HC Deb 14 March 2003 vol 401 c599

Order for Second Reading read.

2.27 pm
Mr. Chris Mole (Ipswich)


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst)

Does the hon. Gentleman have the permission of the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Dhanda) to speak on his behalf?

Mr. Mole

I was about to say that, with the leave of the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Dhanda), I beg to move that—

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sorry to trouble you, and I certainly do not want to test your legendary stoicism and patience, but is it proper practice for a Bill's promoter not only to be absent but to have arranged for another hon. Member to speak on his behalf, and to fail to apologise for, still less to explain, that absence? This is an extraordinary abuse of parliamentary procedure.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. A moment ago, you referred to precedent and practice in the Chamber. I think that you will agree that I am a pretty assiduous attender on Fridays in particular, although I like to think that I am an assiduous attender on every sitting day of the House, but I cannot myself remember the last occasion on which an hon. Member with a Bill on the Order Paper on a day such as this, that Bill having been manoeuvred into place by that hon. Member's colleagues, apparently casually failed to be here and did the House the dishonour and disrespect of passing the buck to one of his colleagues who is here in his place. Is there nothing that can be done to defend standards in this House of Commons? What on earth is going on these days when hon. Members are apparently so casual in their attitude to their responsibilities?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

It is certainly not without precedent. Indeed, it could even be said to be quite a regular occurrence that an hon. Member asks another hon. Member to move a Bill on his behalf. That is not unknown. On this occasion, I understand that Mr. Speaker was notified in advance. As to any special circumstances applying on this particular day because of other procedures followed by hon. Members, I cannot say whether that adds to or subtracts from the occasion, but it is not unknown for one hon. Member to speak in place of another.

Mr. Bercow

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Further to your ruling, I am concerned about the propriety, in the widest sense, of the procedures of this House and the proper observation of etiquette. May I trouble you to advise the House whether, in terms of conformity with the usual courtesies, it is acceptable for a substitute Member to request a Second Reading for a Bill without any explanation of, let alone apology for, the absence of the promoter?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I think that the hon. Gentleman did not give the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Mole) the chance to make any such remarks, as he may have been disposed to do.

To be read a Second time on Friday 4 April.