HC Deb 10 December 1986 vol 107 cc633-9
Mr. Radice

I beg to move amendment No. 202, in page 3, line 30, leave out '1990' and insert '1989'.

The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)

With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No. 203, in page 3, line 30, leave out '1990' and insert '1987'.

No. 204, in page 3, line 30, leave out from '1990' to end of line 38.

No. 205, in page 3, line 31, at end insert 'or unless terminated by an order made by the Secretary of State before that date'. No. 207, in page 3, line 38, at end insert 'or shall cease to have effect after such period of notice as he sees fit'.

1.45 pm
Mr. Radice

We have discussed the points covered by these amendments on many occasions throughout yesterday and today, or is it tomorrow and the day before yesterday—I cannot quite remember.

I should like to ask the Minister two questions on the definition of interim. When is interim, interim? Most fair minded people would not consider a three-year period—four years if we take account of the retrospective element—to be interim. Most people would regard that as almost permanent. The Government must face that issue. My second question is very simple. What do the Government envisage will happen after 1990? I hope that the Minister will answer those questions.

Mr. Dunn

I was very grateful for the advance notice given by the hon. Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice), in his usual courteous way, of the two questions that he intended to raise. There are temporary civil servants who are temporary civil servants for all their working lives. In the context of the notion of interim, we are concerned to have the notion of interim status applying until 1990. What happens thereafter is a matter for consultation and debate. We will consider proposals as they are made.

Mr. Radice

What about speculation?

Mr. Dunn

There is bound to be much speculation. The Opposition indulge in that all the time, especially on the date of parliamentary elections, defence and such matters. However, we intend to consult very carefully about the engine that will replace the clapped-out Burnham vehicle.

Mr. Radice

The Minister has said that the Government will consult very carefully about the engine to replace Burnham. However, the fact is we are discussing a Bill about which there has been no consultation whatsoever.

Mr. Fisher

Why the sudden conversion?

Mr. Dunn

I do not feel part of the debate that is taking place on the Opposition Front Bench. However, I am determined to say that of course we shall have careful consultations. Representations will be made by individuals, institutions and political parties. No doubt by 1990, the hon. Member for Durham, North will, like me, be four years older but he will still be sitting on the Opposition Front Bench and giving me advice and I shall listen carefully. Not all the hon. Gentleman's ideas are completely bad. We shall consult and replace Burnham with a new engine.

Mr. Tony Banks

What about a new engine driver?

Mr. Dunn

If the new engine driver is anything like the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), he will have to take several tests before he is qualified.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. Fisher

I beg to move amendment No. 206, in page 3, line 33, after 'order', insert 'a draft of which has been laid before and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament,'.

The First Deputy Chairman

With this we shall take amendment No. 209 in page 3, line 44, leave out subsection (4).

Mr. Fisher

As my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North (Mr. Radice) said in speaking to the last group of amendments, we have discussed at length in Committee the powers of the Secretary of State, but we have not discussed at great length the proceedings to be followed when the Secretary of State makes decisions on the advice of the new advisory committee and brings them before the House. The Secretary of State tried to say that the procedures laid down in the Bill were democratic and constitutional enhancements. He tried to make the case that the House of Commons would have greater powers of scrutiny and control. For all his ingenious arguments, smiles and charm, he did not make that case successfully. His tongue was planted firmly in both cheeks, if that is possible. That might be possible for this Secretary of State. Anything is possible in view of the way in which he has conducted the debate.

Amendments Nos. 206 and 209 concern the form in which the measures to be introduced by the Secretary of State should be presented. In amendment No. 206, we suggest that, instead of an order being laid before the House, there should be a draft…which has been laid before and approved by a resolution by each House of Parliament". That is a normal procedure which you, Mr. Armstrong, the Under-Secretary of State and even the Secretary of State understand, although the Bill suggests that the right hon. Gentleman's sensitivity to parliamentary procedure, or at least to the niceties of democratic political management, is sadly lacking. Even he should understand that an affirmative resolution approved by each House of Parliament is a normal and correct procedure. It would be interesting to hear the Under-Secretary of State explain to the Committee why the House of Commons should not be allowed to affirm a draft order rather than have a statutory instrument laid before it. As the Under-Secretary of State understands full well, the latter is a very different form of scrutiny and effectively puts all control in the hands of the Secretary of State.

The burden of our case in Committee has been that the Secretary of State has been taking unto himself extraordinary, unnecessary and undesirable powers in relation to trade unions and local authorities. The right hon. Gentleman said in a different context last weekend in a widely reported speech on the curriculum that he wanted to take the curriculum to Elizabeth house or its successor in the Department. In this legislation, power will be centralised in the hands of the Secretary of State, and I hope that teachers, local authorities and parents understand that.

By presenting orders to the House of Commons in this way the Secretary of State will further centralise power in his hands. I hope that Conservative Members who are parliamentarians, who have respect for the House of Commons and who believe that we all have a duty to our constituents to ensure that there is parliamentary scrutiny will agree that the system of affirmative resolution by each House of Parliament is an appropriate one in this case.

Mr. Marlow

I do not know what the hon. Gentleman has done with the Bill. I do not know whether he has lost it, has turned it upside down, cannot read it or cannot understand it. The Bill refers to an order. If there is an order, there will be parliamentary scrutiny. The hon. Gentleman seems to have mislaid the Bill.

Mr. Fisher

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has the amendments in front of him. We commend amendment No. 206 to him. It says that a draft should be laid before and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament". If the hon. Gentleman feels that that is an inferior and less secure way for Parliament to scrutinise the activities of the Secretary of State than that provided in the Bill, by all means let him make his own contribution. I think that he would be hard put to say that our proposal in amendment No. 206 is not a better way for Parliament to proceed. This is not a party political point. Irrespective of which party is in power, it is better for the Government's actions to be approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament. Will the Under-Secretary of State respond to my point and explain how the procedures in the Bill are superior to those proposed in our amendment?

Mr. Dunn

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Cental (Mr. Fisher) for the chance to comment on the amendments to clause 5. The clause provides for the advisory committee to have a limited life. The interim arrangements are due to expire on 31 March 1990, unless renewed by an order subject to negative resolution procedure. Renewal may be for a period of one year at a time.

Amendment No. 206 converts the procedure for the extension of the legislation into an affirmative resolution. That was made quite clear. There may well be an occasion when an extension of the legislation for one year is deemed to be uncontroversial, in which case it would perhaps take up Parliament's time to debate it. If it were deemed to be controversial, as might be the case with Labour Members, no doubt it would be prayed against, so Parliament would debate it anyway. I think that I am satisfied with that provision.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

It is sad that the Government do not appreciate the difference between affirmative and negative resolution orders and their considerable implications for debate in the House of Commons. Affirmative resolution orders must be debated, although this does not have to take up more than a few seconds. There are examples of affirmative orders which involve no controversy. They are considered at 10 o'clock and are passed on the nod. This means that an hon. Member has the opportunity to debate the matter, whether as an individual member of a political party who supports the order, as a member of that party who, on that occasion, disagrees with the party's view, or as an individual. Hon. Members may want to discuss the order although not necessarily to vote against it. Affirmative orders can be debated for an hour and a half in Committee.

The difficulty is that negative resolution orders must be prayed against, which involves lobbying through the usual channels. A Front-Bench spokesman has a good chance of getting an early debate on the order as a result of such lobbying. But a Back Bencher may not necessarily win an easy passage for the order, if the usual channels are not especially sympathetic to the idea of a debate. There are occasions when one has to make oneself particularly awkward to get such a debate.

Mr. Peter Bruinvels

Has the hon. Gentleman ever introduced a negative order?

Mr. Bennett

I have pursued the issue of exemptions for gipsy caravan sites. On one occasion, there was quite a cosy arrangement between the two Front Benches that one of the orders should be passed without debate. Getting a debate entailed making quite a nuisance of oneself.

There is a further problem with a prayer. If the prayer is tabled for consideration at 10 o'clock, the debate is entitled to continue until 11.30 pm. But if there is a vote on the busines that is due to conclude at 10'clock, time for the debate on the prayer is reduced, and there may be less than an hour's debate on it. If, as often happens, the two Front Bench spokesmen speak for longer than 20 minutes each, hon. Members do not have much time to debate the prayer. At least, with an affirmative order, we are guaranteed an hour and a half debate. There seems to be a considerable advantage in having affirmative resolution orders rather than negative orders.

I am not overly excited by either procedure. I do not think that the guarantee of an hour and a half's debate to approve extending legislation such as this is particularly satisfactory. I argue that there should be procedural changes so that, at least, on the first occasion that such a procedure is implemented there is a guarantee of rather more than an hour and half's debate. It is not satisfactory for a Government to go for extensions to an Act of Parliament on the basis of a possible hour and a half's debate, as a result of a prayer, when there is also the possibility of less than an hour's debate on the topic.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 133, Noes 206.

Division No. 37] [2 pm
Alton, David Hancock, Michael
Anderson, Donald Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Ashdown, Paddy Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall)
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Howells, Geraint
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Hoyle, Douglas
Barron, Kevin Hughes, Roy (Newport East)
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Janner, Hon Greville
Beith, A. J. Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Kirkwood, Archy
Bermingham, Gerald Lambie, David
Blair, Anthony Lamond, James
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Leadbitter, Ted
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Leighton, Ronald
Bruce, Malcolm Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Caborn, Richard Livsey, Richard
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Campbell-Savours, Dale McCartney, Hugh
Cartwright, John McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Clay, Robert McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Clelland, David Gordon McKelvey, William
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S) MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor
Coleman, Donald McTaggart, Robert
Conlan, Bernard Madden, Max
Cook, Frank (Stockton North) Mallon, Seamus
Corbett, Robin Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Corbyn, Jeremy Martin, Michael
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Maxton, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence Maynard, Miss Joan
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly) Meadowcroft, Michael
Dewar, Donald Michie, William
Dobson, Frank Mikardo, Ian
Dormand, Jack Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Dubs, Alfred Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
Eadie, Alex Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Eastham, Ken Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Edwards, Bob (W'h'mpt'n SE) Nellist, David
Evans, John (St. Helens N) Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Fatchett, Derek O'Brien, William
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn) Park, George
Fisher, Mark Parry, Robert
Flannery, Martin Pavitt, Laurie
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Pendry, Tom
Foster, Derek Penhaligon, David
Foulkes, George Pike, Peter
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Freud, Clement Radice, Giles
Garrett, W. E. Raynsford, Nick
Golding, Mrs Llin Redmond, Martin
Gould, Bryan Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)
Hamilton, W. W. (Fife Central) Richardson, Ms Jo
Rooker, J. W. Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Ross, Ernest (Dundee W) Thorne, Stan (Preston)
Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight) Tinn, James
Rowlands, Ted Wallace, James
Sedgemore, Brian Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Sheldon, Rt Hon R. Wareing, Robert
Shields, Mrs Elizabeth Welsh, Michael
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Williams, Rt Hon A.
Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood) Winnick, David
Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE) Wrigglesworth, Ian
Silkin, Rt Hon J. Young, David (Bolton SE)
Skinner, Dennis
Snape, Peter Tellers for the Ayes:
Spearing, Nigel Mr. Don Dixon and
Stott, Roger Mr. James Hamilton.
Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Adley, Robert Franks, Cecil
Alexander, Richard Fraser, Peter (Angus East)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Freeman, Roger
Ancram, Michael Fry, Peter
Ashby, David Gale, Roger
Aspinwall, Jack Galley, Roy
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Gardiner, George (Reigate)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Garel-Jones, Tristan
Baldry, Tony Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Batiste, Spencer Glyn, Dr Alan
Bellingham, Henry Grant, Sir Anthony
Bendall, Vivian Greenway, Harry
Benyon, William Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Hannam, John
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Hargreaves, Kenneth
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Harris, David
Boscawen, Hon Robert Haselhurst, Alan
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Heathcoat-Amory, David
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Henderson, Barry
Bright, Graham Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Brinton, Tim Hicks, Robert
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Bruinvels, Peter Hill, James
Buck, Sir Antony Hind, Kenneth
Burt, Alistair Holt, Richard
Butcher, John Hordern, Sir Peter
Carlisle, John (Luton N) Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hubbard-Miles, Peter
Cash, William Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Hunter, Andrew
Chope, Christopher Jessel, Toby
Churchill, W. S. Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Jones, Robert (Herts W)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Key, Robert
Cockeram, Eric King, Roger (B'ham N'field)
Colvin, Michael Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Cope, John Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Corrie, John Knox, David
Couchman, James Lament, Rt Hon Norman
Crouch, David Lang, Ian
Currie, Mrs Edwina Latham, Michael
Dickens, Geoffrey Lawler, Geoffrey
Dicks, Terry Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Dunn, Robert Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Durant, Tony Lightbown, David
Dykes, Hugh Lilley, Peter
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Eggar, Tim Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Eyre, Sir Reginald McCrindle, Robert
Fallon, Michael Macfarlane, Neil
Farr, Sir John MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Favell, Anthony MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Fenner, Dame Peggy Maclean, David John
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey McLoughlin, Patrick
Fookes, Miss Janet McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)
Forman, Nigel McQuarrie, Albert
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Madel, David
Forth, Eric Major, John
Fox, Sir Marcus Malins, Humfrey
Malone, Gerald Shelton, William (Streatham)
Marland, Paul Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Marlow, Antony Shersby, Michael
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Silvester, Fred
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Sims, Roger
Mayhew, Sir Patrick Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Merchant, Piers Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Meyer, Sir Anthony Soames, Hon Nicholas
Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon) Spencer, Derek
Mitchell, David (Hants NW) Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Moate, Roger Stanbrook, Ivor
Morris, M. (N'hampton S) Stern, Michael
Moynihan, Hon C. Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
Neale, Gerrard Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Nicholls, Patrick Stewart, Ian (Hertf'dshire N)
Onslow, Cranley Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Oppenheim, Phillip Tapsell, Sir Peter
Ottaway, Richard Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Page, Sir John (Harrow W) Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Pawsey, James Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Portillo, Michael Townend, John (Bridlington)
Powley, John Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Price, Sir David Trippier, David
Proctor, K. Harvey Trotter, Neville
Raffan, Keith Twinn, Dr Ian
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Rathbone, Tim Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Rhodes James, Robert Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Ward, John
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Watts, John
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Whitfield, John
Robinson, Mark (N'port W) Wiggin, Jerry
Roe, Mrs Marion Winterton, Nicholas
Rossi, Sir Hugh Wolfson, Mark
Rost, Peter Wood, Timothy
Rowe, Andrew Woodcock, Michael
Rumbold, Mrs Angela Young, Sir George (Acton)
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Sayeed, Jonathan Tellers for the Noes:
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Mr. Francis Maude and
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Mr. Michael Neubert.

Question accordingly negatived.

Clause 5 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 6 and 7 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

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