HC Deb 05 June 2000 vol 351 cc23-36

6. If the House is adjourned, or the sitting is suspended, before the expiry of the period at the end of which any proceedings are to be brought to a conclusion under this order, no notice shall be required of a Motion made at the next sitting by a Minister of the Crown for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.

7.—(1) In this paragraph "the proceedings" means proceedings on Consideration of Lords Amendments, on any further Message from the Lords on the Bill, on the appointment and quorum of a Committee to draw up Reasons and the Report of such a Committee.

  1. (2) Standing Order No. 15(1) (Exempted business) shall apply to the proceedings.
  2. (3) The proceedings shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.
  3. (4) No dilatory Motion with respect to, or in the course of, the proceedings shall be made except by a Minister of the Crown, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

8. If proceedings on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House would, by virtue of Standing Order No. 24 (Urgent matters), commence at a time when proceedings to which paragraph 7 applies are in progress, proceedings on the Motion shall be postponed to the conclusion of those proceedings.

Although there have been a good many amendments made to the Bill in another place, we believe that we will be able to give them adequate scrutiny in the course of our extended sitting this evening. The scope of the Bill, like that of our reforms, is unprecedentedly broad and ambitious: in addition to putting in place a single regulator, we are replacing several, complicated systems of statutory regulation with a single legal framework. The result is clearer, better legislation, but the scale of the exercise is, inevitably, extensive. A large number of amendments is to be expected with a Bill of this size and technical complexity.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire)

Will the Economic Secretary remind the House of the running total so far of Government amendments to this well-thought-out Bill?

Miss Johnson

I am happy to do that—in fact, I was about to discuss that very topic. However, before I do so, I should like to draw the Opposition's attention to a related matter; they clearly have short memories. The Financial Services Act 1986 was extensively amended during its passage through Parliament, even though it was a much less far-reaching Bill. Unlike the Financial Services and Markets Bill, it dealt only with the investment sector and not with banking, building societies, insurance and Lloyd's, yet the Government of the day made 582 amendments to that smaller Bill in the second House.

It is right that legislation as important as the Financial Services and Markets Bill should be subject to intense scrutiny. Opposition parties tabled almost 1,300 amendments; we have considered those amendments and listened to the arguments put to us in almost 200 hours of parliamentary debate and in wider consultation. That process has been constructive and co-operative in both Houses. There is a consensus on our underlying policy aims, and a shared determination to get the detail right.

Several improvements were made in the other place, and are explained at some length in explanatory material made available by the Treasury on 24 May, which hon. Members will have had plenty of time to study in advance of today's debate. They should be reassured that we have not introduced new policy in the other place. The majority of our amendments are to meet commitments made in this House, or are in one way or another consequential on changes made before the Bill left this House in February.

Those changes generally follow up recommendations of the Joint Committee, or respond to developments during the passage of the Bill, notably the stock exchange's decision to demutualise. Some improvements arose out of earlier debates in this House, such as those to the Financial Services Authority's procedures and accountability. Other amendments that had to be made in the other place are purely technical or drafting amendments, such as corrections to definitions.

The nature of the Bill means that a single, insignificant change may require scores of separate amendments, which I am sure need not detain the House.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst)


Miss Johnson

I am not sure whether the right hon. Gentleman is asking me a question or making an exclamation.

Mr. Forth

The Minister has just said that the amendments need not detain the House, as if that were a statement of fact. I suggest that that is a decision for the House to make, not her.

Miss Johnson

I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman believes that he is the keeper of the soul of this Chamber, but I reiterate that the nature of the Bill means that a single, insignificant change may require scores of separate amendments. Those amendments are basically the same, so they need not detain the House. That was my point.

The Government make no apologies for the extent to which the Bill has been improved in the other place. That is how the revising process is supposed to work. I hope that my explanation helps to clarify the nature of the task involved in considering the amendments, and that we can proceed to consider them as expeditiously as possible.

Mr. Andrew Tyrie (Chichester)

Does the Minister's first experience of taking a Bill through Parliament over the past nine months lead her to conclude that it may have been a good idea if the Government had introduced the Bill in better shape in the first place?

Miss Johnson

My experience of taking the Bill through Parliament since July last year is that, because of the Joint Committee scrutiny of the draft Bill—a process with which the hon. Gentleman will be familiar—we were able to tackle enormously complex subjects. As I explained, the Bill replaces three main separate pieces of legislation and covers a wide range of financial services. It has received the degree of scrutiny that it ought to have received. It has been scrutinised in great detail in this Chamber, in Committee and in the other place, so we have before us a much improved Bill that I believe is now ready to go on to the statute book.

3.38 pm
Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells)

The Economic Secretary has failed to explain why the Government have tabled almost 700 amendments, new clauses and new schedules at this late stage in the Bill. The volume of amendments that hon. Members will have received from the Vote Office is like a substantial paperback. It runs to more than 90 pages, but none of it has been scrutinised by this House—these amendments have been passed in the other place. The Government are pushing through this paperback under a guillotine in one day.

The Economic Secretary dismissively said to my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) that most of the amendments are trivial and need not detain the House. That is for us to decide. It is not up to a Minister to tell us what we consider important, especially as many Opposition Members have been engaged with the subject for rather longer than the Minister. There have been three ministerial changes since the Bill began its rocky passage through Parliament, but my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Mr. Loughton) and I are two Members who have been present right from the start.

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield)

My right hon. Friend has served in the Treasury. Does he recall a time when such substantial changes were made to a Bill at such a late stage? Does not this demonstrate—as with the Utilities Bill—that the Bill was ill thought out in the first place?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

Yes. Indeed, I would go further—I think that this Bill bears increasingly little resemblance to the Bill that received a Second Reading last year. It has been constantly redrafted, and that can in no way be described as a response to consultation. Tabling nearly 700 amendments at such a late stage has nothing to do with consultation; it is simply bad legislation. Good legislation is produced when the Government know what they want to do, consult on how to do it and then produce a Bill for consideration by both Houses. As my hon. Friend says, in this case the Government have abused the process by substantially rewriting parts of a Bill. Indeed, in some instances—such as the provisions relating to the new competition regime—they are beginning to amend their own amendments. The Bill is diverging from the measure to which the House thought it was assenting last summer.

There is no excuse for the guillotine. As the Economic Secretary acknowledged, the Opposition have co-operated fully, and have given the Government no provocation whatever. Why, then, should the Government slam on a guillotine and push through all the Bill's remaining stages in one day? That is no way to treat an industry that employs more than 1 million people and is such an enormous foreign exchange earner for the United Kingdom. Many people's livelihoods will be affected by the Bill, and it needs proper, careful scrutiny.

The casual way in which the Government have treated the House goes back some time. The Bill was published nearly two years ago, and was examined by a joint Lords-Commons Committee chaired by Lord Burns. We supported that procedure. The Government said that they would support most of the Committee's recommendations, and would present a Bill in good order. I attended a meeting of Ministers, parliamentary counsel, draftsmen and House authorities, at which I asked whether the Bill was in a suitable state to be debated and scrutinised by the House of Commons. I was assured that it was in such a state, but I am afraid that that has turned out not to be the case.

On the basis of those assurances, we allowed the Bill to be carried over from the previous to the current Session. However, the Government not only constantly and consistently amended it in Committee, but tabled more than 300 amendments on Report in the Commons. That is exactly what they are doing today—at a very late stage, they have tabled pages of new amendments that have not been subjected to proper scrutiny in either House.

Changing a Bill after it has completed the stages that allow proper debate and scrutiny does not constitute consultation. This is now the most amended Bill in the history of the House, I am advised. The Economic Secretary tried to draw a parallel between the Bill and the Financial Services Act 1986. The arithmetic is on our side. Hundreds of amendments of a substantial, not trivial, nature have gone entirely unscrutinised.

Mr. Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham)

On the comparison with the 1986 Bill, that legislation first regulated the Financial Services Authority. We have had 14 years of experience since then to ensure that the current Bill builds on that experience and gets it right, so it is an even worse scenario that we have more amendments now than we did when we came to the matter afresh in 1986.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

My hon. Friend is right. Given also that the Burns committee looked at the matter and gave the Government a lot of advice and recommendations, there is even less excuse for treating Parliament in this way.

Two other matters are relevant to the motion. Two additional matters have come up in recent weeks, to which the Government have not fully responded. The first is the proposed merger between the London and Frankfurt stock exchanges. No one from the Government side will tell us how or whether the Financial Services Authority will regulate the merged exchange. It is a very important matter. It is not good enough for the Government, who presumably had warnings of that merger, to have no real response to the question about which rules and regulations will apply to the merged exchange.

The second matter that has caught the Government on the hop is the issue of the overlap and possible conflict between the Financial Services Authority and the takeover panel during bids and mergers. The Government were defeated on that matter in another place. The amendment inserted there will provide that if the parties to a bid comply with the City code issued by the takeover panel, that will be a defence against allegations of market abuse. In other words, that will provide a safe harbour against market abuse.

The Financial Services Authority will still be in charge. It will be able to issue the statement and its own code, which provides that safe harbour, and it may include conditions and limitations on it, so it will still be the league regulator, but that is an enormously important issue that has not yet been properly debated in the House. It is made worse by the fact that, instead of accepting that improvement to the Bill in another place, the Government apparently will seek to reverse it. Apparently, they do not like the fact that it is the takeover panel that will determine whether the behaviour of the parties to a bid actually complies with the City code and so gives a safe harbour against market abuse.

The Lords amendment is a good one because it provides a clear demarcation between the responsibilities of the Financial Services Authority and that of the takeover panel. Without that clear distinction about who does what, there will be endless scope for confusion, delay and litigation during a bid, which will undermine the role and success of the takeover panel. That is acknowledged in all parts.

It is also rumoured that the Liberal Democrats will collude with the Government in another place in overturning that amendment. If there is any party in the House of Commons that has few credentials for determining the future of the Bill, it is the Liberal Democrats. As my hon. Friends will recollect, the Liberal Democrats failed to provide anyone at all to attend the proceedings of the Standing Committee that considered the Bill. I see that we are now graced by the presence of one Liberal Democrat. I do not recollect him attending any of our previous debates. He has obviously been co-opted at a late stage to try to put up some defence for that collusion, but it is a shabby deal.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

While listening to my right hon. Friend's honeyed words, I briefly consulted the list of Lords amendments. Is he aware that there are no fewer than 35 groups of amendments and that, even if we were to work on the dubious assumption that the House would not divide on any of them, that would mean an allocation of approximately 12 minutes debating time to each group?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

My hon. Friend is an assiduous parliamentarian, and he has already done some work showing the outrageous nature of this allocation of time motion. He will know that many of these groups of amendments concern very sensitive and contentious issues indeed, such as whether the whole issue of competition has been given adequate prominence in the Bill. There is also the fact that people and market makers can be convicted of market abuse even if they did not intend to commit the offence. That someone can be convicted of something that they did not intend to do is a new and most unwelcome departure in British law.

Opposition Members have tried in this place, and my noble Friends have tried in another place, to correct and improve those parts of the Bill. Now, however, the debate will be compressed into the space of a few hours.

Sir Robert Smith (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine)

I should like to clarify one point: is the right hon. Gentleman planning on forcing a Division on the Bill?

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory

The Bill has already received its Second Reading. It is pretty extraordinary that the Liberal Democrat spokesman apparently thinks that we are debating its Second Reading. May I refer him to the Order Paper, which shows that we are debating a guillotine motion? It is that guillotine motion that we shall be opposing.

The motion is an abuse of the House. The Government should take the Bill away for a proper and full debate on all the outstanding issues, and come back with a properly prepared Bill that the House can consider.

3.51 pm
Sir Robert Smith

I should start by correcting my intervention, which was on the allocation of time motion. I simply wanted to clarify whether the official Opposition planned on dividing on that. If they do force a Division on it, at this stage in the debate Liberal Democrat Members would be quite happy to join them in the Lobby, to make it quite clear that allocation of time motions—[Interruption.] Who knows who will join me when the Division Bell goes?

We are now three years into a Government who were elected after claiming that they wanted to modernise our democracy and the way in which the House does things, such as scrutinising legislation. I do not, however, recognise what is so modern or fundamentally different about this allocation of time motion.

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the motion's modern feature is the fact that the Minister made no case for it whatsoever? She did not address at all why there is a need for a guillotine motion to curtail free speech. That is what was modern about it.

Sir Robert Smith

That feature has been quite common in this place. The situation in previous Parliaments may have been different from the situation in this one, but, based on my experience of the past few years, that feature has been quite common in this Parliament.

I am extremely disappointed and concerned that the Government, with such a large majority, are so frightened of debate. If they use their Whips efficiently and effectively, there is not a chance of overturning legislation. Debate is the only instrument available to us to persuade them to reconsider legislation. If legislation is properly scrutinised, there is a chance that Ministers will recognise that it is flawed and requires amendment. Debate also provides an opportunity to those who are outside the House not only to recognise the parts of the legislation that are causing us concern, but to see their concerns expressed in this place.

A vast number of amendments were made in the other place.

Mr. Tyrie

If the hon. Gentleman agrees with Conservative Members that the procedures under which the Bill is being examined are pretty disgraceful and certainly substandard, why have Liberal Democrat Members done a deal with the Government on a crucial clause? We would have had a chance on that clause if they had not sold out. Why have they sold out to the Government on an issue as fundamental as that of market abuse and the takeover panel?

Sir Robert Smith

That is a matter for the debate on the Bill. We are currently debating the procedure to consider the Bill and the importance of time being properly and effectively allocated to it in the House.

The Minister claimed that many of the amendments were minor and consequential. It is open to Ministers to explain all the amendments that they consider to be minor and consequential and let the House make a judgment. An allocation of time motion means that that is highly unlikely.

The Minister said that we were having an extended sitting. It has been extended from the normal 10 o'clock deadline until 11 o'clock, but the Government have subtracted 45 minutes for the debate on the allocation of time motion, so in reality the sitting has been extended by 15 minutes, which could be taken up by a Division on this motion. We might have only two or three extra minutes over a normal sitting day to consider all these Lords amendments.

Mr. Bercow

For the House to judge whether there is adequate time for debate, we need to have some idea of the level of contributions that we can expect. Will the hon. Gentleman advise the House—as he has not so far been able to do—whether we shall have contributions from the hon. Members for Gordon (Mr. Bruce), for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) and for Twickenham (Dr. Cable)?

Sir Robert Smith

The hon. Gentleman will have to sit in his place, watch the debates and see who takes part. I do not understand why he needs to know in advance who wishes to take part in the debate. Anyway, it is up to you, Madam Speaker, to decide who takes part in the debate. It is not for any of us to choose. That is probably enough interventions for now.

The Government also prayed in aid the record of the previous Government, which is a tedious and boring argument. It can place some things in context, but if their aspiration is always just to replicate the record of the previous Government, there was not much point in the electorate turning out at the last election and removing the previous Government from office.

Time is running out if the Government really want to modernise the House. They cannot do so just by guillotining debates, ignoring arguments and allowing them to go away. They have to look carefully at the procedure of legislative scrutiny. They cannot avoid problems just by tinkering with one or two aspects of the House. That way lies a great danger that, in the frustration of occasionally having to stay up late at night, they will decide to curtail debate without finding other avenues for scrutiny of legislation. If they do not find other avenues, they should be willing to stay up late and accept scrutiny that way.

The Government should also think about their management of legislation. This is a major Bill that has been heavily amended in the other place. They should ask whether they have too much legislation in the pipeline for this year and whether they have managed their priorities right. They talk about wanting to reduce waiting times and end queues in the health service. If they apply the skills that they use in managing legislation here to the health service, I am not optimistic.

Mr. Nigel Beard (Bexleyheath and Crayford)

The hon. Gentleman is making great play of the adequacy of the scrutiny. Why, in Committee, did a Liberal Member attend on only two occasions?

Sir Robert Smith

Presumably there were reasons why my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Cable) could not be there. The whole House is entitled to scrutinise legislation at this stage. We are not in Committee. The whole House must consider what the other House has done to the Bill. It is up to this House to decide how much time we want to spend on it. The Government should have the confidence to let the House scrutinise the Bill, range freely over it and expose its flaws in debate, rather than trying to rush through it without debate or proper scrutiny. I urge the House to recognise that when we come to vote.

3.59 pm
Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst)

This is an example of the Government somehow managing to combine incompetence and arrogance. That might be considered quite an achievement, but we have become rather used to it from them.

I wanted to give the Minister the benefit of the doubt, so I went through the Government's amendments and tried to spot the trivial ones that she claimed were none of our business and which we should not be so impatient as to want to deliberate. Even giving her the benefit of the doubt and without being an expert on the Bill, in my cursory reading I calculated 80 substantial amendments at the minimum. If that is the case—I suspect that there are more than that—the Government believe that we can deal with them in just over five minutes each.

That would be bad enough in itself, but I have had a look at the amendments. Amendment No. 61, for example, is one of those to which the Government presumably believe the House should give but five minutes attention. It involves a new clause entitled "Exercise of own-initiative power: procedure" and contains 12 subsections. Amendment No. 82 contains two subsections and nine paragraphs, amendment No. 87 contains 14 subsections, and amendment No. 90 contains 7 subsections. Amendment No. 107, which also caught my eye, seeks to add a new clause entitled "Appointment by competent authority of persons to carry out investigations." That contains considerable detail.

It is one thing for the Minister to claim in a glib and superficial fashion that we do not need to waste our time on the 675 items of trivia placed by the Government on today's Order Paper, but, even granting her that—which I would be very reluctant to do—she is really saying that this House of Commons should accept a new principle. She is suggesting that we allow ourselves, or that the Government give us, five minutes to consider large and often controversial new measures in a Bill. That is the extent of the Government's arrogance and of their wish to ignore the traditional proceedings of this House and the other place.

It is a measure of the Government's sheer incompetence that we are faced with the absurd situation that, in this sitting—which can last only until 11 o'clock—we are expected to give the most cursory consideration to law that could affect the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people. These are the depths to which the Government have sunk and this is the extent to which they are seeking to minimise or eliminate the role of this House in the legislative process. It is totally unacceptable.

Mr. Bercow

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the reasons that Ministers seem to think that such truncated consideration is adequate is that they believe that unless a Member has sat on the Standing Committee considering a Bill, he or she has a bit of a cheek to try to contribute on Report? Does he agree that they need now to understand what new Ministers in particular have hitherto failed to learn—that the Bill is being reported to the House for proper consideration by it?

Mr. Forth

Indeed. In addition, there are two Houses of this Parliament, and what one does is properly to be scrutinised by the other. The fact that a matter may have been dealt with in another place—with all of the expertise that resides there—does not mean that this House of Commons can either take that for granted or ignore it. This motion is an outrage and a disgrace, and I hope that the House will reject it.

4.3 pm

Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills)

There are few points that I wish to make, as the matter has been covered adequately by my right hon. Friends the Members for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) and for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) and by the hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Sir R. Smith). I was cheered to note that the Liberal Democrats are actually weighing how a procedure motion addresses the issues that we want to address.

This motion is a product of a rollover process following modernisation. It is an indication that my Front-Bench colleagues agreed to such an arrangement; it could only have gone forward on that basis. Therefore, this is an important process. That the Government are abrogating proper investigation and examination of the many clauses in the Bill is inappropriate and it may discourage my Front-Bench colleagues from ever agreeing to any future rollover. That would be a real loss in terms of the serious consideration over a longer period of detailed and highly complex Bills such as this. The Government should take on board the fact that a guillotine on a rollover that has allowed two parliamentary Sessions to deal with the detail of a Bill is inappropriate.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst pointed out that what we shall be debating are Lords amendments. I have been in the House long enough to remember—as you will too, Madam Speaker—when it was unthinkable to guillotine that which came from a Chamber that may not be democratic, but has equal weight in our legislative processes.

The Government have now guillotined 34 Bills. That is a historic high, and no other Government have ever approached it. Previous Labour Governments since 1945 seldom used the guillotine, but now there is a crescendo applied to the second Chamber and what it says in its amendments. This guillotine demonstrates the power of a majority to deny freedom of speech. I do not know whether the time is adequate, as the whole debate could implode, but the Government have allowed less than five minutes for each of 80 substantial amendments—again taking the figure supplied by my right hon. Friend—and that is not including votes.

Parliament should not be muzzled in this way. We have enough bad legislation as it is. Sometimes, Conservative Governments have been hung by having inadequate discussion of detail. This Government should not go down that route, which is a denial of the very purpose and function of this Chamber.

4.6 pm

Mr. Howard Flight (Arundel and South Downs)

The Bill is not exactly the stuff of red-hot party politics. Because of that, and because it affects our biggest industry and the prosperity of the whole of the south-east, the Opposition have endeavoured throughout to be wholly constructive, to get complicated matters legally right and to end up with a piece of legislation that is not damaging to our key industry.

It is extraordinarily disappointing to me that, when the Treasury is aware that there are many key issues on which we are advised that the Government and their legal advisers have got it wrong, the Government are unwilling to listen further and are railroading this stage through with a guillotine motion.

It is easy to take for granted the prosperity of the financial services industry of the City of London, but it depends on Britain being highly competitive in terms of tax, regulation and accommodation and staff costs. I am afraid to report that I have encountered several business people in the past few weeks who, having seen the final proposals on market abuse, are considering moving their businesses elsewhere, whether within the European Union or to other major financial centres.

The Bill comes from the Lords wrong, and we are being given inadequate time to consider it in the key areas of the obligation to preserve our international competitiveness, market abuse, proper practice in line with corporate governance required elsewhere, avoiding being ultra vires in respect of the European Court of Human Rights and, indeed, the new situation regarding what is to happen to stock markets. Did the Government even imagine, when rushing through the change of the listing authority from the stock exchange to the Financial Services Authority, the implications if the London stock exchange were to merge?

I declare an interest as not only the non-executive chairman of a financial services business but probably the only Member of Parliament who has worked in the industry for 30 years. As such, I stand back from the Bill and am seriously concerned that it creates a body that is too powerful and inadequately accountable and that there remain too many areas in which the legal balance is wrong or tilted against the industry.

It is wrong that the House should have only one evening to go through nearly 700 further amendments. We welcome the amendments that were introduced in response to issues that we raised, but we believe that the Bill remains wrong in certain key areas. That is why I oppose the motion. When a piece of key legislation is not right, the House of Commons should have time to get it right.

4.10 pm
Miss Melanie Johnson

The importance of the financial services sector is well recognised by the Government, and I trust that the hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs (Mr. Flight) did not wish to imply that the Government do anything other than attach as much importance to that sector as he would claim to do. We believe that the Bill is a crucial part of securing the future of that industry. Without the Bill and the new regulatory arrangements that it will introduce, the future of that industry would increasingly be at risk.

Hon. Members have raised the issue of scrutiny of the amendments. The right hon. Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) suggested that the amendments before us today had not received sufficient scrutiny, but they received extensive scrutiny in the other place. Only one additional Government amendment has been tabled for consideration this afternoon.

Mr. Tyrie

Will the Economic Secretary give way?

Miss Johnson

No, I have limited time and I wish to—[Interruption.] Hon. Members cannot have it both ways. The right hon. Member for Wells claimed that we faced a paperback of amendments, but the amendments made to the Financial Services Act 1986 in the other place covered some 135 pages, which is more than 40 pages more than the amendments before us today. No difficulties appear to have been experienced as a result of that earlier legislation. It is also important to recognise that 582 amendments were tabled by the then Government to that Act at a comparable stage in 1986.

Opposition Members have also neglected to mention the fact that there were 1,300 non-Government amendments discussed both here and in the other place. The Opposition have made a lively contribution to the debate and, as a result, in some cases we have tabled Government amendments to implement the changes that the Opposition have requested. The Bill is better as a result. The publication of the amendments on 24 May, and the report of the Bill's progress in the other place, have enabled those hon. Members who wished to do so to take an interest in the amendments long before they came here for debate. I trust that Opposition Members have done so.

The Opposition argue that we have not accepted their points, but in some cases that is because we do not agree with them, and hours of debate will not change that. In other cases, we have accepted the Opposition's arguments and tabled amendments to that effect. The fact that so many of the Lords amendments were passed with all-party support is further proof that we have listened. That is why they are before the House this afternoon.

As a result of the scrutiny it has undergone, we have a good Bill. Hon. Members will wish to discuss certain matters during the remaining hours of debate, but I reiterate that many of the amendments before us are purely technical, drafting or consequential on one main change in the Bill. Hon. Members can do the arithmetic on the number of amendments, but their case is not as substantial as they claim. With the possible exception of one area of discussion, I believe that it would be quite surprising if I were to hear anything in the Chamber this afternoon that I had not heard several times before, in more than 200 hours of parliamentary scrutiny of the Bill. We have already reached the point where many debates have become exceptionally repetitive.

I therefore urge the House to accept the supplemental allocation of time motion on the remaining consideration of the Bill.

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 244, Noes 126.

Division No. 210] [4.15 pm
Ainger, Nick Dobbin, Jim
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Donohoe, Brian H
Alexander, Douglas Doran, Frank
Allen, Graham Dowd, Jim
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary Drew, David
Atherton, Ms Candy Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Austin, John Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Battle, John Edwards, Huw
Bayley, Hugh Efford, Clive
Beard, Nigel Ellman, Mrs Louise
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Ennis, Jeff
Begg, Miss Anne Field, Rt Hon Frank
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough) Fisher, Mark
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield) Fitzpatrick, Jim
Bennett, Andrew F Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Benton, Joe Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Berry, Roger Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Best, Harold Gapes, Mike
Betts, Clive Gardiner, Barry
Blackman, Liz George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Blears, Ms Hazel Gerrard, Neil
Blizzard, Bob Gibson, Dr Ian
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul Godman, Dr Norman A
Borrow, David Godsiff, Roger
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Goggins, Paul
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Golding, Mrs Llin
Brinton, Mrs Helen Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Buck, Ms Karen Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Burgon, Colin Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Butler, Mrs Christine Grogan, John
Caborn, Rt Hon Richard Gunnell, John
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Campbell-Savours, Dale Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Caplin, Ivor Hanson, David
Caton, Martin Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Healey, John
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields) Heppell, John
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) Hinchliffe, David
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S) Hodge, Ms Margaret
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Hoey, Kate
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge) Hoon, Fit Hon Geoffrey
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Hope, Phil
Clwyd, Ann Hopkins, Kelvin
Coffey, Ms Ann Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Coleman, Iain Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston) Howells, Dr Kim
Corbett, Robin Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Corbyn, Jeremy Humble, Mrs Joan
Cranston, Ross Hurst, Alan
Crausby, David Hutton, John
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley) Iddon, Dr Brian
Cummings, John Ingram, Rt Hon Adam
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S) Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Darvill, Keith Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W) Jamieson, David
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Jenkins, Brian
Dean, Mrs Janet Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Denham, John Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Dismore, Andrew
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn) Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Radice, Rt Hon Giles
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Keeble, Ms Sally Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth) Roche, Mrs Barbara
Kelly, Ms Ruth Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Kemp, Fraser Rooney, Terry
Khabra, Piara S Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Kidney, David Rowlands, Ted
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth) Roy, Frank
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green) Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Kingham, Ms Tess Ryan, Ms Joan
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie Salter, Martin
Laxton, Bob Savidge, Malcolm
Leslie, Christopher Sawford, Phil
Levitt, Tom Sedgemore, Brian
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S) Shaw, Jonathan
Linton, Martin Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Lock, David Skinner, Dennis
Love, Andrew Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
McAvoy, Thomas Smith, Angela (Basildon)
McCabe, Steve Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian (Makerfield) Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
McDonagh, Siobhain Southworth, Ms Helen
McDonnell, John Spellar, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne squire, Ms Rachel
McIsaac, Shona Steinberg, Gerry
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
McNamara, Kevin Stoate, Dr Howard
McNulty Tony Stringer, Graham
MacShane, Denis Stuart, Ms Gisela
Mactaggart, Fiona Sutcliffe, Gerry
McWalter, Tony Taylor Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury) Taylor' Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Marshall—Andrews, Robert Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Maxton, John Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow w)
Michael, Rt Hon Alun Timms, Stephen
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley) Tipping Paddy
Miller, Andrew Todd, Mark
Moffatt, Laura Touhig, Don
Moonie, Dr Lewis Trickett, Jon
Moran, Ms Margaret Truswell, Paul
Morely, Elliot Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Mudie, George Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Mullin, Chris Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood) Walley, Ms Joan
Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen) Ward Ms Claire
Naysmith, Dr Doug Wareing, Robert N
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks) White, Brian
Olner, Bill Whitehead, Dr Alan
O'Neill, Martin Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Organ, Mrs Diana
Pearson, Ian Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Pendry, Tom Wills, Michael
Perham, Ms Linda Winnick, David
Pickthall, Colin Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Pike, Peter L Wood, Mike
Plaskitt, James Woodward, Shaun
Pond, Chris Worthington, Tony
Pope, Greg Wyatt, Derek
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E) Tellers for the Ayes:
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Mr. David Clelland and
Purchase, Ken Mr. Kevin Hughes
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Beresford, Sir Paul
Allan, Richard Blunt, Crispin
Amess, David Boswell, Tim
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Brady, Graham
Baldry, Tony Brand, Dr Peter
Bell, Martin (Tatton) Brazier, Julian
Bercow, John Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Maclean, Rt Hon David
Burns, Simon McLoughlin, Patrick
Butterfill, John Madel, Sir David
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife) Major, Rt Hon John
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh) May, Mrs Theresa
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Moss, Malcolm
Norman, Archie
Collins, Tim O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Cotter, Brian Öpik, Lembit
Cran, James Ottaway, Richard
Curry, Rt Hon David Page, Richard
Davies, Quentin (Grantham) Paice, James
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice) Paterson, Owen
Day, Stephen Pickles, Eric
Duncan, Alan Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Duncan Smith, Iain Randall, John
Evans, Nigel Redwood, Rt Hon John
Fabricant, Michael Rendel, David
Fallon, Michael Robathan, Andrew
Fearn, Ronnie Robertson, Laurence
Flight Howard Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Forth, Rt Hon Eric Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Foster, Don (Bath) Ruffley, David
Fraser, Christopher Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Gale, Roger Sanders, Adrian
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl Sayeed, Jonathan
Gray James Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Greenway, John Shepherd, Richard
Grieve Dominic Simpson, Keith (Mid—Norfolk)
Hague, Rt Hon William Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Hammond, Philip Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Hawkins, Nick Spicer, Sir Michael
Heald, Oliver Spring, Richard
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome) Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Heathcoat—Amory, Rt Hon David Steen, Anthony
Horam, John Swayne, Desmond
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Swinney, John
Syms, Robert
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot) Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Jack, Rt Hon Michael Taylor John M (Solihull)
Jenkin, Bernard Taylor Matthew (Truro)
Johnson Smith, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Taylor Sir Teddy
Trend Michael
Keetch, Paul Tyrie, Andrew
Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness W) Viggers, Peter
Wallace, James
Key, Robert Walter, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater) wells, Bowen
Kirkbride, Miss Julie Whittingdale, John
Laing, Mrs Eleanor Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd
Lansley, Andrew Willetts, David
Letwin, Oliver Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E) Yeo, Tim
Lidington, David Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Llwyd, Elfyn Tellers for the Noes:
Loughton, Tim Mr. Peter Luff and
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Mr. Geoffrey
McIntosh, Miss Anne Clifton-Brown.

Question accordingly agreed to.


That the Order of the House [9th February] be supplemented as follows: