§ 7. Paragraphs (6) and (7) of Sessional Order A (varying and supplementing programme motions) made by the House on 7th November 2000 shall not apply to proceedings on any motion to vary or supplement this order for the purpose of allocating time to proceedings on consideration of any messages from the Lords, and the question on any such motion shall be put forthwith
§ The motion proposes that the Committee stage should conclude by 1 May at the latest, with four days of double sittings. That seems to be an ample amount of time—eight sittings in all—to debate a medium-sized and uncontentious Bill such as this. Of course, the Programming Sub-Committee may decide that it is necessary for the Committee to sit more frequently than usual. Therefore, I give the assurance that I have given on previous occasions: if there is a need for more time, we are prepared to consider it through the process of the Programming Sub-Committee.
§ Mr. Quentin Davies (Grantham and Stamford)
The Minister is a thoughtful and sensible Member of the House, but does he not think that it is a little pretentious of him to speak on behalf of the Government in presenting a Bill to the House and then presume to decide for himself how long the House of Commons may choose to take to consider his proposed legislation?
The short answer is no, I do not think that. The procedure whereby the Government table a programme motion for debate is the right process. I know that the Programming Sub-Committee procedures are controversial and I know that there are arguments about them—I am sure that we shall have the familiar debate again—but all Members can participate in the process. 1061 I have been through the process on several occasions this Session and I emphasise that the order of business to be debated by the Committee is, in the Government's view, in the gift of the Opposition. If the Opposition want to order the debates in a certain way because they think that certain subjects deserve priority, we are open to their suggestions, and our inclination will be to agree to their propositions.
On the amount of time for the Bill's consideration, we are prepared to extend the time available when that becomes necessary. However, as we have seen from the arguments on the Criminal Justice and Police Bill—I will not repeat them now—we are not sympathetic to those who wish to delay discussion rather than debate the substantive issues.
I think that those are the dates that we are thinking of, but I shall double check before I confirm that.
§ Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire)
Is the Minister absolutely confident that we will be sitting on those dates and does he genuinely believe that the Committee will complete its consideration on 1 May? Will he give the House a straight answer?
Earlier, I had an entertaining exchange with the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) about this very matter. He thought that he had set a bait that I had eaten. However, I am not responsible for determining the date of the general election; I am not privy to the Prime Minister's thoughts on that. I read the newspapers and, like the whole House, I am aware that there is massive speculation about the possibility of a general election on 3 May. Massive issues surround the date—the Conservatives are afraid of it and we are keen on it—and many arguments is are being made. The Prime Minister will decide, as has been the case throughout our history. The hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack) is a great constitutional expert and he knows that that is the case. I cannot prejudge what will happen, but I am confident that the House will give the Bill the full consideration that it deserves.
The Bill has already received full scrutiny in the other place, as the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) generously acknowledged on Second Reading. The Government made 23 amendments to the Bill in 13 hours of full debate. He will correct me if I am being unfair, but I think that all the parties in the other place thought that the Bill had been scrutinised well and that the arguments had been fully heard. The Bill was improved by its passage through the other place. That is an important point.
The disagreement over the Bill's provisions generally relate to matters of comparative detail, and that became clear in the Second Reading debate. I do not suggest that they are unimportant points of detail, because it is appropriate to consider them. However, they are matters of comparative detail.
§ Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham)
Will the Minister be kind enough to help the House 1062 by giving a proper interpretation of paragraph 7? As I understand it, if we pass the programme motion, that paragraph will prevent us from debating any messages from the other place. Thus, if it produces dissenting amendments, we will not have an opportunity to discuss them. Am I right?
I am loth to give a formal interpretation on the hoof to a man of such legal distinction. I remind the right hon. and learned Gentleman that the Bill has been debated fully in the other place. It would be different if the Bill had been introduced in this place and became part of the tit for tat that can arise. However, I will take advice and clarify the matter if I can.
As for the dates mentioned by the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Luff), in case there is any doubt, we have in mind 10 April, 17 April, 24 April and 26 April—1 May is a stand-by date if we do not sit on 17 April.
§ Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate)
I am afraid that I am not as distinguished as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg). I should be grateful if the Minister explained in simple language, so that I can understand, what paragraph 7 means.
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has; he is a skilled reader. No doubt service in the Army helped him in that regard.
The paragraph ensures that inallocating time to proceedings on consideration of any messages from the Lords",the Question should be put forthwith. That is a simple process, but I shall respond to the hon. Gentleman in more detail.
§ Mr. Bercow
Given that the Government published their White Paper on the subject in March 1999—exactly two years ago—and signalled their intention to legislate, will the Minister confirm that the Government have an idea of the intended regulations to give effect to parts of the Bill? If not, why not? If they do, why can we not have sight of the draft regulations?
I am sorry to say that these are not the intended regulations.
The issue has been fully discussed and we have followed the same process, which I believe is correct, for other Bills. Before formally drafting regulations, it is appropriate for Parliament to consider the Bill, decide the framework of secondary legislation and consult across the industry. The hon. Gentleman, in his usual courteous way, is right to say that we have a good idea what we are talking about because substantial consultation has taken 1063 place and the debate has been wide ranging. However, I do not think it is right to publish draft regulations before the House is clear about how it intends to legislate.
§ Sir Patrick Cormack
If the Government have a clear idea of what they intend to include in the regulations, would it not help the House in general and the Committee in particular to see them?
I can give the hon. Gentleman the same commitment that I gave the hon. Member for Buckingham. I will do my best to ensure that draft regulations are available as early as possible. I am happy to do that because it is appropriate.
I understand that paragraph 7 uses the standard form of wording. The process is established. However, hon. Members on both sides of the House are aware of the issues that surround the way in which it operates and the concerns of the Programming Sub-Committee. I think we all agree that the Modernisation Committee will need to consider how it has worked. There are issues of principle concerning the idea of a guillotine and practical issues about whether it is used in the right way. I can say firmly on behalf of the Government that we are ready to listen to suggestions.
§ Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal)
The Minister is extremely courteous in giving way. In the same spirit, I say to him that there is no deep, fundamental argument about the Bill. It has been extremely well discussed in the other place. Is it not exactly the kind of Bill for which, in reasonable circumstances, the Government would not need to use a guillotine but would allow the House to take the necessary time? It is obviously not a Bill on which anybody would create difficulties, but there are points that hon. Members want to work on. Is this not precisely the occasion when the Government might have said to the House that they will not impose a guillotine?
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, but he knows very well the difficulty that the Government have had over the past few months. I do not seek to make an adversarial point, but we lack confidence in the Opposition's ability to undertake the rational consideration of Bills to which he referred. I think that such consideration is the right way to go about things, but some hon. Members have not been prepared to do that. They want to use the procedures of the House for reasons that have nothing to do with the substance of any particular Bill, but because of the overall process, to make general arguments about the allegedly dictatorial Government.
I am not making a point now about the Criminal Justice and Police Bill, about which there was some toing and froing earlier. [Interruption.] No, I will not dilate on that. I am often asked by the hon. Member for Buckingham to do things that I do not particularly want to do, but he will be glad to hear that I am strong-minded enough to resist his blandishments. I am sure that my very good friend, Mark Seddon, the editor of Tribune, will also be able to withstand his blandishments when he takes him on in any general election that is to come. He will knock the hon. Gentleman into a substantial cocked hat in Buckingham.
§ Mr. Luff
Following the Minister's generous comments earlier about my speech during the main debate, I shall put 1064 my point as charitably as I can. There may be a misunderstanding between him and Conservative Members about what paragraph 7 does. I think that he understands it, but he has not succeeded in explaining it to us. Will he do that now?
I think that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) is wrong in his assessment; I think that paragraph 7 refers only to the guillotine, or timetable motion, on Lords messages, and not the debate on the Lords messages themselves. Will the Minister confirm that it means only that any Question on a timetable motion for Lords messages will be put forthwith, and that then there will be a debate on those messages?
The hon. Gentleman has understood the situation correctly. I must plead guilty to some extent here because I had assumed, and was subsequently advised correctly, that that is the standard form of wording and it means exactly what he said. Earlier interventions led me down a path that I should perhaps not have taken.
The programme motion gives the Opposition ample time to focus on aspects of the Bill which may be of special concern to them, and I hope that the House will agree to it.
§ Mr. Hawkins
When my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) was responding to an earlier programme motion tabled by the Government, on Monday, she commenced her excellent remarks with a comment about the sense of unreality with which the House was approaching programme motions in these circumstances. I would go further and say that we are in an "Alice in Wonderland" world tonight, where a word means what the Minister says it means, and does not have its ordinary and natural meaning. Given the fevered speculation about the Government's general election plans, it seems somewhat bizarre to be discussing debates in April and May for the programme motion.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) has just said, there is no justification for any guillotining or programming of such a Bill. Much earlier this afternoon, at the beginning of the Second Reading debate, the Minister gave the game away in answer to an intervention by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler), when he dropped the heaviest of hints that there was very little prospect of the Bill's reaching the statute book because of what he knows the Prime Minister is likely to do.
§ Mr. Hawkins
Before I give way to the Minister, let me say that if these were normal times and we were dealing with a normal Government and normal Ministers who believed in democracy, scrutiny and debate and who did not want to programme and guillotine every single measure, we might be able to accept the Minister's assurances; but I am afraid that, in the light of our recent experiences on the Criminal Justice and Police Bill, when the Minister made statements at the Dispatch Box about when motions would be progressed and how many 1065 Committee sittings there would be but those promises were repeatedly broken, the House and especially the Opposition cannot accept that Minister's assurances.
§ Mr. Clarke
The hon. Gentleman is, of course, entitled to say that. However, I want to place on the record the fact that I did not drop the heaviest of hints about the election date. I do not know the Prime Minister's mind. I responded directly to the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler), and any Opposition politician will know that, however senior they may have been, they did not know their Prime Minister's mind about election dates any better than anyone else. It would be good of the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) to withdraw the suggestion that I dropped a hint about the election date, or that I know the Prime Minister's mind.
§ Mr. Hawkins
The record will show what the Minister said. However, the reaction of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield to the Minister's hint was quintessentially one of satisfaction: he said that he had made a bold cast and not expected to land such a big fish.
§ Mr. Gummer
Will my hon. Friend return to the guillotine motion and explain to the Government that our objection to the guillotine is that it stops Oppositions properly using the time and processes of the House to ensure that their voice is heard? Attacking the Opposition for doing what Oppositions have done in democratic Houses for the past 300 years is to misunderstand what the House is supposed to be about.
§ Mr. Hawkins
My right hon. Friend's extensive experience means that he knows that all too well. The current Government have already developed an extremely bad reputation for curtailing debate and ignoring democracy. They regularly behave as an elective dictatorship.
Let me give my right hon. Friend some recent examples of that behaviour. There were 118 amendments to the Bill that became the Freedom of Information Act 2000, 77 of which were not debated in the House. There were 268 amendments to the Bill that became the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, 47 of which were not debated here. There were 666 amendments to the Bill that became the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, 522 of which were not debated here. Then one comes to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Bill, which is a substantial Bill—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. Gentleman is going wide of the programme motion. It is much more narrow than that.
§ Mr. Hawkins
I was responding to my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal, who rightly pointed out how it is necessary repeatedly to emphasise to the current Government that they are supposed to allow proper scrutiny, because on Bill after Bill since they introduced the ridiculous procedure of programming and guillotining everything, the House has not had the opportunity to do its proper job of scrutiny. Most recently and worst of all, the Criminal Justice and Police Bill—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I would allow the hon. Gentleman to say something in passing, but he seems to want to go into the detail of every Bill. That is not allowed in a debate on a programme motion.
§ Mr. Hawkins
I simply wanted to draw attention to the fact that we face the same problems on the current Bill as we have faced on all recent legislation. It was the Minister in his opening remarks who referred to the Criminal Justice and Police Bill and our debates on it.
§ Mr. Hogg
Perhaps I might help my hon. Friend. What I think he is saying is this: the Minister of State has given it as his opinion that we have sufficient time to debate the Bill, but that sort of observation has been made on previous occasions in respect of other Bills and we have not had time to consider those Bills. Is it not therefore right that we should not place any weight on what the Minister has just said?
§ Mr. Hawkins
My right hon. and learned Friend is right—that is precisely the point. The worst example of that was on the Criminal Justice and Police Bill. The Private Security Industry Bill runs to 30 pages; it has 26 clauses and 10 pages of detailed schedules. The importance of the issues and the reason why the programme motion is wholly inappropriate were demonstrated by the Minister's right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George), who thought the Bill sufficiently important to speak for no less than one hour and 21 minutes. I do not know whether he will serve on the Committee; we shall have to wait and see. If, on Second Reading, he was sufficiently doubtful about whether the Bill was in a proper form to speak to the House for an hour and 21 minutes, may I strongly suggest that the artificial timetable proposed by the Minister is wholly inadequate?
On Second Reading, there was much discussion of the valuable contributions of the British Security Industry Association. However, less attention was paid to the concerns of the Joint Security Industry Council, which is the voice of the private security industry and represents a large number of professional bodies, ranging from the Association of British Insurers to the Defence Manufacturers Association, the Guild of Security Controllers, the Security Institute, the Master Locksmiths Association and the Security Industry Training Organisation mentioned in debate. The concerns of those constituent bodies, as well as of the JSIC and its chief executive Mr. Mike Welply—with whom I had a meeting yesterday—must be debated properly in Committee.
The Committee must also debate properly the concerns of the group of leading corporate investigation consultancies, which represents a number of significant companies, including Control Risks and the Armor Group. The right hon. Member for Walsall, South—speaking, I remind the Minister, from the Government Benches—concluded that the Bill was a mystery, reminding me that Winston Churchill said that Russia wasa riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.I hope that I have got that quotation right. When a senior Member of Parliament who is an undoubted expert on the industry is so dissatisfied with the Government's proposals as to say that the Bill is a mystery, we must have serious concerns about proposing so few Committee sittings under the guillotine. Conservative Members disapprove of guillotines and programme motions on principle.
§ Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde)
Before my hon. Friend moves on, is he aware that consideration of the longest 1067 Finance Bill ever presented to the House was conducted by means of a thorough debate, with no programme motion? There were as many, if not more, submissions from representative bodies to consider as those which he has enumerated. All that was done in the old-fashioned way, but everything was considered thoroughly.
§ Mr. Hawkins
My right hon. Friend is right. He may remember that, when we were in government, we passed the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 during the last Parliament. It was the longest criminal justice measure then on the statute book, and we debated it for 240 hours in Committee under the old system whereby everything was scrutinised. Many Members of the then Opposition, who are now Government Members, wanted to have their say in full.
In conclusion, I feel strongly that the programme motion is entirely inappropriate. The Government should be ashamed of themselves; their own senior Members, such as the right hon. Member for Walsall, South, said that the Bill is not in an adequate form. Although we are in an artificial situation and in pre-election mode, we cannot allow the programme motion to be accepted by default.
§ Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall)
Brevity is the soul of wit. Whenever dissolution takes place, I hope that this will be the shortest speech of this Parliament. I refer Members to column 920 of yesterday's Hansard and just say, "Ditto".
§ Mr. Doug Henderson
I have spoken to the House once or twice on procedural matters, and I do so tonight because I have an interest in the substantive issue. Previously, I have had an interest in my own timetable, rather than in the issue before the House. I support the timetable motion. We have a terrible tendency towards ritual in this place. We go through the same ritual night after night, after Second Readings. The House needs to re-examine our procedures, but I would be straying from the subject of the motion if I started to deal with that this evening.
The programme motion is a little artificial. Most of us do not know when the general election will take place. We can all speculate and work out whether there will be time between now and the general election to do justice to the Bill, which I hope will end up on the statute book. There are parts of the Bill that I would seek to modify, and I hope that the Government will take on board some of my suggestions on Second Reading. My hon. Friend the Minister is nodding; he knows the issues to which I refer. I am merely mouthing what many of the interest groups are saying, both on the employers' side and on the workers' side, and representing the police.
The alternative to the programme motion is to go through the nonsense that we have watched happening over the past two or three years. I do not blame the Opposition; we have all got ourselves into the mess. I do not accept that democracy is the issue, as was said from the Opposition Benches. Democracy is about putting proposals to the electorate and having a system of bringing about the execution of those proposals, 1068 with modification. I agree that that requires time for discussion, and the present issue is the efficiency of our debate. I do not condone my hon. Friends speaking longer than necessary, but until there is proper self-discipline, we need the protection of the timetable motion.
§ Mr. Henderson
I agree with the hon. Gentleman, and I want adequate time to be allocated for debate. I remember when I came to the conclusion that, because of the way in which Parliament had developed, we could not continue to operate as we have done in the 14 years I have been in Parliament. I reached that conclusion after we had spent hour after hour debating what ice cream salesmen do in St. James's park across the road, rather than debating real issues that affect the constituents of hon. Members on both sides of the House. I am not saying that that matter should not have been debated, but it did not warrant the extensive filibustering that took place. That convinced me that we needed to change our procedures. If we want the Bill to see the light of day—although events beyond our control may prevent that—we must support the Minister's proposal.
§ Mr. Hayes
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, but he seems to be labouring under an illusion. The people of this country elect a Parliament. It is for Parliament to scnitinise and pass Bills, and to ensure that they are effective and that the people's views are represented in the consideration of those Bills. We elect a Parliament, not just a Government. He should revise his perception of democracy.
§ Mr. Henderson
Of course I accept that. I do not know about the hon. Gentleman's constituents, but my constituents want things done that affect their lives. They want Parliament to act effectively. When they watch some of the goings-on in this place, they ridicule them. Unless we modernise our procedures in the way that is recommended by the programme motion—I wish that we did not need it—we will bring further discredit on this place. I ask Opposition Members to think about that. I have said my piece, and I am happy to allow others to follow in the debate.
§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
Not for the first time during my service in this House, I intend to express a personal point of view. I do so as a member of the Modernisation Committee, to which the Minister referred. I am optimistic that the Committee will provide further guidance to the House on dealing with programming and programme motions. I think that the Minister alluded to that guidance, and I hope that the report that contains it will help the House.
I am not unsupportive of the Government, although I may pass through the other Lobby at the end of the debate. Of course, that happens in the House from time to time. I think that the House has not heeded one of the Minister's assurances. He said that the Bill would come out of Standing Committee on 1 May. I think that he said also 1069 that there would be eight sittings. However, he told us that if the Programming Sub-Committee thought it necessary to schedule additional sittings in the light of progress made in the Standing Committee, it could do so. I have sought such an assurance in previous debates on programme motions.
§ Mr. Hogg
I heard the Minister's assurance, but I hope that my hon. Friend will forgive me for making a different point about it. The premise is that any decision will depend on whether the Minister thinks that more time is necessary. What matters, however, is whether the Committee and the House think, after speaking freely, that more time is needed. Whether or not the Government think that more time is needed does not address the fundamental problem.
§ Mr. Winterton
That was not my interpretation of what the Minister said. I believe that he said that if the Programming Sub-Committee felt that additional sittings were necessary, the Government would not oppose its decision. I say to the House and to my hon. Friends that I believe that we should take that assurance—perhaps I can also use the word "concession" —very seriously. It gives much reassurance to the Opposition that there will be more time for debate, if such time: proves necessary.
§ Mr. Hawkins
I wish that I could share my hon. Friend's optimism. However, my experience and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt) with regard to the Committee that considered the Criminal Justice and Police Bill, and our knowledge of the way in which the Programming Sub-Committee operated in respect of that Bill, tell us that one cannot accept the assurances given by this Government and by this Minister in particular. Such assurances were repeatedly given and repeatedly broken. In his capacity as a member of the Modernisation Committee, my hon. Friend should undoubtedly take that on board.
§ Mr. Winterton
I take my hon. Friend's strictures very seriously, but I have to say that I do not agree with them. I am prepared to take the Minister's assurance seriously. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) said that he was not prepared to do so, but I can only say that hon. Members on both sides of the House have expressed concern about the fact that the programme motion has been considered so soon, immediately after Second Reading. I believe that this particular system will be altered.
§ Mr. Blunt
Like me, my hon. Friend has had an overt respect for the Minister and his word. The trouble is that the Minister told us during consideration of a programme motion on the Criminal Justice and Police Bill that there would be 16 Committee sittings. That number was then changed to 14. He told us that the motion would be tabled on a Monday, but it was then tabled on a Friday.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The House is debating the programme motion on the Order Paper, not another one.
§ Mr. Winterton
Again, I take my hon. Friend's view extremely seriously, but I have been in this place for a few years and I believe that we must use our time well. I believe also that there must be an element of trust 1070 between the Government and the Opposition in this House. Perhaps I am alone among Conservative Members, but I have been here long enough.
§ Mr. Winterton
I shall give way first to the hon. Member for North-West Leicestershire (Mr. Taylor), who is also a member of the Modernisation Committee.
§ Mr. Taylor
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one of the bequests that the Modernisation Committee wants to leave to the new Parliament is a refinement of the process that we discussed today? It will mean that such debates, which most people find futile, meandering and otiose, will no longer be a feature of the parliamentary scene.
§ Mr. Winterton
I am not prepared to divulge the contents of a report that has not yet been published. However, hon. Members, whatever their party, who represent the interests of the House are trying to create a system that is acceptable to the Government and to the Opposition.
To respond to the intervention from my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt), the Programming Sub-Committee, under the chairmanship of a member of your Chairmen's Panel, Mr. Speaker, and not the Government will decide whether there will be one or more additional sittings in Committee. I believe that those who serve on the Chairmen's Panel are impartial and will try to represent the best interests of the House and all the parties in it.
§ Mr. Tyler
I hope that I will not embarrass the hon. Gentleman further by coming to his aid. Both he and I are in some difficulty because we cannot disclose the recommendations of the Modernisation Committee, but does he accept that the role of the Chairman of the Standing Committee and that of the Programming Sub-Committee will be critical to the success of our improvements? Ensuring that they work effectively gives new opportunities to Opposition parties to make sure that everything is properly discussed. One further point—
§ Mr. Winterton
The hon. Gentleman is right. The new proposals will be a great opportunity for the House, and give considerable authority to the Opposition. I hope that when they come before the House, perhaps in the next Parliament, they will be welcomed.
§ Mr. Winterton
My right hon. and learned Friend is a distinguished former Minister and respected Member of Parliament. However, I hope that he will give me credit 1071 for standing up for the independent voice in the years that I have been here, and that he will also acknowledge that I work in the best interests of the House. I say in front of you, Mr. Speaker, that I believe that the role of the Standing Committee Chairman will be important and influential, and can help the House to do a better job. He or she will be in an important position.
I want to express one reservation. I have said that I believe that the time allocated to the Standing Committee is adequate, but I remain anxious that the time for Report and Third Reading may prove insufficient. I repeat the argument that I have put before: Report is the only stage during which Back Benchers who were not able to speak on Second Reading and were not appointed to the Standing Committee can speak on behalf of constituents or organisations that have made representations to them. With that reservation, I thank the Minister for his concession, which I warmly welcome.
§ Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire)
It is said that as we get older, the arteries harden. I wonder whether that has happened to my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), who seems to be overflowing with the milk of human kindness in his charitable regard for the Government. Whatever he says, the proposals that we have not yet had the opportunity to discuss are proposals that we do not know about. We are discussing a programme motion this evening that is tabled under motions that we know about.
If ever a Bill was tailor-made for a Special Standing Committee, followed by a proper Standing Committee, it is this one. It is not politically contentious in a partisan sense, but it is nevertheless fairly meaty. It deals with important subjects and affects the livelihoods of many people. We have already heard, in interventions, that a number of specialist groups and associations have made representations on the Bill.
If the Government intend to proceed—as the Minister honestly and genuinely does—on the assumption that this Parliament has some 14 months left to run, they should put forward a sensible and thorough proposal to ensure that the Bill is properly and thoroughly discussed. The Minister should have moved that the Bill be committed to a Special Standing Committee. That Standing Committee would have had the opportunity to take evidence and listen to witnesses. We should then have moved on to a proper, clause-by-clause discussion of the Bill and considered it on its merits. That is what the Minister should have proposed this evening.
Of all Bills, this is the last one that should be put in a parliamentary straitjacket. Over the past few months, because the Government appear to have worked out a foreshortened timetable for this Parliament, every Bill—I shall not dilate on any others, Mr. Speaker, because you would rightly call me to order—has been subject to a programme motion that has had little regard to its nature and complexity.
§ Mr. Gummer
Does my hon. Friend agree that the House is being afflicted by a dangerous disease called neatness? We are seeking to make neat the system of parliamentary scrutiny, whereas the Government ought to 1072 be concerned about having a bit of biodiversity. They should be determined to enable people to put forward the points that they wish to, rather than trying to box us in to a neat pattern.
§ Sir Patrick Cormack
I agree with my right hon. Friend, who is a great expert on biodiversity in all its aspects. Neatness and scrutiny make uncomfortable bedfellows. If we are to scrutinise a Bill, we should not be pulled up short by a timetable that pays no regard to its extent or complexity.
Speaking as someone who had 14 years' experience on the Chairmen's Panel, I think that it is perfectly possible that this Bill could be dealt with—after the Special Standing Committee procedure—in about eight sittings. It may well be that that is a reasonably realistic allocation of time. However, what is important is the quality of the legislation that comes out at the end. What is not important is precisely how many hours and minutes are taken to accomplish that task. As the Minister is nodding at what I am saying, he must feel a mite embarrassed, if not rather ashamed, that he has had to stand at the Dispatch Box and propose something that he knows—
§ It being forty-five minutes after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, MR. SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order [7 November 2000].
§ The House divided: Ayes 259, Noes 139.
|Division No. 168]||[10.44 pm|
|Ainger, Nick||Clark, Paul (Gillingham)|
|Ainsworth, Robert (Cov?try NE)||Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)|
|Allen, Graham||Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)|
|Anderson, Rt Hon Donald (Swansea E)||Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)|
|Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)|
|Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary||Clwyd, Ann|
|Ashton, Joe||Coaker, Vernon|
|Austin, John||Coffey, Ms Ann|
|Bailey, Adrian||Cohen, Harry|
|Barnes, Harry||Coleman, Iain|
|Barron, Kevin||Colman, Tony|
|Battle, John||Connarty, Michael|
|Bayley, Hugh||Cook, Frank (Stockton N)|
|Beard, Nigel||Corbyn, Jeremy|
|Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret||Cousins, Jim|
|Begg, Miss Anne||Cox, Tom|
|Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)||Cranston, Ross|
|Bennett, Andrew F||Crausby, David|
|Benton, Joe||Cryer, John (Hornchurch)|
|Best, Harold||Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)|
|Betts, Clive||Darvill, Keith|
|Blears, Ms Hazel||Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)|
|Blizzard, Bob||Davidson, Ian|
|Blunkett, Rt Hon David||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)|
|Boateng. Rt Hon Paul||Davis, Rt Hon Terry (B'ham Hodge H)|
|Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)||Denham, Rt Hon John|
|Bradshaw, Ben||Dismore, Andrew|
|Brinton, Mrs Helen||Dobbin, Jim|
|Buck, Ms Karen||Dobson, Rt Hon Frank|
|Burden, Richard||Donohoe, Brian H|
|Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)||Doran, Frank|
|Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)||Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)|
|Campbell—Savours, Dale||Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)|
|Cann, Jamie||Edwards, Huw|
|Caton, Martin||Ellman, Mrs Louise|
|Cawsey, Ian||Ennis, Jeff|
|Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)||Field, Rt Hon Frank|
|Clapham, Michael||Fitzpatrick, Jim|
|Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)||Flint,Caroline|
|Flynn, Paul||McWalter, Tony|
|Foster, Rt Hon Derek||McWilliam, John|
|Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)||Mahon, Mrs Alice|
|Foster, Michael J (Worcester)||Mallaber, Judy|
|Foulkes, George||Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)|
|Fyfe, Maria||Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)|
|Galloway, George||Marshall, David (Shettleston)|
|Gapes, Mike||Martlew, Eric|
|George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)||Maxton, John|
|Gerrard, Neil||Meale, Alan|
|Gibson, Dr Ian||Merron, Gillian|
|Gilroy, Mrs Linda||Michael, Rt Hon Alun|
|Godsiff, Roger||Michie, Bill (Shef?ld Heeley)|
|Goggins, Paul||Milburn, Rt Hon Alan|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||Miller, Andrew|
|Gordon, Mrs Eileen||Moffatt, Laura|
|Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)||Moonie, Dr Lewis|
|Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)||Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)|
|Grogan, John||Morley, Elliot|
|Hain, Peter||Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)|
|Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)|
|Hamilton. Fabian (Leeds NE)||Mudie, George|
|Hanson, David||Mullin, Chris|
|Healey, John||Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen|
|Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)||Naysmith Dr Doug|
|Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)||Norris, Dan|
|Hendrick, Mark||O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)|
|Hepburn, Stephen||Olner, Bill|
|Heppell, John||Palmer, Dr Nick|
|Hodge, Ms Margaret||Pearson, Ian|
|Hood, Jimmy||Perham, Ms Linda|
|Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey||Pickthall, Colin|
|Hope, Phil||Pike, Peter L|
|Hopkins, Kelvin||Plaskitt, James|
|Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E)||Pope, Greg|
|Howarth, George (Knowsley N)||Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)|
|Howells, Dr Kim||Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)|
|Hoyle, Lindsay||Prescott, Rt Hon John|
|Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)||Primarolo, Dawn|
|Humble, Mrs Joan||Prosser, Gwyn|
|Hutton, John||Purchase, Ken|
|Iddon, Dr Brian||Quinn, Lawrie|
|Illsley, Eric||Rapson, Syd|
|Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)||Raynsford, Nick|
|Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)||Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)|
|Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)||Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)|
|Jones, Helen (Warrington N)||Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)|
|Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)|
|Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)||Roche, Mrs Barbara|
|Jowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa||Rooney, Terry|
|Joyce, Eric||Rowlands, Ted|
|Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)||Roy, Frank|
|Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)||Ruddock, Joan|
|Khabra, Piara S||Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)|
|Kidney, David||Salter, Martin|
|Kilfoyle, Peter||Sarwar, Mohammad|
|Lammy, David||Savidge Malcolm|
|Laxton, Bob||Sawford Phil|
|Lepper, David||Sheerman, Barry|
|Leslie, Christopher||Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)|
|Levitt, Tom||Skinner, Dennis|
|Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)||Smith. Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Lewis, Terry (Worsley)||Smith, Angela (Basildon)|
|Linton, Martin||Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)|
|Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)||Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)|
|Lock, David||Smith, John (Glamorgan)|
|McCabe, Steve||Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)|
|McDonagh, Siobhain||Soley, Clive|
|McDonnell, John||Southworth, Ms Helen|
|McFall, John||Spellar, John|
|McGuire, Mrs Anne||Squire, Ms Rachel|
|McIsaac, Shona||Starkey Dr Phyllis|
|McKenna, Mrs Rosemary||Stewart David (Inverness E)|
|Mackinlay, Andrew||Stewart Ian (Eccles)|
|McNamara, Kevin||Stoate, Dr Howard|
|McNulty, Tony||Stringer Graham|
|Stuart, Ms Gisela||Wareing, Robert N|
|Sutcliffe, Gerry||Watts, David|
|Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)||White, Brian|
|Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)||Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)|
|Taylor, David (NW Leics)|
|Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)||Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)|
|Timms, Stephen||Wills, Michael|
|Tipping, Paddy||Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)|
|Touhig, Don||Wood, Mike|
|Trickett, Jon||Woodward, Shaun|
|Truswell, Paul||Woolas, Phil|
|Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)||Worthington, Tony|
|Turner, Neil (Wigan)||Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)|
|Twigg, Derek (Halton)||Wright, Tony (Cannock)|
|Tynan, Bill||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Walley, Ms Joan||Mr. David Jamieson and|
|Ward, Ms Claire||Mr. Jim Dowd.|
|Amess, David||Hammond, Philip|
|Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James||Hancock, Mike|
|Atkinson. David (Bour'mth E)||Harvey, Nick|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Hawkins, Nick|
|Baldry, Tony||Hayes, John|
|Ballard, Jackie||Heald, Oliver|
|Beggs, Roy||Heathcoat—Amory, Rt Hon David|
|Bercow, John||Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Beresford, Sir Paul||Horam, John|
|Blunt, Crispin||Howard, Rt Hon Michael|
|Body, Sir Richard||Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)|
|Boswell, Tim||Jack, Rt Hon Michael|
|Brady, Graham||Jackson. Robert (Wantage)|
|Brazier, Julian||Jenkin, Bernard|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Key, Robert|
|Browning, Mrs Angela||King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)||Kirkbride, Miss Julie|
|Burnett, John||Kirkwood, Archy|
|Burns, Simon||Lait, Mrs Jacqui|
|Butterfill, John||Leigh, Edward|
|Cash, William||Letwin, Oliver|
|Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)||Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)|
|Clappison, James||Lilley, Rt Hon Peter|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)||Livsey, Richard|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)|
|Collins, Tim||Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas|
|Cormack, Sir Patrick||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Cran, James||McIntosh, Miss Anne|
|Davies, Quentin (Grantham)||MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew|
|Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Donaldson, Jeffrey||Madel, Sir David|
|Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen||Maples, John|
|Duncan, Alan||Mates, Michael|
|Duncan Smith, Iain||Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian|
|Evans, Nigel||May, Mrs Theresa|
|Fabricant, Michael||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Fallon, Michael||O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)|
|Flight, Howard||Ottaway, Richard|
|Forth, Rt Hon Eric||Page, Richard|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman||Paice, James|
|Fox, Dr Liam||Paisley. Rev Ian|
|Fraser, Christopher||Paterson, Owen|
|Garnier, Edward||Pickles, Eric|
|George, Andrew (St Ives)||Redwood. Rt Hon John|
|Gibb, Nick||Rendel, David|
|Gill, Christopher||Robathan, Andrew|
|Gillan, Mrs Cheryl||Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)|
|Gray, James||Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)|
|Green, Damian||Ruffley, David|
|Grieve, Dominic||Russell, Bob (Colchester)|
|Gummer, Rt Hon John||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie||Shepherd, Richard|
|Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)||Tyrie, Andrew|
|Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)||Viggers, Peter|
|Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)||Waiter, Robert|
|Spelman, Mrs Caroline||Waterson, Nigel|
|Spicer, Sir Michael||Wells, Bowen|
|Spring, Richard||Whitney, Sir Raymond|
|Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John||Whittingdale, John|
|Streeter, Gary||Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann|
|Stunell, Andrew||Willetts, David|
|Swayne, Desmond||Willis, Phil|
|Syms, Robert||Wilshire, David|
|Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)||Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)|
|Taylor, John M (Solihull)||Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)|
|Taylor, Sir Teddy||Young, Rt Hon Sir George|
|Tredinnick, David||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Trend, Michael||Mr. Peter Luff and|
|Tyler, Paul||Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.