North Thanet's MP, Roger Gale, has today, accused the Government of trying to stifle debate prior to a vote on the highly contentious sexual orientation regulations.
The Regulations, which will give teeth to aspects of the Equality Act 2007, were considered as a Statutory Instrument in Committee Room 11 this morning and carried.
Only one of ten back-bench MPs hoping to speak (most not members of the committee appointed to deal with this issue) was called to speak in the debate which is timed to last for just one and a half hours.
Challenging the Leader of the House (Jack Straw) on the floor of the House at Business Questions Roger Gale asked why this Statutory Instrument was hidden in committee when the Government was finding time, before the Easter Recess, to have another Instrument relating to Casinos debated in the Main Chamber.
The MP also asked
"Will the Leader of the House guarantee that this measure will not be slipped through on a formal vote late at night or as a deferred (paper) division before the House has at least had the chance to discuss this issue during the Easter Adjournment debate."
Responding to Roger Gale and other members Jack Straw said that the issues had been debated during the passage of the Equality Bill, had been "thoroughly considered" during the Statutory Instrument hearing and that the procedures used had had the support of the Opposition Front Bench.
After the exchange Roger Gale said:
"With most of the churches in the country up in arms against these detailed proposals - which were not, of course, available during the passage of the Equality Act - and with many Members of Parliament wishing to register, on behalf of themselves and their constituents, strong objections to these measures it is, frankly, outrageous that the House will be denied a proper debate on what should have been a short bill on the matter.
Whatever view is taken - and it is clear that there are forcefully and honourably held opposing positions - it is quite wrong that such a sensitive issue should be brushed under the carpet as the result of a clandestine front-bench deal to avoid controversy and division.
There will, as a result of this squalid episode, be very many people who will feel, I think rightly, that they have been denied the right to have their views fully and properly aired in Parliament.
Episodes like this can only bring the House into further disrepute and make the public feel more strongly than ever that parliament is irrelevant to their desires. This is a very sad day for British democracy".