§ Lords amendments considered—[Prince of Wales's consent. signfied]
§ 5.6 pm
§ Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will recall that during the passage of the Housing Act 1988 I raised the concern of the House about the number of amendments that had been tabled by the Government—more than 400. I did not think that that would happen again because there was considerable agreement that there had been an abuse of the procedures of the House. I am now asking for your assistance in what we consider to he a continuing abuse.
You will be aware, Mr. Speaker, that no fewer than 606 amendments have been tabled, many of them only last Wednesday. No Back Bencher, on either side of the House, has had the opportunity to consider those amendments or to prepare any points that he might wish to make. I checked with Officers of the House and with hon. Members, and no one can remember so many amendments being tabled to a Bill. No one can recall such an abuse of the procedures of this House.
If I wanted to have a Bill of this nature taken on the Floor of the House, there would have to be a vote to that effect. Yet what is happening with this Bill is, in effect, a Committee stage being taken on the Floor of the House without any adequate safeguards. I ask you to draw to the attention of the House, through whatever measure is available, the fact that that is utterly unacceptable—not only because the procedures are being abused, but because Back Benchers on both sides cannot properly contribute to the debate because there has been so little notice of the amendments. I object strongly to the Government saying that only 70 of the 606 amendments are major. Seventy is bad enough in itself, but the suggestion that the other 536 are not important is based on their judgment, not the judgment of the House.
Not only have both Front Benchers and Back Benchers had difficulty sorting out their briefings, but in all fairness to the House and to my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) I must point out that, for my hon. Friend, those amendments must be translated into braille. I have asked my hon. Friend to deal with these amendments today, yet he received them only towards the end of last week. All of them have had to be translated into braille, yet he is expected to deal in depth with them today.