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Volume 621: debated on Friday 24 February 2017

[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

I beg to move, That the House sit in private.

Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 163), and negatived.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. On Wednesday morning, the Order Paper included four Bills whose remaining stages could take place today. However, the remaining stages of a fifth Bill—the Kew Gardens (Leases) Bill—appeared on the Order Paper on Thursday morning. That Bill only completed its Committee stage on Wednesday. I do not attach any blame to my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater and West Somerset (Mr Liddell-Grainger) and I have no particular issue with the Bill in general. My particular issue is a point of principle, in that amendments to private Members’ Bills on Friday have to be tabled by the end of play on Tuesday, yet the Kew Gardens (Leases) Bill did not appear on the Order Paper until Thursday morning after finishing in Committee on Wednesday. Therefore, people were given no opportunity to table amendments if they so wished. What is your view, Mr Speaker, as to whether this should be the state of affairs?

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I noticed that the Kew Gardens (Leases) Bill had appeared on the Order Paper yesterday morning, and I tabled some amendments to it, but obviously those amendments are starred because, although I tabled them at the first opportunity, it will not be possible to debate them unless there is a ruling to the contrary. I inquired as to the practice relating to the issue and was told that the convention is that a Member of this House should not put forward their private Bill for Report and Third Reading if that Bill has only come out of Committee on the Wednesday, rather than the Tuesday of that week. That was certainly the practice adopted by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) when he brought forward the Homelessness Reduction Bill, which I had the privilege of chairing in Committee. It was quite clear that that Bill would not be put forward for Report until there had been a clear period in which amendments could be tabled. Would you rule on that, Mr Speaker? If the Kew Gardens (Leases) Bill is heard today, will it be possible to discuss the amendments to it?

The short answer is that it will be possible. As is probably obvious to the hon. Gentleman and to the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), this is the first I had heard of their disquiet and of the timing of the Bill coming forward. I am advised that the rationale for that is that there are few sitting Fridays left, and that the hon. Member for Bridgwater and West Somerset (Mr Liddell-Grainger) is keen to make progress with his Bill. Whatever the rights or wrongs of that, there will be an opportunity for new clauses and amendments to be considered.

Moreover, beyond those that have been tabled, if there is concern that there was not a proper period in conformity with usual practice for the tabling of amendments, and the hon. Members for Christchurch (Mr Chope) and for Shipley feel disadvantaged by that, it is open to the Chair to allow manuscript amendments. I hope that, even if the hon. Gentlemen are not pleased about the sequence of events, they are reassured that such opportunities as they might seek to speak on these matters will be there for them. They will have an opportunity to deploy their vocal cords and their intellects.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. On the point of manuscript amendments, if an hon. Member has noticed that there is a small typographical error on the amendments that have been tabled to a Bill to be debated today, is it in order to try to table manuscript amendments to those amendments? Would the Chair be prepared to consider that?

The Chair would certainly be happy to consider that. I make no commitment as it would depend on the merits of the case, but I am certainly open to that. I hope that the appetite for points of order has been satisfied, at least for now.