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dynamic demand appliances bill [lords]

Volume 448: debated on Friday 14 July 2006

Order for Second Reading read.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Earlier this week, as you may recall, I won the sympathy of Mr. Speaker when I complained about the tardy approach of the Home Office to making available documents due for debate in the House of Commons. I draw your attention to the fact that, in business questions yesterday, we were told that on Thursday 25 July the main business would be a motion to approve the Terrorism Act (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendment) Order 2006.

I came to the House this morning to obtain the order and any related documents, so that I could study them with other people this weekend, because the issue is important. That document is not available in either the Vote Office or the Journal Office; indeed, they have not seen the order at all, as it has not been tabled. That might not be breaking the rules of the House—I understand that, in theory, it can be done right up to the eleventh hour—but it is the convention of the House to allow two weekends between the publication of major legislation to make it available to hon. Members and its being debated. The order is not a Bill, but nevertheless it is an important piece of legislation. It is not unreasonable for the House of Commons to expect from the Home Office at least one weekend in which to study the order. I am desperately anxious, as this is not a one-off incident. Twice in one week, the Home Office has shown a blatant disregard for individual hon. Members—even if it is not fit for purpose, they wish to be fit for purpose—who wish to provide scrutiny and accountability, and who wish to study and prepare for legislation.

My final word—this is a serious point—is that although the Whips expect me to support the order, lemming-like, next week, I have not had an opportunity to study it or take cognisance of its contents. I personally think that that is outrageous, and I hope that you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and perhaps Mr. Speaker, will intimate a similar view—in your way, of course, which is not quite the same as mine—to the Home Office. We cannot go on like this, because it makes what we do in the House a charade.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving notice of his point of order. I have asked for inquiries to be made, and I have been informed that the order will be laid on Monday, although I regret that that means that the hon. Gentleman will not have the opportunity of reading it this weekend. It will be in the Vote Office on Monday, and his comments are, of course, on the record.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. May I ask your advice as the guardian of the rights of Back Benchers against the overweening power of the Executive? There have been two examples today of the Executive exerting their power to crush the right of Back Benchers to raise the vital issues of the environment and social justice as they bear on housing and planning development. First, in the course of debate on the Infrastructure Audit (Housing Development) Bill, which was introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude), one speech lasted more than 25 minutes and another more than 45 minutes. Those speeches were made by hon. Members whose constituencies were not directly affected by the provisions of the Bill. The Bill had extensive support and backing, and I exercised forbearance in my own speech to try to ensure that the Bill would reach Committee. Unfortunately, the Minister—

Order. The hon. Gentleman has made his point. There was nothing in the course of the debate that was disorderly. I must therefore ask him to resume his seat, rather than continue the debate on Second Reading.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is it reasonable, when Ministers have intimated their personal support for my Bill, that the Whip on the Government Front Bench objected to a Bill that his colleagues have supported?

Among the many duties that the occupant of the Chair has, one of them is not to judge what is or is not reasonable.