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Business Of The House

Volume 86: debated on Thursday 14 November 1985

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

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am concerned about the procedure to be adopted next Tuesday on the Okehampton Bypass (Confirmation of Orders) Bill. I am sure that you are aware that both within the House and outside there is considerable outrage at the Government's proposal and the procedure that they are seeking to adopt. I am sure that you will agree, Mr. Speaker, that it is extremely important that the procedures of the House of Commons are seen to he fair by all who are concerned about the Bill.

As I understand it, the Bill will come before the House without a Second Reading or Committee stage because of the special procedure of the Special Joint Committee. Even though it rejected the Bill, it is considered that that Committee has taken the place of Second Reading and the Committee stage. Had the Special Joint Committee considered the measure in this Session, that would have been a perfectly reasonable procedure. However, usual precedent means that if a public Bill starts in one Session and is not completed, it falls, and a private Bill would require a carry-over motion. This Bill will not have a Second Reading or Committee stage because it is claimed that, although it began last Session, it went to the Special Procedure Committee and that has replaced Second Reading and the Committee stage.

There ought to have been some procedure for carrying this Bill over from one Session to another, but there does not appear to have been any device to achieve that. It seems odd that we should allow a Bill that appears to have begun in the last Session to continue in this Session without the House giving approval for that to take place.

Will you, Mr. Speaker, give this matter some consideration and decide whether it is appropriate for the Bill to proceed to Report and Third Reading next Tuesday? That will mean that the House will have only one opportunity to debate the issue, and there will be no opportunity for people outside to consider the matter and for the Bill to be fully debated as would happen if we had a Second Reading, Committee stage, Report and Third Reading.

I looked with care at the whole question of special procedure. The House has used it so rarely that it is difficult to find a precedent that goes in either direction. However, I found a useful quote from the 1976 arguments in the House on the Shipbuilding Industries Bill. A statement was made by the present Secretary of State for Transport, who posed a question to Eric Varley. He said:

"Is he advancing the constitutional doctrine that one can ignore the proprieties of parliamentary performance—the result of votes, the stages laid down for Bills—if, in the Government's opinion, the economic advantage of so doing is great enough? That is a wicked argument that he is setting out upon."—[Official Report, 29 June 1976; Vol. 914, c.236.]
I suggest that the Secretary of State for Transport is trying to set aside the decision of the Special Procedure Committee which decisively voted against this measure. We seem to be allowing a procedure that is not in keeping with our custom and practice of having proper separate stages of a Bill. I hope that you, Mr. Speaker, will consider the matter.

I should like to have the opportunity to look into the matter that the hon. Gentleman has raised. I shall do so and make a statement about it on Monday.