HC Deb 02 December 1998 vol 321 cc917-49

6. Standing Order 15(1) (Exempted business) shall apply to proceedings on the Bill at the sitting this day; and the proceedings shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.

7. The proceedings on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown for varying or supplementing the provisions of this order shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion one hour after commencement; and the Standing Order No. 15(1) shall apply to those proceedings.

8. Standing Order No. 82 (Business Committee) shall not apply in relation to proceedings on the Bill.

9. No Motion shall be made to alter the order in which any proceedings on the Bill are taken.

10. No dilatory Motion shall be made in relation to the Bill except by a Minister of the Crown.

11. If at the sitting this day a Motion for the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 24 stands over to seven o'clock and proceedings on this Motion have begun before that time, the Motion for the Adjournment shall stand over until the conclusion of proceedings on the Bill.

12. If the House is adjourned at the sitting this day, or the sitting is suspended, before the conclusion of proceedings on the Bill, no notice shall be required, of a Motion made at the next sitting by a Minister of the Crown for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.

The Government remain determined to press ahead with the European Parliamentary Elections Bill in the form that this House has decided by overwhelming majorities. I shall say a little more about why we subscribe to that belief when we come to debate the Bill itself. Let me now explain why the Government believe that the allocation of time motion is appropriate. The answer is simple: the House has already devoted a huge amount of time to discussing the Bill. There may be a little more to say, but we think that the time allocated is adequate in the circumstances.

The Bill has only six clauses and four schedules. In the Session that ended only 10 days ago, we spent more than 34 hours debating the Bill, which works out at more than three and half hours for each clause or schedule, whether substantive or not. The Bill is a constitutional measure and, for that reason, we have taken it on the Floor of the House. It is worth pointing out that it is not exceptional for Bills of a constitutional nature to be guillotined. Some hon. Members will recall—and some Conservative Members will do so with discomfort—that the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1986, which introduced the single market, had to be guillotined by the previous Administration. The then Lord President of the Council, Mr. John Biffen, said when moving the timetable motion— Since 1966, six constitutional Bills have been timetabled."— and he explained why. Earlier in the debate, he sought to justify the Government's decision to guillotine the measure. He said: The Bill received its Second Reading with the clear majority of 319 votes to 160. That is an indication that the Government fully have the authority of the House for wishing to ensure that the passage of the Bill can be concluded."—[Official Report, 1 July 1986; Vol. 100, c. 933–34.] If Mr. John Biffen was correct on that occasion, we must be even more correct when we say that this Bill has received the overwhelming authority of the House, because it received a majority of 355 to 160 on Second Reading on 25 November 1997.

Sir Norman Fowler (Sutton Coldfield)

Can the Home Secretary give any precedent for a constitutional Bill being guillotined with only four hours for debate, including the three-hour guillotine motion?

Mr. Straw

The simple answer is that no Opposition since the war have suffered from the madness that infects the current Opposition. This is the first constitutional measure on which a Government have been forced to use the Parliament Act 1911 procedures. Every other constitutional measure, however controversial it may have been and whether it appeared in a manifesto, has eventually been accepted as having received the authority of the elected House and been allowed through by the unelected House. Given that the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) has raised the issue, he may wish to learn that the only Bill that has been the subject of the Parliament Act procedure since the war—three started out, but agreement was reached on two—was the War Crimes Act 1991. The guillotine motion on that Act provided for no Committee stage.

Conservative Members have only themselves to blame for tearing apart fundamental conventions on the constitution, as I will show in a moment. We are having to debate the matter again, despite the fact that the Bill and its principle received the overwhelming endorsement of the British people in the manifestos of not one but two of the major parties. It has also received majorities of more than 150 on every occasion that it has been the subject of debate, not only on its principle but on its detail. It does not lie in the mouth of the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield—or any other Conservative Member—to complain that the Bill has not been subject to the most thorough debate. I myself have always sought to answer any question raised with me in the time that is available.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath)

Does the Home Secretary accept that one of the clearest pieces of evidence that he does not have overwhelming support for what he is saying is the tiny handful of his parliamentary colleagues who have bothered to take their places in the Chamber this afternoon? Another is the fact that there were so few speeches in our earlier debates in support of what the Government are trying to ram through. In effect, the Bill has no support at all.

Mr. Straw

As I have explained to the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. and hon. Friends before, the best indication of support is not only the substantial majorities that we have enjoyed in this House, but the fact that we have put the principle of the issue to the vote of the British people. Of that, there can be no doubt.

I am very happy for the available time to be used up principally by Conservative Members. Four hours have been allocated for completion of the measure, and the longer they spend on the guillotine motion, the less time there will be for the detail, even if that detail needs further examination. That is a matter for the Conservatives, not for us.

Mr. Brian White (Milton Keynes, North-East)

Does my right hon. Friend accept that whether or not we started by supporting an open-list system or a closed-list system, many of us on the Labour Benches now firmly hold the view that the Bill should go through as we are arguing about the elected House versus the unelected House? My right hon. Friend has the overwhelming support of Labour Members.

Mr. Straw

I accept that, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for anticipating my next point. I expect that the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield will work himself up into a fury, implying that the motion is an abuse of the procedures of the House. He should, however, be rather cautious given the record of the previous Administration, particularly in the 1980s when they never sought agreement on Bills and used guillotine motions with gay abandon. There has, indeed, been an abuse of Parliament over the Bill, but it did not occur in this Chamber. The abuse was the responsibility of the Conservative party, which relied on its inbuilt three-to-one majority in the other place. It relied on the votes of hereditary peers to frustrate the wishes of the democratically elected House.

None of us on the Government Benches—and precious few Members on the Conservative Benches, if they were allowed to speak their minds—believe that the hereditary peers have a right to block Bills introduced by the Government. I have never objected to the other place seeking to revise Bills. Far from objecting, I have welcomed revisions, and I have never suggested that a Bill introduced even by my Front Bench colleagues represents a paradigm of perfection that cannot be improved in any way. That would be an arrogant impertinence, and it would plainly be untrue.

On two major Bills out of the several brought forward by the Home Department during the past session—the Human Rights Bill and the Crime and Disorder Bill—the other place entered serious reservations. We did not say, "Damn them, they are Conservative hereditaries so we should ignore their arguments." We sought, on press freedom and, particularly, on the protection of the churches, to listen to what was said in the other place, and to seek to accommodate it, as I believe we did.

A number of detailed amendments were made to the Crime and Disorder Bill, such as that made when the Lord Chief Justice expressed reservations about the breadth of what was then clause 40 on the powers of justices' clerks. Many noble Lords backed him, we listened to what he had to say and we changed the Bill. In the particular case of the age of consent, the whole House knows that we accepted the view of the other place that that measure should not come before the House for a free vote without its having alongside it associated offences where people were in a position of trust that they might abuse.

Mr. William Cash (Stone)

The Secretary of State has made the accusation that what the House of Lords did was somehow an abuse of procedure. Has he not heard of the Parliament Act 1911? Does he realise that its whole purpose is to deal with situations such as this one? In fact, the House of Lords acted completely within the conventions and within the statutory provisions for matters of this kind.

Mr. Straw

It would be rum if I had not heard of the Parliament Act since that is precisely what we are using. I heard of the Parliament Act as a schoolboy, and I remember the history of the Budget in 1910—more accurately, the Budget was in 1909—

Mr. Richard Allan (Sheffield, Hallam)

I did not realise that the right hon. Gentleman was that old.

Mr. Straw

I have a considerable affection for the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Allan), but I shall lose it if he questions my age. I was not present during the passage of the Budget of 1909, but I learned about it at school. It will be remembered that Mr. Lloyd George moved his Budget, that the Lords blocked it, that not one, but two elections were required in 1910, and that the Parliament Act followed in 1911. It is worth bearing in mind, too, that there was then a general agreement that the Act should be the first part of a two-stage process of reform of the House of Lords, but the Conservative party consistently blocked the second stage, a point that Conservative Members should note.

Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills)

I am interested by the reasons adduced by the Secretary of State in relation to the Parliament Act, but I do not understand what he is saying. The House of Lords acted perfectly constitutionally. The Government disagreed, and the Chamber disagreed on a vote. The Bill was returned to the other place, and the Government are now invoking the Parliament Act. Is not that the proper constitutional arrangement? Has not every party acted within the terms of the Parliament Act and the constitution?

Mr. Straw

The difference, and the central burden of what I must say, is that the Parliament Act has not previously been needed even for the most controversial of proposals. In addition, there has been an expectation of its use only when there has been a Labour Government. It has never been raised against a Tory Government—

Sir Norman Fowler

The War Crimes Bill.

Mr. Straw

The only case is the War Crimes Bill, which was not an issue of extreme controversy between the parties.

Sir Norman Fowler

The Home Secretary just cited it.

Mr. Straw

I cited the Bill to answer a different point raised by the right hon. Gentleman, which was whether there had been a Committee stage on a guillotine under the Parliament Act. There had not.

The hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) asked whether the action of the House of Lords was not consistent with the Parliament Act, and with the conventions and understandings that amount to an important part of our constitution. It would be tautologous to say that that action was consistent with the Parliament Act, as that is a simple statement of fact. It is wholly wrong, however, to claim that the procedure followed by the Conservative party is in any sense consistent with the conventions of the House of Commons and the other place, or of the understandings between parties that form an essential part of our uncodified and unwritten constitution. I shall explain in considerable detail why that is so.

The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield was, until recently, the non-executive chairman of Midland Independent Newspapers. He ceased, I believe, to be chairman not so long ago.

Sir Norman Fowler

indicated assent.

Mr. Straw

The right hon. Gentleman assents to that. If the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to take advice from us, he may wish to think again and to take the advice of The Birmingham Post, which that group owns. The paper is not particularly in favour of closed lists, and it is against proportional representation. Its view is straightforward, but a recent editorial said that the Conservative party was making a fool of itself by the way in which it was behaving. The editorial read: The Conservatives cannot muster a decent opposition in the Commons, the party organisation has fallen into disrepair in the country, its ability to communicate any message to the electorate has virtually ceased. Yet it still has a chance to wield its power in the Lords… The Labour Government may be wrong in wanting closed-list PR but our democracy is based on the fundamental belief that the will of the majority in the Commons must prevail. It is hypocritical nonsense to defend 'democracy' by undemocratic means and shows the Tories' desperation to cling on to the last vestiges of power. Throwing out the Government's Bill is a monumental blunder by the Tories". It was indeed a monumental blunder. The Conservative party has torn up one of the most essential conventions regulating the balance of power between the elected House and the other place. That convention was articulated, although it had been followed before, by Lord Salisbury, the grandfather of the current Viscount Cranborne. In a speech to the House of Lords in November 1964, Lord Salisbury spelled out what the convention meant.

Mr. Shepherd

This does not answer my question.

Mr. Straw

I am seeking to answer the point raised by the hon. Gentleman. He began his speech by talking about relations with the new Labour Government elected in 1964 with a very tiny majority. He said: In 1945 we were faced, in one sense … with an easier problem than now, for the Labour majority in another place … was far larger than it is today, and it was therefore possible for us who belonged to the Opposition to make it our broad guiding rule that what had been on the Labour Party programme at the preceding General Election should be regarded as having been approved by the British people. Therefore, as your Lordships will remember, we passed all the nationalisation Bills, although we cordially disliked them, on the Second Reading and did our best to improve them and make them more workable on Committee stage. Where, however, measures were introduced which had not been in the Labour Party Manifesto at the preceding Election we reserved full liberty of action."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 4 November 1964; Vol. 261, c. 66.] That is a reasonable statement.

The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield has said that closed lists were not specified in our manifesto. Even when our manifesto is clear and categorical, as it is on the two-stage process for the reform of the House of Lords—it could not be clearer about the self-contained stage one—the right hon. Gentleman still says that the Conservative party intends to tear up the basic fundamental conventions of the Salisbury convention—[Interruption.] That is what we all heard him say on Monday. Of course, the Conservative party may have changed its mind since then.

Let us leave that to one side. In order to justify the Conservative party's actions on this Bill the right hon. Gentleman is saying that, although the basic idea of proportional representation for European elections was in the manifestos of the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats, the detail was not. I must tell the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills that, when Lord Salisbury was making his statement, he did so against the background of the manifestos that had been brought before the British people in 1945. Those manifestos were far less detailed in every particular than those of any party at the last election. I happen to have before me the winning Labour party manifesto for 1945. It says that the Labour party intended to submit to the nation an industrial programme which included public ownership of the fuel and power industries. There is then an explanation about why that is to be done, but there is not a word about how. The list continues by saying that the programme will include the public ownership of inland transport. There is a little word about co-ordination and about why it is to be done, but not a word about how. It then talks about public ownership—

Sir Norman Fowler

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We are in substantial difficulty. The right hon. Gentleman has tabled a guillotine motion which allows only four hours of debate in this House. He has now been speaking for 20 minutes on that motion—not the Second Reading—and we are now going back to the 1945 Labour manifesto. With due respect to the Home Secretary, I believe that it would be in the constitution and order of the House for him to make briefer remarks on this important guillotine motion.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst)

The right hon. Gentleman knows that the Chair cannot be responsible for the content or length of speeches. The Home Secretary will have heard what the right hon. Gentleman said.

Mr. Straw

I particularly heard the right hon. Gentleman saying that he was in some difficulty, and that is true. I have taken 20 minutes because I have given way to hon. Members. The right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends would have been the first to complain had I not given way. Let us be clear, the content of the 1945 manifesto is absolutely central to the context of the Salisbury convention and the fact that the Opposition have broken that convention.

The 1945 manifesto said that the programme would include public ownership of the fuel and power industries, public ownership of inland transport and public ownership of iron and steel. No other detail was given, but Lord Salisbury did not use that fact, even casuistically to argue that they could accept the principle, not just to dissent from the detail, but to block the whole Bill. That is the difference between any previous action taken by the other place and the action being taken now by the Conservative Opposition in the other place with the full support of the Opposition Front Bench.

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Mid-Bedfordshire)

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Straw

I am sorry, but I do not have time.

I was reflecting on why the Salisburys, the Cecils and the Cranbornes—the same family—had been able to survive in power for five centuries or so when others, not including those in the Conservative party, had failed. I came across a quotation not from one of Viscount Cranborne's predecessors but from one of his predecessor's associates in the other place, the Marquess of Winchester, who was heavily involved in Tudor politics. He said—I translate from the Latin—that he had survived by being a willow and not an oak. That is how the Conservative party has kept its power in the other place until now. We are now seeing the Conservative party, a once great oak of distinguished lineage, breaking in the wind. Whether it has a future is gravely open to doubt given these tactics.

The motion is in no sense an abuse of parliamentary procedure. The abuse of parliamentary procedure is the action of the Conservative party which has broken the Salisbury convention in every particular. The Opposition have challenged the democratic will of the House and, above all, the democratic will of the British people.

5.57 pm
Sir Norman Fowler (Sutton Coldfield)

That was an unconvincing speech. It did not even convince the four Labour Back Benchers who are here today. The Home Secretary was keen on quoting precedents. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Dowd) wishes me to give way, I will happily give way to him. If he is a Whip, I suggest that he keeps the silence for which he has doubtless been appointed to that office.

The Home Secretary was keen on quoting precedents. He went back to the 1945 general election. I notice that he did not quote his own article in The Times on 4 February 1985, which was entitled, "Cut the Guillotine Down to Size." In those days, he argued that ill-thought-out legislation should not be forced through without change, brandishing the theory of the detailed mandate in face of the reasoned argument. With this legislation, he cannot even claim a detailed mandate.

Let us get this straight: we all know that the closed list was not, and never has been, a manifesto commitment of the Labour party. The right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) totally destroyed that argument. In fact, the Home Secretary destroyed his own argument. On Second Reading, my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir B. Mawhinney), who is here today, interrupted the Home Secretary when he said that he would look at the Belgian list. The Belgian list is not a closed list so, if it was a manifesto commitment, it was quickly and easily broken by the Home Secretary.

On the abuse of power, let us go back to the War Crimes Bill and to the comments of the then shadow Home Secretary, Lord Hattersley. He made the point that my hon. Friends have been making. He said: The House of Lords possesses the right under the constitution, to reject legislation, and we possess the right to overrule that rejection. The House of Lords, this House and the Government, if I may say so, have acted with absolute constitutional propriety by bringing the matter forward again."—[Official Report, 18 March 1991; Vol. 188, c. 30.] That is the point and that is what my hon. Friends were saying.

Obviously, I recognise that the guillotine procedure has been used before. However, I caution the Government to hesitate before guillotining a constitutional measure. There should be no doubt that the Bill goes to the heart of our constitution. The rules whereby Members of the European Parliament are elected are vastly important, above all to the public.

Of course there are precedents of the guillotine being used even on constitutional Bills, although the BBC report this morning which suggested that the Maastricht Bill was guillotined is wrong. The whole point about that Bill is that it was not guillotined. It would be nice if the BBC gave parliamentary reporting the priority that it used to have.

Mr. Straw

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Norman Fowler

I shall give way in a moment. The right hon. Gentleman should listen to my point. He regards this debate as a leisurely Committee stage, but this is a debate on a guillotine motion. He is forcing the House to pass all the Bill's stages in four hours. We do not regard this as a leisurely Committee stage in the way that he would like. There have been precedents, but this is probably the most severe guillotine that has ever been introduced, and I shall tell the House why.

Under the Government's proposals, the guillotine motion could be debated for three hours, but that would come out of the total of four hours that is allowed for the whole debate. The Government would be content for the debate on the guillotine motion to run its full course. I assume that even they do not believe that we will nod it through without a Division, so they would leave the House 40 minutes to debate the Second Reading, the Committee stage, the Report stage and the Third Reading of the Bill. Even if the guillotine debate could be finished earlier, it is unlikely that we shall have any more than two and a half or three hours to complete all the Bill's stages. One does not have to be a paid-up member of the Conservative party to find that unacceptable.

Mr. Straw

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Norman Fowler

I shall give way in a moment. The right hon. Gentleman should restrain himself.

Many hon. Members will regard the Government's proposals as entirely objectionable. One point that is clear about the Bill is that it is highly controversial on both sides of the House. Much of the criticism of the Bill has come from Labour Members. The measures are as disliked by many on the Government Benches as they are by Conservative Members. That is demonstrated this afternoon by the fact that only three Labour Back Benchers are present.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. George Howarth)

There are five.

Sir Norman Fowler

I was not counting the Parliamentary Private Secretaries. If the hon. Gentleman is down to counting them, he really is in difficulty.

I hope that, on the issue of the guillotine we will, for once, have the support of Liberal Democrat Members. They have taken an extraordinary view throughout the entire debate, and I hope that they will at least have the courage to say that we should be able to debate the Bill for longer than the four hours that the Government have given us.

The time that has been allocated to the Bill is totally inadequate to do any justice to it. We are once again considering the whole Bill because it has been reintroduced. We are considering not only open and closed lists but the abolition, in effect, of European by-elections. We all know why such a proposal might now attract the Labour party. Having been beaten into third place in the by-election in Scotland last Thursday, it may well want to avoid such contests. By-elections, for Europe and Westminster, have been an important part of our political system.

Mr. Straw

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Sir Norman Fowler

I shall give way in a moment. The right hon. Gentleman need not keep bobbing up and down.

If the Government think that forcing unpopular legislation through the House without giving us a realistic opportunity to debate it will restore their political fortunes, they are in for a surprise north and south of the border. I shall now give way to the Home Secretary.

Mr. Straw

Will the right hon. Gentleman name another Bill, including constitutional Bills, of only six clauses which was the subject of more than 34 hours of detailed debate in the House?

Sir Norman Fowler

There must have been constitutional Bills that were so well debated, but that is not my point. My point—this is the Government's proposition—is that this constitutional Bill has been reintroduced. It is therefore a new Bill and the Government are allowing four hours of debate, including the debate on the guillotine motion. I cannot think of a precedent for that, and if the Home Secretary can think of one, I will gladly, in my generosity, give way to him again.

Mr. Straw

The simple point is that the Bill has already been the subject of lengthy debate. The four hours allocated to it today must be added to the 34 hours of extraordinarily detailed discussion that have already taken place, and the Bill is exactly the same as it was then.

Sir Norman Fowler

The right hon. Gentleman's answer is that he cannot think of a precedent, because there is none. The guillotine motion is the most severe since the war and, as far as I can tell from the extent of my research, the most severe that has ever been moved.

Mr. Shepherd

I do not entirely understand the Home Secretary's point because, although the House has debated the Bill many times, it has done so only on a particular, narrow issue. We want to debate the entire Bill, which is understandable.

Sir Norman Fowler

That is exactly the point that I was about to make, and I thank my hon. Friend for making it in his usual skilled way.

The Bill makes a fundamental change in our arrangements for European elections. We are, for example, abandoning the first-past-the-post system. That is a profound mistake, and many people will resent the abolition of the constituency system. They want a Member whom they can call their own and with whom they can take up issues. That will be lost under the Bill. It is not merely a case of open and closed lists. That issue has dominated the debate because of the action of the House of Lords, but there are many other issues.

The Bill raises the issue of the balance between the party and the public, and that is the issue at stake between the two Houses. The Lords rejected not the whole Bill—again, the Home Secretary is wrong—but the closed list system, in which people vote for the party and not the candidate. That stand has been widely applauded, and not only by the Opposition. The Government Benches are not crowded because one Labour Member after another has spoken against closed lists. Let us have no nonsense about closed lists being a manifesto pledge; they are not and never have been.

Mr. Cash

Does my right hon. Friend accept that, as we have rightly endorsed the principle of first past the post, we should gently persuade their Lordships to do the same and return the Bill or at least seek to amend it, including the long title, so that we can debate first past the post rather than the difference between open and closed lists?

Sir Norman Fowler

On Second Reading, we can debate exactly that point, which is very important. That is why it is false to say that, because we have debated closed and open lists, we have disposed of all the issues in the Bill. We clearly have not.

For all those reasons, the House needs substantially more time than has been allocated. We should remember that, until the debate had developed, the public did not know about all the issues that were involved and, today, those are better understood. The result is that, even in the past few days, major points have been made, such as the point of conscience. Before some people vote, they want to know the candidates' stance on the major moral issues that we all face. We all know that that is the case, because all hon. Members are elected according to that system, and when we stand for election we must answer questions on our beliefs. One report said: Bishops last night accused Tony Blair of destroying voters' rights to make moral choices on issues such as abortion and the arms trade. They joined ethical campaigners in a fierce assault on plans to adopt a new voting system in Euro-elections next year. In a strongly worded letter to the Prime Minister, they warn that 'closed lists' … will effectively disenfranchise millions of people with strong religious or moral views. That argument has developed during debates on the Bill. It is therefore nonsensical to say that opposition to the Bill is confined to the Conservative party and the House of Lords. There is a very wide coalition of opposition to the Bill.

Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there is a need to scrutinise a further aspect, concerning the nature of the European Parliament? Unlike the House, it does not have a system in which one party is in power as such, but, if the Government's proposal for the European elections were implemented, the work carried out by individual MEPs might be influenced by whether they were assiduous, and attended and had responsibilities on committees, or whether they chose not to. Obviously, their role in a particular constituency, especially where there was no affiliation between the electorate and a specific Member, might mean that some MEPs could spend all their time doing constituency work, building up profiles and so on, while others carried the responsibility of committee work. If that position were mirrored in this House, Members of the party in government could be disadvantaged.

Sir Norman Fowler

My hon. Friend makes a strong and powerful case. I shall not, if she will forgive me, develop it, because there are such obvious and unsatisfactory time constraints on the debate.

The Government have unquestionably and undoubtedly lost the argument on the Bill. They have been unable to persuade their own Back Benchers; they have been unable to persuade the press. I was delighted to hear my old newspaper, The Birmingham Post, being set up as an example of the massive press support for the Home Secretary. He said that I used to be chairman of the company; that is true, but he omitted to say that it is now owned by the Daily Mirror. The Government have been unable to persuade the public or the press.

I say in all seriousness that I believe that it is insulting, not only to the House but to the public, to truncate discussion of the Bill, as is proposed. I hope that, during the debate, we shall not hear from the Government great complaints about the constitution, when they are forcing through a Bill under the severest guillotine measure that any hon. Member can remember. It shows that the Government have lost the argument and the debate. The motion should therefore be rejected.

6.13 pm
Mr. Richard Allan (Sheffield, Hallam)

The Liberal Democrats accept the guillotine motion; I am sorry to disappoint the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) yet again. The Conservatives' concern for the mortal souls of the Liberal party—as they style us—has been touching throughout the many debates on the Bill, and is greatly appreciated by me and my colleagues.

We have debated this subject for so many hours that we believe that there are no new arguments to be made—only decisions, which, unfortunately, have been lacking due to the nature of the ping-pong in ermine that we experienced towards the end of the previous Session. We have been asked to back the provision of more time for debate on this subject, so that we can follow the common dictum that the primary tool of opposition is the use of time, but, in my recent time in the House, I have learnt that that dictum often leads to us giving our debate plenty of quantity but little quality. I suspect that we may well again be running into a situation where the Opposition are talking about issues other than the issue on which they have chosen to focus for most of the time, and saying, "These are the issues that we want to debate." In that case, why did they choose to spend so much time on the specific issue of closed and open lists if they are really interested in the other subjects?

Mr. Sayeed

The Home Secretary described the question of closed lists versus open lists as a detail. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the proposition of closed lists is just a detail?

Mr. Allan

We are returning to a familiar subject. We have said that we have two primary objectives. The first—and key—one is the achievement of proportionality; the second is the extension of voter choice. We believe that the benefits of greater proportionality in the Bill as tabled far exceed any disappointment that we have at not achieving the open lists, and therefore back the Bill as it stands, as the alternative to first past the post. We can make that position clear again in the later stages of consideration of the Bill.

Mr. Sayeed

Answer the question.

Mr. Allan

I thought I had said that the issue of greater proportionality is far more significant than the issue of closed or open lists. The voter choice element is secondary to the principal issue of proportionality.

I have gained a great benefit from these debates. I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield and others who have participated for giving me an opportunity to learn about the more arcane elements of parliamentary procedure at a greatly accelerated rate—experience that it often takes hon. Members many years to acquire. My only sadness is that the proposed changes to another place may shortly render that knowledge redundant; I certainly hope so.

I have discussed this subject with a far wiser head than mine—my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith), who has great experience of these matters and of parliamentary procedure. We have agreed that, as the Home Secretary outlined, there has been abuse of convention in the debate so far.

I draw attention to contributions made to the most recent debate on this subject in another place by my noble Friend Lord Russell and by the Conservative Lord Garel-Jones. Both had resisted the change, but, in the final debate, they argued that, in that fifth and final battle, it would be an abuse of convention not to allow the Bill to pass, as the Government had a mandate for it. Both argued that, having made their opposition clear in a perfectly honourable way within the conventions, it now behoved them, if they wanted to stay within the conventions, to allow the Bill to pass. I am disappointed that other Lords on the Conservative Benches were persuaded otherwise, having been given an indication as to their duty. I believe that Lord Garel-Jones and Lord Russell had the entirely correct approach to the conventions.

We believe that all the key issues that have been mentioned by Conservative Members were debated at length in all the stages that preceded our final charade over the open and closed lists. The suggestion that there was no debate on the principle of proportional representation versus first past the post, or on the size of regions, or on whether we should have regions, is a gross misrepresentation of debates that I sat through in the previous Session, in which all those issues were debated at length.

We believe that many people outside this place—including many prospective Conservative candidates—are now desperate for us to resolve the issue and pass the Bill. Conservative candidates—including the Conservative, Lord Bethell—have expressed great concern at the tactics employed.

The Conservative party obviously needs a strategic diary secretary, as at present its opposition is in the wrong place and at the wrong time. It would be appropriate for the Bill to proceed with all due speed, as the debate that we need on the subject has been had—as hon. Members present know, however much they argue otherwise.

6.18 pm
Miss Melanie Johnson (Welwyn Hatfield)

I believe that this is the sixth time that the subject has been debated in the House. The fifth time that it was debated, on 18 November 1998, there was a massive majority in favour of the Bill.

The danger—[Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) wishes to say something, I shall give way to him to allow him to say it.

Mr. Shepherd

Of course the Bill was not debated six times. It was the Lords amendment that was debated a number of times. That is a narrow point.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Sedentary comments that lead to further interruption of debate are not very helpful in a time-limited situation.

Miss Johnson

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

There is a danger that a Bill about a system to be used for electing MEPs will dominate the main business of the House. The key points have been debated and, as was remarked earlier, 34 hours of debate have taken place. As the Home Secretary commented, three and a half hours on each clause or schedule is a great deal of time. If the Opposition have not advanced their arguments, although they have had ample time in which to do so, many would say that they had wasted their time.

The vote on the last occasion was Ayes 326 and Noes 133—a clear majority of 193 in favour of the passage of the Bill.

Mr. Andrew Lansley (South Cambridgeshire)

Does the hon. Lady recall that, at that time, the vote was on the motion to disagree with the Lords in their amendment, and to send to the Lords another amendment in lieu of that amendment? Although I opposed it, the House agreed to a review of the electoral mechanism proposed by the Government, yet the Government have now brought back a Bill that does not include such a review. Will the hon. Lady explain why?

Miss Johnson

Rather than strengthening the hon. Gentleman's case, the fact that we have gone through much additional scrutiny, which has seemed tortuous to many of us, detracts from it. We are now discussing issues for which precedents exist but, as the Home Secretary observed in his opening remarks, to some extent we are beyond precedent, because we have seen torn apart in front of us fundamental conventions by which the House operates.

It is important for you as the Opposition to realise that closed lists are not controversial for Labour Members. If you believe something different—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Lady is confusing second and third person. I have nothing to do with the matter.

Miss Johnson

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Opposition Members are confused if they believe that a few speakers from the Government Benches who disagree with the Government represent disagreement by the vast majority of Government Back Benchers.

Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West)


Miss Johnson

I will not give way. A majority of 193 is a clear sign. The mark of whether we support the Government is whether we support them in the Division Lobby. Those of us who passed through that Lobby are keen for the measure to go ahead in its present form.

On 1 July 1986, in the debate on the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, to which the Home Secretary referred, the then Leader of the House, Mr. John Biffen, moving the allocation of time motion, said that the Bill had "constitutional importance", as does the present Bill. He said that a significant amount of time had already been provided for the Bill, and that is also true in this case. He remarked that, on its Second Reading, the Bill had a clear majority of 319 votes to 160", which is a majority of 159. It is worth noting that, at its last consideration, the Bill received a majority of 193, which is clearly in excess of that.

In closing the debate, the then Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Lynda Chalker commented: The public are not impressed when we sit here night after night raking through the tepid embers of past battles. They want Parliament to get on with the job."—[Official Report, 1 July 1986; Vol. 100, c. 933–974.] That is what this motion would do. The debate has been held; the issues have been fully aired. If they have not, it is the Opposition's fault for not doing so. A clear majority support the Bill, and there are plenty of precedents. I support the motion.

Let us remind ourselves of the precedents. The motion for the allocation of time—or the guillotine, as people happily call it when they want to add to the drama—is mentioned by "Erskine May" as one of the devices that it is important to consider in balancing the claims of business and the rights of debate. I accept that that is an important balance. It is our task both to get business done and to enable hon. Members to debate matters properly in the Chamber. There have been several occasions since 1945 when an allocation of time motion has been accepted.

"Erskine May" goes on to say that such procedures affirm the rights of the majority". In the present case, we seek to affirm the rights of the majority in the House who supported the Bill, as well as the rights of the majority of the people, who sent us here on a manifesto which, as the Home Secretary commented, made it clear that we would make such changes. Democracy is the will of the majority when the debate has been had. The debate has taken place, and now is the time to move forward.

6.25 pm
Sir Brian Mawhinney (North-West Cambridgeshire)

This is the first time in almost 20 years in the House that I have spoken on a guillotine motion. I spent more than 11 of those years on the Government Front Bench, so the opportunities were more limited than the original statistic might suggest. When I stepped down from the Opposition Front Bench in June, had anyone suggested to me that this, my first Back-Bench speech since 1985, would be on a guillotine motion, I would have been deeply sceptical. Nevertheless, that is the speech that I shall make.

I am sorry that the Home Secretary has left. I hope that the Minister will tell him that I feel moved to speak because of the Home Secretary's insistence that closed lists were some sort of matter of principle that lay at the heart of the Government's thinking on the Bill. For, as my right hon. Friend the shadow Home Secretary reminded the House, it was my intervention at the Dispatch Box on Second Reading that elicited from the Home Secretary the acknowledgement that he had an open mind on whether there should be a closed list or an open list.

I shall not quote verbatim, but I believe Hansard records that the tenor of my remarks was that that was a significant statement by the Home Secretary, which I asked him to repeat. I said that we would want to consult with him during that period of open-mindedness. I hope the House will understand why I am singularly unimpressed by those on the Government Front Bench who now try to peddle the line that they were always in favour of the closed list, as a matter of principle.

May I add, for the Minister to convey to the Home Secretary, that in the House on a number of occasions since the general election I have expressed appreciation to the Home Secretary for his courtesy and for the way in which he has behaved? So I am not—I repeat not—suggesting that the Home Secretary is behaving in a duplicitous way. However, it is right to point out to the House that that newly acquired principle is precisely that—a newly acquired principle to enable the Government to get their legislation.

I have no problem in principle with the concept of guillotine motions. I have always held in high regard my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd), who has principled opposition to guillotine motions. He will recall that on a number of occasions during the previous Administration, when he was speaking vehemently against the previous Government introducing guillotine motions, I frequently came into the House to listen to his contribution, even though the Government Whips might have thought him slightly less helpful than they would have wished.

There is a principled argument against guillotine motions, but I do not hold it. It is right that the Government of the day should get their legislation. We introduced guillotine motions and, in doing so, followed a precedent of the previous Labour Government. I have no problem with the Government introducing a guillotine motion as such this evening, or with the Government invoking the Parliament Act. The Home Secretary, rather unconvincingly, spoke about the conventions of the other place having been torn up in the case of the Bill.

As my right hon. and hon. Friends have pointed out, the Parliament Act exists precisely because there is always an opportunity for the other House to move beyond revision on an issue that may affect the passage of a Bill. As Labour Members have said, if that happens, it is right that the elected Government of the day should have their will. The Parliament Act is there is ensure that that happens. But I hope that the Minister will not persist in the charade—a charade that is hard to defend—that, because the Government of the day have lost a few votes in another place, that can be spun into a great constitutional crisis.

I remember when—weekly, it seemed to me—Viscount Cranborne reported to the last Government the number of votes that that Government were losing in the House of Lords. Losing votes is not in itself a prelude to a constitutional crisis.

Mr. George Howarth

The difference is that, on this occasion, the House of Lords has overturned decisions made by the House of Commons. I do not think that a precedent for that was established when the right hon. Gentleman's party was in government.

Sir Brian Mawhinney

There may not be a precedent for this degree of repetition, but there was a recognition of something that still obtains today. It was recognised that the Parliament Act was intended to ensure that the will of this Chamber would ultimately prevail. That is right. It is the Government's view, and it would be the view of the Conservative party whether it was in government or in opposition. None of us questions the fact that, ultimately, the will of the democratically elected Chamber should prevail—and it will prevail in regard to this Bill. That is what the Parliament Act is about.

I hope that the Minister will forgive a Member of Parliament who has been in the House for quite a long time for not falling prey to the excitement about this great constitutional crisis that Ministers—with, I must say, a conspicuous lack of success—are trying to generate. I must tell the Minister that my feelings about the motion are ambivalent. I believe that depriving my constituents of their historic rights to vote for an individual is an outrage. I will not mince words. I am interested by the number of constituents who, without being prompted, have made clear to me that sense of outrage during the past few weeks. It will not comfort the Minister to learn that the affiliations of those people extend well beyond those of people whom, even in my wildest fantasies, I would expect to vote for me as a parliamentary candidate.

The Minister will know from my speech on Second Reading—the Bill's first Second Reading, that is—that I am deeply unhappy about the ending of constituencies, as opposed to areas.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. That may displease the right hon. Gentleman, but we are debating a timetable motion, and he should not go into matters that will he dealt with on Second Reading in any depth.

Sir Brian Mawhinney

I note your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

My point is that I am outraged by the imposition of a guillotine. Owing to the lack of time for debate, hugely important issues cannot be explored in the detail that they require. I must tell the Minister, however, that although I am outraged by the timetable motion, in a sense I welcome it. It will be apparent even to the most partisan Labour supporters outside the House that, when their Government provide for a timetable motion, a Second Reading, a Committee stage, a Report stage and a Third Reading to take place in four hours, it is clear that that Government do not expect the primary legislation that is being debated to be given the scrutiny—from elected Members—that it deserves. I welcome that aspect of the motion, which constitutes the most powerful demonstration to the public of the Government's arrogance.

The Prime Minister became very frisky the other day. He does not like being called a control freak. I assume that the Minister does not like being called a control freak either.

Mr. George Howarth

I never have been.

Sir Brian Mawhinney

In that case, the Minister does not understand the collective nature of government. The present Government are made up of control freaks: people who are arrogantly telling the country that, in regard to major legislation, they know better than the combined wisdom of the House of Commons. They will not even give the House of Commons an opportunity to examine this fundamental constitutional Bill. However the Minister wishes to slice it, that conveys an arrogant message to the people, who now understand that it is increasingly the Government's attitude.

In that sense, I welcome the motion. It is politically hamfisted. The Minister expects the House to look at a constitutional Bill and debate the timetable motion relating to it, all in four hours. That is the message that is being sent to the public. The issue is not the guillotine, or even the timetable. As the Minister will recall, when we debated the Bill in the last Session we discussed the amount of time that it would be appropriate to set aside to examine the issues. The Minister will, I think, be gracious enough to concede that we did not filibuster at any stage. We kept our word, and gave the Bill adequate consideration—and, having done so, we did not berate the Government for tabling it.

I give way to the Minister.

Mr. Howarth

I was not asking the right hon. Gentleman to give way, but as he has been kind enough to do so, let me say this. I confirm what he has said, but it rather contradicts the overall point that he is making. The Bill was given detailed consideration when it was dealt with in the House of Commons during the last Session.

Sir Brian Mawhinney

On the contrary. Only a few days ago, the Minister and I went to another place and heard Her Majesty introduce a new Session of Parliament. We heard a list of Bills that would constitute the business of the current Parliament. Although this Bill was not mentioned, it has been introduced, and the House has a right to scrutinise it.

If the Minister genuinely believed that an element of scrutiny had taken place that ought to be taken into account this time around, it would have been courteous of him—or the Home Secretary—to replicate the discussions in which we engaged during the last Session, in order to secure an arrangement. Ministers did not do that; instead, they sent the country a message conveying the Government's arrogance in tabling a motion allowing a total of four hours—including three hours for the guillotine debate—for discussion of every stage of a constitutional Bill.

Mr. Clive Soley (Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush)

I cannot allow the right hon. Gentleman to persist in his charge of arrogance, given that he served in one of the most arrogant Governments in recent history. I should also be interested to learn why the right hon. Gentleman felt perfectly able, in the last Government, to impose a list system on Northern Ireland.

Sir Brian Mawhinney

As the hon. Gentleman—better, perhaps, than most Members of Parliament—will recall, the legislation to which he refers was intended to enable parties—not individuals—to become involved in discussion, with a view to building on the foundations that we had laid for the Good Friday agreement. The nature of the passage of that legislation was different from the passage of this Bill. The hon. Gentleman, with his detailed knowledge of Northern Ireland, knows that and I hope that he is encouraged that I know it, and remember it, as well.

I give my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) a message. We have four hours, of which more than an hour has been used. I hope that Opposition Front Benchers will not play the Government's arrogant game and that, when the guillotine motion takes effect and we move to Second Reading, my right hon. and hon. Friends will give the Bill the detailed consideration that it deserves, as is appropriate to a Second Reading debate.

If that gets us to the end of four hours before the debate on Second Reading is completed, so be it. The message that will be sent to the country is that the Government are arrogant. The fact that we could not complete the debate on Second Reading, even though there was no hint of filibustering, would add weight to that charge of arrogance. This is a despicable motion, and I hope that the House rejects it.

6.41 pm
Mr. David Curry (Skipton and Ripon)

If I set off now, I could reach neither Skipton nor Ripon in four hours. If I had set off when the debate began, I could not have been in my constituency meeting people by the time that we had completed the entire consideration of a major constitutional Bill. That shows the extent of the discussion that we shall have.

The Home Secretary has only himself to blame for his situation. He began by treating the measure with the utmost flippancy, and he has ended by treating it as constitutional outrage. There has been no intermediate stage between the two—it is quite a transition. He began by reminding us that he was quite open to the idea of an open list, which is why we are so concerned, but it fell foul of the Belgian consideration. The House fell apart, having realised that because the Belgians use it, it is, almost by definition, something that cannot not be pursued. I am afraid that that is rather typical of some attitudes.

I have three concerns, and they are all to do with time. First, we need time to discuss three things that matter. Unlike some hon. Members, I believe that we need a European Parliament that enjoys legitimacy. It has a major role to play—a role that neither this House nor any national Parliament can play. As legislation in the European Union develops and becomes more complex, it has to be subject to scrutiny. We in this House try to play our role and try to play a complementary role to the European Parliament, as we should, but it will not do to bundle into this world—through a sort of Caesarean section imposed by a guillotine motion—Members of the European Parliament who do not have the legitimacy to do their job properly.

That is not the right way to deal with constitutional legislation. I have been in the job, and it is difficult enough to discharge one's responsibilities in the European Parliament without feeling that the whole thing has been pushed into a slightly contemnible existence.

This is happening against a background of the ethnic cleansing that has taken place in the Labour party, in respect of the purging of its lists. Selection in my party has not exactly been in disarray, but there have been one or two minor disagreements. No doubt selection in the Liberal party—using whatever jargon it needed to make sure that selection was man-woman-man-woman and perfectly matched to the latest social trends—went extremely well.

All of us would have a certain amount of fun and games if we had to go back to the first-past-the-post system, but the key is that we must have legitimacy for the Parliament. We need to discuss the fact that the Bill will impose institutional anonymity for MEPs, and impose it by guillotine.

The second reason why we need more time is because we have to reflect on the legitimacy of this House. It is a curious and slightly perverse coincidence that, only a week or so ago, we were discussing how to improve our scrutiny of European legislation, and the fact that we were not doing the job adequately and needed to do it better. Practically simultaneously, the guillotine motion has shown what we really feel about the scrutiny of European legislation—it is a secondary issue.

It is crucial that we be consistent with ourselves. I believe in scrutiny, by this House and by the European Parliament. We need equivalent legitimacy to do that job in the name of all our constituents.

Mr. Ian Stewart (Eccles)

The right hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir B. Mawhinney) said that the measure had been adequately scrutinised. Does the right hon. Gentleman disagree with him?

Mr. Curry

Of course I disagree, for two reasons. First, the scrutiny was of the extremely narrow amendments that came back from the other place. Secondly, we are in a new Session. As far as I am aware, the constitutional rule of this House is that each Session is sufficient unto itself. I understand that only private Bills can roll across Sessions; we have not yet changed our rules.

Sir Brian Mawhinney

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that nothing about the imposition of the Parliament Acts requires a Bill to be guillotined in such a way when it comes back for consideration in a second Session?

Mr. Curry

My right hon. Friend, who has been a Member of the House for twice as long as me, is absolutely right. I am grateful for his remark.

The third reason why we need more time is that the Bill diminishes democracy in one obvious way—there will be no by-elections. We all know what a check by-elections are on Governments. Moods and circumstances change, and by-elections are massively inconvenient. We might wish that they did not happen.

The one crime that is even worse than openly dissenting from one's party is dying while a Member of this House, which is massively inconvenient for the Whips. I go to the gym so that I can be difficult by the former method rather than the latter, but by-elections are a useful check and their absence will lessen democracy.

A list system also lends itself to abuse. We used to have the list for the European Parliament, which is why the issue of time needs to be developed—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. When we debate Second Reading, the right hon. Gentleman can put all those arguments. At the moment, we must talk about the narrow subject of the guillotine motion.

Mr. Curry

Thank you very much, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall merely offer an aperitif, in that we must be allowed time to consider how the measure could be disfigured. Continental politicians or the leaders of the party—

Mr. Soley

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I understand that the leader of the Conservative party in the House of Lords has resigned. Could we have a statement from the Opposition about whether Conservative Front Benchers in the Commons are speaking for the Conservative party in the House of Lords any more, or are there two Conservative parties—one in the Lords and one here? Either way, it would assist the debate if we knew who is speaking for them.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Only the Government have powers to make statements in the House.

Mr. Curry

Many accusations may be laid against me, but speaking for the Conservative Front Bench is not currently one of them. Therefore, I can continue.

The abuse of the system that can take place is that party leaders—significant political figures overseas—may lead the list and be Members of the European Parliament for 10 minutes before resigning. Did people vote to have Mr. Chirac, Mr. Giscard d'Estaing or Mr. Jospin resign after 10 minutes? Are we to lend ourselves to that manipulation of the lists, where people are merely spectators and are exploited? That is why time—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Only the right hon. Gentleman's last comment was relevant to the motion. He cannot put arguments about closed and open lists at this stage.

Mr. Curry

A talent in politics is to have the intuition to realise when an argument has been taken as far as circumstances permit. I shall therefore conclude.

The Government should have their business, but they should work for it. They should have the Bill, in the end, because that is democracy—but they should work for it. This serious constitutional measure breaks with tradition in our politics. It changes how we have naturally thought about the way in which our politics operate and the chemistry of the democracy that we defend. That is why we should give the Bill detailed scrutiny. The Government's imposition of this guillotine is an abuse of the spirit of the way in which things are done in this country.

6.50 pm
Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills)

There is an element of deja vu about these debates. What goes around, comes around. It is cheering to see Conservative Members solidly opposing the guillotine with such fire, and the extraordinary spectacle of the Home Secretary defending what I genuinely believe to be the worst written guillotine motion that has ever been put before the House.

To support his contention that this motion is desperately necessary, the Home Secretary invoked the words of Lord Biffen, when he was Leader of the House of Commons, during the passage of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1986. I voted against the guillotine motion on that legislation, and I seem to remember that the Home Secretary also did so. The Home Secretary referred to it not because of his voting record, but because it was a constitutional measure. He wanted to show that this business motion is in tune with many previous business motions.

Many parents tell their children that, if something that was done before was wrong, doing it again does not make it right. That is an evident truth. However, the basis of the Government's argument is that the Conservative Government were wrong to impose that guillotine motion, but now that they are doing it on a constitutional issue it is right to do so. That is nonsense.

The difference between the European Parliamentary Elections Bill and the European Communities (Amendment) Bill of 1986 is important. This motion imposes a guillotine before we have had Second Reading and before we have had a stumble in Committee. It is not being imposed because the Report stage is manifestly being delayed wrongly. It is being imposed before we have even come to debate the issues in the Bill. That did not happen under what I believe was a profoundly wrong guillotine on the European Communities (Amendment) Bill, and that is the difference.

When has there been a similar guillotine motion?

Mr. Allan

I have listened to the hon. Gentleman with great care, because he is, by repute, good on such matters. I can point to another difference. The right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) announced before the Bill came to the House that he would show zero tolerance towards it and would do all that he could to obstruct it. How could we have had agreement on a sensible timetable given the Leader of the Opposition's comments?

Mr. Shepherd

The hon. Gentleman refers to a "sensible timetable", and that is the point. I am addressing the timetable motion before us—I hope within the terms of the Standing Orders. My proposition is that it is not a sensible timetable. As it is the only timetable I can refer to, the hon. Gentleman will understand why there is no way I can row in his boat.

What were comparable motions? I regret that the Home Secretary is following in the footsteps of my noble Friend, Lord Baker. The great precedent is that sterling piece of legislation, the Dangerous Dogs Act 1989, which was guillotined before Second Reading. That was an outrage. Under the terms of that motion, six hours were allowed for Second Reading, which included—as this motion does—the guillotine. The Committee of the whole House lasted for five hours and Report and Third Reading took one hour, so 12 hours were allowed to debate the Bill's contentions.

That Bill also had something that this Bill does not have; I regret to say that it had the support of all parties in the House. Lord Baker put to us an imperative, sent to him by those two trusty, Labour-supporting papers, The Sun and the Daily Mirror, which assured him that the nation was at risk of being consumed by dangerous dogs. As I recall through the mists of time, he wanted action this day on all stages, because he had identified that the summer was when bitches were in heat, and that a new breed would assault us before Christmas.

The Government have grasped the worst possible way of constructing a guillotine. I accept that the House does not necessarily share my reservations about guillotines. The Home Secretary has allowed three hours for debate on the guillotine motion and a vote. The Government are prepared to countenance the possibility that the debate on the guillotine and the vote will reduce the time allocated for Second Reading, Committee of the whole House, Report—we know that that will not be allowed—and Third Reading to 40 minutes. The Home Secretary's opening speech took half an hour. He was generous in giving way, which is proper because these are sensitive and difficult matters, but that was at the expense of the debate and vote. That is why this is a vile and outrageous motion. The Government are seriously contemplating taking all the stages of this Bill in the short time of 40 minutes.

Assuming that we get through Second Reading, we would then consider the reasonable amendments that have been tabled, such as those dealing with by-elections. That matter is relevant and concerns many people. We may want to divide on such an amendment. The Home Secretary has barely stood up; we will have a vote; the business will be over and the Bill shipped to the Lords. That cannot be right. We are adults.

We represent people, and we understand the processes. I understand the fight between the Opposition and the Government, because those matters touch on the electoral process, on the people whom we represent and on why we are chosen to represent people. The Government are prepared to condense the debate into 40 minutes at the most. That is the proposition on the Order Paper. They may have hoped that the debate on the guillotine would be over in a minute or two, so that we would have had four hours for the rest of the proceedings. We should reflect on that. We would have had four hours to debate a Bill affecting our parliamentary electoral system and the nature of representative democracy in comparison with 12 hours devoted to the Dangerous Dogs Bill.

That legislation never did the Conservative Government much good. Some hon. Members may remember the long line of people who came to tell us that their favoured and loved mutt was not what other people claimed it was. The new law bedevilled the courts. I do not think that Lord Baker of Dorking would include in his learned range of interests on his curriculum vitae the fact that he introduced the guillotine on the Dangerous Dogs Bill.

I do not want to think of the Home Secretary in that context, but he has introduced the Dangerous Dogs European Elections Bill, and it does not do him justice. This process has become almost farcical, and it denigrates the Chamber. I am seeking to get just some glimmer of sympathy from Labour Members. We know that there is no problem on the Bill. The 1911 Act is being invoked, which is in accordance with the constitution. That is the Government's position.

The previous Government acted in a similar manner with the War Crimes Bill and that did not create great excitement. This Government have insisted on playing ping-pong with the House of Lords. After the second time the Bill returned they could have announced their intention to invoke the 1911 Act and the Bill would have proceeded on a proper course, in accordance with both our written constitution and the conventions of that constitution, but this is a play. [Interruption.] I am sorry, I do not understand. If the hon. Member for Weaver Vale (Mr. Hall), the Labour Whip, wants to interrupt, I am prepared to sit down and listen to him. [HON. MEMBERS: "Come on.'"] There is no point in making that comment. We have a Deputy Speaker who keeps good order. Even during the worst days, when I was in fear of my life from my side, the Whips showed some form of courtesy in the discussion across the Floor of the House. I point out to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that there is a role here for you.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

There is definitely a role for the Deputy Speaker. I ask hon. Members on both sides of the House to be quiet, but particularly the Whips.

Mr. Shepherd

I am grateful for your protection, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

This is part of a bigger game, a bigger play, to which we mere Back Benchers are not party. The Government's actions are an attempt to grab public opinion. Remember that part of the role of an Opposition is to try to cause delay; Oppositions have done it in the past. That is understandable because, ultimately, we will all stand in front of the electorate and be judged on the way in which we conduct ourselves. Unfortunately, many of my former colleagues have already been judged. That, in turn, will be the fate of this Government, so we should be more mindful about the processes in which we take part because they protect all the interests of all the people here.

It was only the Government who brought the Bill back, not the Opposition. The Government are invoking the 1911 Act. Given that the Bill had been rejected twice in the Lords, it would have been right to invoke that Act then, but we went through the farce five times, backwards and forwards, trying to see down their lordships. Now we are going to go through it again with the nonsense of trying to assert that there is a constitutional blockage. There is none and the Home Secretary knows it. That is why we have this outrageous, truly humiliating guillotine. It cannot be a serious guillotine.

Like most of the people of this country, I trust the Government. By and large, we want our Governments to succeed. We do not want them to fail, but to see such contempt for constitutional propriety is extraordinary.

Mr. George Howarth

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that, in the previous Session—I accept that this is a new Session—the Bill, which is six clauses long, was debated for 34 hours and that the identical Bill has come back again? Does he not think that that should have some bearing on the way in which we deliberate on the matter?

Mr. Shepherd

I have weighed that up, but the point is that the Bill came back for debate on the narrow focus of Lords amendments. I never spoke during the entire consideration of the Bill. There was only one major discussion of it—Second Reading—and because of time constraints, I did not get called. That is not unusual, but what came back from the House of Lords were the narrow Lords amendments. That is what we have been discussing five times.

Now the Bill has been re-presented in a new Session of Parliament in its entirety but, as was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Mr. Lansley), there is an omission from the amended form—the Government's only amended form: the review mechanism after the elections. That is now omitted, for reasons that we understand. The Government may wish to include it again, but they cannot because they are trapped by the 1911 Act. We understand that, but it is not us who have made the fuss. It is the Government.

I understand why the Government may want to obscure the issues behind this matter with their intentions on the House of Lords, but they have their mandate on that. They will get what they want on the House of Lords; no one doubts that either. Our question on that has always been where is the check and balance, and what will be the second stage of that reform? That is a perfectly reasonable question to pose in political debate.

As I said at the start, in the middle and towards the end of my speech, this is a thoroughly bad guillotine. If we do stand for something, and we are all judged, as I tried to show, as individual Members of Parliament, we should have a word to say about the proper processes of this House. Leastways, let us have amendments and properly discuss the matter.

The amendments that were mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) are worthy of discussion. I hope that the House has respect for that and that the Government reflect that this is nonsense. Even at this late stage, they can move to make the process more acceptable to all hon. Members.

7.6 pm

Mr. Clive Soley (Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush)

Although I have missed some of the debate, for which I apologise, I have heard more than enough to convince me that there is a case to speak on the guillotine motion, which is causing so much distress among Conservative Members. I will refer to the comments of the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) in a moment. I know his views on this very well; I have some sympathy for the general thrust of his argument, although not on this issue.

If anything, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary should stand condemned for doing too much to help the Conservative party by getting the Bill through as fast as possible. If the Leader of the Conservative party in the House of Lords has resigned because he is trying to do a deal to try to cope with the problems that the party in here has caused him—

Miss Melanie Johnson

He was sacked.

Mr. Soley

Sorry, he was sacked; that is right. I am never sure whether they use a guillotine in the House of Lords, but, if he has been sacked, fair enough. What we knew full well is that the leader of the Conservative party in the House of Lords was saying one thing, and the leader of the Conservative party in here was saying something entirely different. I would have thought that the guillotine would do them a favour by getting the Bill through as fast as possible and out of the way, with the least possible embarrassment.

Let us consider the Back Benchers' role, which is what genuinely concerns the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills. As we all know, this is a battle between the Lords and the Commons. It involves the rights of this elected Chamber on a certain issue, which the Conservative party in the House of Lords, using its in-built majority, has sought to push back here time and again. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Knowsley, North and Sefton, East (Mr. Howarth), was accurate in his intervention. This Bill has already been debated in the previous Session.

I think that one Conservative Member referred to that debate being in the previous Parliament. If that had been the case, Conservative Members would be right about providing adequate time for debate because Parliament would be full of new Members—or there would be many new Members. The previous Session, however, was attended by the same people as are present during this one; they had the same debate on the same issues for more than 30 hours. People outside do not understand it when hon. Members spend 30-odd hours on a fairly narrow issue: in this case, proportional representation.

There are many different forms of proportional representation throughout the world—closed lists, open lists and others—all of which have their advantages and disadvantages. They are all relevant. None is totally bad, any more than the first-past-the-post system is totally bad. They all have merits and problems, but the point is that to debate that matter over and again is nonsense and we know it.

There is one problem for Back Benchers; the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills is an example of it par excellence. I know that he has frequently been in a minority of one in his party and I respect him for that. The problem for Back Benchers is that they want to use time to challenge the Government. I have had this debate with the hon. Gentleman before, but tonight I extend it to his party, to which I offer some advice. It has had about 18 months in opposition. I had 18 years of it and much of that time was spent trying to prove that time was the best weapon that I had against a Government with a big majority. As the right hon. Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir B. Mawhinney) knows full well, it very rarely worked. As for my contributions on the issue of time, even when I was making the best case possible, it was the painful elaboration of the obvious. I would repeat it time and time again in the hope that one day the Government would say, "My God he's right. Why don't we do what he says? It is so sensible." Of course, it does not work like that. Sometimes one can get a Government to change but very rarely by the exercise of time, unless they are up against the end of the Parliament or Session.

Sir Brian Mawhinney

The hon. Gentleman's expositions were always excellent, they just were not persuasive.

Mr. Soley

The right hon. Gentleman is kind but if they were excellent, I should have had some credit for it. Even one or two amendments would have been appreciated.

As the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills knows, I sympathise with his frustration about the declining power—not role, but power—of Back Benchers. He is right that there is a problem, but as I have told him elsewhere, the issue is about timetabling. As I have said before, having learned the painful lesson over 18 years, there is a real advantage for Back Benchers in good timetabling. That needs to be agreed between parties. The problem in this case is that we cannot have a normal timetabling programme because of how the matter was handled in the previous Session and because it is part of a much bigger battle between the House of Lords and House of Commons. We need to get the Bill through, and without any more messing about.

Given all the debate in the previous Session, and as we know full well what the issue is, and as the issue has already caused enormous problems in the Tory party, the Opposition should be trying to get the Bill through. I was in Brussels the other week at the European Commission. Conservative Members of the European Parliament were saying, "For God's sake, don't give us first past the post at the European elections." One reason is that many more of them would lose their seats. The other reason that they are worried about what is happening here is that they fear that the Conservative party is trying to marginalise those of its members who are sympathetic to Europe, such as the right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry). He referred to institutionalised anonymity. For a terrible moment, I thought that he was referring to the Leader of the Opposition.

The problem for the Conservative party with its MEPs is real because they do not want first past the post. They would like this Bill to go through and to have a list system precisely because they know that in large constituencies where Members are not known, it is better—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Some hon. Members have been given some leeway, so I have given the hon. Gentleman some. However that leeway must finish because we must get on.

Mr. Soley

I had anticipated your intervention, Mr. Deputy Speaker, though not quickly enough. I simply note that Conservative MEPs would like the guillotine to work to get them off the hook.

The hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills has a genuine point about the power of Back Benchers. As I have told him often before, constantly talking at Governments does not work. I have 18 years of intensive experience to prove it. What works is good timetabling of Bills, giving plenty of allowance to the Opposition, taking evidence about Bills and all the other things that we have discussed on the Modernisation Committee, on which we both serve. They also make more sense to people outside.

We have had more than 30 hours of debate on the issue. The fact that this is a new Session does not mean that those words were wasted or that those who spoke had nothing to say but that we have had that debate and need to move on. I end as I began: we need to move on, if nothing else for the sake of the Conservative party and its various parts in the House of Lords.

7.15 pm
Mr. Andrew Lansley (South Cambridgeshire)

I have sat through many of the 34 hours of debate, so hon. Members will not accuse me of coming new to the issue. Three myths are being propagated about this guillotine motion. The first was perpetuated by the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush (Mr. Soley). It is the idea that this is all about a debate between this House and the upper House. It is not; it is a debate on a guillotine motion strictly confined to the question of how much time should be allowed for debate of this Bill in this House before we send it back to another place. It is then for another place to determine how to deal with it in the light of the events of the previous Session.

The second myth is that the Bill had all the attention that it needs during previous debates. Let me instance two respects in which that is not true. Firstly, my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Cambridgeshire (Sir B. Mawhinney) rightly pointed out that on Second Reading on 25 November 1997, the Home Secretary left his mind open on open and closed lists. Interestingly, it was on 9 March, before Report and Third Reading, that he told the House that he opposed open lists and favoured closed lists; the Committee had concluded its deliberations on 5 March. The Home Secretary came back to the House when only one day's debate was left for open and closed lists.

Although the Committee was able to examine the Bill, it was not examined on the basis of the Home Secretary's final decision on open and closed lists or of his explanation for the decision. Although lists were debated several times in this House, much of the debate was on whether we agreed or disagreed with the Lords in their amendments, not on whether this House wanted to substitute a different form of open list from that chosen in another place.

Mr. Allan

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Lansley

I shall in a moment because the hon. Gentleman understands my point perfectly well. In Committee, the Liberal Democrats proposed a Belgian list system, which the Home Secretary wished to consider. That was not the system sent back to this House by their lordships, which was a perfectly viable alternative open-list system that was not then debated at length in this House.

Mr. Allan

The hon. Gentleman noted our amendment but there was a Committee in the other place in June in which the issue was debated at length. A vote on open lists was taken and lost. At that point, many sensible hon. Members realised that the decision had been taken and the argument lost.

Mr. Lansley

That is a weak argument with a weak defence. The Labour and Liberal Democrat coalition on the matter has moved to the defence that we do not need to debate it in this House because there was a debate in another place. That will not do. The debate on open lists has still not taken place to a satisfactory extent in this House for the simple reason that we have not had an opportunity to move a series of different amendments. Because of the way in which the debate on the amendments moved by the Lords took place, questions such as those that I raised about the form—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The only hon. Member who has kept to the guillotine motion was the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd). Every other hon. Member has gone on to matters that could easily be brought up on Second Reading. I ask the hon. Gentleman to take a leaf out of the book of the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills.

Mr. Lansley

My purpose is straightforward and I shall be as brief as I can. I want to show that there are valid reasons for allowing greater time for this debate because these matters have not yet been satisfactory debated in this House. I shall not dwell on open and closed lists because I have shown by reference to the timetable so far that debate has not taken place in this House in the open-ended form in which it should have.

The third myth—the Government's third false statement—was the Home Secretary's assertion that we are dealing now with exactly the same Bill. Earlier in the debate, I made the point, which was developed by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd), that we are not dealing with the Bill that was sent back to the other place with an amendment on reviewing the electoral system. Although I realise that Ministers will say that we are not dealing with that Bill because of the requirements of the Parliament Act 1911, it begs the question—if the Government persist in their intention of using closed lists—in what form should the Bill be sent back to the other place? Should it be sent back specifying closed lists and no review, or with a review? What intentions do the Government have to amend the Bill further in the other place?

I hope to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on Second Reading to elaborate on the point that we are not dealing with exactly the same Bill that we debated for all those hours in the previous Session. Not only have recent events, for example, the European parliamentary by-election in Scotland, suggested a valid need for amendments on by-elections—and we have not debated such amendments—but attached to the Bill is an explanatory memorandum differing from that which applied to the Bill that the House considered in the previous Session.

The Minister will know that, with the enactment of the Human Rights Act 1998, Ministers must now make a statement in a Bill's explanatory memorandum on its compatibility with the European convention on human rights. The Home Secretary made such a statement of compatibility on 26 November—therefore, after the point at which the House could have debated the previous Bill.

The point—which we shall debate subsequently, Mr. Deputy Speaker; I am merely trying to demonstrate that there is a point of real substance—is that article 3 of the first protocol of the European convention on human rights, which was brought into force by the Human Rights Act 1998, states: The High Contracting Parties undertake to hold free elections at reasonable intervals by secret ballot,"— so far so good under conditions which will ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature. It is entirely debatable whether the Bill is compatible with that convention provision, and whether voters will be able to express an opinion on issues such as the moral stance taken by a party's candidates on issues of conscience or to express freely their opinions on the choice of candidate presented by a party. It is far from demonstrable that the Home Secretary is right on the matter.

After passage of the Human Rights Act 1998, the important issue for the House to decide is whether it is right for us to pass this legislation in the form in which the Government are proposing it. If I catch your eye on Second Reading, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I hope to elaborate on that argument.

In only a few moments, I have demonstrated that—in addition to the amendments that my hon. Friends have tabled, which should be debated, but for which the Government have allowed inadequate time—a range of issues should be addressed.

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 347, Noes 124.

Division No. 5] [7.23 pm
Ainger, Nick Breed, Colin
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Brinton, Mrs Helen
Alexander, Douglas Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Allan, Richard Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Allen, Graham Browne, Desmond
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Armstrong, Ms Hilary Buck, Ms Karen
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Burden, Richard
Ashton, Joe Burgon, Colin
Atkins, Charlotte Burstow, Paul
Austin, John Cable, Dr Vincent
Baker, Norman Caborn, Richard
Ballard, Jackie Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Banks, Tony Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Barnes, Harry Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Barron, Kevin Campbell-Savours, Dale
Battle, John Canavan, Dennis
Bayley, Hugh Caplin, Ivor
Beard, Nigel Casale, Roger
Begg, Miss Anne Caton, Martin
Beith, Rt Hon A J Cawsey, Ian
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough) Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Berry, Roger Chaytor, David
Best, Harold Chidgey, David
Betts, Clive Chisholm, Malcolm
Blackman, Liz Church, Ms Judith
Blizzard, Bob Clapham, Michael
Borrow, David Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Clark, Dr Lynda
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Bradshaw, Ben Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Brake, Tom Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Brand, Dr Peter Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Harris, Dr Evan
Clelland, David Harvey, Nick
Coffey, Ms Ann Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Cohen, Harry Healey, John
Coleman, Iain Heath, David (Somerton & Frome
Connarfy, Michael Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Hepburn, Stephen
Cooper, Yvette Heppell, John
Corbett, Robin Hesford, Stephen
Corston, Ms Jean Hill, Keith
Cotter, Brian Hinchliffe, David
Cousins, Jim Hodge, Ms Margaret
Crausby, David Home Robertson, John
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley) Hoon, Geoffrey
Cryer, John (Hornchurch) Hope, Phil
Cummings, John Hopkins, Kelvin
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S) Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Dafis, Cynog Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretfoid)
Dalyell, Tam Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Davey, Edward (Kingston) Humble, Mrs Joan
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W) Hurst, Alan
Davidson, Ian Hutton, John
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Iddon, Dr Brian
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C) Illsley, Eric
Dawson, Hilton Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead
Denham, John Jenkins, Brian
Dewar, Rt Hon Donald Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Dismore, Andrew Johnson, Miss Melanie
Dobbin, Jim (Welwyn Hatfield)
Donohoe, Brian H Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Doran, Frank Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Dowd, Jim Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Drew, David Jones, leuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)
Drown, Ms Julia Jones, Ms Jenny
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey) (Wolverh'ton SW)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston) Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Edwards, Huw Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Efford, Clive Jowell, Ms Tessa
Ennis, Jeff Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Ewing, Mrs Margaret Keeble, Ms Sally
Fatchett, Derek Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Feam, Ronnie Keetch, Paul
Field, Rt Hon Frank Kemp, Fraser
Fisher, Mark Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)
Fitzsimons, Lorna Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Flint, Caroline Kidney, David
Follett, Barbara Kilfoyle, Peter
Foster, Rt Hon Derek King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Foster, Don (Bath) Kingham, Ms Tess
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings) Kirkwood, Archy
Foster, Michael J (Worcester) Kumar, Dr Ashok
Galloway, George Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Gardiner, Barry Lawrence, Ms Jackie
George, Andrew (St Ives) Laxton, Bob
George, Bruce (Walsall S) Lepper, David
Gerrard, Neil Leslie, Christopher
Gibson, Dr Ian Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Gilroy, Mrs Linda Linton, Martin
Godman, Dr Norman A Livingstone, Ken
Godsiff, Roger Livsey, Richard
Goggins, Paul Llwyd, Elfyn
Golding, Mrs Llin Love, Andrew
Gordon, Mrs Eileen McAllion, John
Gorrie, Donald McAvoy, Thomas
Graham, Thomas McCabe, Steve
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E) McCafferty, Ms Chris
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) McDonagh, Siobhain
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Macdonald, Calum
Grocott, Bruce McDonnell, John
Grogan, John McGuire, Mrs Anne
Gunnell, John McIsaac, Shona
Hain, Peter McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale) Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE) McNulty, Tony
Hanson, David McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John Sawford, Phil
Mahon, Mrs Alice Sedgemore, Brian
Mallaber, Judy Shaw, Jonathan
Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter Sheerman, Barry
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S) Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury) Short, Rt Hon Clare
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Skinner, Dennis
Marshall-Andrews, Robert Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Martlew, Eric Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Maxton, John Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Michael, Alun Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute) Snape, Peter
Milburn, Alan Soley, Clive
Miller, Andrew Southworth, Ms Helen
Moffatt, Laura Squire, Ms Rachel
Moore, Michael Steinberg, Gerry
Moran, Ms Margaret Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N) Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W) Stinchcombe, Paul
Morley, Elliot Stoate, Dr Howard
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Mullin, Chris Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck) Stunell, Andrew
Norris, Dan Sutcliffe, Gerry
Oaten, Mark Swinney, John
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks) Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
O'Hara, Eddie (Dewsbury)
O'Neill, Martin Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Öpik, Lembit Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Organ, Mrs Diana Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Osborne, Ms Sandra Temple-Morris, Peter
Palmer, Dr Nick Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Pearson, Ian Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Pendry, Tom Tipping, Paddy
Perham, Ms Linda Todd, Mark
Pickthall, Colin Tonge, Dr Jenny
Pike, Peter L Touhig, Don
Plaskitt, James Trickett, Jon
Pollard, Kerry Trusweli, Paul
Pond, Chris Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Pope, Greg Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Pound, Stephen Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Powell, Sir Raymond Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E) Tyler, Paul
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Wallace, James
Primarolo, Dawn Walley, Ms Joan
Prosser, Gwyn Ward, Ms Claire
Purchase, Ken Wareing, Robert N
Quin, Ms Joyce Watts, David
Quinn, Lawrie Webb, Steve
Radice, Giles White, Brian
Rammell, Bill Wicks, Malcolm
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough) Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd
Rendel, David Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Robertson, Rt Hon George Willis, Phil
(Hamilton S) Winnick, David
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW) Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Roche, Mrs Barbara Wood, Mike
Rooker, Jeff Woolas, Phil
Rooney, Terry Worthington, Tony
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Rowlands, Ted Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Roy, Frank Wyatt, Derek
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Ryan, Ms Joan Tellers for the Ayes:
Sanders, Adrian Mr. Kevin Hughes and Mr. David Jamieson.
Savidge, Malcolm
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Beggs, Roy
Amess, David Bercow, John
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Beresford, Sir Paul
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Blunt, Crispin
Baldry, Tony Boswell, Tim
Brady, Graham Loughton, Tim
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Luff, Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Burns, Simon MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Butterfill, John Maclean, Rt Hon David
Cash, William McLoughlin, Patrick
Chope, Christopher Madel, Sir David
Clappison, James Malins, Humfrey
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh) Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
(Rushcliffe) May, Mrs Theresa
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Moss, Malcolm
Collins, Tim Nicholls, Patrick
Cornmack, Sir Patrick Norman, Archie
Cran, James Page, Richard
Curry, Rt Hon David Paice, James
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice) Paterson, Owen
Donaldson, Jeffrey Pickles, Eric
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen Prior, David
Duncan, Alan Randall, John
Duncan Smith, Iain Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Evans, Nigel Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Faber, David Ruffley, David
Fallon, Michael St Aubyn, Nick
Forth, Rt Hon Eric Sayeed, Jonathan
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Fraser, Christopher Shepherd, Richard
Gale, Roger Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Garnier, Edward Soames, Nicholas
Gibb, Nick Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Gray, James Spicer, Sir Michael
Green, Damian Spring, Richard
Greenway, John Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Grieve, Dominic Streeter, Gary
Gummer, Rt Hon John Swayne, Desmond
Hague, Rt Hon William Syms, Robert
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie Tapsell, Sir Peter
Hammond, Philip Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Hawkins, Nick Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Hayes, John Taylor, Sir Teddy
Heald, Oliver Tredinnick, David
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David Trend, Michael
Horam, John Tyrie, Andrew
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot) Viggers, Peter
Hunter, Andrew Walter, Robert
Jack, Rt Hon Michael Wardle, Charles
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Whitney, Sir Raymond
Johnson Smith, Whittingdale, John
Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater) Willetts, David
Kirkbride, Miss Julie Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Laing, Mrs Eleanor Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Woodward, Shaun
Lansley, Andrew Yeo, Tim
Leigh, Edward Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E) Tellers for the Noes:
Lidington, David Mr. Nigel Waterson and Mr. Stephen Day.
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That the following provisions shall apply to proceedings on the European Parliamentary Elections Bill:

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