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Points of Order

Volume 516: debated on Tuesday 19 October 2010

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wish to raise what happened last night regarding amendment 3 to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill. Many people judged what happened to be a breach of the underlying conventions of the House—the spirit of the rules—irrespective of the precision that could be applied to the Standing Orders themselves. We saw the cynical adoption of amendments with which the coalition Government clearly disagree merely to induce a negative vote. No opportunity was given for my amendments or those of other hon. Members to be debated or voted on in Committee. The threshold amendments are about percentages and proportionality, as is the principle of the Bill itself. I urge you to protect the underlying fundamental conventions of the House and the spirit of the rules on this matter on Report.

Before I respond to the hon. Gentleman, I think the House will want to hear from the Deputy Leader of the House.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I am most grateful to you for letting me respond. It was entirely regrettable that we did not reach what was an important group of amendments last night. Clearly, the House wanted sufficient time to take a view on the matter, which was why the Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper), quite properly indicated that he would put the amendment before the House to give Members the opportunity to take a view on it. In the end, they decided not to take a view; there was no one in support of the amendment. However, having taken account of yesterday’s events, and given the important matters that we have to debate today, may I draw the House’s attention to the programme motion that we will shortly be taking a view on? It will take away any knives this evening, which means that if we do not complete clause 9 this evening, we will be able to continue discussion tomorrow. That seems to me an entirely appropriate course of action.

I am grateful to the Deputy Leader of the House for what he said. I am trying to wrap it up, but of course we must hear from Chris Bryant.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I think the Deputy Leader of the House is somewhat mistaken in his interpretation of what happened yesterday evening. I think there was a clear desire by many hon. Members not just to debate the particular issue of thresholds but actually to debate clause 6, which has not been debated at all in any shape or form in this House. [Interruption.] The Parliamentary Secretary is saying from a sedentary position that I was wasting time. I profoundly object to the fact that when we choose to scrutinise his legislation, he is calling into question my good faith.

The truth of the matter is that the Government did not provide enough time for the debate. In addition, the Deputy Leader of the House last night, when he suggested to me that he was bringing forward this new motion, said that it was because all the rest of the stuff that we were going to debate tomorrow was a pile of dross and did not need very much analysis. I hope that there will be a process of ensuring that the House of Lords is made fully aware of the fact that today’s programme motion makes absolutely no difference to whether or not yesterday we had any opportunity to consider the three clauses and three schedules that were before the House.

I certainly cannot go into all of that. Suffice it to say that I think the point that the hon. Gentleman has just made constitutes a self-fulfilling prophecy; in so far as he is concerned that the other place should be aware of his interpretation of last night’s events, he has made it aware of his interpretation by what he has just said. It is on the record and I am sure it will be studied carefully there and elsewhere.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Stone (Mr Cash) for giving me notice of his point of order. It is not for me to rule on what has happened in Committee of the Whole House. On the wider issue he raises, it is not unprecedented—the hon. Gentleman has been a Member of the House since 1984, so he will testify to the truth of this—for a Minister to move a Back-Bench amendment, even if he or she does not wish to vote for it. As the First Deputy Chairman said last night:

“What the Government propose is orderly under Standing Order No. 83D(2)”—[Official Report, 18 October 2010; Vol. 516, c. 767.],

although it is, as some hon. Members have observed—including, today, the hon. Gentleman—somewhat unusual. I am sure that hon. Members will also have noted the opportunities open to them, as has been remarked, on Report. Members present will certainly have noted what the Deputy Leader of the House has just said.

I hope that is helpful; I am not keen to take, and indeed I am keen not to take, further points of order on that matter, but I think we have a point of order from Mr. Andrew Rosindell.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You will recall that on 27 July this year, I raised a point of order in the House with regard to the 20th anniversary of the murder by the IRA of the late Ian Gow, Member of Parliament for the Eastbourne constituency. I asked whether it might be possible for you, Mr Speaker, to consider a permanent memorial to Ian Gow in this House, and I wonder if today you may be in a position to update us on any progress you may have made in that respect.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order and, thankfully, I am in a position to update the House. The hon. Gentleman came to see me about this matter last week, together with the noble Lord Howe of Aberavon, in order to underline their strength of feeling on the subject and to articulate the request for some such memorial. I undertook on that occasion to the hon. Gentleman and to the noble Lord to seek to ensure that the matter was placed on the agenda for the immediately following meeting of the House of Commons Commission. I put it on the agenda, and I had the benefit of a detailed letter from the noble Lord.

The matter was considered at the House of Commons Commission meeting last night, and I am pleased to advise the House that the Commission decided unanimously that there should be a permanent memorial to the late Ian Gow, and that that would likely take the form of a plaque. That plaque would be put up in the Chamber of the House of Commons, similar to the plaque that has been long established in recognition of the distinction and terrible fate of the late Airey Neave.

I can also inform the House that the detailed discussions about what will now happen and the form that the plaque will take will get under way very speedily. I hope that Members in all parts of the House will recognise the merit of the case for such a plaque, which I know will be greatly appreciated by members of Ian Gow’s family and by a great many people besides in all parts of the United Kingdom. I hope that is helpful to the House.