HC Deb 09 July 1971 vol 820 cc1687-90

Considered in Committee.

[Miss HARVIE ANDERSON in the Chair]

11.4 a.m.

The Deputy Chairman

I think that it would be for the convenience of the Committee if, before I call the first Amendment, selected for debate, I were to say that after careful consideration of the Bill it has been decided to include Amendment No. 21 in the list of Amendments selected for debate.

Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)

I am most grateful, Miss Harvie Anderson.

Mr. Reginald Freeson (Willesden, East)

Miss Harvie Anderson, we are grateful for what you have just announced, but may I seek your advice about the non-selection of at least two of the Amendments on the Notice Paper? Would it be in order to do that now?

The Deputy Chairman


Mr. Freeson

I refer to Amendment No. 3 and new Clause 2. I have been in close consultation with the Public Bill Office on these Amendments. I do not wish to pursue the matter in detail now, but I am clear in my mind—and I think there is some doubt, if I may put it that way, in the Public Bill Office about it—that it would be correct to say that Amendment No. 3 is within the terms of the Money Resolution, and the same comment applies to new Clause 2. Whatever the Committee may decide to do in respect of either of these Amendments, I would argue that the new Clause is within the terms of the Money Resolution if we are to accept that Amendment No. 17 is within its terms.

I believe that further consideration is being given to this matter, and before pursuing it any further I should like to ask for your advice on how you think it would be best to deal with these issues, which are substantially within the general debate on the Bill.

The Deputy Chairman

I am grateful to the hon. Member for raising the matter. I am aware of the consultations which the hon. Gentleman has had, and of the advice which he has sought elsewhere. It is very difficult to change the selection in respect of Amendment No. 3 and I do not feel able to do so.

As regards new Clause 2, if the hon. Member agrees, I should be happy to consider the matter at a later stage, in he hope that we might come to some reconciliation of view.

Mr. Freeson

I am obliged. May I pursue with you the point regarding Amendment No. 3, which has not been selected? The Money Resolution contains the phrase in the penultimate line of the first paragraph: … expenditure in such local government areas completed or incurred within the period of two years beginning with 23rd June, 1971. "Incurred" does not necessarily mean actual expenditure on works completed. There must be a reason for the either-or phraseology. I would submit that the Amendment which would substitute "approved" for "completed" is covered by the reference to expenditure "incurred".

The Deputy Chairman

I think that the hon. Member will realise from what I have already said about the new Clause that I should very much like to help him, but I cannot do so in the case of Amendment No. 3. I am very sorry, but I cannot alter the selection.

Dr. J. Dickson Mabon (Greenock)

Further to that point of order. I am sorry to persist in this matter, Miss Harvie Anderson, but we raised on the Money Resolution a specific question which we realise that the Minister cannot answer. But we wanted his encouragement that he was not seeking to interpret the Money Resolution as definitely debarring a debate on the word "approved".

This is not a party point. This suggestion was made on both sides of the House—that we should debate at a later stage the insertion of "approved" instead of "completed". That was specifically acknowledged by the Under-Secretary when he said that it was a matter for the Chair and that, if it were allowed, it would be discussed.

Is it then the case that we can discuss this on the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill"? Are we debarred on that question from debating this alternative wording, and is the argument for that that the Money Resolution is drawn so tightly? If it is, there has been some very sharp practice here by the Government.

We are grateful to you for your decision about new Clause 2. Is it a fact that, since the Government have made a mistake and sought to amend Clause 2, and you are willing to call that Amendment, we in turn on Report can seek to make further Amendments on the same matter since we were debarred from seeking to do so at this stage?

The Deputy Chairman

It would not be for me to comment at this stage on the latter point, as the hon. Member will appreciate. As for the previous point, it is well known that the Money Resolution is very tightly drawn, so the Chair is in this difficulty. While I leaned over backwards to try to help the hon. Member, and while I have no wish to sever an old friendship, I cannot alter the decision in the case of Amendment No. 3. That is my decision.

Mr. Ronald Brown (Shoreditch and Finsbury)

Further to that point of order. May I ask you, Miss Harvie Anderson, to take into account on Amendment No. 3 that, had the local government associations been consulted about the Bill by the Government, their attention would have been drawn to the fact that the word "approved" was needed instead of "completed"? Having regard to the fact that the Government have failed to consult——

The Deputy Chairman

Order. The hon. Member will realise that that is not a matter for the Chair.

Mr. Freeson

May I strengthen a fairly new friendship? I do not want to labour the point, Miss Harvie Anderson, although we have strong feelings about the matter. Would it be acceptable if a manuscript Amendment within the terms of the Money Resolution were handed to you to meet the same point which we are after here?

The Deputy Chairman

I would certainly look at any manuscript Amendment which was handed to me. I do not know whether the hon. Member means now or on Report. Either way, I would certainly be prepared to consider it.

Mr. Freeson

I am obliged; we will proceed along those lines.

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