your discretion to call both the amendments to be debated and those to be voted on will not be as inhibited as it is at present.

I am obliged to the right hon. Member for the way in which he raised his point of order and for giving me notice of it this morning. He is correct. Only the Government can table a motion allowing the House to decide that it would like to have more than one Division at 10 o'clock, or more than one amendment voted on. This procedure was followed quite recently when we voted on a series of motions on conditions of service of hon. Members of the House. This is really a matter to be pursued through normal party channels and the normal channels of the House, when such a motion is required by hon. Members.