§ The Minister for Policing, Crime Reduction and Community Safety (Mr. John Denham)
I beg to move,That the Order of 9th July 2002 (Police Reform Bill [Lords] (Programme) (No. 2)) shall be varied as follows—in the Table, in the entries in the second column relating to the second day, for the first 'Six o'clock' there shall be substituted 'Seven o'clock'.
Briefly, there was discussion yesterday on allowing flexibility because of today's statement. The motion will achieve that.
§ Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham)
I rise, as I did yesterday, to speak to the timetable motion.
This is the third programme motion relating to the Bill. The previous one was discussed yesterday, when I set out my objections to timetable motions, both in general and in particular. Therefore, I do not intend to repeat my arguments at any great length. However, it would not be right to give the Government any credit for this timetable motion, notwithstanding the fact that it moves one of the knives from 6 to 7 o'clock.
The reason why it would not be right to give the Government any credit is as follows. If there were no timetable motion in the first place, we would not have needed the supplementary second and third motions. Owing to the intolerable habit of imposing timetable motions, the Government are obliged to come back and waste yet more time with a further such motion.
The first decision was wrong in principle and unnecessary in practice for the reasons that I set out yesterday. Furthermore, it showed incompetence on the Government's part, because they must have known full well yesterday, when we debated the No. 2 timetable motion, that the Home Secretary would make a statement today. I was in government for many years and I have been a Member of the House for even longer, so I know perfectly well that the Government knew yesterday that the Home Secretary would make a lengthy statement today. Why on earth did yesterday's timetable motion not make proper provision, if that be what this is, for today's debate? So, we are dealing with incompetence as well as wrongness in principle.
In any case, why should we assume that the time permitted under the No. 3 timetable motion is sufficient? On any view of the matter, the issues that we are debating are important, but we are being given just two hours in which to discuss significant constitutional measures involving a raft of amendments. Who has decided that such time is sufficient? Not us. Oh no, the Government have decided.
What we have here is the Government coming to the House to tell us how long we, the legislature, should spend scrutinising their activities. There is absolutely no point saying that hon. Members make those decisions, because having regard to the strength of the party whip in this place, we know full well that the Executive made this decision. So, we have the profoundly unattractive 909 spectacle of an Executive telling the legislature how long it may spend on constitutional matters of some importance.
§ Mrs. Claire Curtis-Thomas (Crosby)
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman be kind enough to inform me whether he expressed any of his concerns to any member of the Standing Committee that considered the Bill?
§ Mr. Hogg
If the hon. Lady had heard my speech yesterday, she would appreciate that I was extremely concerned not just about the terms of the Bill but about the underlying legislation to which it refers. If she was not here yesterday, she would do well to read Hansard. If she had already done so, she would not have made an intervention that she thought would entertain the House.
The plain truth is that this is yet another case of an oppressive and incompetent Government coming here, demanding a bit of credit, and deserving none—and we should give them none.
§ 5 pm
§ Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North)
Your predecessor in the Chair yesterday, Mr. Deputy Speaker, kindly directed me to Hansard for the purposes of calculating the amount of time the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) has wasted in complaining about programme motions. A very rough calculation suggested that it was 12 hours 56 minutes, but I think I should now amend that to 13 hours.
910 I congratulate the right hon. and learned Gentleman. He complains about the House's time being wasted, but he is the main culprit. I wish he would be quiet and let Members get on with the Bill.
§ 5.2 pm
§ Norman Baker (Lewes)
I thank the Minister for responding positively to suggestions made yesterday by both Conservative and Liberal Democrat Front Benchers. He moved the programme motion in just one sentence, but he has been accused of wasting yet more time, whereas the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) took three or four minutes to make a point he had already made on a number of occasions.
§ 5.3 pm
§ Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal)
I would have had no intention of bothering the House but for the remarks of the hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen).
No job done by a Member of Parliament is more important than that of reminding the Executive that the House is supposed to scrutinise it. I understand that the hon. Gentleman has written a book—I have started reading it, but have not got very far—about how we need a House of Commons and a system more redolent of the needs of the people. He might start by asking the House to do its proper job, and provide enough time for us to talk about the issues that really matter. He should be ashamed of himself for attacking my right hon. and learned Friend for performing a public good and a public service.
§ Question put and agreed to.