15. In this Order—
allotted day" means any day (other than a Friday) on which the Bill is put down as first Government Order of the Day, provided that a Motion for allotting time to the proceedings on the Bill to be taken on that day either has been agreed on a previous day, or is set down for consideration on that day;
Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee" means a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee as agreed to by the Standing Committee;
the Bill" means the Finance Bill;
Resolution of the Business Committee" means a Resolution of the Business Committee as agreed to by the House.
I make no apology for moving the motion, although I do so with regret. The plain fact, as anyone who followed our proceedings yesterday would acknowledge, is that the tactics that were then pursued made the motion inevitable. Let me put my position in words that would be much
approved of and appreciated by the Chairman of the Select Committee on Procedure, my right hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery), if he were able to be in his place:
I should have preferred that we completed our proceedings on the Finance Bill with no need for a timetable motion. I wish that the two sides of the House could have agreed on sensible arrangements for allocating what is by any standard a generous amount of time for the remaining stages of the Bill. That would have allowed us to complete our consideration of it in a sensible manner. Unfortunately, such an agreement proved to be unobtainable. My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary sought such an understanding last week in discussion … but could not obtain it."—[Official Report, 4 March 1975; Vol. 887, c. 1288.]
§ My right hon. Friend the Chairman of the Procedure Committee would have appreciated those remarks because he was present when they were uttered. That was almost 20 years ago when the then Mr. Edward Short moved the guillotine motion on the Finance Bill of 1975. The only words that I have left out are the reference to the person with whom the then Chief Secretary had had discussions —my right hon. and learned Friend who is now Lord Howe. With the exception of that reference, if I had substituted the name of the hon. Member for Peckham (Ms Harman), the same words would apply exactly to the position that we have today.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)
Order. Before we continue, I should make it clear that Madam Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood).
§ Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey)
Will the Leader of the House admit, that on that occasion when the Finance Bill was guillotined, there had already been 160 hours of debate in Committee'? We have had precisely five hours in Committee on this Bill, which is the longest Finance Bill in history, containing 244 clauses and 24 schedules. We were only on the first clause.
§ Mr. Newton
First, the position then was not one in which the Opposition were declining co-operation of any kind on any matter. Secondly, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) said on Second Reading, against the background of obvious obstruction and delay that we saw yesterday, the case for an early guillotine is strengthened to ensure that this important and lengthy Bill is properly discussed.
§ Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)
Does the Leader of the House accept that the motion is an affront to the British people? Does not he recognise that today, and throughout the Bill's passage, we are supposed to debate the largest tax hike in British history, but the Government are ramming the legislation through the House with a guillotine motion? That is an affront. How can he possibly come to House with the guillotine measure today?
§ Mr. Newton
I do not accept that it is an affront and I do not think that most hon. Members on either side of the House believe that it is. If the hon. Gentleman believes it, I will quote him the words of hon. Member for Durham, North-West (Ms Armstrong), who I believe specially assists the Leader of the Opposition. In a debate a couple of years ago, the hon. Lady said that she agreed thatour rights"—those of the Opposition—are critical for democracy and civil rights. However, sitting all the hours available is not the most effective way in which to 772 defend those rights. If the House cannot organise itself effectively, what right do we have to pretend that we can organise the rest of the country?"—[Official Report, 2 March 1992; Vol. 205, c. 110.]That is the problem that I am addressing.
§ Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)
We can consider the matter rather more coolly this afternoon than we could at 10.30 last night. The Leader of the House talks about obvious obstruction and delay. I sat through some of the debate yesterday afternoon and evening. We were talking about a totally new tax that has not been introduced before and that is a major innovation by the Government. I heard speeches that were not extensive, for example, that of my hon. Friend the Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald), who has a great constituency interest in the proposal. My hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mr. Graham), who is here today, spoke for only 10 minutes and his constituency contains Glasgow airport. It was a genuine debate conducted by hon. Members with constituency concerns. Some of my hon. Friends did not even have the opportunity to voice their views on a major new tax. That is not obstruction; it is democracy and debate, which is what we are not getting from the Government.
§ Mr. Newton
I shall have one or two comments to make about yesterday's debate later.
Let me make it clear, as I did on the last occasion when such a motion proved necessary on a Bill in this Session, that we have not arrived at this position for any want of effort by my right hon. and hon. Friends to achieve agreement on how the Bill should proceed sensibly. As the House knows, my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary wrote to the hon. Member for Peckham (Ms Harman) before Second Reading to suggest arrangements that were very much in line with the conventions of recent years. Those would have provided for two full days in Committee of the whole House to discuss clauses that the Opposition seemed likely to think were appropriate for that forum rather than for a Standing Committee.
The reply that my right hon. Friend received was swift, short and sharp—I can readily record it in full. The letter stated:Dear MichaelThank you for your letter of 20th January.As you rightly say the Opposition is not willing to enter into informal discussions this year.I have passed a copy of your letter to the Chief Whip.Despite that rebuff, we continued to do everything that we could to act in a reasonable way. We did not seek to use the Opposition's attitude as a pretext for guillotining the Bill at once or for taking all of it in Committee, as we could have sought to do. We took account of the views of those who were prepared to discuss the proposals—the Liberal Democrats—in deciding which clauses to commit to the days on the Floor of the House. My right hon. Friend wrote once again to the hon. Lady to keep her informed of our proposal.
Even then our efforts did not cease; on the contrary, further contacts were made, which I have no reason to doubt were conducted in good faith. They led us to believe that, in practice, the business could be handled in a sensible way and in line with precedent and reasonable expectation, with the debate on clause 28 running until about 7 pm and debate on clause 46 running until about 10 pm.
My right hon. and hon. Friends could not have done more to avoid the need for the motion. Unhappily, the only 773 return that they had for their endeavours was what we saw yesterday. Anyone looking into the Chamber would have realised that yesterday's events were a transparent exercise in artificially extending debate. It became clear that there was no serious prospect of this important Bill being discussed in the way that most hon. Members would like and those outside the House are entitled to expect.
§ Mr. Thomas Graham (Renfrew, West and Inverclyde)
Has the Leader of the House looked at today's Hansard and read the comments and statements made by Opposition Members, which I felt were serious? Five million passengers come into Glasgow airport. We are working to increase that number to 8 million. More than £400 million will be spent locally to make the place vibrant once again after the 14 years of Tory Government. It is important that a new tax receives a full hearing. My constituents demand it. The 15,000 people who work in Glasgow airport—and I am sure the hundreds of thousands who work at other airports—wish to see a full debate in Parliament. Yesterday's three hours of debate were not a lot to offer those folk.
§ Mr. Newton
There is no doubt that we fully accept that the tax proposal deserved proper debate. It could and should have had proper debate in the time that we had expected to it to take. I understand that, when the Front Bench team had finished their speeches at about 5.30 pm, there were only four Labour Back Benchers in the House and there was widespread doubt as to whether the debate could be kept going until 7 pm. Of those hon. Members who spoke later, many—four, I believe—were among those who had not been present at the outset of the Back Bench debate. Several of them made speeches ranging from lengths of half an hour to, at the extreme, 50 minutes. I am not suggesting that it was unreasonable for hon. Members to make speeches. I am saying that, as a matter of judgment—having been here for part of the time myself, having followed the debate on the screens, and having talked to some of my hon. Friends who were in the Chamber—I know that there could be no doubt in the mind of any reasonable person that the debate was deliberately spun out and delayed.
§ Mr. Newton
I shall give way to the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald), who spoke for 50 minutes yesterday.
§ Mr. Macdonald
I apologised to Madam Speaker in advance for not being able to be present for the beginning of yesterday's debate. I was coming down from my constituency, which the Leader of the House may realise is quite some distance from here. In my speech, I tried to elicit an explanation of why, in his Budget speech, the Chancellor suggested that the Scottish islands would be exempt when detailed scrutiny of the Budget showed that there was no such exemption. We are still waiting for an answer.
§ Mr. Newton
The hon. Gentleman makes a fair argument about his constituency interest, but as my right hon. and hon. Friends have just said, he has just managed 774 in less than a minute to make the point that took him 50 minutes last night. That tells us something about what was going on.
§ Mr. Newton
I shall give way first to the hon. Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley) and then to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Chisholm). Then I must make some progress.
§ Mr. Illsley
Yesterday the Leader of the House referred to an agreement having been reached, and just now he referred to contacts and the possibility of agreement on the progress of the Bill. As the Opposition Treasury Whip, I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that as far as I am concerned there was no contact and no agreement whatever about the handling of the debate last night. There had been no contact with the Whips Office and no agreement.
§ Mr. Newton
That emerged clearly from the course of events yesterday. Nevertheless, what I have been told by my hon. Friends was told to me in good faith and I have no doubt that such contacts as took place took place in good faith. I am simply stating our perspective on those matters.
§ Mr. Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh, Leith)
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is quite common for the Government to timetable business to take place after 10 o'clock at night and also common for hon. Members on both sides of the House to speak for 50 minutes or more? Why does he single out yesterday evening and say that there was something unusual about it? I spoke for only 10 minutes, so I take it that that would be accepted as proof that I was not engaged in any plot. I have no particular constituency interest in the tax, but my hon. Friend the Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) has a very special constituency interest and it is perfectly understandable that he should have spoken for 50 minutes, and also that he could not be present for the beginning of the debate. Why have the Government overreacted in this way? We know what the answer is, but could we have an explanation from the Government?
§ Mr. Newton
I have already acknowledged the constituency interest of the hon. Member for Western Isles. I also said that he could have made his point a great deal more crisply—as indeed he has just demonstrated.
In response to the other objections, I make the point that while I have been Leader of the House, among the main pressures exerted on me by many hon. Members on both sides of the House—not, I accept, by all hon. Members —have been requests that I take steps to enable the House more regularly to finish its business at 10 o'clock rather than continuing late into the night.
The motion therefore provides for the orderly completion of discussion of the clauses committed to the whole House by 10 o'clock tonight. That fulfils our commitment to provide two full days on the Floor of the House. Of course, the less time that is taken on the motion, the more time there will be for discussion of the clauses themselves.
The motion goes on to provide for proceedings in the Standing Committee to be concluded by 29 March—the Tuesday before Easter, eight weeks from today—and then to provide for two days, which would of course be after Easter, for Report and Third Reading.
§ Mr. Michael Stern (Bristol, North-West)
In view of the obvious obstruction that we saw yesterday in the Chamber—[HON. MEMBERS: "What obstruction?"]—and the declared tactics of the Opposition to continue it, will my right hon. Friend give the House an undertaking that if that obstruction continues in Committee he will ingoduce a further motion to ensure adequate debate of all clauses in Committee?
§ Mr. Newton
The motion provides for the establishment of a Business Sub-Committee to do precisely that in Committee, and in due course for a Business Committee when the Bill returns to the Floor of the House.
For both Committee and remaining stages, our proposals are entirely consistent with what has been achieved by other means when the affairs of the House have been conducted more normally and with giving a full and proper opportunity for discussion of the Bill. To underline that fact, I might add that of the past six normal Finance Bills—I exclude the Bill that was debated in the rather special circumstances immediately before the 1992 election—the time taken in Standing Committee was respectively 14 days, 13, days, 11 days, nine days, seven days and 10 clays.
§ Mr. Newton
If the motion were accepted, and the Standing Committee were to sit on Tuesdays and Thursdays from now to the finishing date that I have set —[Interruption.]
§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)
Order. I am somewhat tired of repeated sedentary interruptions.
§ Mr. Newton
The Committee would sit for 16 days, which would be the most days spent on any Finance Bill during that period.
§ Mr. Newton
May I finish this point?
That would provide for about 100 hours to be spent considering the Bill, which compares with 70 hours last year. The provision for remaining stages is precisely the same as that for all six Finance Bills that I have mentioned.
§ Mr. Illsley
I understood the Leader of the House to say that the Standing Committee on the Finance Bill last year sat for 10 days. I checked with the Library yesterday and the Finance Bill 1993 had three days on the Floor of the House and 17 sittings in Standing Committee. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with that? Does he mean 10 sittings, or what? Last year there were 17 sittings-17 separate days in Committee.
§ Mr. Newton
The Bill certainly had three days on the Floor of the House, but my information is that it had 10 days in Standing Committee—of course, the number of sittings could embrace more than one sitting in a day. The figure of 10 days for last year compares with 16 days this year, under the motion before the House.
§ Mr. Foulkes
Will the Leader of the House tell us which of the previous Finance Bills included totally new taxation, such as the airline tax, the tax on insurance and all the other taxes? This year's Finance Bill is revolutionary in many ways, quite different from the others that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned.
§ Mr. Newton
There were substantial proposals in all those Bills. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman's argument stands up.
§ Mr. Newton
I shall give way to the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) and then I shall try to bring my speech to an end.
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
Does the Leader of the House accept that the Bill is twice the normal size? It contains 244 clauses, as against—[Interruption.] My hon. Friends tell me that it is 40 per cent. longer. Surely that requires additional time for hon. Members to debate the Bill.
Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman maintains that yesterday a small number of Members gave long speeches. That is the basis on which he justifies the guillotine motion —[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That is what he told us.
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
Why does he think that four or five long speeches should prevent another 635 Members of Parliament from reasonably debating a Bill in the House of Commons? Why should that small number dictate to others in the House whether the Bill is properly debated?
§ Mr. Newton
First, let me make it clear that I rest my case on the combination of factors on which I touched in my speech—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Justifiably, the nature and length of some of the speeches yesterday, and the fact that some were made by hon. Members who, so far as I am aware, had not even attended the beginning of the debate, have been taken into account.
As for the length of the Bill, my information is that this year's Bill is 417 pages long and last year's was 296. My Treasury colleagues, whose instant maths is obviously better than mine, tell me that this year's Bill is 40 per cent. longer. That sounds about right—and there will be 50 per cent. more time in Standing Committee.
As I said at the outset, I moved the motion with regret but without apology. In bringing my remarks to an end, I make a point that is often overlooked on such occasions, but which I believe is important. I accept unequivocally that it is right in arranging the business of the House to have due regard to the rights of the Opposition. Indeed, that is clearly reflected in the efforts that we made to achieve an understanding and in the way in which, even in the absence of any understanding, we have sought to follow precedent in the timetable proposed. However, I do not accept the proposition that sometimes seems implicit in the rhetoric deployed by the Opposition, which is that the rights of the Opposition are the same as the rights of Back Benchers or the rights of the House as a whole.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) made the point tellingly in his intervention last night, when he gave his eye-witness account of yesterday's proceedings and clearly said that he felt that his rights, as a Back Bencher wishing to take part in the debate on clause 46, had been infringed. In his judgment, what occurred was an abuse of the House.
777 As Leader of the House, I have a responsibility to Back Benchers on both sides of the House, not merely to the Opposition Front Bench. Above all, I have a responsibility to the House as a whole, to ensure that our business can be conducted in an orderly and sensible way, to fulfil the duty that we all share to those outside the House who will be affected by the measures that we discuss. The motion fulfils those responsibilities, and I commend it to the House.
§ Mrs. Margaret Beckett (Derby, South)
I listened with some amazement to the closing words of the Lord President. I do not understand how he had the gall to stand at the Dispatch Box and talk about his responsibility to the House and to Back Benchers on both sides for the orderly scrutiny of debate. He has abrogated that responsibility utterly by moving this motion.
Some days ago, the Chief Secretary made a speech in which he deplored the cynicism that he perceived as prevalent in Britain today. That observation was received by most of the populace with hilarious incredulity, it being obvious to everyone else that, as far as the Government are concerned, cynicism, like charity, begins at home. Today, we have before us a classic reason why people are cynical.
The subject of this guillotine motion—taking all control of the debate out of the hands of Parliament and putting it in the hands of the Government—is the biggest single tax hike in British history: taxes on travel, taxes on work, taxes on income, taxes on insurance, taxes on home ownership, and taxes on fuel. For a typical family, that is an extra tax bill of £1,330 over the next two years. The taxes are being imposed because of the utter collapse of the Government's economic policy, and to pick up the tab for the Government's failure.
The purpose of the motion is not simply about taking control of the debate; it is about concealment—the Government think that, if they hide debate away, people will not notice the extra taxes they are paying—and cowardice. The Government are trying to run away from a further vote on value added tax on fuel.
§ Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton and Wallington)
Does the right hon. Lady realise that, if the timetable motion is passed and we have some sensible hours and sensible procedure for considering the measure, it is much more likely that interested parties outside will pay close attention to it? What is not likely is that, if we allow debate on the Bill to be extended into the early hours through filibustering, we will get a sensible discussion either in the House or among interested parties outside.
§ Mrs. Beckett
The hon. Gentleman should not have intervened at that point, because I had just made the case that the reason for the guillotine is not to allow sensible debate; rather, it is to curtail debate and to avoid a vote on VAT on fuel.
§ Mrs. Beckett
The hon. Gentleman has just agreed with me. The Government are worried about a debate and vote on VAT on fuel, because they are concerned about the number of times that they can get their Members to support it.
The spectacle of the Lord President trying to defend these guillotines is getting ever more farcical. As I pointed out in the previous guillotine debate, Back Benchers on both sides of the House are here to examine the Government's legislation for mistakes and flaws, and to ensure, so far as we can, that their intentions are exposed and explained. To no legislation does that apply with greater force than legislation on the Budget. To no Budget does it apply with greater force than one that implements the biggest tax hike in British history. Increasingly, the Government are held in contempt, because they consistently treat others with contempt.
This is the fourth guillotine motion in the past four parliamentary weeks. [Interruption.] I am about to explain that to hon. Members. The Lord President justified the first guillotine by saying that there was no need to discuss the detail of a measure that had been announced months ago. He justified the second by saying that, although it had just been announced, the measure was beneficial in its net effect—that in itself is a highly dubious, probably untruthful, claim, which certainly deserves scrutiny. He justified the third by saying that it was an uncontroversial measure and that the debate—only a few hours—was taking too long.
The Lord President cannot make any one of those arguments for this guillotine motion. Even he cannot say that there is no need to discuss a Finance Bill of 244 clauses and 23 schedules—the longest Finance Bill in history, because it contains more taxes than almost any other Finance Bill. Even he cannot say that it is beneficial, when it puts up all our taxes—not to finance much-needed investment in Britain's future but to pay for the Government's failure in the past. He certainly cannot say that it is uncontroversial—either that every British family is picking up the bill, or where and how that money is being raised.
The right hon. Gentleman is being ridiculous when he pretends that the Bill has been debated for too long when only part of one parliamentary day has elapsed. All hon. Members know perfectly well that we intended to finish the second debate on insurance with dispatch last night and to deal today with another important issue—the increased income tax we all face, first, because of frozen personal allowances and, secondly, because of cuts in mortgage interest relief. That is a clear breach of the promises in the Government's fraudulent election manifesto.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) pointed out, on the two previous occasions when Finance Bills were guillotined—apart from debates on the Floor—they spent hours in Committee. In Committee, there were 62 hours on a 56-clause Bill and over 110 hours on a 53-clause Bill—the most recent occasion when a guillotine was imposed. That is not a few hours in Committee and on the Floor.
There is no justification for the precedent of a guillotine at this stage of the Finance Bill, or for its substance. While we can easily see that there is no justification, it is just as hard to see a reason for it. Today, the Lord President suggested, as he did last night, that there was undue and unusual delay in the first debate. He knows, and the whole House knows, that that is absolute claptrap.
779 It is not in the slightest degree unusual for the first debate to take longer than other debates on this or any other Bill. But overall, as the Lord President said, the previous seven or eight Finance Bills have been dealt with efficiently and expeditiously, although some debates have taken a good deal of time and others have taken less time.
Is the Lord President asking us to believe that yesterday evening he was shocked, stunned and dismayed by the perfectly ordinary spectacle of a debate until 10 pm, and that, when he hunted through his pockets, he happened to find about his person a four-page, carefully drafted guillotine motion? No one believes that. Why did the Lord President not say, as television cooks do, "And here's one I prepared earlier"?
All that matters to any Government is that they get their legislation through in reasonable consistency with their overall legislative programme and timetable. This Government had every reason to suppose that they would get this Bill through, consistent with a reasonable timetable and before Easter—the best possible reason, because we proclaimed to the world that we intended to force another vote on VAT on fuel before the proceedings are completed. Even the Government are not so incompetent that they are unaware that no such vote or debate can be held within the rules of the House once the tax is imposed on 1 April.
The Government knew perfectly well that, if we were to have another vote on VAT on fuel, they would have their Bill out of Committee before Easter. Not only did the Government know that that was our proclaimed intention; the clauses on which we intended to vote are on the Order Paper.
That means that, to ensure proper public scrutiny and coverage of this substantial Bill, the Committee might have to work some long hours into the night. But the Government claim that they are not trying to avoid parliamentary scrutiny, so they could have no objection to the Bill being properly dealt with, as long as it was expeditiously dealt with. The fact is—the evidence for this is on our side—that that is what we were trying to do.
The Government are trying to avoid either a full discussion on the scale that both sides of the House normally think is needed for a Bill of this length, or a vote on our amendment about VAT on fuel, or both. It has now become clear that it is a further vote on VAT from which the Government are trying to run away, because the Lord President said that he does not anticipate Report or Third Reading—of course, we want that vote on Report—until after Easter.
§ Mr. Newton
I want to be absolutely clear, because I have become a little puzzled by the drift of the right hon. Lady's argument. Is the case which she is presenting to the House that the Government have provided too much time for discussion of the Bill?
§ Mrs. Beckett
We have made it clear that the Bill could have come out of Committee before Easter, and that we would have sought to ensure that there was a reasonable debate within that time in Committee to scrutinise the whole Bill. The Lord President has tried to claim that the evidence of the debate so far in some way suggests that the Opposition are trying to obstruct the passage of the Bill. I am pointing out to him, the House and the country not only that there is no truth in that suggestion, but that he had 780 every reason in the world to know that we intended to scrutinise the Bill properly, and to make sure that we had a vote on VAT before the Bill left the House.
§ Sir Terence Higgins (Worthing)
I am genuinely puzzled by what the right hon. Lady is saying. In what way does the imposition of a guillotine prevent a vote on VAT?
§ Mrs. Beckett
In my opening remarks, I deliberately used the words that the Government intended to "take control" of the timetable. That is clearly what they intend.
We had anticipated that we would be able to deal with the Bill, and then have a vote on VAT on the Floor of the House. That is a perfectly reasonable procedure, and that is why we are so suspicious about why the Government have tabled the guillotine. They either wish not to allow enough time to scrutinise the Bill reasonably in Committee and to curtail what otherwise might be a lengthy debate, or they want to take control of the timetable so that they can prevent Report taking place before Easter.
If we are being unduly suspicious, and if it is simply due to sheer incompetence that the Government have not appreciated that we wanted a debate on VAT before Easter, even though we said so repeatedly and even though the Order Paper confirms it, let the Lord President get to his feet now and say that he was in error. Let him say that he did not realise that the Opposition wanted to have a vote before Easter, and that he is perfectly prepared to allow Report and a vote on VAT before Easter. There would then be no difficulty.
I am perfectly happy to give way to any Minister who will give the House an explanation. No? Are there no volunteers? The question of the right hon. Member for Worthing (Sir T. Higgins) has just been answered. The Government wish to take control of the timetable because they do not wish to have a vote on VAT and, after all, they are being perfectly consistent.
The Government would not let members of their own party discuss VAT on fuel at all at the Conservative party conference, and they do not want hon. Members to have a chance to vote for our new clause. The reason is quite simple. The clause contains a new and sensible proposal. It proposes that we delay the implementation of VAT on fuel for a year, and there are many Conservative Members who could perfectly well vote for such a clause.
Much has changed since those Conservative Members voted for VAT on fuel in the first place. We know that, in 1992, the Government wrote off nearly twice as much money in uncollected taxes as will be raised by VAT on fuel in the first year. That shows that there is always a choice, and that the Government have a choice whether they need to go ahead with the measure this year. Secondly, we have seen the compensation package which has been promised for the least well-off, and most hon. Members judge it to be wholly inadequate.
Thirdly, we now know that it is only one of a whole gaggle of new taxes. VAT on fuel was presented originally as an alternative to increased taxes on income, and we now know that it is in addition to increased taxes on income.
Fourthly, we have now been told by the Government and by the Financial Secretary that the tax package of which VAT on fuel forms a part—the biggest tax package in British history—could check the recovery which everyone in Britain wants to see.
781 Those are four good reasons for delaying VAT on fuel for a year, and four good reasons why the Government are afraid to have that vote.
§ Mr. Gary Streeter (Plymouth, Sutton)
Does the right hon. Lady understand that she is completely and utterly wrong on that point and, as usual, is well behind the times? Does she understand that the reason why Conservative Members are perfectly happy with VAT on fuel is the generous compensation package that my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor introduced in the Budget, which satisfied Conservative Members and our constituents?
§ Mrs. Beckett
It is interesting to hear the hon. Gentleman say that, and I am sure that his constituents would be even more interested. His remarks do not wholly square with the letters that some of his hon. Friends have been sending.
§ Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I apologise to my right hon. Friend for the interruption.
Bearing in mind the exchange that has just taken place, will you give some consideration during the next few minutes to whether you would be prepared to accept from anywhere in the House a manuscript amendment altering the date of Report from 29 March to 15 March? That would give the Government an opportunity to meet the point made by my right hon. Friend, and the Committee stage would then finish early enough for Report to take place before Good Friday. That is clearly a way out which would be acceptable to the Opposition. That would require you to accept a manuscript amendment for that date, Madam Deputy Speaker.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Janet Fookes)
That would have to be a matter for Madam Speaker herself to decide, not for me as her deputy.
§ Mrs. Beckett
That is most helpful, Madam Deputy Speaker. My strong advice to my hon. Friend is that he writes that a report should come back to the House before Easter into any motion or amendment which he might move. He would otherwise rely on the good faith of the Government, and I do not think that I need say more about that.
I was most interested that the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. Streeter) said that Conservative Members were delighted with the compensation package, and that they no longer had problems with VAT on fuel. First, may I tell him that we have received substantial petitions from people in his constituency complaining about the impostion of VAT on fuel. I am surprised if he has not also received the petitions.
§ Mrs. Beckett
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman's constituents did not think that it was worth while writing to him, and I must admit that I am beginning to see why. The hon. Gentleman's remarks about the happiness of Conservative Members do not square with letters that some of his hon. Friends have been sending to constituents, which some of hose constituents are inconsiderately sending on to us.
782 One letter from a Conservative Member said, for example, that he was worried about VAT on fuel, and that he would have been delighted to vote against it. Owing to the incompetence of the Labour party, however, the hon. Gentleman did not have a chance. The hon. Member who wrote that letter has had one chance since that time, and he has not shown up in the Lobby to vote against it. The Opposition are willing to recognise that it may be difficult for that hon. Member, and we are prepared to give him a second chance. Why will the Government not do the same?
§ Sir Terence Higgins
I am still genuinely puzzled. If it would have been possible for the right hon. Lady to table an amendment on Report on VAT on fuel, why is she unable to do so in Committee on the Floor of the House?
§ Mrs. Beckett
The right hon. Gentleman is being disingenuous. We want a further vote on VAT on the Floor of the House with the whole House able to vote. We want the House as a whole, not merely those who serve on the Committee, to have an opportunity to defer it. We can only do that by bringing it back on Report.
§ Sir Terence Higgins
I genuinely do not understand. If the right hon. Lady were so anxious to have another vote on VAT on fuel, why did not she suggest that we have the vote in Committee on the Floor of the House?
§ Mrs. Beckett
We are not in that position. We must have a new clause to move this provision, and the means of doing that is to do so on Report. We provided the opportunity to vote on Second Reading, and we now want the opportunity of a new clause.
§ Mrs. Beckett
I do not wish to continue to debate this subject with the right hon. Gentleman. He will readily acknowledge that what we are suggesting would certainly provide the means for the House to discuss and to reach a decision on the matter. The only thing which could prevent that is if, for some reason—
§ Mrs. Beckett
I do not really want to take more time, and I have given way many times. However, I will give way to the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Greenway
I have been listening carefully to what the right hon. Lady has said. The gist of it seems to be that it does not matter any more how much time is available for consideration of the Bill in Standing Committee and all the technical measures to which she has referred, so long as it is out of Committee in time for there to be the Report before Easter. Hon. Members who are concerned about proper debate—whether in Committee on the Floor of the House or Upstairs—want adequate time for discussion, and my right hon. Friend the Lord President has provided adequate time through this motion.
§ Mrs. Beckett
The hon. Gentleman is missing the point completely. We believe that adequate time can be provided in Committee. It will not be easy, but it is possible, and it can be handled expeditiously and in the same way as previous Finance Bills. We do not have the hon. Gentleman's trust in the Government's good faith, however, or believe that that is what they intend to do; and I suspect that we, rather than the hon. Gentleman, will turn out to be correct. We believed and believe—it has been 783 confirmed by this debate—that the Government moved the motion to take control of the Bill so that they can prevent Parliament from having an opportunity to decide on the matter.
It is strange to hear members of the Government talk—in this debate and on other guillotine motions on various measures—as if they were a popular Government, engaged only in carrying out the election pledges that they so recently made, and being unreasonably obstructed by the Opposition somehow misusing the procedures of the House.
In fact, they are a ludicrously incompetent Government—the most unpopular in modern times, and not because they have the courage to take hard decisions, as they claim, but because they did not have the courage to tell the country the truth about those decisions, for which, in any case, they always blame someone else; and because they are breaking all the election pledges they so recently made. Not only did the Government lack the courage and integrity to tell the truth about the state of Britain: they lack the integrity and courage to face the music now.
We are not misusing the procedures of the House, but are using them for the purpose for which they were intended—to hold an elected Government to account on behalf of the people who elected them. We shall continue to do so. They are a Government of weak men, with weak excuses, and a weakening hold on power.
§ Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)
I beg to move, in paragraph 1(1), leave out 'Ten o'clock' and insert 'midnight'.
The amendment occurred to us last night, when we had precious little time—as did the rest of the House—to take account of the business statement. The Government have tabled ever more embellished guillotine motions. They could have taken into account—but did not—the fact that a matter of privilege would have to be discussed on the Floor of the House this afternoon. That has eaten into a good hour of the time allocated for consideration of the Finance Bill, although that time was already constrained. For that reason alone, the Leader of the House should be prepared to accept our modest amendment to enable another two hours of debate. It will allow only the amount of time that the Government thought reasonable before we lost time on the question of privilege.
It will seem wholly unreasonable if the Government set their face against this attempt to protect urgent consideration of brand new taxes and issues of fundamental importance in the Finance Bill. Those issues were considered important enough to be debated in a Committee of the whole House. As the House knows, this debate can continue for three hours, and we are likely to have to squeeze the three remaining substantial items into one and a half to two and a half hours of debate, which is totally unreasonable.
Although it is very much the least worst option, I am offering the Government a chance to give the House a more sensible timetable within which to debate the outstanding clauses on the. Floor of the House before the Finance Bill goes into Committee. Unless the Leader of the House accepts that offer, I shall not feel able to support the guillotine motion.
We are in an extremely serious situation. I take a slightly different view from that of the right hon. Member 784 for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett). We are getting to the stage where it is not in the House's best interests to deal with matters in such an ad hoc way.
I particularly noted two things that the Leader of the House said. He thought that the timetable motion was inevitable, but I do not believe it was. The precedents that he quoted certainly do not enable him to argue that that is the case. No Finance Bill has ever been guillotined before the Committee stage, and this is a very serious situation. By definition, the Finance Bill is the most important legislation to be considered by the House during a Session. It is unacceptable for the Government to take the draconian step of casually guillotining it before it goes into Committee.
The Finance Bill is yet another measure to be guillotined. I repeat what I said during the last debate on a guillotine motion, because it is true—to date, every Bill that this House has referred to the House of Lords has been subject to a timetable motion.
The Leader of the House said that it was his duty to protect the rights of Members. That is true, but he is not doing so by responding willy-nilly and casually on an ad hoc basis. I understand that he is not in control of the context within which he is taking the action, but candidly it will not do to respond in this piecemeal fashion.
When the Finance Bill is dealt with in this way, the Government are entitled to say that the House is not being treated properly. The Leader of the House should look for a longer-term solution if he cannot get guarantees that the war of attrition that is going on over the heads of myself and my right hon. and hon. Friends will not continue indefinitely.
The House will require something systematic to be done to protect Members' interests. I do not say that lightly, because, if changes are made, they will be made for all time, but we are reaching the stage where such action must be taken. The right hon. Gentleman is not discharging his duties as Leader of the House unless he considers that option seriously. If he has a proposition, right hon. and hon. Members on the Liberal Democrat Benches will listen to him and carefully consider whatever action he feels is necessary.
I have a great deal of respect for the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett), because I shadowed her in her social security days and in previous incarnations, but she owes the House more of an explanation about the end that the Opposition are pursuing through the disruption.
I perfectly understand that the Government should be given a hard time. I have said that I am in favour of doing so, within the normal rules and regulations of the House. One does not have to be a parliamentary strategic genius, however, to work out how one can bring this House to a grinding halt, especially if more than 200 Members of Parliament are willing to comply with one's request. One does not have to be clever: it is a very easy thing to do.
The House is teetering on the brink of grinding to a halt. If the official Opposition are intent on doing that, they have a duty to explain why—if they have a plan, they have not vouchsafed it to me. Perhaps there is some great strategic and clever game plan, but all I hear are stories leaked from the office of the Leader of the Opposition to the effect that the disruption will continue until the Euro-elections in June or July.
I hope to heaven that the Opposition know what they are doing, because the Government must get through their business. If that incontrovertible principle is not followed, 785 this place will descend into chaos. Such shenanigans puzzle and perplex people outside: they think that we are not doing the job we are paid to do when such an operation continues and the Government are forced to take action that is not in the short-term interests of the House.
§ Mrs. Beckett
I have been listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman, but I am having difficulty following his point. I remind him, first, that the House of Commons is like any other institution or place of work—it works best when people seek to work with a reasonable degree of mutual respect, co-operation and good faith. Secondly, reasonable procedures were abandoned because the Government arbitrarily, without consultation or good reason, chose to impose a guillotine on two consecutive Bills. Nobody—not even the hon. Gentleman in his most charitable mode—can say that, since that date, the Government have not continued to treat the House with contempt.
The Lord President may talk about disruption because our debates take place until 10 o'clock at night, but the hon. Gentleman, at least, knows better than that.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
That is tit for tat—and where does it get us? The hon. Lady says that the Government acted scandalously. I was present during the debate on the guillotine motion, and I supported her on it. I am simply saying that I understand the analysis, but what is the prescription? What is she asking for? What needs to change so that we can return to what she considers the only sensible way to get the House to work? If the hon. Lady will say what she wants, I will say whether I am in favour of it, and we can get on with real life.
§ Mrs. Beckett
I am not prepared to tell the hon. Gentleman the acceptable price for a return to more normal relationships, but I am prepared to tell him that it stands out a mile that the Government are behaving unreasonably by continuing to introduce unprecedented guillotines.
§ Mr. Kirkwood
We must all be careful to measure exactly what we are trying to do. The Government hold all the cards, and we are not in a position to control matters, so if the official Opposition do not clarify their objective and if the Government are hit with a series of changes to the Standing Orders, they will not be easily reversed later.
The Lord President probably goes around with guillotine motions in his inside pocket. I bet that, if he turned out his wallet, it would contain draft changes to Standing Orders that are waiting to be used any minute now. The official Opposition are walking into an open trap if they do not realise that that is coming down the track, and continue this disruption without a specific time scale in mind. They will then deserve all they get.
§ Mr. Illsley
The hon. Gentleman says that the Leader of the House is walking around with draft amendments to Standing Orders in his pocket. If the Government intend to amend Standing Orders to force their business through the House, is that not another example of their treating the House with contempt?
§ Mr. Kirkwood
Again, that is tit for tat, but it does not help me. If the hon. Gentleman would say what he wanted, I could have a sensible discussion with him.
§ Mrs. Beckett
Exactly what does the hon. Gentleman suggest as an alternative? He has thought of a phrase—"tit for tat"—which he hopes will make him look statesmanlike. Does he suggest that we simply give in and say to the Government, "Oh well, never mind. Just carry on"?
§ Mr. Kirkwood
One of two things must happen: either the right hon. Lady will have to "give in", as she puts it, or she must say what she wants to achieve so that we know when she achieves it. I am trying to make sense of this matter, and simply saying that the House is in danger of grinding to a halt. The hon. Lady is as much to blame as the Government for bringing forward the Standing Orders amendment.
I did not mean to get drawn into such a discussion, but, as I have started, I shall finish it. If the Leader of the House makes changes on a piecemeal basis, such as a timetable motion here or there, with no checks or balances, the House will be worse off than it would be had we had the whole Jopling package. At least the right hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling) gave us some return for the cost of timetable motions.
I happen to be in favour of timetable motions, and the sooner we can get our hands on some sensible amendments to the Jopling package the better. Although some of it is loopy, the vast majority is extremely sensible.
The House of Commons is in danger of spiralling out of control. There will be an unedifying spectacle as Front-Bench Members on both sides of the House blame each other for the ensuing chaos. That is not good enough. It is in the interests of neither the House nor taxpayers.
I apologise for having been drawn into that level of argument. None the less, the Government have proposed this guillotine motion prematurely. There is no rush to bring forward this legislation. When the Budget system changed, the date by which the provisional collection of taxes legislation must be completed was pushed back to 5 May. This is only 1 February, so what is the hurry? There is no need for the motion, which is why the case for this strict timetable motion was found wanting, and we should reject it.
As to whether a clause on VAT could be added, I am perplexed about why the Business Committee cannot meet and make arrangements for the timetable to accommodate that. If the official Opposition have the discipline to do so, they can simply stay ahead of that timetable by two or three days. They can then find the two or three days they need on the Floor of the House and, if they are really that bothered and can keep their troops in order, they will win a couple of days and can have the vote before Good Friday. So what is the problem? I wonder whether the official Opposition know what they are doing.
Nevertheless, unless we have an extra couple of hours' debate this evening, I cannot support the Government in the Lobbies on this guillotine motion.
§ 6.7 pm
§ Sir Terence Higgins (Worthing)
I have now spoken on some 30 Finance Bills. On about half of those, I spoke as an Opposition Member or a Government Front-Bench Member. However, I have never previously spoken in a debate on a guillotine motion, but am provoked to do so for reasons similar to those of the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood)—I am genuinely worried about how matters are developing.
787 On the point that I raised in an intervention with the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) about a vote on VAT on fuel, I still do not understand why, if she wants a vote on VAT on fuel, she could not have tabled a new clause for selection for debate on the Floor of the House. There is no reason why she should not have done that. The right hon. Lady may have felt that she could not have negotiated that if a total breakdown in the usual channels had taken place. That is a matter for speculation, but I see no technical reason—I speak with some experience in the matter—why, if the Opposition 'wish to engineer a debate on VAT on the Floor of the House in Committee, they should not have done so.
§ Mrs. Beckett
The right hon. Gentleman and I are clearly at cross purposes. We cannot table a new clause at this stage in the proceedings. The Government chose the topic, as they always do, for this stage of the Bill. [Interruption.] There are no usual channels at the moment. And even when that is done through the usual channels, the Government choose topics to be discussed on the Floor of the House. We usually try to reach a degree of accommodation, but they have the power.
§ Sir Terence Higgins
There is no reason why the right hon. Lady should not have tabled a new clause for debate in Committee and there is no reason why that new clause should not have been selected for debate on the Floor of the House. Of course, that requires some negotiation; if she is not prepared to operate the usual channels, it might be difficult and in that sense she is hoist by her own petard. I do not want to generate an antagonistic atmosphere because I am seeking to pour oil on troubled waters.
§ Mr. Rooker
The right hon. Gentleman has been here longer than I have. Before I came to the House, and when he was here, the entire Finance Bill Committee was taken on the Floor of the House. When the change was made to consider most of it in Standing Committee, it is clear from "Erskine May" that only the part of the Bill which received a Second Reading could be selected for debate by a Committee of the whole House. It is not within the remit of the Opposition or any hon. Member to dream up a new clause for a Committee of the whole House. That can be done only at the end of the Bill's consideration in Standing Committee. That decision was made when the present arrangements were put in place not to take the whole Committee stage on the Floor of the House.
§ Sir Terence Higgins
I would have to check on that, but I see no reason why it should not have been arranged through the usual channels.
§ The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Stephen Dorrell)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. There is an argument between the two sides of the House as to whether it would have been possible for the Opposition to table a new clause which, through the usual channels, we could have brought to the Floor of the House during the consideration of the Bill by a Committee of the whole House. I seek your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as to whether that would have been possible under the rules of order of the House.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)
I certainly cannot make a ruling off the cuff now. I need time to ponder.
§ Mrs. Beckett
It is not our understanding of the procedure, but if the Financial Secretary is right, I repeat the offer that I made to him earlier. By tabling our new clauses and saying that we want to take them on Report, we are saying that we believe that it is possible to scrutinise the Bill, get the report back before Easter and have a debate and a vote on VAT. If the Financial Secretary has no problems with that, let him ensure that the Government do nothing to impede it. We are quite content with that.
§ Sir Terence Higgins
We may or may not be making progress, but I certainly hope that we shall.
I follow what the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire said and I do not consider that the current position is in the interests of the House. None the less, in the present overheated atmosphere I shall support my right hon. Friend's proposals for a guillotine. Otherwise, it is highly unlikely that we shall have any reasonable debate, but instead long debates at the beginning and short debates at the end of considering a massive Bill.
§ Mr. Macdonald
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I ask you to ponder a further point of order related to the previous one? If it is possible for us to discuss a new clause on the Floor of the House in Committee, does the present guillotine rule out a further day on the Floor of the House in Committee to discuss just such a new clause?
§ Sir Terence Higgins
I fear that my speech will be longer than I intended and I apologise for that.
Many of our strategic and tactical problems stem from the fact that in his Budget last spring my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Thames (Mr. Lamont) said that we would have a unified Budget the following autumn.
A decade ago, the Procedure Committee on finance, which I chaired, set out the arguments both ways and did not decide in favour of or against a unified Budget, but it was absolutely clear that before embarking on that course one needed massive and widespread consultation, especially on timing. Many of our problems stem directly from the fact that that did not happen. The consequences were that just before Christmas the Government found it necessary to guillotine two Bills because they did not have time to carry them through on schedule. As a result, they incensed the Opposition and created the present unsatisfactory situation.
That having been said, there is a case for reconsidering the whole issue of the unified Budget. The Opposition should have a responsibility—as do the Government, the Liberal Democrat party and all right hon. and hon. Members—for trying to get our annual financial programme back on a sensible basis. Until recently, we had three main occasions: the autumn statement, the public expenditure White Paper debate and the Budget. They have all been concertinad into a short period of time. Perhaps we shall have a couple of days on public expenditure just before the summer recess; none the less, the schedule is out of kilter.
Both sides of the House must have a sensible arrangement for a procedural basis. I am deeply concerned about what is happening at the moment, particularly on the broader question of timing. For example, the deadline for getting the Finance Bill through, which used to be 5 August, has been brought forward to 5 May. In other 789 words, it has been brought forward by exactly the same amount as the Budget, but between the Budget and the deadline we have the Christmas recess—the Finance Bill may or may not be published before it—and the Easter recess.
The period for consultation for outside interests and so on is severely curtailed. There is no reason why the Budget and the deadline should have been brought forward to the same extent. There could have been a longer period, as was proposed by the Treasury Committee and the Procedure Committee, so that we could have a more reasonable time. I do not imagine that the Treasury will be on holiday on 5 May, so there is no desperate need to get the Bill through.
The unified Budget is an illusion. It is not a unified Budget in the sense of public expenditure and taxation being considered together. That is not even true in Government. My hon. Friend the Financial Secretary takes the view that the effect of unification is to bring home to spending Ministers rather more appreciation of the tax implications of their proposals. That may be so, but we do not need a unified Budget for that purpose.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer is still determining what is happening to taxation. The Secretary of State for Health and Social Security cannot say that he would like to spend more on something and so taxes should increase on something else: it is still all in the control of the Chancellor. The House is not in a position, as the Procedure Committee recently suggested, to put forward proposals on whether taxes or public expenditure should be increased. We are still in the traditional position where the House can only reduce them, so the Budget is not a unified Budget in that sense either.
In addition, we are supposed to be debating taxation and public expenditure together. We still have all the old traditional taxation debates, but there is no corresponding stream of debates on public expenditure. We have the Estimates days, which always fulfil a useful function, but there is no serious debate on individual items based on reports from individual Departments on which Select Committees could report and which could lead to a separate stream of debates on public expenditure, which would be sensible if we were really fulfilling our jobs.
This all gives one grave cause for concern against a background of the biggest Finance Bill ever. That is not disputed by anyone; it is the only two-volume Finance Bill ever.
§ Sir Terence Higgins
No, I have been talking much too long and I shall make only one more major point.
The Select Committee on Procedure, the Treasury Committee and others have strongly advocated splitting the Bill into a taxes management Bill on the one hand, with the more political aspects of it on the other. I still believe that the arguments in favour of that are overwhelming and that the arguments against it, which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House put to the Procedure Committee, do not stand up. There is no great difficulty in splitting the Bill. We can both say which are technical matters and which are not. The reality is that some nasty things are hidden in parts of it—for example, retrospection and 790 whether the Inland Revenue can examine accountants' records even though a mistake was made. The Bill contains a series of difficult items and also a lot of technical stuff.
One of the objections that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House made against splitting the Bill was that it would have to have two Second Readings and two Report stages. It is seriously arguable—I have not thought about this until recently—whether one should not have the Budget and the Second Reading of the Finance Bill, split the Bill into two separate Committees, which could then consider the technical aspects as against the political aspects, bring it back for Report and then on to Third Reading. In the light of the timetable motion, I think that it is a bit late to do that, but it is important that we should seek to get the whole of our financial procedures on an even keel.
§ Sir Terence Higgins
With great respect, I am coming to my concluding remarks.
On balance, we have serious tactical problems, for the reasons that I have mentioned. It is important that we get the usual channels working as soon as possible. That is important not only for the immediate reasons of the Bill, but we must get the fundamental programme for the future consideration of our financial affairs on the right basis, which can happen only through consultation on both sides. The sooner that begins, the better.
§ Mr. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock)
This is the first occasion on which I have spoken in a debate on an allocation of time motion since I have been a Member of the House. There have been many opportunities to speak —far too many. I have held back until now because I have wanted to develop the point in my mind before bouncing it off the House of Commons.
What the Government are doing is an affront to parliamentary institutions and fulfils Lord Hailsham's idea about parliamentary dictatorship: one wins a general election, gets the parliamentary arithmetic and pushes through legislation regardless of the views inside or outside the Chamber. Of course, that means bad legislation. It also means that an Opposition can win the the debate but time after time they lose the vote; the Government arrogantly proceed. The guillotine motion is bad for those reasons and shows the arrogance of the Government in their approach to Parliament and democratic institutions. I believe that it is time that every Back-Bench Member of Parliament paused to consider whether we should take away from the Executive the capacity and power to decide what should be parliamentary business.
When I have discussed that concept with one or two of my colleagues, they have looked bewildered, because they have been brought up on the basic British constitution A-level and think that it cannot be done in the Westminster-style constitution. I disagree. It seems to me that we should have, in relation to the Finance Bill and other legislation, a Select Committee of senior Members of the House of Commons with whom the Government would negotiate, every year, "train paths" for legislation. They would not only discuss the amount of parliamentary time that is given to each Bill but also the volume of Bills. In my mind's eye I see a Select Committee, probably chaired by 791 the right hon. Member for Worthing (Sir T. Higgins) or the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen). They would be ideal candidates for the chairmanship of a Select Committee that was distanced from the Executive. Of course, there would be a parliamentary majority on it for the largest party, but nevertheless it would be able to decide how much legislation and at what pace and 'volume Parliament could and should allow for Government Bills.
That is different from Jopling, because he assumes that the parliamentary timetable of the business would still be dictated by the Government. It is that principle that we should consider breeching. It would make for a much better Parliament and better legislation. It would temper the excesses of Government and give them time and pause to determine whether legislation, in its entirety or in part, was prudent for the country or even their parliamentary fortunes. It is archaic that the business of the House, under the guillotine motion, should be dictated to us by the Lord President of the Council, who acts as judge and jury—he obviously had the Opposition in mind—and decides whether we are being tendentious, are filibustering, or that the quality of our speeches is fair. That is nonsense.
Let us consider the Lord President of the Council. The present incumbent of that office is quite a decent bloke. Contrary to his better judgment, since I have been here, he has been kind and courteous to me. No doubt he is kind to animals, too. Nevertheless, his office is wrong. That point has been brought home this afternoon by the fact that he can and does behave as judge and jury in this place on the quality and relevance of the speeches and the behaviour and performance of Members of Parliament. I would like to see that changed. In parenthesis, the title "Lord President of the Council" is also a nonsense. That grand title sends the wrong signals to people outside about the business of this place.
The other day I tabled a parliamentary question asking whether the right hon. Gentleman would set out in Hansard the Privy Council oath. He said no; it was secret. What a peculiar set up. We have a supposed open Government, yet we cannot know what is the Privy Council oath. 'The Lord President of the Council presides over such humbug and the business of this place. That is wrong. It is time that his office was reviewed and, in my view, swept away.
Reference has been made to yesterday's debate. The truth is that the Conservative party Whips said to their hon. Friends, "For goodness sake, do not get up. Do not come out of your corner fighting. We do not want to give an opportunity to the Opposition to explore the foolishness and consequences of the air passenger duty. Keep quiet." As a consequence, there was the apparent disparity that Opposition Member after Opposition Member spoke, but no Conservative Members came out of their corners to defend the proposal for which they were prepared to vote.
§ Mr. Forman
The hon. Gentleman probably knows that I spoke briefly in yesterday's debate precisely to lend my support to what the Government are doing with the air passenger duty. The fact is that the imbalance came about not because of any reticence on the Government side—we were merely following a disciplined approach—but because Opposition Members were speaking for too long and filibustering.
§ Mr. Mackinlay
The hon. Gentleman has a number of distinguishing features, one of which is that, unlike his 792 colleagues, in parliamentary terms he came out fighting. There was a dearth of hon. Members who were prepared to speak and defend that policy, particularly those whose constituencies are around regional airports or whose work force and the economy of their area are dependent on regional airports or the airline industry. I think that you, Mr. Morris, were in the Chair. The hon. Member for Torbay (Mr. Allason) used the occasion to suggest that the Government—
§ Mr. Mackinlay
In that case, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I hope that you will take my word for it. On another occasion last night, the hon. Member for Torbay suggested that, in place of the tax under discussion, value added tax should be imposed on the package holiday industry. The body language of the Paymaster General suggested that he wanted the ground to swallow him up: he was acutely embarrassed.
Yesterday, Conservative speakers did not give the Government's policies sustained support. The message went out—I except the remarks of mavericks and of the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Forman) —that the Conservatives wanted to minimise the opportunity for debate, and to deny the Opposition a chance to explore and expose the foolishness of that tax proposal and others.
As has already been said, the Government fear a further airing of their proposal to impose VAT on domestic fuel, and of all the consequences for the poor and disadvantaged. They fear the political consequences, particularly in view of the approaching municipal and European elections. I am not a very sophisticated man, but let me advance a proposition: all that is required is an opportunity for the House to vote on the proposed imposition of VAT on domestic fuel. Not only Opposition Members but people outside want that. People want to know whether their Members of Parliament were for or against the proposal.
Earlier opportunities have been blurred by parliamentary procedures and the wording of motions. Ultimately, however, we want to know who supports the proposal, who is against it and who—among Conservative Members in particular—had the courage to oppose it, despite the party machine.
§ Mr. Simon Burns (Chelmsford)
Will the hon. Gentleman explain why his party failed to table an amendment to the Budget debate back in December, which would have given hon. Members the opportunity to debate the proposal? Was the reason incompetence or forgetfulness—or both?
§ Mr. Mackinlay
You will observe, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I am being advised by my colleagues. I have candidly confessed that I am not a very sophisticated person: all I want is for the House to have an opportunity to decide whether it supports the imposition of VAT on domestic fuel—and, implicit in that, the ability of our constituents to run their fingers down the Division list and find out how their Members of Parliament voted.
There has been dispute about both the wording of motions on the issue of VAT on domestic fuel and the timing and structure of those debates; but we have had no opportunity to debate the issue in black and white. This guillotine motion is frustrating because it is preventing us 793 from showing the electorate where we stand on this important matter. I would welcome the opportunity for the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns), for instance, to go into the Lobby and vote on the imposition of VAT on domestic fuel: it would enable my hon. Friends and myself to point out to his constituents that he supported it.
I take a fairly ecumenical view of the Liberal Democrats outside the House. I have always said that the defeat of this Tory Government is of paramount importance, and that anyone who joins us in the Lobbies with the aim of defeating them is welcome. Having listened to the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood), however, I must add that his party must decide whether it seriously wants to frustrate the Government in their implementation of policies designed to disadvantage ordinary working people. More important, are the Liberal Democrats prepared to do all that they can to defeat the Government and bring forward the date of a general election?
In short, the Liberal Democrats must decide whether they are with us or against us. The speech of the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire betrayed a confusion of thought. Liberal Democrats are trying to have it both ways. The challenge, or test, lies in whether they are prepared to vote with Labour on this issue and others between now and the general election, thus demonstrating that they oppose the Tory party. I hope that, in areas of the United Kingdom where the Liberal Democrats allegedly hope to maximise their majority over the Conservatives, potential Labour voters and others opposed to the Conservatives will note the ambiguous stance of Liberal Democrats in this debate and others.
The repeated use of the guillotine by the Leader of the House and his colleagues will ultimately prove foolish from the point of view of the Conservatives. They have been in office for so long that they see themselves as almost divine; few Conservative Members can envisage the day on which they might just be sitting over here. Two years from now there will be a Labour Government, and that Government will have an important duty: they will have to get through a bottleneck of legislation in a short time. After 14 years of Conservative government, we shall want to reverse many decisions—legitimately, because we shall have a mandate.
§ The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Michael Portillo)
§ Mr. Mackinlay
The Chief Secretary may interrupt from a sedentary position, but we shall have a mandate. One thing that we have learnt over the past 15 years is the need to stick to the programme and press on. I hope that my hon. Friends will do that. I also hope that—because one of the hallmarks of the Labour party and its traditions is democracy—we will restrain ourselves from giving way to the legitimate temptation to behave as Conservative Members have behaved in recent years.
§ Mr. Mackinlay
Our mandate will be to support and sustain Britain; to restore essential public services that are 794 much missed by working people; to invest in our manufacturing base, which has haemorrhaged over the past 15 years—and much more.
Our capacity to right the wrongs of 15 years will, however, be limited by problems of parliamentary time. Nurses, teachers, parents, trade unionists and others, both in and out of work, will all be seeking remedies for the excesses of the Thatcher years and the era of the present Prime Minister. We shall be faced with the temptation of using the guillotine. I hope that we shall act with restraint; but Conservative Members might be prudent to reflect for a few moments on the fact that there will soon be a change of Government. Then decisions about parliamentary timetables, the use of the guillotine and appointments to boards and police authorities will be taken by my right hon. Friends. Because we are democrats, we shall refrain from the excesses demonstrated by the Lord President of the Council today, and for a long time before today.
I was not able to make the point when I was interrupted by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, but I say now that we shall review and modernise the United Kingdom's parliamentary institutions and constitutional structure. I may then be able to persuade my right hon. Friends to consider ways and means of ensuring that this legislature —in particular, Back-Bench Members—can influence the volume of legislation and the capacity to facilitate serious debate on legislation.
This Finance Bill is a monstrosity. There is not a stapler capable of going through it. Such is its size that it has had to be produced in two parts. Never before have we had a Finance Bill as thick as this one. When you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, became a Member of Parliament Bills were not printed on A4 paper. If the paper size had not been changed, this Bill would have had to be produced in four or five parts.
§ Mr. Campbell-Savours
Ministers have claimed that the Bill is 40 per cent. longer. That figure is based on numbers of pages. The Finance Bill of 1993 had 69 clauses and 12 schedules, so that there was potential for 81 debates; this year's Bill has 244 clauses and 23 schedules —a total of 267 provisions. In other words, this measure is three times as big, in terms of number of provisions, as last year's. Here we have a further example of the Government's disgraceful conduct.
§ Mr. Mackinlay
My hon. Friend is right. Very often Members of Parliament are approached by constituents —people who have supported and sustained the Tory party over the years—with complaints about measures that they have discovered are on the statute book even though they have not been properly scrutinised in this House. An example is the Child Support Agency, which we are to debate tomorrow. An enormous number of my constituents—
§ Mr. Mackinlay
In the not-too-distant future this House will have to address itself to the effects of the Government's foolish behaviour in relation to the Child Support Agency.
Many constituents have told both Conservative and Labour Members quite openly that, although they voted Conservative at the last and previous general elections, they feel betrayed by the Government. To such people I 795 have to say that Parliament is a peculiar place, that it is not geared up for detailed scrutiny of the plethora of legislation that the Conservative Government are railroading through. I have to admit that this will be a problem for the next Labour Government unless we are prepared for self-denial —as I am sure we shall be. In any case, we shall devolve power, and many matters will be dealt with by assemblies in Edinburgh and elsewhere.
The Lord President of the Council has complained about the behaviour of Opposition Members yesterday and about the content of their speeches. I have a complaint to throw back at the right hon. Gentleman. In the course of my few moments' speech last night on the proposed air passenger duty I challenged the Paymaster General to tell us whether there had been discussions with the Isle of Man Government about the impact of this tax on their affairs. I wanted to make the point that, even if there is no legal requirement, there is a constitutional convention that the Isle of Man Chief Minister and his colleagues are approached at an early stage and given an opportunity to make representations. The right hon. Gentleman was not listening when I tried to make that point.
I referred also to Northern Ireland and expressed regret at the absence of Northern Ireland Members. This measure certainly has an impact in their Province. The Paymaster General, in his winding-up speech, failed to respond to my points. This illustrates how, when we make legitimate points—sometimes in the form of questions—to Members on the Treasury Bench they are ignored.
§ The Paymaster General (Sir John Cope)
I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is disappointed that I did not respond specifically to his points. In fact, I have had talks with the Isle of Man Minister about this tax. The reason for my not responding last night was that I was under very considerable pressure from both sides of the Committee at the end of a very long debate, in which I was speaking for the second time. A good many points—not just those of the hon. Gentleman—were left to be responded to at a later stage.
§ Mr. Mackinlay
No doubt the Paymaster General will deal with these points in Committee, where there will not be so many Members of Parliament as witnesses and to which the television cameras do not have access. It is not good enough for the right hon. Gentleman to say that he was under pressure. He wanted to get the debate over with the minimum contribution and the minimum defence of the Government's policy on the imposition of this tax.
I shall go into the Division Lobby in opposition to this guillotine motion because I believe, above all else, that the House of Commons is not scrutinising adequately the vast amount of legislation with which it has to deal. This makes a mockery of parliamentary democracy and produces bad legislation.
§ Mr. Newton
I have been resisting the temptation to get to my feet. Although I am prepared to pay the hon. Gentleman as many compliments as he pays me, I have to say that brevity is not notable among his many qualities. I want to draw attention to the apparent paradox between most of the contents of his speech during the last few minutes and the demand of his right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) that less time be provided for debate on the Bill.
§ Mr. Mackinlay
Either the Lord President of the Council is on a different planet or he has been listening to a different debate. The Labour party wants an opportunity to debate and expose the Government's proposal to impose value added tax on domestic fuel—a measure that will hit poor and disadvantaged people. We want our constituents to see who supported this decision and who opposed it.
When the Lord President interrupted me I was explaining why I shall oppose the guillotine motion. What the Government are doing makes a mockery of parliamentary democracy, and it is time to demonstrate that they are completely disregarding the people of this country. They are imposing taxes that will have an enormous impact on many individuals and many enterprises. What is being done will have a deleterious effect on manufacturing industry and on our capacity to export. It will be bad for Britain.
I look forward to the day when my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South is Lord President of the Council so that we may have a sensible and fair timetable for all legislation and may take the initiative of reviewing and revising our rather outdated parliamentary institutions and our rather old and inadequate constitutional structures. That day is not far away.
§ Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton and Wallington)
I shall endeavour to be very brief. In the interests of allowing the debate to proceed rapidly, I do not intend to give way.
I listened carefully to the rather entertaining speech of the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay). At least one rather interesting and serious point lay behind much of his rhetoric: the House faces a choice between an approach to the management of our business that rests principally on the usual channels—parliamentary management by party duopoly, which is why the Liberals and nationalists have cause to complain from time to time—or greater control over the allocation of parliamentary time.
I think that, rationally, the Speaker should make more of such decisions. That would be an alternative approach. In other mature democracies, especially the United States, more responsibility for the allocation of time is given to the occupant of the chair. I am not advocating that solution, but there are other ways of proceeding, and perhaps in future the House will conclude that it is necessary to look more widely.
The debate is a bit like Hamlet without the Prince. The evil genius of the situation, whereby civilised conduct has apparently broken down between the two main parties, is the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Dixon), who is not in his place tonight but who has much more influence on such matters than even the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett), dignified though she may be by the technical title of deputy Leader of the Opposition.
I had much sympathy for the speech of the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood), who spoke much good sense about the timetabling of Government legislation and about the need fairly swiftly to adopt many of the solutions proposed in what is described as the Jopling package. I therefore hope that Ministers will consider that argument carefully to see whether that package can be implemented in agreement with the Opposition.
As the House knows, I took, part in yesterday's debate on the air passenger duty, which has some relevance to 797 what we are discussing. I was happy to support the Government, and I briefly explained why. I wanted to make a five-minute speech yesterday—that is what I had intended—but on checking the record I discovered that it lasted 13 minutes. The reason for that is germane to this debate, because, in what I had intended to be a five-minute speech, I felt it necessary and polite to take five interventions from Labour Members, which lengthened the speech from five minutes. That is but one example of the way in which Opposition Members were doing an operation.
§ Mr. Forman
I said that I would not give way, because I want to make progress.
Opposition Members are perfectly entitled to do such an operation, but it is important that the House, the country and anybody listening to the debate realise that Conservative Back Benchers took a disciplined approach to yesterday's debate. I believe that only three Conservative Back Benchers spoke. My right hon. Friend the Paymaster General made two excellent speeches—one in opening the debate, in which he provided much essential information, and the second in winding up, in which he sought, with difficulty and against the clock, to answer some of the points that had been made. I make no criticism of the way in which Ministers performed their duties.
In general terms, it would be much better for the House to timetable its important legislation almost as a matter of course. That would have been sensible for this enormous Finance Bill, to whose length many hon. Members have referred. The arrangements proposed in the motion are, as my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said, very generous. After all, it proposes 16 days and 32 sittings and, with well ordered debates, it should be perfectly possible to give all important aspects of the Bill serious consideration.
I would go further than that. I would support timetabling all Government Bills and it would make good sense to do so at an early stage of a Bill's passage. That would be better than the alternative suggested by the deputy Leader of the Opposition, when she said rather disingenuously that it is better to have waffle, filibuster and endless debate on minor points for hours and days—I have been involved in many such discussions—and to introduce a timetable later. It defies the purpose of a sensible timetable to introduce it later, because time is lost before it is introduced.
It would be much better for the quality of legislation, which concerns interests outside the House, and for the reputation of the House, if we timetabled all Government Bills, as has been proposed many times by Procedure Committees and others. If there is not sufficient political will in the House to do so, let us get back to sensible, grown-up working of the usual channels and see whether we can find ways, even at this late stage, of enabling the House to function more effectively. I hope that experience of recent events will contribute to a return to common sense, and that Opposition Members will grow up.
§ Mr. Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh, Leith)
The Government have staggered on for quite a few months advancing vacuous arguments and offering feeble excuses, but they have reached new heights of feebleness and vacuity in relation to the two subjects that are relevant to this debate—justifying their tax position and this motion.
The Lord President advanced a series of arguments, if I can use that word, for the motion. His first was that the Labour party is deliberately obstructing the passage of the Bill. My right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) dealt adequately with that. We want a vote on the extension of VAT before 1 April, so there is no way in which we shall obstruct the Bill beyond that point. That is perfectly clear to the Government, so they have not a shred of evidence that we intend to obstruct the Bill.
The Lord President went on to deal with the length of speeches last night, and complained about one hon. Member who spoke for 50 minutes. Many Opposition Members spoke for 10 or 15 minutes—I spoke for 10—and my hon. Friend the Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) was singled out for criticism, but he had good reason to speak for 50 minutes, given the serious concerns of his constituents about the air passenger tax.
There is nothing unusual about hon. Members speaking for 50 minutes. Indeed, I wanted to speak in last Friday's debate on the Bank of England (Amendment) Bill, but was prevented from doing so by two Conservative Back Benchers, who spoke for more than an hour each. I did not make a point of order and say that deliberate filibusters were preventing me from speaking. We know that such things happen all the time, and many Conservative Members have good reasons for making long speeches.
That has long been respected in the House. I am told that, if we go back into history, we shall find that Members used to speak for longer than they do now. It is cant and hypocrisy for the Lord President to complain about one Member speaking for 50 minutes, when most of us were much briefer.
The next reason that the Lord President "advanced" was that it was wholly unreasonable for a debate to go beyond 10 pm. It takes some gall for the right hon. Gentleman to say that, given all the timetables he imposed on Maastricht, when debates went beyond 10 pm and 4 am, and when some even went beyond 10 am the next day. Everybody knows that the Government have timetabled many debates in the House to go beyond 10 o'clock.
It would seem perfectly reasonable for the Opposition to expect the debate to go beyond 10 pm when the usual three days for the Committee stage of the Finance Bill on the Floor of the House had been deliberately reduced to two by the Government. It was perfectly reasonable for the Opposition to expect a debate until 10 pm on the air passenger tax, and a debate thereafter on the insurance premium tax.
The final "argument" of the Lord President was that he is proposing the guillotine to protect the rights of poor, slighted Back Benchers. This was the most vacuous and feeble of his arguments, because what he is really saying is that he wants to allow time mainly for his own Back Benchers to discuss the insurance premium tax, the freezing of allowances and mortgage tax relief.
The motion allows Conservative and Labour Back Benchers and Opposition Front-Bench spokesmen and Ministers two hours to discuss those three matters. How 799 can the right hon. Gentleman possibly expect anyone to take seriously his argument that he is trying to protect the rights of Back Benchers? Everyone knows the reason for that guillotine. The fundamental reason is—as we realise if we also consider the previous two guillotines—that the Government do not want to discuss tax.
It is not surprising that the Government do not want to discuss tax, because whenever they do so they come out with a series of vacuous arguments and feeble excuses. The Government do not want the people of the country to be reminded by the Opposition that they lied at the general election. They do not want people to be reminded that we are debating in the Finance Bill the biggest tax hike in British tax history.
That is a cause of considerable embarrassment to the Government, so the less time that is spent in the House debating those matters, the happier the Government are. They can troop round the television studios, as they have done for the past two weeks, presenting their feeble excuses when the Opposition are not there to point them out, but they do not want to come to the House and present the series of feeble excuses that they have been using during the past two weeks.
There are various versions of those excuses. I think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer started them off, by presenting the idea that somehow those tax increases are the result of economic circumstances—some unfortunate accident that came on the Government, beyond their control. That is so obviously fallacious that it does not even require a reply.
The Prime Minister's excuse is that he did not know what the economic situation was at the time of the election; he could not possibly know that he was going to have that big Budget deficit. Yet The Sunday Times made it absolutely clear on Sunday that, if he did not know, he should have known because many experts told him before the 1992 election.
The Chief Secretary prefers to use what one might call the law that, at any time, a Conservative Government will tax less than a Labour Government. That is the type of mantra that the Chief Secretary has propagated. Yet that proposition is unprovable, mainly because it fails to take account of the economic situation at any one time, but also because it fails to take account of the fact that the Labour party would lax in a fairer way, and would change the balance of taxation.
As to the state of the economy, two thirds of the deficit is the result of unemployment—that is what the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development says—so the main reason for the high taxes imposed by the Government is the mess to which they have reduced the economy.
The next person in the Treasury Front-Bench team is the Financial Secretary, who, when I saw him interviewed on television, had given up any hope of trying to justify the tax position of the Government. Instead, he resorted to the argument, "Yes, people have to pay more taxation under the Government, but people's incomes have increased a lot since 1979, more than under Labour."
The simple reply to that is that the average increase in income between 1964 and 1979, a period when we had 11 years out of 15 of Labour government, was 10 per cent. greater than the average increase in income during the past 15 years. The other factor is that the income increases have been very uneven and unfair during the past 15 years. The Government's arguments therefore amount to nothing.
800 The final argument is one that all the Tory Back Benchers in chorus parrot at every Question Time: "But look at the rest of Europe. We are doing so much better than them, so all the Opposition's claims about economic incompetence cannot possibly be true." However, the snapshot view that they are suddenly trying to impose on us is one that they normally reject, for good reasons. It is impossible to consider an economic situation as a snapshot; it has to be considered throughout a period.
Let us take as an example a fairly reasonable period, from 1989—to be fair to the Government—when things were a bit better, to—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I was hoping that the hon. Gentleman was going to relate this to the guillotine motion. May I gently remind him that we are dealing with the guillotine motion?
§ Mr. Chisholm
I am sorry about that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was pointing out that the Government did not want to have to bring their excuses to the House, in debate, where we would have the chance to shoot down their arguments and expose their flaws. However, I will not pursue that route any further. Perhaps, when we debate the substance of the Bill later, I will be able to develop that argument.
It is not surprising that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury does not want to have the television cameras in the House. He does not want the people of the country to hear the arguments and the debate that is taking place here, especially about taxation. As he is unable to remove the television cameras from the House, he wants to remove the debate from the House.
Apart from the fundamental desire to curtail debate in the House, the other reason that has been clearly stated by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South and others is that the Government do not want to have another debate and another vote on VAT. An amendment has been tabled by the Labour party, asking for a year's delay, and that could be renewable a year later. That position should be put to the vote, so that the people of the country realise that all the claims and all the false concern of the Conservative party about VAT amount to nothing, and that it is hiding behind the smokescreen and the illusion of the compensation package. I criticised and, I hope, exposed that package on Second Reading last week.
I will therefore vote against the guillotine motion, because it is an attempt by the Government to take control of the Bill, when it should be in the control of the House as a whole.
§ Mr. Robert B. Jones (Hertfordshire, West)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I refer to you the headline in tonight's Evening Standard:For God's sake give London the money: MPs plead for special status",which purports to be a representation of the report of the Select Committee on the Environment, published this morning, on standard spending assessments. There is no truth whatever in the story, and I am greatly concerned that my Committee's report should be misrepresented by a newspaper in that way. I wonder, therefore, whether I could ask you to rule whether the story in question should be further investigated by the House to find out how it is possible to take action to deal with such gross distortions.
§ 7.6 pm
§ Mr. John Biffen (Shropshire, North)
This motion for a timetable motion has inevitably attracted a wider debate and entertained the House a great deal. However, I shall return to the core of our consideration, which is a timetable motion about the Budget, and which, because it is about the Budget, is of some sensitivity for the House.
I was encouraged, when listening to the debate, by the growing acceptance of the wider issue of some automatic —albeit liberal—timetable arrangements for most of the legislation which comes before us. The debate revealed an interesting difference of opinion between those who prefer control of the timetabling arrangements to remain in the hands of the usual channels and people who are more radical, such as the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) and myself, who believe that this should be an opportunity for the control of the timetabling arrangements to rest with a Committee of the House or with some organisation other than the usual channels.
I hope that, out of the reservations and unhappiness about timetabling which were expressed in the debate, those wider considerations are there for a more fruitful use at some future time.
I shall also reply to the remarks of the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire about the generally unsatisfactory state of our current affairs, which is characterised by the withdrawal of the usual facilities provided by the usual channels. Those delicate issues—those masonic mysteries—cannot easily be revealed to a wider public. That was shown this afternoon when, for a horrible moment, it looked as though the prospects of an agreed re-run of the debate about value added tax on fuel might be sensibly and reasonably canvassed before Madam Speaker herself. Quickly, the parties concerned adopted the posture of open disagreement, openly arrived at.
That is the unhappy situation in which we find ourselves and it is one in which there can be no prospect of a return to civilised conduct in this place, not for the sake of the convenience of hon. Members—not that that is a consideration to be disparaged—but for the full and effective operation of the House, for the drawing of a balance between Government and Opposition, between Front Bencher and Back Bencher and between the consideration of private Members' Bills and other legislation. All of that is part of the seamless robe that constitutes the usual channels and all of which, for one reason or another, has now fallen in desuetude. I shall say nothing about the factors that have given rise to this situation or, rather, I am not inclined to offer remedies but I should like to think I am speaking for many hon. Members who earnestly hope that something like street politics and rough common sense will break out.
Some believe that there are other motives behind the present situation. I agree that we mostly think of procedural disagreements having procedural change as an objective, but I accept at once that that has not always been the case. When the Labour Government were in office in 1950, the Conservative party engaged in the most vigorous harrying procedural tactics over the tabling of prayers. Folklore has it that it was material in securing the early demise of that Government. Certainly, that Government lasted no more than 18 months or so and their subsequent 802 defeat ushered in 13 glorious years of Conservative rule. However, I have no wish to raise the temperature or perhaps even falsify the accounts of today's situation.
Some people believe that the use of procedural devices can secure political ends, but I very much doubt it. If we go through this rigmarole until after the Euro-elections, Conservative morale may not crack—heaven knows, we can generate enough difficulties of our own without any assistance from the Opposition's strategists—but Parliament will suffer, our procedures will suffer, the quality of our legislation will suffer, and above all, our reputation will suffer and such suffering cannot easily be redeemed.
§ Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey)
I reacted with astonishment to the disgraceful and reprehensible performance by the Leader of the House in moving to guillotine the Bill last night barely five hours into the Committee stage. As has been said many times, the Bill is not the usual Budget Bill because of its great length and the fact that it covers the first unified Budget. We have not considered such a Bill before. In such circumstances, I should have thought that we would want to ensure that we had the maximum opportunity to scrutinise this complex, technical and very long Bill.
The feeble attempts to justify what I regard as a constitutional outrage and a gross affront to Parliament are even less convincing today than they were at 10 pm yesterday. The guillotine motion is an attempt by the Government to run away from another vote on value added tax. It is worth remembering that "Erskine May" deals specifically with the allocation of time motion, describing it asthe most drastic method of curtailing debate known to procedurewhichmay be regarded as the extreme limit to which procedure goes in affirming the rights of the majority at the expense of the minorities of the House".Yet all the legislation that we have discussed this Session has been guillotined—we seem to have a guillotine a week. There have been more guillotined debates on the Floor of the House than there have been debates on the content of legislation—that is the state to which the Leader of the House has brought us. "Erskine May" also states that guillotine motions arecapable of being used in such a way as to upset the balance … between the claims of business and the rights of debate.I believe that the Leader of the House's action in seeking to curtail debate after a mere five hours in Committee upsets that balance.
No one doubts that Finance Bills are crucial. They are central to any Government's political and economic programme and are therefore of the greatest political significance. They are at the very heart of the parliamentary battle between Government and Opposition. A Government who failed to get the Finance Bill through the House could not hope to survive without calling a general election. Likewise, only the House has a voice in determining what levies should be placed on the people. It is our duty to do that job.
It was the attempts by unelected Members in another place to disrupt and delay a Government with a popular mandate by denying them their Finance Bill at the turn of the century which led directly to the special arrangements that now operate in this place for the scrutiny of such 803 legislation. Neither the House of Lords nor the Sovereign can have any influence in these matters, which infinitely increases the duties imposed on us to do a proper job as we alone can scrutinise and amend the Bill. That makes the guillotining of a Finance Bill an especially unwelcome event and one which should not be undertaken merely for the greater comfort of the Government's business managers but only as a last resort in dire circumstances. I do not believe that the Leader of the House was in dire circumstances when he acted as he did last night.
The Government cannot argue that their precipitate rush to the guillotine procedure has any validity. To resort to a guillotine motion so quickly is, therefore, unforgivable and it is a complete abuse of the rights of Parliament, which should not be given away easily. In the sudden and disgraceful interruption of last night's proceedings, the Leader of the House quoted three examples of the guillotine being applied to Finance Bills, two under Labour. Governments and one under a Conservative Government. The first was in 1967, the second in 1975 and the third in the election year of 1992 when, admittedly, the election was already upon us so it could be argued that there were special circumstances. In other words, the Conservative party had to legislate quickly for their irresponsible pre-election bribe which subsequently knocked the economy off course in time for it to feature in their election campaign which, I seem to recall, it did.
Let us take a closer look at the two Labour precedents claimed by the Leader of the House as justification for his action. In 1968, the Finance Bill had already been discussed in Standing Committee for no fewer than 62 hours prior to the guillotine motion being moved. That Bill contained 56 clauses whereas this Bill contains 244. At that time, Finance Bills were certainly shorter, so in considering the fact that there had been 62 hours of debate in Standing Committee before the guillotine was imposed it is necessary to bear in mind that the average time spent debating Finance Bills in the period 1951 to 1964 was 64 hourso—only two hours short of the time already spent in consideration of that Bill. On this occasion, we had spent only five hours considering a much longer Bill in Committee prior to the guillotine motion being moved.
Even so, in 1968 the then Conservative Opposition were so outraged by the guillotine that the then hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds accused the Leader of the House, Lord Peart, of acting like a drawing room storm trooper. The attempt to guillotine the longest Finance Bill in history, which introduces the largest post-war tax hike, after only five hours in Committee and after consideration of only one of its 244 clauses and 23 schedules resembles a blitzkrieg rather than the antics of one paltry storm trooper. The shadow Leader of the House at that time, Edward du Cann, called the guillotine "shocking", "shameful" and "deplorable" and "intolerable". He said:It raises a larger amount of taxation than any other Finance Bill."—[Official Report, 21 May 1968; Vol. 765, c. 438.]That is also the case in this Bill. He went on to say that the guillotining of a Finance Bill wasa situation which we would never have countenanced…We would not betray the trust which people put in the elected representatives of the majority party"— [Official Report, 21 May 1968; Vol. 765, c. 439.]Perhaps he would not, but he is a Tory of the old school his—successors in the present discreditable Cabinet have, it seems, no such qualms. There is no betrayal of the 804 electorate that the Conservative party will not countenance to save their own skins and to close sensible discussion of their appalling Budget betrayals.
The only other precedent for guillotining a Finance Bill, on 4 March 1975, offers even less comfort to the Leader of the House in his vain attempts to defend his indefensible actions of last night. When the guillotine was moved, that Bill had already been considered in Standing Committee for 160 hours, not five hours, and was being deliberately filibustered by the respectable Lord Howe and the Conservative Opposition in an attempt to destroy a proposal to implement the capital transfer tax.
Hon. Members may recall that the capital transfer tax would have raised revenue from those who were already well off and would have affected a small minority of well-off people. Decidedly, it did not affect all taxpayers like the Government's current tax proposals. There was another difference between that tax proposal and the proposals that we were attempting to scrutinise in the Bill. The Labour Government signalled their intention to introduce the capital transfer tax in their 1974 election manifesto and subsequently obtained a mandate from the electorate to do so. In the current case, the Government were elected by conning the people and by claiming that they would cut taxes, not increase them. Nowhere in their manifesto did it say that there would be 12 new tax increases, three completely new taxes and the application of VAT to fuel and power. Indeed, in the election campaign the Prime Minister explicitly rejected all suggestions that he would do that. Tonight's circumstances are therefore different from those which prevailed in 1975.
We attempted to scrutinise the Bill, albeit for five hours only before we were so rudely interrupted last night, because it contained huge tax increases worth £12 a week for the average family. In 1975, the Conservative party deliberately filibustered for 160 hours to destroy a tax on the rich of which the electorate has been told and had approved. How can the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, in his speech to the Thatcherite Conservative "Way Forward" group earlier in the month, deplorethe new British disease, the self-destructive sickness of national cynicismwhen his own Government treat Parliament and the electorate with such contempt? Instead of launching juvenile McCarthyite witch hunts about the new enemy within in an early bid for the succession, he should look to his own Government's behaviour for an explanation of the cynicism now abroad towards politicians. I can easily understand why people viewing the Government's disgraceful behaviour and their contempt for the public are turning to cynicism, which threatens our democratic institutions. Those cynical people have been made so by the disgraceful actions of a discredited Government.
We know the real reason behind the guillotine: it is a hidden agenda to prevent further discussion of VAT. The Government have been exposed as deceiving the public about their tax plans at the general election and as not being the party of low taxation. They are now running away from debates in Parliament on tax and closing down our opportunities to debate. That is why they imposed the guillotine. It has been a cynical and disgraceful effort.
§ Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills)
My hon. Friends will know of my concern about the incessant use of the guillotine. That concern has been long-stated and I have tried to argue in —most such debates;six in recent years—that it seems increasingly to have become an instrument of executive Government to control and manage the House. That is a matter of concern for us all because I recognise that, in the course of my life, it has not only been one-party government. Governments have alternated from side to side across the House. I see no reason why that bold tradition of the British people called democracy will not continue.
The arguments adduced by Conservative Members some 60 times since I have been in the House will, no doubt, be used against me at some later time should the Opposition become the Government.
It was not just the issue of the guillotine that I wanted to address. The motion touches on something to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) and the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) also referred—the withdrawal of the usual channels. It was not a seamless garment. At times I have thought of it more as a shroud under which we concealed and buried the vitality of the House. Reasonable people across the House may think that it is so intolerable that we cannot reach arrangements, that whatever the Executive bring forward is better than having no discussion or co-operation.
Any Member of the House can bring proceedings to a halt. We know that. I tried to advocate it during the passage of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill. One could have objected to almost every non-debatable motion and brought the business to an end. Wisdom, in the form of my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North, advised me that I may alienate the House and that by frustrating the purposes of House I was not serving my own argument well. In that lies the resolution of such matters, to which the Opposition must address themselves. Do they really want to drive the Government into taking measures that I shall find loathsome, which many hon. Members will find distasteful, and which will so control the debates of the House as to affect the function which we serve? It is tolerance that makes the House work. We are 651 people with passions and beliefs. Why else did we enter into politics? We have an understanding of what we want for our country. If there is no co-operation in the management of business, we shall break the thing that is the only legitimate expression of the wishes and passions of our people, however poor that expression may be in the eyes of the people of country.
I know that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House is more used to being abused by me. I would like to kick him and I do kick him because this is such a comprehensive motion. Should we give up to the Executive, through the Committee of Selection, the absolute determination of how we manage the House of Commons and the future legislation of this country? That must be wrong and it was not our purpose.
806 I would like to take issue with the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire on one point. There is a notion that runs around the Benches of the House—it is not one that I share and not one for which I can find a constitutional basis—that the Government must have their business. I have never heard of such a constitutional notion. It never arose in the House before. The only thing that the Government should have is the finance. With that, they can manage the country. That does not mean that I came here to support every jot of nonsense or every original idea and fantasy of a temporary member of the Executive who flitted through the House and perhaps took a job merely as an item on his curriculum vitae for a City position. I want and expect, as do the electorate of Aldridge-Brownhills and of the west midlands, hon. Members to look cautiously at every ambitious engagement of a Minister of the Crown. That is our function. I understand the anger of the Opposition Front-Bench Members at the motions tabled before Christmas. I hope that I expressed the views of many Conservatives about the way in which that business was conducted. Without tolerance and without understanding of the purpose of the House, the feud between Opposition Front-Bench Members and the Government will break that purpose.
Let us have a cheer for what we are. Let us really get together. I cannot believe that it serves the interests of Labour Front-Bench Members—I accept that it is not for me to judge those interests—to conduct matters in this way. The Opposition's attitude was clearly set out by the deputy leader of the Labour party when she was asked what she wanted and what was the point at which we could engage or re-engage in proper business. There was no answer; there is no answer from Opposition Front-Bench Members at the moment. Is it a great political engagement? Is this the means by which they believe that they can bring down the Government? I tell Labour Front-Bench Members this. There is a resolution among Conservative Members which will not permit the Government to be brought down in that way. The Government will be brought down, if they are ever brought down, by the British people voting in an election; that is the way in which it will be done.
I hope that Opposition Front-Bench Members will consider what they are doing in their attempt to break the Government. They will break the House of Commons and they will see, introduced and supported by Conservative Members, measures that cannot be in the interest of themselves, of the Government or of the country at large.
§ Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
If, as a result of the present impasse, the interregnum and the breaking of the usual channels, there is a revolution in this place, and if we then take a fundamental look at the way in which we act on behalf of our constituents, I for one will say that that is a good day's work. Having switched off co-operation, there must be a legitimate reason to switch it back on. The Government must take that point on board.
I am not party to the discussions, so I do not want to go down the highways and byways, but I have described the political reality. Some of my constituents have said to me in the past couple of weeks,"Haven't you been opposing for the past 15 years, Jeff?" I say,"Yes, within the rules and procedures, archaic though they are, understood by few outside and not understood by everyone in the House."
807 I have come to the conclusion that our ability to scrutinise and to do a decent day's work on legislation on behalf of our constituents has diminished over the years.
I have been in Committee, both as a Front Bencher and as a Back Bencher, to do a serious job. Sometimes the Opposition have known the date by which they wanted to finish. It may have been part of the game plan to create a logjam later in the summer on matters totally unrelated to the legislation with which we were dealing. We wasted hour after hour. We missed debates on many key points; I do not deny that. We were forced into those circumstances because of the culture of this place, which is passed from one generation to another. No one says,"Stop. Why are we doing things in this way. Why do we have these Standing Orders? Is this the best way in which to promote and to scrutinise legislation?" We have never said, "Let us stop and have a look." If the interregnum provides that opportunity, it will be a good day's work.
The motion shows how quick the Government are to respond in the traditional way. If on the day set aside for Report there happens to be a delay in starting—an emergency debate, for example—there is injury time. However, there is no attempt to table a manuscript amendment to give us injury time of an hour and a half today, although time was legitimately taken up on the privilege motion.
What on earth was the House of Commons doing spending an hour and a half from 3.30 pm debating the archaic rule that the Chairman of a Standing Committee does not have the right to turf out someone who should not be in the Committee? Why did not the Leader of the House say,"Here is the new model Standing Order to stop that nonsense ever again taking up time on the Floor of the House"? That would be sensible, but nobody seems to follow through those issues. We are offered no injury time today even with the privilege motion. The Government could not have known about the privilege motion last night, but they could have made provision for injury time.
The Government's business was known about. There were to be three key debates on insurance, on the freezing of tax allowances—creating 400,000 more low-paid taxpayers—and on mortgage tax relief. I did not come to speak on the guillotine motion; I have not sought over the years to speak on such motions. There are good and bad reasons for guillotines. My hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) did an admirable job demolishing the Government's case on the 1975 Finance Bill. That Finance Bill did not follow a Budget and it is wrong to use it as an example in the generality of arguments about why this guillotine has had to be introduced. It was not an ordinary Finance Bill. The Budget followed it and there was then a Finance (No. 2) Bill to put into legislation the Chancellor's Budget resolutions and the Ways and Means resolutions.
We are offered three hours to debate the guillotine. This House follows Parkinson's law; if there is time available, it will be filled. The Opposition and the Government have sometimes sought for the convenience of everyone—the business—to say, "This does not need to go until 10 pm; it can be wrapped up earlier." The Whips say, "We can't have that. We have sent them away until 10 pm. They will not be back here to vote." It is beyond belief that we do not have the flexibility in our own procedures to come to a conclusion earlier on an issue. I make no complaint. The Leader of the House knows that the full three hours will be taken on a guillotine motion.
§ Mr. Newton
The previous guillotine that I moved applied to the Non-Domestic Rating Bill. The full three hours was not taken and, what is more, the Opposition could not fill the time for which the guillotine provided.
§ Mr. Rooker
That is a point of criticism. We are at fault if we do not fill all three hours. Yet I and my hon. Friends will be criticised if we take the full three hours to complain about the chopping down of debate. We shall be told that we have deprived ourselves of the opportunity to discuss the issues.
I did not originally come here to speak on the guillotine debate. I came because I wanted to make a brief speech on clause 72 and on the amendments. The clause concerns personal allowances and I wanted to make the point, at greater length than was possible on Second Reading, that the Government are creating 615 extra low-paid taxpayers in every constituency. That is the reality. I wanted to make that point at some length.
As I said on Second Reading, 13 Conservative Members have majorities of under 600 and there are 24 with majorities of under 1,200. They have a vested interest in knowing about clause 72. The new taxpayers will make the connection between the rows over the Budget, the rows over the withdrawal of co-operation in running the House and the fact that they are paying tax for the first time. The new taxpayers will be low-paid people because clause 72 will apply only to people earning between £60 and £70 a week. I shall be deprived of the opportunity to develop that point at length because of the guillotine motion.
There are three issues for debate. If we had an hour on each and then a vote—we would need to push the matter to a vote to register our protests effectively—we should have a total of three and three quarter hours. There will be two votes at the end of this debate because we shall also vote on the amendment which proposes that we should be able to debate the Bill until midnight. If that is carried, we shall have the extra two hours. I hope that we shall vote for that.
If I had had the opportunity to do so, I would have referred in complimentary terms to the Leader of the House. Perhaps we should not keep these files, but I dug out some debates from 1977 on the Finance Bill. There were some excellent speeches by the right hon. Gentleman about the need to raise income tax allowances and thresholds to protect people who were on the margin of paying tax. In those days he was an ally of mine and of my hon. Friend who is now the Member for Preston (Mrs. Wise), and he had some valuable things to say. Time has passed since then, and as the Government have now seen fit to renege on raising tax allowances two Budgets running, I thought that the right hon. Gentleman deserved to be reminded of that time.
The motion will also deprive us of the opportunity to discuss not only the extra tax on the low paid but the reduction in tax relief for the millions of people with mortgages. We shall not reach that debate. Those people will get less tax relief and will have to pay more for their mortgages, but Parliament will not have debated the issue, because of the guillotine motion, which gives no opportunity for hon. Members on either side of the House to deploy the case for or against.
Moreover, the motion gives no opportunity for those of us who argue, as I do, in favour of raising thresholds, to explain where the money might come from. When we argue for what is in effect a tax decrease, it behoves us to 809 discuss where the money might be found to fund it. The Government have to balance the books and meet the £50 billion deficit that they have caused.
Under the rules of the House, as you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, neither Opposition nor Government Back Benchers can table amendments to raise taxes on individuals. We can table only amendments that would decrease taxes. That is why we need the opportunity of debate, not merely the opportunity to table amendments for the record. We need to be able to say that, although we ask for a tax reduction in one area, on balance there could be a tax increase somewhere else. As I said last week, one example would be an increase in tobacco tax—there is no disagreement between the parties about that. Hon. Members should not be deprived of the opportunity to debate such ideas.
If the draconian guillotine motion had not been introduced I would have wanted the chance to update some figures that I gave at the end of my speech on Second Reading. I was talking about the burden on the lowest fifth of income earners over the past decade, compared with that on the other four fifths of income earners, and I cited what were then the latest figures available—"Social Trends" for 1993, which the Government published a year ago. Since Second Reading the latest, 1994, edition of "Social Trends" has been published.
If I had had the opportunity I would have updated my statistics, although not in great detail, and explained what happened to the figures when the extra year since 1979 was added on. Of course, I cannot do that now, but it shows that by 1990–91, in real terms, the bottom fifth of income earners had had a 3 per cent. reduction in their median real income after housing expenses. Meanwhile, the next fifth of income earners had had a 12 per cent. increase, the middle fifth a 25 per cent. increase, and the next fifth a 34 per cent. increase. Finally, you will be astonished to hear, Mr. Deputy Speaker, between 1979 and 1990–91 the top fifth of income earners had a 49 per cent. increase in their real median income after housing costs had been taken into account.
I would have used the argument of fairness and said that some of the money to pay for the increase in tax thresholds, to relieve the burden on the low paid, could be found by taking a couple of per cent. off that 49 per cent. increase for the highest-paid one fifth of the population. I make no bones about that. The cake is there and the Government have set the size of it. I cannot make it grow, but I want to be positive rather than negative.
It is outrageous that both Opposition and Conservative Members have been deprived of the opportunity of speaking in those three key debates. We may manage to discuss the insurance premium tax, but, as you know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that will take all the time until 10 o'clock. There can be no argument about that, because it is an important brand-new tax that deserves to be debated in the House.
I do not want to take all the rest of the time available, and there are only a few minutes left for the debate on this squalid guillotine motion. Last week, to the annoyance of Conservative Members, I made a point that I shall make again now, because it cannot be repeated often enough. The Government have a mandate in this place because they have more than half the votes here, but they have no 810 mandate from the British public for such measures. They received the support of only one third of the total electorate in 1992; that is all that they got. With all their promises—their lies, as it turned out—they still managed to secure the support of only one third of the electorate. Translated into a percentage of those who could be bothered to go out and vote, that is still only 42 per cent.
The Government can claim no democratic legitimacy for the biggest tax hike in history. They cannot claim support at the ballot box. They can come to the House and try to shut us up and stop us talking about it, but if there is any justice, if the Leader of the House wanted to hold out an olive branch—it would behove the Government to do that, because they created the conditions for the present impasse, with their two Bills before Christmas—there are things that he could do to ameliorate the situation.
For example, the right hon. Gentleman could put the Opposition on the spot. He could meet the legitimate demands that he has heard for the past three hours to make possible a vote on VAT on fuel on the Floor of the House before 1 April. We would move heaven and earth to create those circumstances. We would not argue about time, or delay whatever business happened to be in front of us. It is not up to me, and I have no idea about the discussions, but if it were up to me I should be willing to give up an Opposition day for the Government to use for that purpose.
The Opposition cannot use Opposition days or Adjournment debates to change the law. People outside the House must understand that. It is not within the power of the Opposition to say, "It is our debate, so we shall decide what to do." Under the rules of the House we cannot do that, but the Government could, with our co-operation. That would earn some brownie points for the Government and I hope that the gesture would be reciprocated, because we are dealing with a key demand.
I believe that my hon. Friends are signalling to me to shut up because I have lost track of how much time is left. I shall gladly walk into the Lobby to vote against this unfair motion. The Government could have taken a more reasonable position, because they knew what the demands of the Opposition were, even though we are not operating through the usual channels. However, it is not too late. It would not be too late, even after the motion were passed, if the Government wanted to bring it back and amend it so that the Bill could be dealt with differently. We would not then come up against the impasse. But the Opposition will have even more reason to pursue our legitimate arguments against the Government if we see that they are not prepared to be reasonable on this matter.
§ Ms Harriet Harman (Peckham)
I welcome the opportunity to follow the excellent speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker).
Let us be clear what the debate is about: it is about a Government running scared, a Government who have broken their promises and who are now attempting to stifle debate. A Government who have lost all the arguments will do anything to avoid losing the vote. A Government who have trodden all over the people of Britain are now treading all over the House of Commons.
The guillotine motion marks a new low even by the Government's standards, because for the first time in history a Government are guillotining a Finance Bill before 811 it has even gone into Standing Committee. For the first time in the history of the House a guillotine has been imposed when only one clause of the Finance Bill has been debated.
We should make no mistake about it: the timetable motion is a carefully planned cynical exercise designed to give the Government absolute control over the debates and the timing of votes on the Bill.
This guillotine has two simple objectives: to prevent the House from having the chance to vote down value added tax on gas and electricity before it comes into force on 1 April, and to close down the debate on tax increases. The Tories are running scared. They are scared of the people; they are scared of debate in this House; and they are scared of some of their own Back Benchers. They are scared of the people of this country because people are angry at the Government for putting up their taxes and at the unfairness of the Tory tax increases. People are angry that the Government have broken all of their promises.
The Government are scared of debate in this House because they have lost all the arguments. They have lost the arguments on taxes; they have lost the arguments on the economy; and they have lost the arguments on public services. They are scared of their own Back Benchers because they know that some fearful Tory Back Benchers have privately promised their constituents that, if only there was an opportunity, of course they would vote against VAT.
Labour has tabled a new clause which would delay the VAT on gas and electricity coming into effect for one year. But the Government's purpose in this timetable motion is to delay any debate on VAT or on our new clause until after 1 April when VAT would already be in force. The Leader of the House shakes his head. I challenge him to intervene in my speech and to put the record straight. He could take this opportunity to deny that if it is net true.
What we are saying to the House and to the country is that this squalid guillotine motion is an attempt by the Government to paper over the cracks in their ranks and to prevent their Back Benchers from having to make a choice on VAT.
§ Mr. Newton
If it is of any interest to the hon. Lady, may I say that what she has just said is flatly, totally and completely untrue. What is more, there are Labour Members who know that to be the case.
§ Mr. Newton
I am not saying that that opportunity will arise. The hon. Lady suggested that the purpose of this motion was as she described it. That is untrue. We went into yesterday's debate in the expectation that some contacts that had taken place would bring about a position in which the Bill would proceed in a different way by agreement. By this time yesterday evening, that expectation had been destroyed by the opposition of Labour Members.
§ Ms Harman
It is absolutely clear, and the Leader of the House has given us all the evidence we need in his intervention, that the purpose of the guillotine motion is to prevent Tory Back Benchers from having the opportunity to vote against VAT on gas and electricity.
812 The Government know that they have lost the debate in the country and in their party. They now take the only course left open to them—they seek to control and manipulate the debate in Parliament. They seek to prevent their own Back Benchers from voting on VAT. They seek to spare Tory Members from having to make what they find to be a difficult choice on VAT. The choice should be obvious—honouring the promises that they made to their constituents, or following the orders of their Whips.
We are determined to ensure that Tory Members have the opportunity to make that choice. We want to ensure that they have another chance to join us and delay the imposition of VAT—a chance to honour the promises that they made to their constituents and the pledges that the Prime Minister made to the country on their behalf. Tory Members who tell us that they also want the chance to vote against VAT on gas and electricity should vote against this timetable motion if they want that chance.
This guillotine motion seeks to deprive a Committee of the whole House of the chance to engage in full debate about three Tory tax increases—tax increases which are all clear breaches of election pledges. The new insurance premium tax is a tax on the victims of crime. It hits hardest at ordinary people and their families—those who are already paying the price for the Government's failure on law and order. They must pay it again with this new tax. What is more, as with all Tory taxes, it is unfair. It hits hardest those who can least afford it. People who live in less prosperous areas already pay up to seven times more in insurance premiums to protect their homes than people in better areas. This tax will hit people living in the inner city areas of Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow and London up to seven times harder than those living in more affluent areas.
Both the insurance tax and the airport tax are the thin end of the tax wedge—introduced at a relatively low rate and then jacked up to pay not for new hospitals, schools or railways but the constant bills of unemployment and low growth.
It is a bit disingenuous for the Leader of the House to say that all the Government want is a reasonable debate on the Finance Bill because when the Chief Secretary introduced the Bill he did not even mention the insurance tax and the airport tax. So keen is he to debate the Bill that he could not even get the words "airport tax" and "insurance tax" past his lips. Perhaps he will manage to refer to them tonight and explain how the Government have come to break their promises.
Perhaps the truth is that the hon. Member for Dudley, West (Dr. Blackburn) was more prophetic than he realised when he wrote in his election address to the people of Dudley, West:
Tax is the dirtiest word to the Conservative philosophyIt certainly is such a dirty word now that Tory Ministers who are putting up taxes do not even want to discuss it.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Perry Barr mentioned, the Government are also stifling debate on the freeze on personal allowances. Of course, this is a tax increase which hits hardest at the low paid. In response to questions from my hon. Friend, the Government have been forced to admit that it will drag an extra 400,000 low-paid people into the tax net. No wonder they do not want to discuss it—no wonder they wanted to squeeze the debate. They are also stifling debate on the cuts in mortgage interest tax relief, which amount to the equivalent of nearly 813 2p on the basic rate of income tax for a typical family with a mortgage. No wonder the Government do not want to discuss it. In their manifesto, they promised the electorate:We will maintain mortgage tax relief.Of course, it was only after the election that the Chancellor said with a snigger:Luckily we didn't say at what rate".The promise of tax cuts was made by the Government to the country and by Tory Members to their constituencies. These tax increases break those promises. Faced with their betrayal, the Government try to hide from debate. They try to force these tax increases through with only a one-hour debate. Labour's tax in the face of that contempt for democracy becomes even more important. Not only must the economy be rebuilt and the community and publice services restored. We must rebuild the confidence of the British people in democracy—the confidence that the Tory Government have destroyed.
The Government are in office but not in power. Despite holding the great offices of state, they are powerless. They cannot use the power of their officers to keep their election promises, so they shut down debate. They cannot run the economy, so they shut down debate. The one thing that they have not lacked is money. They have squandered £130 billion in North sea oil revenues and privatisation receipts. Having squandered all that money, they are now dipping into the pay packets of ordinary families. They cannot command the respect of the British people, so they stifle debate.
There is only one thing that the Government are good at any more, and that is guillotine motions. My hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) was absolutely right: this is the fourth Bill in four parliamentary weeks that the Government have guillotined. Although they can shut down the debate in this House, they cannot shut down the debate in the country. This gagging motion is the last refuge for a Government who have lost every argument and broken every promise. This Tory Government are nothing more than a rabble—a rabble without a cause. We will vote against the guillotine tonight.
§ The Chief Secretary to the Treasu (Mr. Michael Portillo)
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House began the debate sombrely enough by saying that the Government entered into this guillotine motion with no pleasure and no cheer. During this debate, the genuine concern felt throughout the House at the present state of affairs—the breakdown of normal communications between the two parties—was expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd), my right hon. Friends the Members for Worthing (Sir T. Higgins) and for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) and my hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Mr. Forman). That concern was also expressed by the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) and, to a certain degree, by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker).
In seeking some agreement across the House, I begin by agreeing with the hon. Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) that this is a big and serious Bill, as the Finance Bill always is. That means that the Bill could only proceed through the 814 House on one of two bases—agreement between the parties, or by guillotine. I would have much preferred that there should be agreement.
It is important that the House considers the Bill in a serious and methodical way, partly because that will enhance the reputation of the House—it is the job of the House so to do—but also because it is important that outside interests are given the reassurance that the matters will be considered seriously. Those outside interests must be given time to make their representations.
I wrote to the hon. Lady the Member for Peckham (Ms Harman) to suggest that we reach agreement, and I was rebuffed in the way in which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House described. I struggled to cope with that disappointment, but I wrote again to the hon. Lady to inform her of the way in which we then intended to proceed, both on the Floor of the House in Committee and in Committee upstairs. We proposed that we should take four clauses on the Floor of the House over two days.
There was every expectation that the Opposition might stick to that. Indeed, we began well with the small number of hon. Members who came to the House yesterday afternoon apparently wishing to address issues seriously before the House. However, at about 6 o'clock yesterday afternoon, there was a clear change of mood—I would say a clear change of control—in the Labour party. A new squad of people entered the House who had not been here at the beginning of the debate. That group of people apparently were uninterested at 4 o'clock, but by 6 o'clock they had become interested to the point of verbosity.
The right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) showed in her opening remarks that she was not interested in what I believe the House and the Government are interested in—providing time upstairs for serious consideration of the Bill, and for outside interests to make their points known. The right hon. Lady has become obsessed with getting time on the Floor of the House to consider VAT.
First, the right hon. Lady was offered precisely that in discussions which we thought we were having with the Labour party. We very much hoped that we could reach some agreement, and she said that she wanted to reach an agreement. For all I know, the right hon. Lady did want to reach that agreement. The divisions in the Labour party today are so severe, so arcane and so deep that it is perfectly possible that the right hon. Lady is being sincere.
The right hon. Lady was then in the extraordinary position of having to argue—I think this argument was being made by an Opposition for the first time in history —that the fault of the guillotine motion was that it was giving too much time to the Committee upstairs. Unfortunately, the right hon. Lady failed to tip off the hon. Member for Thurrock (Mr. Mackinlay), who went on saying that the problem was that the guillotine gave too little time to consider a Bill that was too long.
The right hon. Lady said that we should have trusted her. How could we possibly have done so? She was not talking to us and, like a petulant teenager who is not talking to his parents, she then complained that we not been able to reach agreement between the channels.
§ Mrs. Beckett
I do not remember saying any such thing, but I do remember vividly that, on at least four or five occasions during the debate, the Government have been told that the Opposition certainly wanted the timing 815 of the Committee to be controlled. After all, it is a matter of the distribution of time, not just a matter of the number of weeks.
We are nervous about how the Government will seek to control the time. They have had repeated offers to accept that we want Report and a vote on VAT in the House before Easter. 'That point was put to the Government no fewer than four or five times during the debate. The Chief Secretary can accept it now, as he has singularly failed to do on every occasion when it has been mentioned before.
§ Mr. Portillo
Another point which was put to the Government was that the Opposition would proceed in a normal way during yesterday's debate, which they did not. Everyone in the House saw what happened at 6 o'clock yesterday.
I remind the right hon. Lady that, despite what she says she said to us, the hon. Member for Peckham said in a press notice on 10 January:Labour will be fighting every step of the way".The hon. Lady was then quoted in The Times on 12 January:Labour will be making no agreements with the Government about the timetabling of the Finance Bill, as part of our policy of non-cooperation.I remind the House also that the hon. Lady wrote to me on 21 January:As you rightly say, the Opposition is not willing to enter into informal discussions this year.All that gives the lie to what the right hon. Member for Derby, South has been saying.
The right hon. Lady, when intervened upon by my right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing, let out a lament that there were no usual channels. Whose fault is it but the Labour party's?
The hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire wanted us to accept his amendment. I am not able to do that, and I say that also to the hon. Member for Perry Barr. It is not the Government's fault that three hours have been devoted to the guillotine today, because that is not what we intended. It has been the choice of the House this afternoon to devote three hours to debating the guillotine.
The Government had allowed 10 to 12 hours for debate on four clauses on the Floor of the House, and that was a perfectly reasonable amount of time. The hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire went further, and said that a more comprehensive solution was needed to our problems. The attitude of the Government has been that we wish to continue to act in a normal way, and we wish to see normal relations restored across the House.
Nonetheless, I noted with great interest what the hon. Gentleman said, and I know that he meant it in a spirit of co-operation. The hon. Gentleman's concern about the matter is genuine, and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will have heard it. Our attitude has always been that we wish to proceed with normal arrangements as much as we possibly can.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North said that he hoped that we could return to street politics and rough common sense, and that those could again break out. I heard the interesting speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills. I repeat that we took no pleasure in tabling the guillotine motion. An arrangement on the Bill was very much to be preferred. We have the independent testimony of the hon. Member for Roxburgh 816 and Berwickshire, who has recognised that the situation has been forced upon the Government for the protection of Back Benchers.
It is the duty of the Government to make sure that the Bill is considered in detail. It is our duty to the outside interests to make sure that they have time to make their representations. I believe that it is for the convenience and reputation of the House that this Finance Bill should be considered in an orderly way. We would much prefer to have done otherwise, but, given the situation, the Government have no choice. The Government must protect the House, protect business and protect those people outside who depend upon us, by moving the motion today.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Main Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 315, Noes 288.820
|Division No. 97]||[8.7 pm|
|Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)||Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Coe, Sebastian|
|Alexander, Richard||Colvin, Michael|
|Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)||Congdon, David|
|Allason, Rupert (Torbay)||Conway, Derek|
|Amess, David||Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)|
|Ancram, Michael||Coombs, Simon (Swindon)|
|Arbuthnot, James||Cope, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)||Couchman, James|
|Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)||Cran, James|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)|
|Atkins, Robert||Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)|
|Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E)||Davies, Quentin (Stamford)|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Davis, David (Boothferry)|
|Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)||Day, Stephen|
|Baldry, Tony||Deva, Nirj Joseph|
|Banks, Matthew (Southport)||Devlin, Tim|
|Banks, Robert (Harrogate)||Dickens, Geoffrey|
|Bates, Michael||Dicks, Terry|
|Batiste, Spencer||Dorrell, Stephen|
|Bellingham, Henry||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James|
|Bendall, Vivian||Dover, Den|
|Beresford, Sir Paul||Duncan, Alan|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Duncan-Smith, Iain|
|Blackburn, Dr John G.||Dunn, Bob|
|Body, Sir Richard||Durant, Sir Anthony|
|Bonsor, Sir Nicholas||Dykes, Hugh|
|Booth, Hartley||Eggar, Tim|
|Boswell, Tim||Elletson, Harold|
|Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)||Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia||Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)|
|Bowden, Andrew||Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)|
|Bowis, John||Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)|
|Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes||Evans, Roger (Monmouth)|
|Brandreth, Gyles||Evennett, David|
|Brazier, Julian||Faber, David|
|Bright, Graham||Fabricant, Michael|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas|
|Brown, M.(Brigg & Cl'thorpes)||Fenner, Dame Peggy|
|Browning, Mrs. Angela||Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)|
|Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)||Fishburn, Dudley|
|Budgen, Nicholas||Forman, Nigel|
|Burns, Simon||Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)|
|Burt, Alistair||Forth, Eric|
|Butcher, John||Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman|
|Butler, Peter||Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)|
|Butterfill, John||Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)|
|Carlisle, John (Luton North)||Freeman, Rt Hon Roger|
|Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)||French, Douglas|
|Carrington, Matthew||Fry, Sir Peter|
|Carttiss, Michael||Gale, Roger|
|Cash, William||Gallie, Phil|
|Channon, Rt Hon Paul||Gardiner, Sir George|
|Churchill, Mr||Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan|
|Clappison, James||Garnier, Edward|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)||Gill, Christopher|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif)||Gillan, Cheryl|
|Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair||Marland, Paul|
|Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles||Marlow, Tony|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Marshall, John (Hendon S)|
|Gorst, John||Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)|
|Grant, Sir A.(Cambs SW)||Martin, David (Portsmouth S)|
|Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)||Mates, Michael|
|Greenway, John (Ryedale)||Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)||Mellor, Rt Hon David|
|Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn||Merchant, Piers|
|Hague, William||Milligan, Stephen|
|Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie||Mills, Iain|
|Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)||Mitchell, Sir David (Hants NW)|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Moate, Sir Roger|
|Hanley, Jeremy||Monro, Sir Hector|
|Hannam, Sir John||Montgomery, Sir Fergus|
|Hargreaves, Andrew||Moss, Malcolm|
|Harris, David||Needham, Richard|
|Haselhurst, Alan||Nelson, Anthony|
|Hawkins, Nick||Neubert, Sir Michael|
|Hawksley, Warren||Newton, Rt Hon Tony|
|Hayes, Jerry||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Heald, Oliver||Nicholson, David (Taunton)|
|Heathcoat-Amory, David||Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)|
|Hendry, Charles||Norris, Steve|
|Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael||Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley|
|Hicks, Robert||Oppenheim, Phillip|
|Higgins, Rt Hon Sir Terence L.||Ottaway, Richard|
|Hill, James (Southampton Test)||Page, Richard|
|Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)||Paice, James|
|Horam, John||Patnick, Irvine|
|Hordern, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Patten, Rt Hon John|
|Howard, Rt Hon Michael||Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A)||Pawsey, James|
|Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)||Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth|
|Howell, Sir Ralph (N Norfolk)||Pickles, Eric|
|Hughes Robert G.(Harrow W)||Porter, Barry (Wirral S)|
|Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)||Porter, David (Waveney)|
|Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)||Portillo, Rt Hon Michael|
|Hunter, Andrew||Powell, William (Corby)|
|Jack, Michael||Rathbone, Tim|
|Jackson, Robert (Wantage)||Redwood, Rt Hon John|
|Jenkin, Bernard||Renton, Rt Hon Tim|
|Jessel, Toby||Richards, Rod|
|Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey||Riddick, Graham|
|Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)||Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm|
|Jones, Robert B.(W Hertfdshr)||Robathan, Andrew|
|Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn|
|Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine||Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)|
|Key, Robert||Robinson, Mark (Somerton)|
|Kilfedder, Sir James||Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)|
|King, Rt Hon Tom||Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)|
|Kirkhope, Timothy||Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela|
|Knapman, Roger||Ryder, Rt Hon Richard|
|Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)||Sackville, Tom|
|Knight, Greg (Derby N)||Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim|
|Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)||Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas|
|Kynoch, George (Kincardine)||Shaw, David (Dover)|
|Lait, Mrs Jacqui||Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)|
|Lamont, Rt Hon Norman||Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian|
|Lang, Rt Hon Ian||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Lawrence, Sir Ivan||Shersby, Michael|
|Legg, Barry||Skeet, Sir Trevor|
|Leigh, Edward||Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)|
|Lennox-Boyd, Mark||Soames, Nicholas|
|Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)||Speed, Sir Keith|
|Lidington, David||Spencer, Sir Derek|
|Lightbown, David||Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)|
|Lilley, Rt Hon Peter||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Lloyd, Rt Hon Peter (Fareham)||Spink, Dr Robert|
|Lord, Michael||Spring, Richard|
|Luff, Peter||Sproat, Iain|
|Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas||Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)|
|MacGregor, Rt Hon John||Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John|
|MacKay, Andrew||Steen, Anthony|
|Maclean, David||Stephen, Michael|
|McLoughlin, Patrick||Stern, Michael|
|McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick||Stewart, Allan|
|Madel, Sir David||Streeter, Gary|
|Malone, Gerald||Sumberg, David|
|Mans, Keith||Sweeney, Walter|
|Sykes, John||Ward, John|
|Tapsell, Sir Peter||Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)|
|Taylor, Ian (Esher)||Waterson, Nigel|
|Taylor, John M.(Solihull)||Watts, John|
|Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)||Wells, Bowen|
|Temple-Morris, Peter||Whitney, Ray|
|Thomason, Roy||Whittingdale, John|
|Thompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)||Widdecombe, Ann|
|Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)||Wiggin, Sir Jerry|
|Thurnham, Peter||Wilkinson, John|
|Townend, John (Bridlington)||Willetts, David|
|Townsend, Cyril D.(Bexl'yh'th)||Wilshire, David|
|Tracey, Richard||Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)|
|Tredinnick, David||Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)|
|Trend, Michael||Wolfson, Mark|
|Trotter, Neville||Wood, Timothy|
|Twinn, Dr Ian||Yeo, Tim|
|Vaughan, Sir Gerard||Young, Rt Hon Sir George|
|Waldegrave, Rt Hon William||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Walden, George||Mr. Sydney Chapman and|
|Walker, Bill (N Tayside)||Mr. Andrew Mitchell.|
|Adams, Mrs Irene||Cook, Robin (Livingston)|
|Ainger, Nick||Corbett, Robin|
|Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)||Corbyn, Jeremy|
|Allen, Graham||Cousins, Jim|
|Alton, David||Cox, Tom|
|Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)||Cryer, Bob|
|Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)||Cummings, John|
|Armstrong, Hilary||Cunliffe, Lawrence|
|Ashton, Joe||Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)|
|Austin-Walker, John||Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John|
|Banks, Tony (Newham NW)||Dafis, Cynog|
|Barnes, Harry||Dalyell, Tam|
|Barron, Kevin||Darling, Alistair|
|Battle, John||Davidson, Ian|
|Bayley, Hugh||Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)|
|Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)|
|Beggs, Roy||Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)|
|Beith, Rt Hon A. J.||Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)|
|Bell, Stuart||Denham, John|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||Dewar, Donald|
|Bennett, Andrew F.||Dixon, Don|
|Benton, Joe||Donohoe, Brian H.|
|Bermingham, Gerald||Dowd, Jim|
|Berry, Dr. Roger||Dunnachie, Jimmy|
|Betts, Clive||Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth|
|Blair, Tony||Eagle, Ms Angela|
|Blunkett, David||Eastham, Ken|
|Boateng, Paul||Enright, Derek|
|Boyes, Roland||Etherington, Bill|
|Bradley, Keith||Evans, John (St Helens N)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Ewing, Mrs Margaret|
|Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)||Fatchett, Derek|
|Brown, N.(N'c'tle upon Tyne E)||Faulds, Andrew|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Field, Frank (Birkenhead)|
|Burden, Richard||Fisher, Mark|
|Byers, Stephen||Flynn, Paul|
|Caborn, Richard||Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)|
|Callaghan, Jim||Foster, Rt Hon Derek|
|Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)||Foster, Don (Bath)|
|Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)||Foulkes, George|
|Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)||Fraser, John|
|Campbell-Savours, D. N.||Fyfe, Maria|
|Canavan, Dennis||Galbraith, Sam|
|Cann, Jamie||Galloway, George|
|Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)||Gapes, Mike|
|Chisholm, Malcolm||Garrett, John|
|Clapham, Michael||George, Bruce|
|Clark, Dr David (South Shields)||Gerrard, Neil|
|Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)||Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John|
|Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)||Godman, Dr Norman A.|
|Clelland, David||Godsiff, Roger|
|Coffey, Ann||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|Cohen, Harry||Gordon, Mildred|
|Connarty, Michael||Gould, Bryan|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton N)||Graham, Thomas|
|Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)||Meale, Alan|
|Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)||Michael, Alun|
|Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)||Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)|
|Grocott, Bruce||Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)|
|Gunnell, John||Milburn, Alan|
|Hain, Peter||Miller, Andrew|
|Hall, Mike||Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)|
|Hanson, David||Moonie, Dr Lewis|
|Hardy, Peter||Morgan, Rhodri|
|Harman, Ms Harriet||Morley, Elliot|
|Harvey, Nick||Morris, Rt Hon A.(Wy'nshawe)|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)|
|Henderson, Doug||Morris, Rt Hon J.(Aberavon)|
|Heppell, John||Mowlam, Marjorie|
|Hill, Keith (Streatham)||Mudie, George|
|Hinchliffe, David||Mullin, Chris|
|Hoey, Kate||Murphy, Paul|
|Hogg, Norman (Cumbernauld)||Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon|
|Home Robertson, John||O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)|
|Hood, Jimmy||O'Brien, William (Normanton)|
|Hoon, Geoffrey||O'Hara, Edward|
|Howarth, George (Knowsley N)||Olner, William|
|Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)||O'Neill, Martin|
|Hoyle, Doug||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley|
|Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)||Parry, Robert|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Pickthall, Colin|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport E)||Pike, Peter L.|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark)||Pope, Greg|
|Hutton, John||Powell, Ray (Ogmore)|
|Ingram, Adam||Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)|
|Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)||Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)|
|Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)||Prescott, John|
|Jamieson, David||Primarolo, Dawn|
|Janner, Greville||Purchase, Ken|
|Johnston, Sir Russell||Radice, Giles|
|Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)||Randall, Stuart|
|Jones, leuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)||Raynsford, Nick|
|Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)||Redmond, Martin|
|Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)||Reid, Dr John|
|Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)||Rendel, David|
|Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)||Robertson, George (Hamilton)|
|Jowell, Tessa||Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Roche, Mrs. Barbara|
|Keen, Alan||Rogers, Allan|
|Kennedy, Charles (Ross, C&S)||Rooker, Jeff|
|Kennedy, Jane (Lpool Brdgn)||Rooney, Terry|
|Khabra, Piara S.||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|Kilfoyle, Peter||Ross, William (E Londonderry)|
|Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil (Islwyn)||Rowlands, Ted|
|Kirkwood, Archy||Ruddock, Joan|
|Leigh ton, Ron||Salmond, Alex|
|Lestor, Joan (Eccles)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Lewis, Terry||Sheerman, Barry|
|Litherland, Robert||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Livingstone, Ken||Shore, Rt Hon Peter|
|Llwyd, Elfyn||Short, Clare|
|Loyden, Eddie||Simpson, Alan|
|Lynne, Ms Liz||Skinner, Dennis|
|McAllion, John||Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)|
|McAvoy, Thomas||Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'sbury)|
|McCartney, Ian||Smith, Rt Hon John (M'kl'ds E)|
|Macdonald, Calum||Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)|
|McFall, John||Snape, Peter|
|McKelvey, William||Soley, Clive|
|Mackinlay, Andrew||Spearing, Nigel|
|McLeish, Henry||Spellar, John|
|Maclennan, Robert||Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)|
|McMaster, Gordon||Steel, Rt Hon Sir David|
|McNamara, Kevin||Steinberg, Gerry|
|Madden, Max||Stevenson, George|
|Maddock, Mrs Diana||Stott, Roger|
|Maginnis, Ken||Strang, Dr. Gavin|
|Mahon, Alice||Straw, Jack|
|Mandelson, Peter||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Marek, Dr John||Taylor, Rt Hon John D.(Strgfd)|
|Marshall, David (Shettleston)||Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)||Tipping, Paddy|
|Martin, Michael J.(Springburn)||Trimble, David|
|Martlew, Eric||Tyler, Paul|
|Maxton, John||Vaz, Keith|
|Walker, Rt Hon Sir Harold||Wilson, Brian|
|Wallace, James||Winnick, David|
|Walley, Joan||Wise, Audrey|
|Wardell, Gareth (Gower)||Worthington, Tony|
|Wareing, Robert N||Wray, Jimmy|
|Watson, Mike||Wright, Dr Tony|
|Welsh, Andrew||Young, David (Bolton SE)|
|Wigley, Dafydd||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)||Mr. Eric Illsley and|
|Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)||Mr. Dennis Turner.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
That the following provisions shall apply to the remaining proceedings on the Bill:—