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Points Of Order

Volume 227: debated on Friday 2 July 1993

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2.40pm

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Noting the objections to my Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill and the three related Bills for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland by the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes), I should like your guidance on a procedural point.

It is argued, in justification of the power of a single hon. Member to block a Bill with the one word "object", that it stops and is only meant to stop the Second Reading of a Bill which has not been debated by the House. But that does not apply in the case of my Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill, which has been debated for more than seven hours on the Floor of the House and for which there is demonstrably a clear all-party majority. Thus, a procedure that was designed to delay Bills that have never been debated is now used to obstruct a parliamentary majority.

It was suggested to me from the Chair that I should raise this issue with the Select Committee on Procedure. I have since done so and now feel strongly that it would help to end abuse of the procedure if the Chair itself asked the Committee to make urgent recommendations. That would give solace and hope to those whom the four Bills seek to help. News of today's, as it were, serial killing of these important Bills will be received by Britain's 6ยท5 million disabled people with anguish and anger. They feel badly cheated.

I understand that the Select Committee on Procedure is looking into that problem at present.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, with specific reference to Northern Ireland. On a day when The Sun has shone on the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) and his Bill has been commended to the House, and given that all the parties in Northern Ireland agreed on an issue which affects disabled people in Northern Ireland, is it not unseemly that, when the principle of the Bill has been debated, because of the one word "object", we could not take the Bill through its committee stage to explore it further and give lead to the House? So often Northern Ireland is left in the back waters after issues have been dealt with here.

The hon. Gentleman is at liberty to write to the Select Committee on Procedure and make those points.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will see from today's Order Paper, under "Questions for Written Answer", that question No. I I is due for answer to me. It asks the Home Secretary to review the cases of Sam Kulasingham and Prem Sivalingham, who are presently serving life sentences in Wormwood Scrubs. I received a written answer a few moments ago saying that the review of the case is almost complete and that the Minister expects to make a decision now. The written question was tabled in sufficient time, and Essex police have investigated the case and presented volumes of evidence to the Home Secretary and are awaiting his decision.

The urgency of the matter is that Sam Kulasingham is on hunger strike. Last year, he was on hunger strike for 54 days before Essex police were asked to investigate and look for any new evidence. He has now been on hunger strike for more than 30 days and is less than half his normal body weight.

I am concerned to get a decision from the Home Office. Is there any way in which the Home Office can be encouraged rapidly to complete its review of the matter and decide whether the Home Secretary will exercise his powers to refer this disturbing and distressing case, which I believe to be a miscarriage of justice, to the Court of Appeal so that justice can be seen to be done, and be finally done, in the case of those two unfortunate gentlemen?

I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman's request has been heard by those on the Government Front Bench.

Further to an earlier point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, may I as a member of the Procedure Committee emphasise that the Committee is looking at the whole process of killing Bills in the way that happens on occasions such as this? We hope to be able to make some recommendations to the House in due course.