HC Deb 14 July 1977 vol 935 cc802-5

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That the Third Reading of the Finance Bill may be taken immediately after the consideration of the Bill notwithstanding the practice of the House as to the intervals between the stages of Bills brought in upon Ways and Means Resolutions.—[Mr. Joel Barnett.]

4.9 p.m.

Mr. David Price

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Before we come to the Report stage of the Finance Bill, may I have your guidance and explanation on the grouping of new clauses? You have grouped together, as I understand it, New Clauses 15 and 16. It would assist us enormously if you would indicate the link between the two. I understand that in such circumstances there is usually some connection, but New Clause 15, in which I declare an interest, is headed "Tax treatment of mobility allowance paid to wife", and New Clause 16 is headed "Tax relief for travel to work expenses".

Mr. Speaker

It is Amendment No. 16. The list mentions New Clause 15 plus 16. If there is no "NC" in front of the number, that means it is an amendment rather than a new clause.

Mr. Durant

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do not wish to challenge your selection of amendments, but three new clauses were tabled dealing with tax relief for commuters. That subject was not discussed in Committee. The matter was raised on a point of order during Report on last year's Finance Bill. Once again we are apparently not to be allowed to discuss it. A number of hon. Members feel that we should. I am surprised that we have not been given that opportunity.

Mr. Speaker

I spend a long time, as the House wouuld expect, considering amendments to the Finance Bill. I have done my utmost to do justice by the House. When I leave the Chair I shall look again at what the hon. Member has said, but I cannot offer him much hope that I am likely to change my mind.

Mr. Spriggs

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to raise with you New Clause 45 and the two amendments marked (a) and (b) at the bottom of page 2797 of the Amendment Paper. I understand that you have not selected those two amendments. If that is correct, will it be in order for those hon. Members who are interested in those two amendments, selected or not, to raise in debate matters relevant to them?

Mr. Speaker

Hon. Members will be able to refer only to the amendments called for discussion and grouped together. I am afraid that amendments that are not called cannot be discussed.

Mr. Ovenden

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do not seek to challenge your selection of amendments and I appreciate your difficulties. It would be helpful if we could have some guidance as to what criteria are used in the selection of amendments. It is difficult for those of us who are trying to draw the attention of the House to the problems of disadvantaged groups and to persuade the House to do something about them if we do not know how to get these matters raised.

I draw your attention to New Clause 32, which deals with the taxation of widows. I realise that the subject was raised in Committee, but the present amendment varies considerably from that proposed in Committee. It takes a different line of approach to the problem.

I understand your problems, Mr. Speaker, in selecting the amendments for debate from such a long list. However, I am sure that you will realise the consternation that will be felt by the hundreds of thousands of widows when they find that their problems are not to be debated on the Floor of the House. They will be particularly concerned to know that considerable tine is to be given to discussions on capital transfer tax and capital gains tax, which affect people who are already over-privileged.

Mr. Biffen

I apologise Mr. Speaker. My point of order breaks the continuity. It arises out of yesterday's exchanges.

Mr. Speaker

Order. When I called him I thought that the hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) was about to make a point of order on the same subject.

I shall consider whether one day I should give guidance to the House on how I select amendments. But I should be asking for major trouble. I think that there would be even more points of order that would last a long time because any statement that I made would be subjective. There would be 635 different views in the Chamber.

Mr. Biffen

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I do not wish to impede the progress of business, but I should like to raise a matter arising out of yesterday's exchanges when the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) alleged mendacity against the President of the European Commission. You, Mr. Speaker, said that you would consider that incident. Do you intend to report back to the House about your judgment?

Mr. Speaker

When I left the Chair I felt that we had settled the matter. However strongly hon. Members feel that they must use the privilege of this House to make charges against people outside, they should remember that they have the same obligation to use parliamentary language. I had the feeling that the House accepted that when I made my statement yesterday.

Mr. Biffen

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. May we then assume that members of the European Commission are in no privileged status set aside from any other bodies or persons outside the House? May we therefore assume that hon. Members may speak in respect of the judgments and opinions of members of the European Commission as they can in respect of other people outside the House?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member is absolutely correct. As the House knows, we divide the world into two—Members and strangers. The same rule applies to all strangers who are not Members of the House.

Sir G. Howe rose

Mr. Speaker

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman wish to speak to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's motion?

Sir G. Howe

Yes. But before doing that I should like to comment on the points of order raised by the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Ovenden), who pressed you, Mr. Speaker, to explain the selection of amendments. Government Members may wish to remind you that Lenin once said "Explain, explain, always explain". Hon. Members on this side of the House would like to remind you that Disraeli once said "Never complain, never explain". But that is entirely a matter for you, Mr. Speaker.

On the motion that we are discussing I should like to draw your attention to one matter and find the answer to another. The House will see that, as I understand it, the business motion provides for the new clauses relating to sub-contractors in the construction industry to be taken after Clause 17.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but I gather that he is probably on the wrong motion. The House is considering whether the Third Reading of the Finance Bill may be taken immediately after consideration of the Bill. With the leave of the House, I shall put that Question.

Question put and agreed to.


That the Third Reading of the Finance Bill may be taken immediately after the consideration of the Bill notwithstanding the practice of the House as to the intervals between the stages of Bills brought in upon Ways and Means Resolutions.