HC Deb 15 June 1999 vol 333 cc175-221

10. In this Order 'allotted day' means this day and any other day on which the Immigration and Asylum Bill is put down on the main business as first Government Order of the Day.

At 10 o'clock last night, in light of the lamentable lack of progress on the Report stage of the Health Bill, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House announced that we would introduce a timetable motion covering the remaining stages of the Health Bill and the Immigration and Asylum Bill.

In an effort to ensure that both those important Bills were satisfactorily debated, the Government had invited the Tory Opposition to proceed by way of an agreed programme motion, but they refused. On three occasions—20 May, 26 May and 10 June—my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House announced that it was intended that the remaining stages of the Health Bill would be dealt with in one day. Not a single Tory objected. None of them expressed the least reservation about dealing with that Bill in one day. Yesterday, on the day appointed for completion of the remaining stages, the Tories decided to spin out the debate. They spent more than three hours debating a Government new clause which the Deputy Speaker had described as being about technical arrangements on the border."— [Official Report, 14 June 1999; Vol. 333, c. 59.] and about which they had been forewarned in Committee in a letter from the Minister of State, Department of Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, lichen (Mr. Denham). Their opposition to the new clause was so important to them that they did not even bother to vote against it, having debated it for three hours. So it went on. Tory Members had to be called to order no fewer than 21 times by the Deputy Speaker during the debate.

There can be no doubt that the Bill has been thoroughly debated. It had 42 hours of debate in the House of Lords and 77 hours in Committee. The Government have responded to the points raised in both Houses by accepting amendments or by introducing our own amendments.

As a result of that proper parliamentary scrutiny, the Bill is better now than when it started out, which is only right and proper. However, last night, improving the Health Bill was not what the Tories were about: to be fair, no one would expect that from the hon. Members for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) and for Lichfield (Mr. Fabricant)—the Burke and Hare of the Tory Back Benches—or from the hon. Members for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady), for Southend, West (Mr. Amess) and for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne), who also adorned the debate.

The attitude of those Tory wreckers was made clear last night, when, simply to protract the proceedings—

Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West)


Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Would it have been in order if I were wrecking a debate? Surely that would have been out of order, and I would have been called to order by the occupant of the Chair. I should therefore like an apology from the Minister.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Lord)

The Minister has said nothing out of order.

Mr. Dobson

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The attitude of those Tory wreckers was made crystal clear last night, when, simply to protract the proceedings, they voted against three orders agreed by the professions and the Privy Council—

Mr. Brady

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Dobson


The wreckers voted against three orders to improve the professional regulation of clinical scientists, speech and language therapists and paramedics. I am sure that the members of those professions who were involved, and their patients, will have noted the priorities of the extremists who are now running the Tory party.

The five hours that the motion will provide today for debate on the Health Bill, added to the five and a half hours taken up yesterday, mean that the Bill's remaining stages will occupy 10 and a half hours on the Floor of the House. That is longer, not shorter, than the one day's debate that was envisaged originally and to which the Tories never objected.

The timetable motion deals also with the Immigration and Asylum Bill—an important measure that has been the subject of 93 hours of scrutiny in a Special Standing Committee. That procedure is rarely used, and has never been used before for this type of Bill. The Committee took written and oral evidence from a wide range of organisations and individuals outside the House, whose evidence helped to identify the key issues to be raised when the Bill was considered clause by clause. That consideration itself was very detailed.

Once again, therefore, there is no question of curtailing the debate. The motion is necessary simply to ensure that the Immigration and Asylum Bill will be dealt with over the course of the two days earmarked for its remaining stages—which is what the Tories had asked for and which the Government have provided.

As the time taken debating the motion is eating into the time available to debate the Health Bill itself, I shall be brief and simply invite my right. hon. and hon. Friends to support the motion.

4.38 pm
Miss Ann Widdecombe (Maidstone and The Weald)

The contribution made by the Secretary of State for Health epitomises the profound arrogance characterising the Government's attitude towards legislation and proper parliamentary scrutiny. Indeed, he is the same Secretary of State who effectively abolished fundholding, and then came to the House for permission to do so one year later. That is entirely typical of the way in which the Government have approached their legislation.

Today, the Government come before the House not with what is called a guillotine, but with a double guillotine, in which a time limitation will be put not only on the Health Bill—which was being debated yesterday—but on the Immigration and Asylum Bill. I should like to know, when the Secretary of State for the Home Department replies to the debate, on how many previous occasions there have been double guillotines in the House.

One can, of course, understand the Government's embarrassment. On the Immigration and Asylum Bill, the Government are afraid of their own Back Benchers, and rightly so. When it comes to the Health Bill, the Government are simply afraid to debate their own failure. It is amazing impertinence to suggest a guillotine for a Bill for which the Government have contributed the majority of the business to be considered, thus squeezing out the limited, restrained and responsible input that there has been from the Opposition parties.

The Government have tabled six new clauses on the Immigration and Asylum Bill. Because those new clauses have priority, the guillotine will squeeze out debate on Opposition amendments and new clauses. The Government have tabled 82 amendments to the Health Bill. That is rather odd. The Bill started in the Lords, where it was subjected to considerable scrutiny and many of the issues on which the Government have now tabled amendments were raised, but they tabled no amendments then and did not respond. The issues were rehearsed again during the lengthy Committee debate, but the Government did not take that opportunity to table amendments. They then flooded the amendment paper on Report with what they coyly describe as tidying-up amendments and put a guillotine on discussion. That is a most unfortunate and decidedly anti-democratic way of proceeding.

I shall be taking an interest in the Immigration and Asylum Bill and I have been taking an interest in the Health Bill. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) on the distinguished way in which he has conducted business on the Immigration and Asylum Bill and other matters in his portfolio in the past two years. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison) on the detailed way in which he has tackled a complex Bill that refers to many other Acts and raises many highly important issues. He has done that with great distinction. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) on succeeding in the task of destroying the Government's now floundering reputation on the health service. I further congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr. Hammond), whose handling of the Committee stage of the Health Bill has rightly attracted praise from both sides of the House.

Regrettably, I cannot extend my congratulations to the Government.

Mr. Charles Wardle (Bexhill and Battle)

While my right hon. Friend is on the subject of congratulations, will she join me in congratulating my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition? Given the highly unusual nature of this hybrid timetable motion, which requires skill, as well as knowledge and experience of health and home affairs, was he not particularly wise in promoting her to the home affairs role today so that she could deal so effectively with both aspects of the motion?

Miss Widdecombe

My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has great foresight.

I understand the Government's embarrassment on the Immigration and Asylum Bill. When we introduced a Bill on the subject in 1996, the current Home Secretary and his team accused us of playing the race card, indulging in vulgar electioneering and trying to make race an issue. The measures that we introduced did not go anything like as far as the Government's measures. We are now faced with the forced dispersal of asylum seekers.

In opposition, Labour Members criticised—nay, voted against—our proposals to introduce a speedy return to safe third countries; but what do they do in government? They build on our measures by removing the right to judicial review for people being returned to—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. May I gently remind the right hon. Lady that we are discussing not the content of the Bill but the allocation of time?

Miss Widdecombe

Indeed, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is important that those matters should be discussed in full, which is why we should not have time limitation. I was describing the Government's embarrassment, which is behind the guillotine motion. I will not stretch your patience by going any further into the details, other than to say that the Bill even includes fines for innocent, law-abiding lorry drivers who happen to find an illegal immigrant in the back of their lorry. If I go home and find a burglar and turn him over to the police, will I be fined? It is difficult to see how the analogy would not hold.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)

My right hon. Friend is putting the Opposition's case very strongly, but surely there is an even stronger case in the way in which Government Back Benchers are being gagged because of the Government's embarrassment over the fact that people in the Trappist tendency suddenly spoke. The Government have realised that they could lose more seats than they gained in the general election if Thursday's result were repeated in two years' time.

Mr. Dobson

The hon. Gentleman's majority is only 77.

Mr. Bruce

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for raising that matter. If Thursday's result were repeated, I would have two and a half times as many votes as the Labour candidate. That is why the Government are attacking their own Back Benchers.

Miss Widdecombe

There is no doubt that the Government are extremely frightened, and they have good reason to be so after last Thursday, when it was clearly demonstrated that they cannot continue with the arrogance and dismissiveness of which the motion is an example. My hon. Friend is absolutely right: it is not only the Opposition who will be denied adequate time for debate. One can only conclude that to deny time to Government Back Benchers is the main motivation for adding the Immigration and Asylum Bill to a guillotine motion on the Health Bill.

After all, it was the Health Bill that yesterday failed to make progress, in the Government's terms, or was being democratically debated, in our terms. The Government are afraid of what will be said about the Immigration and Asylum Bill, and rightly so, because some of what is being proposed is reasonable, and we would support it in principle, but we remember what Labour Members said before the general election about what they wanted to do and the amount of sheer abuse that they heaped on us for measures, some of which were in the same direction but some of which were rather milder.

The Government have introduced a panic Bill on asylum, because they started off their term of office sending out a message that Britain was a soft touch for bogus asylum seekers. They panicked when they realised that more and more such people were coming in, and when the resultant Bill ran into trouble with their own Back Benchers they decided to curtail debate. That is hardly an impressive way of handling a highly important piece of legislation.

It is most unfortunate that because of the guillotine on the Health Bill, substantial matters—again, deeply embarrassing to the Government—will not be given adequate time for debate. For example, at a stage that we will probably not reach, because of this draconian motion, we have a proposal to replace the ludicrous and discredited emphasis on waiting lists with a far more responsible emphasis on waiting times. We believe that the Government are embarrassed by that. They do not want to stand up and justify their ludicrous preference for raw numbers on lists, which are only too easily manipulated. The Government might not want us to reach that point because they do not want to be obliged to discuss the fact that even under their ludicrous procedures for waiting lists and gross manipulation of them, the lists have still increased by 19,000.

It is only right that we should debate the superior merits of waiting times over lists. What bothers patients is not how many other people need the same operation but how long they will have to wait for their operation. It is right, furthermore, that we take into account not only the time that they have to wait after they have seen the consultant but the time that they have to wait from the point at which their GP refers them—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. May I remind the right hon. Lady that she is straying on to issues that will probably be dealt with later on?

Miss Widdecombe

My point is that I fear that we will not be able to deal with such matters later on. It is because the Government do not wish to deal with those matters later on that they have tabled this allocation of time motion. The motivation behind the motion is to prevent discussion of the overwhelming arguments for substituting waiting times as the measurement of success of the NHS for the ludicrous waiting lists, and of the slavishness with which the Government compel clinical priorities to be distorted to deliver an ill-thought-out political pledge. I am sorry that we will not have time to discuss that important issue.

It is also important that we discuss the necessary and adequate regulation of the private sector, but that issue comes even further down the list than waiting lists. The Government's unwillingness to discuss that is evidenced by the fact that they slipped out a press release at 3 am. I do not know who was up slipping out press releases at 3 am, but it does not smack of a Government who want their press releases to be noticed.

Mr. Dobson

It was not me.

Miss Widdecombe

I believe the Secretary of State for Health, because he was not even present yesterday for the debate on the Health Bill. He absented himself and we were told why. The Minister of State said that the Secretary of State had better things to do. He had better things to do than to come to the House and to debate this important Bill.

Mr. Dobson

Quite right.

Miss Widdecombe

That comment is wholly in tune with the Prime Minister's attitude to Parliament. He thinks that this House does not matter, that debate in this Chamber does not matter and that the exercise of this House's democratic function does not matter. That is now also the view of the Secretary of State for Health. It is a poor show.

It is important to allow enough time to discuss the regulation of the private sector. In another place, they added a new clause to the Bill to extend the functions of the Commission for Health Improvement to cover the private as well as the public sector. When the Government are using the private sector to deliver their waiting lists pledge and when NHS patients are sent by GPs to the private sector because the NHS cannot meet the demand, it is right that the private sector should be regulated as the public sector is. We should be able to discuss that, but we will not be able to do so because of the allocation of time motion.

When a Secretary of State resorts to pushing press releases out at 3 am, he really does not want to discuss the issues. Nor will we be able to discuss the abolition of fundholding, which comes even lower down the list. Of course, fundholding has already been abolished, but the Government are now seeking the consent of Parliament. They anticipated the consent of Parliament and went ahead, and that is another measure of their dismissive attitude to Parliament.

We also wanted to discuss, in new clause 25, a duty of partnership with the private sector. The Government believe that such a partnership is inimical to the interests of the NHS. It is not: it would enhance the NHS by increasing the total sums available for spending on health. We want to debate that important proposition, but cannot because the Secretary of State is afraid.

Sir Nicholas Lyell (North-East Bedfordshire)

My right hon. Friend is making a powerful point in support of centre-right policies and the constructive engagement between public and private sectors. Did not last week's elections reveal that the desire for such policies is shared by people across Europe?

Miss Widdecombe

My right hon. and learned Friend is right. Thursday's election results amounted to a massive endorsement of Conservative policies in this country, and the same was evident across Europe. Through the introduction of proportional representation, the Government were able to save themselves from the humiliation that they should have suffered. They would have won even fewer seats if the elections had been conducted according to the system that the Home Secretary prefers.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

I am very grateful to the right hon. Lady. I seem to be losing my memory a little, so will she tell the House whether she was a member of the previous Government, who brought in large numbers of guillotines on important legislation? Did she ever oppose that practice, or am I thinking of someone else?

Miss Widdecombe

As I said at the beginning of my remarks, the most extraordinary thing about the motion is that it is a double guillotine. It affects a Bill that the Government alleged was not making progress, and also a completely unrelated Bill. I do not think that the hon. Lady will find that that was common under the previous Government.

Mr. Ivan Lewis (Bury, South)

If sufficient progress were made to permit a debate on the relationship between the private sector and the national health service, would the right hon. Lady articulate the view of the wing of the Conservative party that believes that the private sector should have an enhanced role, or that of the Leader of the Opposition, who considers that such an approach is inappropriate if his party is ever to get re-elected?

Miss Widdecombe

The hon. Gentleman's understanding of Conservative party policy on this matter is as poor as his understanding of new clause 25. I suggest that he examines our policy so that he can achieve a more informed view. If he continues to interrupt, we will be unable to discuss the extremely important issues involved.

I shall sum up what I have said. First, the double guillotine motion is unusual and has not been justified. Secondly, those who will suffer, apart from the Opposition, are those Labour Back Benchers who wish to speak on the Immigration and Asylum Bill.

Thirdly, the Government have flooded the amendment paper with many new clauses and amendments. They are curtailing debate even though those new clauses and amendments will take precedence over matters that they do not want to debate. When they were in opposition, the Government accused their Conservative predecessors of playing the race card, so I can understand their embarrassment at their own proposals on immigration and asylum. I can also understand their embarrassment at longer waiting lists, and why they do not want to debate the validity of their measurements and the Health Bill's impact on the medical profession.

Finally, the proposal reveals the Government's profound arrogance and contempt for the House. Democratic procedures are not well served when debate is curtailed because there is too much debating going on, nor when a completely unrelated debate is also curtailed because the Government see an opportunity to wriggle out of embarrassment.

I look forward to hearing the Home Secretary's reply, and to many more exchanges with him over the next couple of years.

4.59 pm
Sir Nicholas Lyell (North-East Bedfordshire)

I am glad to be able to speak in this debate on the allocation of time. We must make it clear to the Government and the country how difficult it will be to discuss all the important matters before us in the time available. Perhaps the most serious crisis facing the national health service concerns junior doctors' hours. The Government seek to restrict the time that we can spend on that important matter.

The utterly excessive hours that junior doctors are expected to work without sleep or rest require immediate intervention by the Government. I do not say that the problem is a new one. It was already serious in 1991 when the previous Government introduced the new deal. However, 8,500 junior doctors continue to work, on call, for periods that, during the week, frequently begin at 9 am and continue until 5 pm the following day. At weekends, they work from 9 am on the Saturday through the night on Saturday and through day and night on Sunday before finishing at 5 am on Monday.

The only rest that doctors can take during that 54-hour period is approximately four or five hours of protected sleep won simply because of the courtesy that some doctors cover for others. Either on the Saturday night or on the Sunday, a doctor's colleagues cover for him so that he might hope to be in bed by 1.30 am and stay there until 7 am. Except for those four or five hours of sleep, there is absolutely no rest. Doctors go through that gruelling experience one weekend in every four, and during the following week, they must again spend a full night on duty, working from nine o'clock one morning right through the night until the following afternoon.

It is a scandal that the Government are not allowing us time to debate this matter and bring it to public attention. We need time to debate it because the position is not sufficiently understood, even within the medical profession, for which I have the highest regard. Long hours are required for training, but the situation today is more serious than it has been in the past.

Dr. Evan Harris (Oxford, West and Abingdon)

I am interested by what the right hon. and learned Gentleman says. Does he realise that the Liberal Democrats have tabled a new clause on this matter and that we will reach it if he spends less time discussing the guillotine? It is among the early amendments to be discussed, and I shall be interested to see whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman stays to participate in that debate on a Liberal Democrat proposal for legislation on junior doctors' hours.

Sir Nicholas Lyell

I am glad to know that the Liberal Democrats are interested in this matter. New clause 13 will be taken along with new clause 28 and amendment No.180, and I have already written a speech that I hope to have an opportunity to deliver. In the guillotine debate, however, I must emphasise the need for time and the wrongness of reducing the amount of time available to discuss these issues.

The country should know, through debate in Parliament, the sheer intensity of the work done by the national health service today. Some hon. Members may have heard "Any Questions" the other day. Baroness Jay said that her husband, a distinguished consultant, had told her that he had had to go through all this and that long hours were necessary for training. I do not deny that long hours and rigorous discipline are necessary for training. However, with improved procedures, in-patients being treated in the national health service today are much iller than they were. Patients are discharged much quicker and those who are left in hospital are much iller.

Doctors in general surgery, general medicine or paediatrics—some of the major specialties—do not get to bed. Another story on which we dine out—

Mr. Fabricant

I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend for giving way before he dines out. Is he aware that a house officer at Addenbrooke's hospital gets only £4.02 in overtime compared with £6.24 for a cleaner? Is that not a slap in the face for workers in the health service from this so-called caring Government?

Sir Nicholas Lyell

My hon. Friend's argument emphasises how much this matter needs to be debated in detail. Part of the problem, which is admittedly inherited because this has been going on for some time, is that overtime rates—it is almost an insult to use that expression—for young doctors are not calculated as they would be in any other civilised job. Instead of being paid half as much again or twice as much, they are paid 50 or 70 per cent. of their normal rate.

Health service trusts are under great pressure in all sorts of ways and always have been, but they have been put under even greater pressure as a result of the Government's over-emphasis on waiting lists, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) said. We must have time to get across the fact that NHS trusts are abusing that style of payment, as my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Mr. Fabricant) highlighted. It is not right for them to get young doctors on the cheap, when those young people are staggering through the night, hardly able to cope.

I am not exaggerating, as right hon. and hon. Members on the Government Front Bench also know. We need time to develop ways to improve that position. In the time available for the debate, we should give credit where it is due. The Government have built on some of our new deal methods. NHS circular 1998/240 set out specific timetables, hours and amounts of rest for young doctors. That circular states that young doctors who are working overnight for 16 hours, from 5 pm to 9 am the following day, should get at least eight hours' rest, of which half should be continuous. We should have time to discuss that, but this debate does not allow us the time to get across to the House and the country the fact that those doctors do not get that rest. It just does not happen in the busy specialties, such as general medicine, paediatrics and general surgery. My goodness, the classic example is renal medicine—there are jokes about that, but they are in poor taste and I will not make them. Those doctors do not get time to sleep—they stagger on, grossly abused and overworked.

We need time to study in practice what can be done. Something can be done to assist if only we put our minds to it. I am grateful to see the Minister of State nodding. I am sure that he would like to crack that problem. In a funny way, he would probably be grateful if we could find the time to highlight the sheer seriousness of it, so that he could squeeze a little more money out of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor to help him crack it. There are sensible ways to overcome organisational problems, such as bleep systems with senior night nurses, which can relieve the pressure.

One of the difficulties caused by the pressure on waiting times and the extra people who are being put through the hospital system is the sheer amount of time that that takes on admission. We need time to explain that. When we have a chance to debate the matter, we shall find that it means that young doctors are spending their time up until 11 pm—or even later—simply admitting the patients who are coming into hospital to the beds that have become available during that day. We need to debate the sensible suggestions that have been made, such as the one that there should be dedicated admissions units, staffed by young doctors, or other doctors, so that there is rather less pressure on those who are dealing with patients who have already been admitted.

Where shall we find those extra doctors? We need time during the debate for an answer from the Minister as to whether they could not be found—as I have been told—overseas, in the European Union. I hope that that matter can be discussed during the allocated time. I understand that, at present, there is something of a glut—probably only a temporary one—of young medical practitioners in other EU countries. We should invite them over to this country and pay them to assist in tackling the problem.

We need to deal with some important matters. Our objection to these guillotine motions is not merely tactical, nor is it cynical; it is real. These are matters that it is vital for Parliament to discuss. Unless they come out into the open, the country will not be governed and legislation will not be scrutinised in a way that makes a reality of a democratic society.

Mr. Fabricant

Is my right hon. and learned Friend as puzzled as I am as to why the guillotine motion was required in the first place? Last night, everyone had accepted that we might sit through the night, and was prepared to do so, if necessary, in order to discuss those issues in detail. When was the House asked to rise? Was it at 1 o'clock, 2 o'clock or 3 o'clock in the morning? No, it was asked to rise at 10 o'clock at night. Does my right hon. and learned Friend have any idea of why that was?

Sir Nicholas Lyell

The Government should take heed of that point. There is something a little more civilised about the hours that the Government have tried to introduce for the business of the House. However, it is neither civilised nor democratic if that restricts debate on matters of vital importance in such a way that legislation is not properly scrutinised.

At present, the Government have an enormous majority. Why do they not operate shift systems, like those that they should be instituting in the NHS? In a shift system, even if people were working long and hard, they would not be engaged in the idiotic business of working through for 32 hours on the trot during the week, with no rest, and for 54 hours on the trot at weekends, with only four or five hours of continuous rest throughout that period. That is a scandal and it has to be stopped. I am sure that the Government can look to the full assistance of the Opposition in encouraging the right measures to ensure that it is stopped. We know that such measures exist. We need time to debate the matter. This guillotine should not be imposed.

5.13 pm
Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

I hope that the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Bedfordshire (Sir N. Lyell) will forgive me if I do not follow him along the esoteric lines of his sudden involvement in the national health service. One thing that distinguishes Back-Bench Members from Front-Bench Members of the House is the enormous short-term memory loss that seems to be a condition of having been a member of any Government. Somehow, Members who have pushed through guillotine motions, during many hours and with great vigour, forget that fact instantly when they cross the Floor and find themselves on the Opposition Benches.

Sir Nicholas Lyell


Mrs. Dunwoody

If the right hon. and learned Gentleman wants me to go into the question of doctors' hours, I can keep going on that subject for the next four hours with no difficulty whatever. I too have a consultant in my family, who makes precisely the point that, unless people get some general training, they are not as useful as they used to be.

Mr. Fabricant

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Dunwoody

I should be terribly thrilled to do so, but I think that I shall give way to the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Bedfordshire, if the hon. Member for Lichfield will forgive me.

Sir Nicholas Lyell

May I take it that the hon. Lady believes that the points I have made are fair ones, or is she telling the House that such intolerably long hours, not only on call but continuously working, are a sensible form of training? I cannot believe the latter, but perhaps she will clarify her view.

Mrs. Dunwoody

The right hon. and learned Gentleman might like to know that, in a long married life, most of it spent living in hospitals, I discovered that many doctors work extremely long hours and that some of them should not be allowed to work at all, which is an entirely different matter—but if he wants chapter and verse, I can supply them. As I said, I am delighted that he has suddenly discovered the problem of doctors' hours in the NHS, which has been known to some of us for the past 40 years.

If the House will forgive me, I should like to make a serious point. I have been a Member of Parliament long enough to know that all Governments, when faced with timetable problems, almost inevitably demand faster movement of their legislation—that it should pass through both Houses at the speed they desire, preferably with no examination by anybody. Most Governments are fairly evenhanded; it is not that they do not want their own Back Benchers to examine legislation: they do not want anyone at all to look at it. So it is not new to me to find my colleagues—albeit the two members of the Cabinet for whom I have greatest affection, if I can say that without entirely wrecking their parliamentary careers—demanding greater speed and, indeed, a double guillotine.

However, it would be wrong to allow the guillotine to be passed without saying that I do not think it a very good idea. There are those who believe that, if every single piece of legislation that passes through the House is programmed, it will always be possible to issue statements at a time when the press will use them, the House will respond in a manner that keeps my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Whips Office happy, and life will be a garden filled with the most beautiful flowers. That is not my experience. The House of Commons and the other place operate best when their Members have the opportunity to take pieces of legislation and talk about them in detail.

That is not to say that scrutiny is done with malice aforethought. There are those of us who want to argue about legislation because we think that it is sometimes badly framed and that, sometimes, even if it is well framed, the implications have not been fully thought out. All Members of Parliament ought to have the right to express an opinion. I was therefore saddened—I put it no higher than that—to see that the Immigration and Asylum Bill had been included in the guillotine.

The simple reason for that feeling is that there are aspects of that Bill that still give me pause, even though the Home Secretary has been sensible enough and gracious enough to speak in some detail to his parliamentary colleagues. He knows that our concerns are genuine and that we still retain some of them. He also knows me well enough to know that I shall express my view with some vigour, whether in public or in private—not that he has been noticeably put off by that.

When we consider a guillotine motion, it is important to ask whether it is justified and whether it will produce the desired result, which is good legislation—not necessarily hasty legislation, but good legislation. Will it result in our having to return to the measure at some point in the future and apologise for having got something wrong, not because we meant to get it wrong, but because we did not have time to consider it properly and the people who would have raised questions did not have the time or opportunity to talk to others?

The Secretary of State for Health and the Home Secretary can both say, with considerable justification, that both Bills have spent a long time passing through the House; people have had the opportunity to consult, and that stage should be long behind us. However, in reality, all Governments table new clauses and amendments. Even though the current Government are way behind the previous one, not yet having reached the point of tabling 400 amendments on Third Reading—there is always hope—it is sad to see this guillotine being moved at this stage in respect of these Bills.

I know why the guillotine has been moved and I understand all the pressures, but I am not persuaded that it is the right way to proceed. The policies with which the Bills deal are tremendously and fundamentally important because they affect the lives of people when they are at their most damaged and at their most vulnerable. The decisions we take will have an enormous impact, way beyond the number of people whom we currently believe might be adversely affected.

I do not want to say more. I think the House of Commons should be reminded occasionally that, even when it appears to be doing its best and to be at its most disciplined and most organised, and even when it responds with alacrity to the wishes of the Whips Office and the desires of Front Benchers on both sides—neither side changes: they both play the same games, some well and some badly—it needs to be watched closely. I am sorry, but I do not think this is a good idea. I did not think the guillotine was a good idea when the previous Government used it and I do not think it is a good idea now. I am extremely sorry that it has been applied to this legislation.

5.20 pm
Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall)

I shall be brief, as I share the views eloquently expressed by the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody). We are talking about extremely important legislation, and I shall use only a small amount of time that would otherwise be devoted to debating these measures. I will certainly not waste time in the way Conservative spokespeople have done this afternoon.

This debate is about the orderly management of parliamentary business. I make no bones about it: I think the guillotine should always be used as an absolute last resort. Unfortunately, as the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich said—

Miss Widdecombe

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I think I heard the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) say that Conservative spokespeople—only one of us has spoken in the debate—had wasted time this afternoon. Presumably, you would not have allowed me to do that, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Do you believe that I wasted time this afternoon?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

If the right hon. Lady had been wasting time, I would certainly have called her to order.

Mr. Tyler

I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

This debate is about the orderly management of our time. We must try to achieve the best scrutiny of the legislation that comes before the House. Anybody who attended, watched or listened to the debate last night would have been fully aware that it was not a good use of House of Commons time: it was not a careful assessment of the legislation before the House and it did not result in proper scrutiny.

Guillotine debates always have an element of play acting, and this afternoon is no exception. I know—as I am sure the House does—that Conservative Front Benchers were clearly manoeuvring last night in order to make a point. I do not blame the Opposition for that, but it should be obvious to all, inside and outside the House. The Conservatives sought to trigger precisely the sort of motion that is now before us so that they could say that the Government had cut short the debate. The Government stand accused of making no attempt to avert that motion. They could have done so, if they had wished, by offering a programme motion.

I serve on the Modernisation of the House of Commons Committee, and we have experimented successfully with agreed programme motions involving all parties. I would like to extend that process further by ensuring that Back Benchers have some input. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich would like to have some input, and I believe that would be extremely helpful. No one can pretend that what occurred last night amounted to orderly management of the business of the House.

The Government did not offer a programme motion on the Health Bill. I understand that to be the fact. I am involved in these discussions to some extent, and the Government made no offer to programme the timing of that legislation. What sort of programme motion could we have regarding the Immigration and Asylum Bill? We do not know whether there will be punctuation marks during the debate to enable the articulation of all views in the House—particularly those of Government Back Benchers. No offer has been made to us and I understand that no detailed offer was made to the Conservatives. The Government stand accused of provoking this situation in order to smother the views of any remaining Labour rebels.

Both sides of the House have been play acting. Indeed, is this not some sort of pantomime? We have had contributions from Baron Belly Laugh and the Dame this afternoon, and I gather that later we shall see Jack the Beanstalk himself. Sadly, the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) is not in his usual place. He usually takes the part of the wolf in Red Riding Hood and at this stage he would normally snarl, bear his fangs and make the point that all Conservative Governments used the guillotine far more often than do the present Government.

It is ridiculous that we have reached this point. It is a reflection on the way in which the House is managed, and the fact that we cannot manage it better is a reflection on us all. I hope that we can now get on with the real debate.

5.25 pm
Sir Norman Fowler (Sutton Coldfield)

We can take it that the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) is not a candidate for the Liberal Democrat leadership. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] Yes, it is a shame. The hon. Gentleman appears to come from the bureaucratic tendency in the Liberal Democrats. He says that this debate is about the orderly management of business or time but it is not; it is about parliamentary democracy, and the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) was entirely right about that.

I shall be brief, and I speak as perhaps the most recent arrival on the Back Benches. I want to protest at the use of the guillotine. My right hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe), who spoke from the Front Bench and whom I congratulate on her new position—she will be entirely excellent—pointed out that the guillotine deals with two Bills. I shall concentrate on the Immigration and Asylum Bill because I am most familiar with that.

Even if I accepted the Health Secretary's arguments, they have nothing to do with that Bill. By any standards, it is a most important Bill. It seeks to deal with questions relating to political asylum seekers, both genuine and bogus. Inevitably, the Bill is sensitive; it deals with issues of human rights and the rights of families and children. It arouses genuine and sincere differences of opinion.

That is not only my view, but that of the Home Secretary, because he made the Bill, exceptionally, subject to the Special Standing Committee procedure. I assume that his aim was to achieve the best possible legislation after detailed consideration. There is no point in having that system and using it unless that is the aim. Today, that policy is being reversed—that is the truth of what is being proposed. There is now no question of the Bill receiving the fullest examination. Its remaining stages were to be taken over two days, and they will now, at best, be taken in just over a day.

In that time, we shall be expected to consider amendments that deal with the treatment of over-stayers, the removal of asylum claimants, support for children and restrictions on employment. We shall be asked to deal with charges for passengers without proper documentation, bail hearings, victims of torture, detainees with children and a range of other matters, not to mention the Bill's Third Reading.

We shall be expected to deal, most crucially, with legions of new clauses and Government amendments. It is not Opposition Members but Home Office Ministers who have filled the Order Paper with amendments, and now they are guillotining the discussion of those amendments. That discussion is not the responsibility of the Opposition or of the Government's allies, the Liberal Democrats; it is absolutely the Government's responsibility.

In that time, we shall be expected to deal also with Opposition amendments. Even the Liberal Democrats have managed to muster the courage to table one or two amendments, and there are amendments in the name of Labour Back Benchers. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald suggested, there is no doubt that one reason for the Government's concern is an amendment tabled by Government Back Benchers.

This is a disgraceful way to treat the House. Although the Health Secretary has now left the Chamber, I must say that his arrogant speech did nothing for the Government's case. It was a disgraceful speech that would not have persuaded anyone who listened to it, and he should be ashamed of it.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

Many hon. Members will agree with the sentiments that my right hon. Friend has just expressed. Does he believe that we should be told by the Secretary of State whether he authorised the Leader of the House last night to describe the new clauses that had been tabled to the Health Bill as "minor and technical"? Given that they cover a wide variety of matters that are of the essence of public debate about our national health service, does my right hon. Friend, as a highly experienced parliamentarian, believe that what we witnessed from the Leader of the House last night was the clearest illustration of the Executive's arrogance and contempt for the House of Commons?

Sir Norman Fowler

I do. If my hon. Friend will forgive me, I shall not go back into the national health service. Having done the Health Secretary's job for an unprecedented six years, I shall not tiptoe back into that area for the time being. However, my hon. Friend's point is correct.

What the Government are doing is disgraceful also because it represents such a reversal of attitude on the part of Home Office Ministers. They started by saying that they wanted the closest examination of the Immigration and Asylum Bill. They were anxious to have our suggestions and proposals. Now, at the last stage, in they come with the proposal that discussion should be guillotined.

The guillotine of the Immigration and Asylum Bill has no justification. The Bill has been dealt with in an entirely sensible way, and the issues have been debated fully and sensibly. There is no question about that. On our side the Bill was handled outstandingly by my hon. Friend the Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison). Any member of the Standing Committee would endorse that. I can say with certainty that in the two-day debate on the remaining stages of the Bill, the approach would have been exactly the same. We were not planning to filibuster it into the small hours of the morning. There was no question of our doing that.

There is absolutely no justification for the Government's guillotining the Immigration and Asylum Bill. Up to now, they have blamed the last Conservative Government for any faults in the political asylum and immigration system. Indeed, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. O'Brien), who has come into the Chamber—I was going to put it more emotively—has no other speech. I have been listening to him, regrettably, for a year. He has no other form of words.

From now on, the defects in the Bill and in the system belong to the Government and to that set of Ministers. They have entire responsibility for the workings of the legislation, discussion of which they have wrongly curtailed.

Mr. Brady

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, who has considerably greater experience in the House than I have. Can he recall any precedent for a Government pursuing a double guillotine policy—using one Bill as an excuse for curtailing discussion of another, as the Government are trying to do?

Sir Norman Fowler

I cannot, but that is not conclusive. Every Minister on the Front Bench has been looking over the procedures and the debates of the past 25 years to find such a precedent. Knowing the Government back-up, I think that there may well be a precedent, although I have never come across one.

I have also never come across a Government who begin with the Special Standing Committee procedure and then decide, halfway through, to guillotine the Bill. Of that there is no question. I can think of no such precedent, but doubtless the ministerial advisers will scuttle off to find one for us.

The issues go beyond that. Over the past two years the Government have been talking about modernising Parliament, although I do not always agree with the ideas that they put forward for modernisation. They keep talking about their commitment to open government and how they want to achieve the maximum accountability of Parliament and Ministers to the public. They are entirely right to have those aspirations, because parliamentary democracy and political accountability are vital issues; in my view, none are more important.

I agree entirely with the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich and think that we would take the same stance on that issue, but there is no point in the Government using the language of parliamentary democracy and then behaving in this way, which is the opposite of parliamentary democracy. Week after week, they have made statements outside the House of Commons that should have been made inside it, and we all remember the statement on jury trials. They relegate Parliament by acting in such a way and, by tabling the guillotine motion, they have further devalued the parliamentary process. That is the essential charge against this bunch of Ministers and this Government.

There is no point in the Home Secretary coming to the House to talk about freedom of information only a few weeks after imposing an injunction on the whole of the British media. Equally, there is no point in the Government talking about modernising Parliament and increasing accountability when they have imposed a guillotine such as this. The guillotine is unjustified and an arrogant abuse of power, and such autocratic action will eventually destroy the Government's credibility.

5.37 pm
Mr. Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh, North and Leith)

I shall be extremely brief because, unlike Conservative Members, I want to discuss health. The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) gave the game away when he said that the Opposition had no intention of filibustering the Immigration and Asylum Bill into the early hours of the morning. The truth is that that was precisely their intention for the Health Bill.

Yesterday, I sat through three hours of discussion on the opening group of amendments and I can say that the Opposition gave a completely new meaning to making a mountain out of a molehill—and it was an uncontroversial molehill at that. We heard repetition, exaggeration and ridiculous comments from Opposition Members. I made a brief intervention and it was referred to time and again—and, indeed, misrepresented. It was absolutely clear what Conservative Members were doing.

Mr. Brady


Mr. Chisholm

I will not take interventions, because my speech will be very brief. I want to get on to the health debate.

I said yesterday—I was not making a general point about this Parliament in relation to the Scottish Parliament, although some people took it in that way—that we were witnessing self-indulgent time wasting. That was absolutely true. The Government's mantra is rights with responsibilities, and that is entirely wise. If we are protecting the rights of Back Benchers—normally, I would agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody)—we also have a responsibility to debate matters in a relevant and responsible way. That did not happen in the debate on the Health Bill yesterday.

5.39 pm
Mr. Charles Wardle (Bexhill and Battle)

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith (Mr. Chisholm) said that he would speak briefly, and he did, but he made it clear that his reaction to a difference of opinion in the House and to a desire to debate an issue is, unsurprisingly, a knee-jerk reaction. He wants debate closed down.

What a pleasure it is to be the speaker from the Conservative Benches who follows my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler), who is fresh from the Front Bench. I recall him expressing to me many years ago, when he was responsible for health matters, an ambition to involve himself in home affairs. He had been a home affairs correspondent of The Times, and he has had that opportunity. I am sure that the whole House wishes him and his family well now that they will be spending more time with each other.

I want to discuss the motion as it applies to the Immigration and Asylum Bill. I shall not comment on its application to the Health Bill, other than to say that the Secretary of State for Health seemed to depart from his normally cheerful demeanour, and to protest too much. Indeed, there was the merest hint of arrogance in what he had to say, which was disappointing.

Having heard your strictures, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall try to stick to the subject of the motion. As I was travelling with an all-party group on the day of the Second Reading of the Immigration and Asylum Bill, I shall resist the temptation to wade into other aspects of the Bill. Let me say, however, that this is a bad use of the guillotine, and that the Government have no serious justification for its introduction.

As both the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) said earlier, all Governments use guillotines from time to time. The Leader of the House, fronting for the business managers, will say sagely that there is pressure on parliamentary time owing to the heavy legislative programme; but there is no reason for a House of Commons that does not discuss Government business on Fridays, and takes two-week spring recesses, suddenly to say solemnly that there is no time for it to debate a subject as important as this, and that we must press on. That is a bit of a joke.

As far as I can see, having followed its progress one stage removed, there has been no time-wasting on the Bill. As far as I know, no timetable motion was openly contemplated in the House last week. What happened yesterday resulted from the Government's pique about their disastrous showing in the European elections—coupled, I dare say, with a bit of good-natured teasing from the Opposition—and the Government's undoubted petulance about the extended debate on a single amendment to the Health Bill. It had nothing whatever to do with the Immigration and Asylum Bill. It is necessary to look further, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald did precisely that.

The Government were clearly sufficiently bothered by the very public setback that they had suffered from so many of their Back Benchers in regard to social security reforms that they did not want to allow time for another embarrassing ambush that could add to the concessions already made by the Home Secretary. The timetable motion is really all about controlling the Government's own Back Benchers.

Mr. Brady

My hon. Friend referred to the Government's poor showing in the European elections. Does he agree that, once again, the Government are missing the point that the electorate tried to convey to them? I am talking not about just European policy, but about the Government's arrogance and contempt for parliamentary debate. It is partly because our population is so sick of a Government who will not listen and will not debate that they had that poor showing.

Mr. Wardle

I entirely agree, although I think that I would soon be in trouble with you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I expanded on my hon. Friend's second point.

Bearing in mind what my hon. Friend said about the recent European elections, I feel that the constraint on debating time is ill judged. There is widespread public concern about the way in which immigration and asylum are spiralling out of control. The queues are becoming longer, and there are more illegal immigrants. Ordinary, fair-minded British people who are proud of the welcome that they extend to foreigners—people of all political persuasions—are understandably bothered by the drain on benefits, school places, health facilities and housing.

Many of those people—this is why the debate should be allowed an adequate airing on the Floor of the House—consider the root cause of the difficulties to be the Government's willingness to bend our immigration rules and modify our immigration controls at the behest of the European Union. A number of the illegal immigrants who have come here recently have come from eastern Europe, but a great many—wherever they have come from originally—have travelled through the European Union. That public concern was part of the reason for the voting pattern throughout the country in Labour's strongholds, as well as in Conservative strongholds, last Thursday, so it is unfair and unwise of the Government to curb debate on the Bill when it is on the Floor of the House.

I do not dispute that the Bill was closely examined in Committee. I am sure that it was right of the Home Secretary to press for a Special Standing Committee and to take expert advice, but the Secretary of State for Health was wrong to say, "Therefore, there is no need for the debate to continue on the Floor of the House." There were a limited number of right hon. and hon. Members on that Committee. Many others of us have something to say. There is not a person here who does not know that, apart from those experts, experienced witnesses and a few specialist reporters, the Committee stage hardly touched public awareness. That is all the more reason to have adequate time on Report.

Three particular aspects of the Bill will suffer from the lack of sufficient time on Report and Third Reading. First, the Bill needs to be challenged further because it is long on theory and short on practical detail. I know that that came out in Committee, but the Bill leaves much to be done by delegated legislation, subject to negative resolution. Those things should be challenged openly on the Floor of the House, where they can be heard.

My second concern was voiced by the Immigration Service Union, which said that the Bill opened the gate to softer, European-style controls. I give two examples. One is that leave to enter with a visa will not be challengeable by an immigration officer. Not so many years ago, I saw countless immigration cases. There were often instances of the immigration officer looking at a perfectly valid visa and, after a few questions, discovering that circumstances had changed, or, indeed, that the visa had passed to someone else.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Jack Straw)

May I reassure the hon. Gentleman that the point that he is making is not correct?

Mr. Wardle

I am grateful for that intervention, but I am sure that the Home Secretary, who has been positively delphic on that point, will agree that, over the years, there have been many cases of immigration officers discovering that there were reasons why someone should not, after all, be given leave to enter, even if he had a visa and prior entry clearance. If the Home Secretary is saying that, at the Committee stage, the ISU has been heeded and the matter has been taken on board, that is all well and good—it is all the more reason why it should be debated on the Floor of the House.

Similarly, if we should reach the stage—I am certainly not going to accuse the Home Secretary of wishing to get there himself in the immediate future—that was presaged by article 100c of the Maastricht treaty, which was before his time, when a standard visa format throughout the European Union was proposed whereby the suggestion could be made and adopted in the European Union that those European visas would be sufficient to ensure leave to enter this country, our immigration controls would be blown to pieces.

The third and final reason why time is needed for the debate is to focus still further, as the Committee has, on asylum problems, particularly concentrating on the twin pillars of the Geneva convention—the well-founded fear of persecution and the fact that a person can seek asylum only in the first safe country he reaches. That should be debated here, along with the fact of the queue, which, the Home Secretary must allow, has not gone away.

For all those reasons, it is iniquitous that a timetable motion has been slapped on the Bill and that there will not now be adequate time for a full and reasoned debate on the Floor of the House.

5.50 pm
Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West)

I am pleased to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Mr. Wardle). He was a little hard on the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith (Mr. Chisholm) who, even though he made only a short contribution to the debate yesterday, was the only Labour Back Bencher to make any contribution. Also, given that the first group of amendments was germane to the Scottish borders, it is worth pointing out that he was the only Scottish Member who bothered to make a contribution. At least he deserves some credit for having turned up.

I find it offensive and wrong for the Government to suggest that our proper debate of the Health Bill yesterday was, in any way, time wasting. If Labour Members, who have a responsibility to represent the interests of their constituents, particularly those north of the border, could not be bothered to turn up to register their concerns and the views and interests of their constituents, there was all the more reason for Conservative Members to ensure that the new clauses, which had only just appeared, should be scrutinised and debated.

I no longer see the Minister of State in his place—he was here earlier. During his introductory remarks on new clause 18, his subsequent interventions and his reply to the debate he was unable to give the vital detail on which the Chamber should arrive at a judgment about the new clause. It was clear that it had been thought up late in the process and that little consideration had been given to it. It was tabled with minimal notice to hon. Members and, even the Minister did not realise its full implications.

In those circumstances, it is utterly astonishing that, after just a few short hours of debate yesterday, the Leader of the House should suggest that a vital piece of legislation, dealing with the national health service, could not be debated in proper detail because, apparently, a short debate had taken place on one or two new clauses which had only just been made available to hon. Members to express a view.

Mr. Fabricant

Was not it ironic that new clause 18, on which we spent a long time, was a Government new clause, tabled at the very last moment? If the Government were so concerned about saving time, why did they not table the new clause in Committee?

Mr. Brady

I could not agree more. My hon. Friend, who spoke yesterday and did his duty as a Member of the House to try to scrutinise a piece of ill-considered legislation, is right to point out that it was a Government new clause. It was introduced late in the day and took up time which would otherwise have been available to debate other elements of the Bill. It is utterly outrageous. [Interruption.] I will give way to the hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) in a moment.

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough)

indicated dissent.

Mr. Brady

I thought that the hon. Lady wanted to intervene. No doubt she would have been in trouble with her Whips Office had she done so. [Interruption.] I am sure, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you did not hear as well as I did what was uttered as the hon. Lady left the Chamber.

It is unacceptable for right hon. and hon. Members on the Government Front Bench to suggest that it was wrong for Conservative Members who did not have the privilege of serving on the Standing Committee to devote their time and resources to scrutinising the legislation. It is doubly disappointing that those of us who were not on the Committee and who, quite properly, participated on Report—as hon. Members are entitled and have a responsibility to do—should be criticised for such participation.

Mr. Bercow

My hon. Friend recalls accurately the proceedings of yesterday evening. Does he recall that, during consideration of new clause 18, the Minister of State gave no impression that he had even seen or studied the new clause let alone digested its contents before coming to the Chamber? Does my hon. Friend accept that, as a naturally charitable individual, as he and I pressed the Minister to explain the rationale for and content of the new clause, the analogy of cruelty to dumb animals sprung to mind?

Mr. Brady

I shall not be drawn by my hon. Friend.

Had the Secretary of State taken the trouble to attend the Chamber yesterday and witnessed the performance of the Minister of State who, as my hon. Friend rightly points out, did not appear to be acquainted with the new clause and still less with its implications or detail, he might have taken a different view from the rather facile opinions he so arrogantly expressed earlier. Had the Leader of the House been present to see that those on the Government Front Bench advanced no meaningful argument and that Government Back Benchers, in their typical fashion, said virtually nothing, the Government might not persist in the ludicrous assertion of time wasting. Some hon. Members take seriously their responsibility to scrutinise and debate legislation.

Mr. Fabricant

Is my hon. Friend interested to know that during the entire course of the Committee stage only one Government Back Bencher made a speech—and then only briefly? Not one of the other Government Back Benchers made a contribution.

Mr. Colin Pickthall (West Lancashire)

The hon. Gentleman said that a moment ago.

Mr. Fabricant

No. I said nothing about the Committee stage. The hon. Gentleman was not listening.

Mr. Brady

That is an important point. My experience of Standing Committees is almost invariably the same. There is no real effort made by Labour Members to scrutinise legislation introduced by their Government so it comes as no great surprise to find that they should make similarly little effort to do the job for which they were sent here by their constituents during proceedings on the Health Bill.

It is bad enough to find that there was little scrutiny by Labour Members in Committee, that new clauses are being introduced by the Government and that there is no effort by Labour Members to scrutinise them on Report, but it is utterly unacceptable for Labour Members, particularly the Secretary of State for Health, who should know better, to criticise Opposition Members for doing what we have been sent here to do. We are exercising our right to scrutinise ill-judged legislation that has been introduced without thought.

I was delighted to see my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) demonstrating how seriously he takes his responsibilities so soon after joining us on the Back Benches. Far from seeing it as an opportunity to put his feet up, he was immediately bringing the benefit of his experience and beliefs to the Chamber. It is a bit rich for the Secretary of State for Health to laugh at the record of my right hon. Friend given that he did not even bother to turn up for the scrutiny of his own Bill. Much as he may chunter from a sedentary position, he has done himself no credit by his performance yesterday in claiming that there were more important things for him to do—he has not enlightened us as to what they may have been—or in his brief contribution today when all he could do was attack hon. Members who do their duty. He did not list the constituencies of Labour Members who did not bother to represent their constituents in the Scottish border area. Those constituents may have had some concerns about the implications of new clause 18 for expenditure on health services for Scottish taxpayers.

Although those Labour Members were not here for last night's debate, the Secretary of State thinks that it is shameful that Opposition Members should be trying to do their job. He does not think that it is shameful that some of the silent bodies sitting behind him have failed to examine the detail of the Health Bill.

Mr. Dobson

Why did the Opposition not divide on new clause 18?

Mr. Brady

The Secretary of State seems to think that he has hit on a clever point—perhaps for the first time—in suggesting that, if the Opposition do not press an amendment to a Division, it should not be debated. He clearly fails to understand that Governments can benefit from proper scrutiny of their own amendments, even if there is not a Division on those amendments. He fails to understand that point because he does not understand the purpose of Parliament and of parliamentary debate.

Mr. Philip Hammond (Runnymede and Weybridge)

My hon. Friend is exactly right. Has he noted that some of the Government amendments on today's selection list were tabled as a consequence of debate and discussion in Committee?

Mr. Brady

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for pointing that out. It is a relief to know that the Secretary of State is prepared, occasionally, to listen to good sense. He has not often been willing to do that, and he is certainly not prepared to do so today. The crux of the matter is that he is not prepared to give the House time properly to scrutinise new legislation and Government new clauses, which have not been thought through by Health Ministers and have not yet been properly scrutinised by the House.

Mr. Fabricant

Does my hon. Friend realise that there is an irony in the situation? If we had pressed new clause 18 to a Division, the Secretary of State would have accused the Opposition of wasting time. He would have said, "We had such a large parliamentary majority that we were bound to win; therefore, for 20 minutes, we wasted time on a Division." He cannot have it both ways.

Mr. Brady

My hon. Friend is almost certainly right. The Government's belief that the parliamentary process is an inconvenience for the nation, rather than an asset, is another illustration of their arrogance.

As I said in last night's debate—I now echo the comments of the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), for whom I have the greatest respect—if Ministers had understood that they could gain from proper scrutiny in the House, they would not have even contemplated proposing this type of guillotine. Ministers are refusing to listen to debate, to the views of Opposition Members, or—perhaps just as ba—to the views of Labour Members.

Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Brady

The hon. Lady is an honourable exception, and I shall give way to her.

Ms Abbott

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He is new to the House. If he were not new, and had been in the House during the 18 years of Tory Government, he would not be so quick to hurl accusations of Government arrogance or about the failure of Government Back Benchers to subject legislation to proper scrutiny. Although I cannot speak for my colleagues, or about other Bills, in Committee, I subjected the Immigration and Asylum Bill to the most energetic scrutiny. I am now anxious to get on and to debate the two Bills, and regret that Opposition Members are wasting time on debating the guillotine.

Mr. Brady

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her intervention. I trust that, as she wants to have proper time to debate the Immigration and Asylum Bill, she will vote against the guillotine. In the same way as the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) suggested that it was wrong to oppose the guillotine motion, as he wanted to have time to debate the Bill's substantive matter, the hon. Lady is making an illogical assertion. If she wants proper time to debate the Immigration and Asylum Bill—just as I should like proper time to debate the Health Bill—she should oppose the guillotine.

Although my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield was cautious in replying to my intervention on the point, he said that, in his experience, it is unprecedented to attempt to guillotine debate on a Bill by using an excuse that is entirely unconnected with that legislation. The hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) should oppose the guillotine particularly for that reason. Attempting to impose such a guillotine is a serious travesty of the House's rules of procedure, and is an attempt to undermine proper debate in the House and our ability to scrutinise legislation. The Government's attempt is utterly transparent, and they should be ashamed of themselves for even contemplating trying to stifle debate on the Immigration and Asylum Bill by using such a device, which is utterly wrong.

Last night, if Ministers had said that they wished to timetable debate on the Health Bill, we might have been able to debate the matter. They could have said, "We have reasons for imposing a guillotine", and we could have said, "No, you're wrong to propose imposing one." The Opposition might have been able to object to timetabling the Health Bill by saying that we needed more time to debate the more than 20 groups of amendments that have not been debated. If Ministers had done so, it would have become apparent to everyone that the Government were trying to stifle debate on the Health Bill.

The Government have, however, gone one step beyond that, by saying that yesterday's imagined slow progress in debating Government amendments to the Health Bill—which were tabled with very little notice—justifies stifling debate on the Immigration and Asylum Bill, which is a Home Office matter. Such an assertion is staggering.

The Government's attempt to use a double guillotine has nothing at all to do with the Health Bill. Ministers are simply trying to limit the inconvenience and embarrassment that they would suffer if some of their own Back Benchers—the hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington may be among them—were able to express their convictions about Government legislation to which they objected. All Governments should occasionally face embarrassment. That is why the United Kingdom has an open democratic process which enables the House to debate such matters. It is also why Government Back Benchers are able to express their views, if they have the courage to do so. The Government's attempt to stop that process is not only an abuse of parliamentary debate and of the House's rights and responsibilities, but utterly transparent.

It is staggering that the Government should seek to curtail debate in such a manner. It simply demonstrates the Government's massive abdication of responsibility. Ministers should welcome proper scrutiny and debate of the matters dealt with in the Bills. However, perhaps even more worrying than the Government's abdication of their own responsibility is their failure to allow the Opposition to do what the Opposition should do: ensure that the groups of amendments to the Health Bill—which take up almost two pages in the provisional selection of amendments—are properly debated.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Bedfordshire (Sir N. Lyell) mentioned the significant matter of doctors' hours. However, the Secretary of State suggested that it was not possible to find time to debate that important subject in the House. The subject is not only important to doctors—who are being forced to work unreasonably long hours—but is a matter of the gravest concern to the entire population of the United Kingdom. On admission to hospital, members of the public may discover that they are being treated by a doctor who, although he or she may have the highest professional standards, has been awake for countless hours, staggering—as my right hon. and learned Friend said—through the night.

The rich irony, which will not be lost on the medical profession or on members of the public who observe our debates, is that the plight of doctors—who might be expected to work not only until 10 o'clock at night or midnight, but throughout the night and the next day—could not be properly aired in debate on the Bill's relevant clauses because Labour Members were not prepared to provide time to debate those clauses or to work beyond 10 o'clock.

It is deeply disturbing that the Secretary of State for Health and other Labour Members—who, when in opposition, always sought to take enormous party political advantage from the national health service—are now manifestly failing in their stewardship and management of the health service. In the past, Labour Members sought to gain party advantage by making huge play of issues such as junior doctors' hours, yet they now want longer working hours to be permitted in Europe. It is pathetic that the Government do not have the courage to allow a proper debate on that and I have nothing but contempt for their approach.

Mr. Fabricant

Is my hon. Friend as interested as I am in noticing that, while all the Conservative members of the Committee are present, not one Labour member of the Committee, apart from the Front Benchers, has bothered to turn up? [HON. MEMBERS: "There's one."] I see that the hon. Member for Crawley (Laura Moffatt) has now appeared. Well done to her. Let her name go down in the record. I presume that they chose to serve on the Committee to scrutinise the Bill. Why have they not chosen to scrutinise the guillotine motion or the two pages of amendments that are before us on Report?

Mr. Brady

My hon. Friend makes an important point. I am pleased that the hon. Member for Crawley (Laura Moffatt) made herself known so that she at least could gain credit.

Mr. Paul Truswell (Pudsey)

May I also correct the observations of the hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. Fabricant)? I, too, was a member of the Standing Committee. Would the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady) like to comment on the accuracy of his hon. Friend's observations? I hope that such accuracy does not characterise the rest of his contributions to the debate.

Mr. Brady

If Labour Members failed to make any impression in Committee, I can hardly blame my hon. Friend for not having noticed whether they were there, or indeed whether they are here this evening. At least two Labour members of the Committee have brought themselves to the Chamber this evening. I see that the hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale, East (Mr. Goggins) is also claiming credit for being present, but he is a Parliamentary Private Secretary and has doubtless been asked to sit there for particular reasons.

It is important that Labour Members take their responsibilities as Members of Parliament seriously. If only two of the 14 or 15 Labour Back Benchers who were members of the Committee are able to bring themselves to the Chamber this evening—they were not here yesterday evening for the substantive debate on the Bill—that is a poor performance.

I had hoped to be able to speak yesterday evening on the amendments dealing with rationing of health care, particularly because several constituents have raised concerns with me on that. Yesterday alone I had three letters expressing concerns that I had hoped to have time to raise during consideration in the Chamber. One was about the proposed closure of two of the three wards at Altrincham general hospital and another was from someone who had voted Labour all his life but wrote to say how much he regretted his decision because he felt so profoundly let down by the performance of the Secretary of State for Health.

If the Government persist in denying debate, closing their ears to what is going on around them and ignoring the real concerns of Members of Parliament—concerns that are reflected in the country, which is losing all faith in the ability of Labour Ministers to manage the national health service—they will pay the price. Only if they are prepared to listen to the concerns that my constituents wanted me to raise in the debate will the Government avoid making foolish mistakes and letting down their constituents and mine while they have the stewardship of the country.

The hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington said that I was a relatively new Member of Parliament. That is true and I do not for a moment deny that when my party was in government it sought to guillotine business on many occasions. Some of my hon. Friends, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd), have distinguished records of opposing such motions regardless of who was seeking to manage the time of the House inappropriately. Labour Members may wish to give some consideration to my observation that one reason why the public became rather sick of the Conservative Government towards the end of our 18 years was a perception that we were arrogant and not prepared to listen. There was a feeling that we would push policies through regardless of concerns. Staggeringly, in just two years the Labour Government have scaled giddy heights of arrogance and contempt for the public and Parliament that I do not believe that the Conservative Government ever reached. If the Government do not understand what they are doing and do not pay heed to my warning, they will pay the price.

6.15 pm
Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills)

The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) has given us the most eloquent expression of what we understand by representative democracy and a parliamentary system. Ours is a system of debate. Governments put propositions to the House, seeking legislative rights. We test those propositions. That backwards and forwards process has been at the heart of our democratic system for more than 100 years.

I well remember the rage and anger of Labour Members when they were in opposition as it became clear to them that the guillotine had become a central feature of the Executive's control of the House. I do not mean to be dismissive of the hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart), but she has been muttering and angrily expressing derision at the fact that we have been debating the guillotine motion for an hour and three quarters. The debate is scheduled to go on for three hours.

Fiona Mactaggart

My anger is not about the fact that we are debating the motion, but about the quality of the debate and the way in which some hon. Members have chosen to contribute, which has, in most cases, been highly hypocritical. I exempt the hon. Gentleman from that criticism.

Mr. Shepherd

The hon. Lady is very gracious. In the years that I have been here I have learned that it is not appropriate for me to judge the quality of another's speech. Some of us are more inarticulate than others. It is the genuineness that rings through what hon. Members say that affects and informs our judgments. I would be hesitant to question the quality of another's speech.

The indignation of the then Labour Opposition against the device of the guillotine seemed true and palpable. We know that the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich spoke with a true voice, because she has repeated from the Government Benches what she said in opposition. All the raging in past Parliaments of those who now adorn the Government Front Bench, arguing and fighting against the imposition of a guillotine, which is the curtailment of freedom of speech and of the representative right to express a view, comes to nought in the end. That is the cynicism of our parliamentary processes.

The hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) flitted in for two minutes to tell us that the debate was a waste of her opportunity to debate the substantive issues in the Bills. Everyone knows that the Opposition are not imposing a guillotine, but the hon. Lady will vote for the imposition of a restriction on the opportunity to speak.

That is the cynicism that informs this debate. The Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Health know in their hearts the futility of their position, given that they presented themselves to the electorate as new Labour with new politics and said that the old ways would not prevail: they would be part of the regeneration of British politics and British parliamentary democracy. We now know that to be a foo-fa; it is nonsense. This is now a repetitive process.

There is no question but that the motion is odious. The Secretary of State tried to argue for a guillotine on the Health Bill but the Government have tried to take away time from a proper guillotine consideration by including another Bill. If we address the two guillotine motions equally, instead of the traditional entitlement of the House, as set out in Standing Orders, to discuss a guillotine motion for three hours, we effectively have only an hour and a half for each.

These are the new developments of procedure. The Government are not entirely responsible for twin measures on a guillotine motion, but they are responsible for a total curtailment of debate, so that the five hours on the Health Bill are really only two hours. The Labour party seems quite happy with that. The implications reverberate slowly, trickling through to a wider public who see the sheer cynicism of a Government who profoundly believe that a soundbite is of itself legislation, which it is not.

Every hon. Member who has been here for more than one Parliament knows that the grind of parliamentary business is an attempt to examine some—we do not go through everything line by line or word by word—of the principles that are expressed, for good government, by all Governments through their legislative programmes.

The motion says: Proceedings on Consideration and on Third Reading of the Health Bill [Lords] shall be completed at the sitting this day and shall be brought to a conclusion, if not previously concluded, five hours after the commencement of proceedings on this Motion. That is not a happy thought—two hours are what the Government think sufficient to dispose of this business.

I find that incredible, as Madam Speaker has made a provisional selection of 22 groups of amendments even before we get to Third Reading; but let us do away with Third Reading. Why not? After all, the Government have expressed their view on the matter and there are now enough unrepresentative Labour representatives to close their ears and eyes and support this proceeding. They may genuinely believe in all the details of the legislation, but they support the proceeding that prevents the Opposition—any Opposition—from discussing the matter.

Without a Third Reading, we would have an average of five and a half minutes on each group of amendments. Madam Speaker took the trouble to give subject titles to the groups. The first is Clinical freedom and restrictions on prescribing", which is the resumed debate on new clauses 4, 14, 16 and 17. The issues are great and weighty.

The next group is entitled: Discrimination in the NHS on grounds of disability, race, sex etc. That is important to many hon. Members and to many of our constituents and workers in the NHS. New clause 7 and amendments Nos. 78, 83, 80, 172, 81, 79 and 82 are all to be disposed of—if we average the time available—in five and a half minutes.

Mr. Chisholm

If the Opposition think the amendments so important, why did they sabotage debate on them yesterday, and why are they sabotaging debate on them today?

Mr. Shepherd

I will continue, if I may.

The second group is set aside in that short time. Were he to take the debate himself, the Secretary of State would barely have time to enunciate the new clause and the amendments and the Opposition would barely have time to respond to his enunciation. The hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler), who made a remarkable speech, would not even get a look-in, because the two Front Benchers, excluding every other hon. Member, would have disposed of the matter in five and a half minutes.

Dr. Harris

The hon. Gentleman is wrong, because the new clauses about which he feels so strongly were tabled by the Liberal Democrats, so we would have had the opportunity to speak, in the very short time that he and his colleagues left us for debate, and he will have done himself out of that opportunity by speaking at such length against the guillotine.

Mr. Shepherd

I am not doing anyone out of any time in speaking to the motion. I am not the originator of this ferocious guillotine. I rather suspect that the hon. Gentleman, who is a very new Member, will vote for the motion.

The hon. Member for North Cornwall said that he would like a timetable. I have reflected on timetables for a long time. Where was the balance of the argument in the poll tax legislation? As the Bill developed, we began to see how unworkable it was. It started by asking why a dustman should pay less than a duke but eventually transferred its principle to asking why everyone should not pay something. How, in embarking on a large Bill, can one know where the weight of the argument will develop?

Dr. Howard Stoate (Dartford)

The hon. Gentleman seems to be under the impression that the motion has to be debated for three hours, but does he not understand that the sooner we finish with the motion, the longer we will have available, within the five hours, to debate the substantive amendments on the Health Bill, which I agree entirely are extremely important to the House?

Mr. Shepherd

I am not responsible for the guillotine motion. The question is better directed to the Secretary of State for Health, the Home Secretary and the Leader of the House; they tabled the motion. I look forward to the hon. Gentleman voting against the motion, which of course he will not do.

The third title is Health care and energy efficiency schemes". It concerns new clause 8, which is a Government new clause. We have five and a half minutes on that.

Mr. Dobson

It is a Liberal Democrat new clause.

Mr. Shepherd

If the Secretary of State can explain the distinction to the wider world, we will be grateful.

The next group is entitled, Manpower planning in the NHS and protection of professional qualifications". That is clearly too trivial a matter to detain the House on Report. The group consists of new clauses 9 and 19 and amendments Nos. 1 and 129.

Then we move on to the group of amendments on the right to second opinion on diagnosis or treatment". It contains new clauses 11 and 12. That is what the Government wish to condense into 60 minutes, twice over. The next group is entitled: Health and safety of NHS doctors (maximum hours of work, etc.)". It contains new clauses 13 and 28, plus amendment No. 180. It will be dispensed with in five and a half minutes, if the Government have their way.

The next group is entitled: Duty of confidentiality (patients under 18)". It contains new clause 20. No constituent who has come to my surgery to express concern on either side of the argument has been able to condense the most minimal approach to that question into five and a half minutes. Indeed, it has often taken more than an hour.

The next group deals with "Waiting times". My right hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) mentioned that issue, as did the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich. It is crucial and important to the well-being of what for many of us is perhaps the most important expression of the state in the social circumstances of our life. It too will get five and a half minutes.

The next group is entitled: Regulation of independent hospitals"— and it contains new clause 22 and amendment No. 114. It will get only five and a half minutes. The following group is entitled: Abolition of fund-holding and power to withdraw from Primary Care Trusts". It contains new clause 23 and amendments Nos. 107, 108, 143 and 144. It will be dealt with in only five and a half minutes.

The next group is entitled: Duty to promote partnership with private sector". That is something on which the Government are keen. Many of us share the Government's objectives and others are cautious about them, but the subject will get only an average time of five and half minutes.

The next group is entitled: Establishment of Primary Care Trusts (consultation etc.)". It would almost take me five and a half minutes just to read out the amendments in the group, but they will have to be disposed of in that time. The group contains amendments Nos. 109, 111, 112, 181, 110 and 113, and Government amendments Nos. 53 and 54. Not content with the savage truncation of the debate of a free and representative Parliament, the Government believe that the next group of amendments, entitled Primary Care Trusts (provision of services)", can be dispatched in five and a half minutes.

Then we come to the group entitled "Drafting and miscellaneous". We know that our liberties are often in the detail and the devil is certainly in the detail. The Government will argue that the amendments in this group are technical, but each one will require clarification. The group contains Government amendments Nos. 12, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 32, 37, 39, 105, 44, 45, 48, 52, 55, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 68, 70, 72, 73, and 74.

Mr. Fabricant

Is my hon. Friend aware that if my calculations are correct, that would allow just under 7 seconds to debate each amendment?

Mr. Shepherd

I am bemused that my hon. Friend has taken the trouble to notice the nonsense that the Government have placed on the Order Paper, no doubt to the satisfaction of the hon. Member for Slough.

Next we would come to the group entitled Remuneration for Part II services". It contains Government amendments Nos. 13 and 14, amendment No. 128, and Government amendments Nos. 15, 16, 40, 41, 42, 43, 56, 67, 69, 71, 75 and 76. Will we have adequate time? The Government have still more business to discharge through our process in this forum. The group entitled "Local Representative Committees" contains amendment No. 115, Government amendments Nos. 94, 95, 96, amendments Nos. 116 and 117, Government amendments Nos. 97, 98, 99, amendment No. 118, Government amendments Nos. 100 and 101, amendment No. 119, Government amendment No. 102, amendment No. 120, and Government amendments Nos. 103 and 104. None of this will be treated seriously by a wider public if all that business is thrown through in 120 minutes, excluding a debate on Third Reading.

We have not yet finished. The next group is entitled: Health Improvement Plans for London". The Secretary of State for Health is an elected representative for a London constituency. The group contains amendments Nos. 4 and 3, but perhaps they do not merit discussion. The next group is entitled "Joint Consultative Committees" and it contains amendments Nos. 138 and 142. The next group is called "Pharmaceutical Price Controls". Some of these are big issues, as the House knows. The amendments are not frivolous: they are important. However, the Government feel that Government amendments Nos. 23 and 24, amendments Nos. 93, 178 and 92, Government amendments Nos. 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30 and 31, amendment No. 179 and Government amendments Nos. 33, 34, 35, 36 and 38 can be disposed of in minutes.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Is not the hon. Gentleman illustrating a serious point that is not related to the guillotine? It is the practice that has grown up under both Governments—I have been in the Chair and watched hundreds of Government amendments being moved by Ministers in the previous Government—of producing legislation that has to be updated by the Government. Is not that a sign that our parliamentary draftsmen have some homework to do before we can desist?

Mr. Shepherd

The hon. Lady is right and her experience as a Chairman on the Speaker's Panel, and her long years of service in the House, underline the great urgency with which legislative ideas are often thrown together and presented to the House, giving rise to the need for subsequent amendment to make them workable or even slightly comprehensible to the lay reader. The legislation is no longer meant for the lay reader and it is beyond the reach of ordinary citizens to understand what the Government intend.

The next group of amendments is entitled: Regulation of ancillary health professions". It contains amendments Nos. 145, 167, 77, 169, 6, 162, 163, 164, 91 and 165. The next group is called "Devolution issues (Scotland)". We are fortunate in having the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith (Mr. Chisholm) present. No doubt he would wish to contribute vigorously to the debate on amendments Nos. 183, 184 and 168, Government amendment No. 49 and amendment No. 185, because they touch on Scotland.

Mr. Fabricant

Does my hon. Friend realise that if the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith wished to contribute to the debate on that group of amendments, he would have only 63 seconds per amendment?

Mr. Shepherd

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. We would come next to the group entitled "Devolution issues (Wales)". I have cast my eye round the Chamber and I cannot see a Welsh Member, except for a Whip.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Privy Council Office (Mr. Paddy Tipping)

The Under-Secretary of State for Wales, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Jones), is here.

Mr. Shepherd

My apologies. No doubt the Under-Secretary would move Government amendments Nos. 50 and 51.

So much for the Speaker's selection of amendments that the motion would require us to dispose of in two hours. A debate on Third Reading is also required, of course.

Mr. Tyler

I have sympathy with what the hon. Gentleman has said, and with the comments of the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody). However, given that calculations are being made, will he say how many amendments we could have discussed in the 25 minutes during which he has addressed the House?

Mr. Shepherd

I had always thought that Cornishmen were canny and could understand the thrust of an argument. The hon. Gentleman knows that I am not responsible for the guillotine motion but that I am endeavouring to criticise it. I do not know how I can put it more plainly, so that the hon. Gentleman can understand that we are in this dire position because the Government wish to truncate debate to two hours.

The hon. Member for North Cornwall knows that Standing Orders set out the regime for guillotines, and they allocate three hours for debate on such motions. However, the Government want to blackmail—if I may use such unparliamentary language—the House into shutting up and forgetting its responsibilities as a representative institution. That is not acceptable to some of us. I know how easily a great majority can change Standing Orders, but until that happens we will remain unable to debate a guillotine motion for longer.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham)

My hon. Friend mentioned the Speaker's selection, with which members of the public may not be familiar. Will he confirm that the amendments included in that selection are deemed to be relevant and important, either because they have not been debated in Committee or because they are new?

Mr. Shepherd

I am grateful to my right hon. and learned Friend: that is indeed the rationale behind the selection.

So far, we have debated only the first part of the guillotine motion. The second part states: Proceedings on Consideration and on Third Reading of the Immigration and Asylum Bill shall be completed in two allotted days and, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at midnight on the second allotted day. That is less grand that it sounds: two full parliamentary days seems a long time, but they begin immediately after the conclusion of this debate.

I was generous in calculating that an average of five and a half minutes would be available for debate on each group of amendments. Hon. Members are entitled to express dissent if they so judge, so each of the 82 amendments and new clauses, not all of which are technical, could be voted on. That would be a grim prospect, as it would take up all the time available for debate on the Immigration and Asylum Bill.

There is also a Speaker's selection of amendments and new clauses for the Immigration and Asylum Bill, a measure that is very sensitive for many hon. Members, as it deals with the treatment of human beings in distress. I know that Labour Members are exercised about that. Their party's historical role has been to represent the fears of the oppressed and to understand the needs of people in the most dire of circumstances. It has done that more sensitively than any other party.

Conservative Members are not naive and know that many of the proposals in the Bill test the patience and sympathy of a wide section of the British public. I would not want to have to judge between asylum applications that are genuine and those that are fabricated. The Labour party's heritage is its history as a guardian of safety for the waves of people who came to this country to escape, for example, the pogroms in eastern Europe and Russia at the turn of the century. The Labour party has welcomed them: to its shame, the Conservative party has been less sensitive to people's circumstances and less aware of what they could contribute here. Many immigrants have become an essential ingredient in this country's greatness. We have been the beneficiaries of immigration.

The Government have pulled out some bottom-drawer proposals first put forward by a previous Government. However, I respect the need of many Labour Members and those of my colleagues who are fair minded and who want to examine some of the contentions on which the Bill is based. If the responses on Report were not satisfactory, those hon. Members would want to say, on Third Reading, why they consider that the Bill did not deserve to be "read the Third time". The essence of parliamentary democracy is that hon. Members should be able to reject proposals if they judge that necessary.

How have the Government addressed that tradition? The Speaker's selection groups amendments and new clauses according to their effect on the Bill. Those groups concern the treatment of certain over-stayers, the removal of asylum claimants, facilitation of entry, European Economic Area nationals, and support for children—which all hon. Members know is a sensitive matter. The selection also covers restrictions on employment, general support arrangements for asylum seekers and miscellaneous and consequential amendments.

This latter category includes Government amendments Nos. 32, 33 to 38, 47 to 49, 74, 77 to 80, 83 to 89, 94, 119 to 123, 125 to 133, 135 to 138, and 140 to 142.

Mr. Hogg

My hon. Friend has referred to the importance of Third Reading. Does he agree that a timetable motion that precludes discussion or description of any amendment or new clause prevents hon. Members on either side from determining whether or not to support a Bill, because the information simply is not available to them?

Mr. Shepherd

That is the infamy of guillotine motions. My right hon. and learned Friend's intervention makes me nervous. If I were to repeat in their entirety all the amendments on which we might vote, I might deprive the House and the nation of the opportunity to hear my right hon. and learned Friend speak.

Mr. Jim Dowd (Lord Commissioner to the Treasury)

Every cloud—

Mr. Shepherd

—has a silver lining. A better silver lining would result if the Government reflected on the monstrosity of their guillotine motion.

There are amendments relating to codes of practice and procedures for preventing the carriage of clandestine entrants—Government amendment No. 39, amendment No. 9, Government amendments Nos. 40 and 41, amendment No. 11, and Government amendments Nos. 42 and 45. Codes of practice are of considerable importance, so those amendments deserve proper attention.

Further amendments have been selected on charges for passengers without proper documentation—amendments Nos. 145, 146, 147, 148, Government amendments Nos. 43, 44 and 46, and amendment No. 149. My right hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald alluded to the penalties that might arise from that part of the Bill. There are amendments on bail hearings, a subject in which I am particularly interested. Amendments Nos. 13 and 14 relate to victims of torture and detainees with children. On appeals, adjudicators and the immigration appeal tribunal, we have Government amendments Nos. 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 57, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 97 to 116—I shall not list all of those individually—and 124 and 134.

I have tried to follow the Government's logic in hooking a second guillotine motion to the first. I cannot find the thread in the Speaker's selection that might have led the Government to believe that their soundbites should be reduced to such contempt for the representative and democratic process. On support arrangements for asylum seekers and accommodation, Madam Speaker has selected amendments Nos. 18, 17, 20, 21 and 22. On support arrangements for asylum seekers and interim provisions, she has selected Government amendments Nos. 69 and 95 and Government new schedule 1. On support arrangements for asylum seekers and essential living needs, she has selected amendment No. 143.

Finally, there are amendments on powers of search, arrest, and finger-printing. I know that there is a great distaste for civil liberties these days, and the drum beat is always to give the authorities the right to do things that we traditionally looked at askance. The Home Secretary puffs out his cheeks at that, and I know how irritating all this must be when one is Secretary of State of a great Department that deals with many matters. However, the powers of search, arrest and finger-printing are covered by Government amendments Nos. 75, 76, 81, 82, 90, 117 and 118. After all these amendments, Third Reading would follow. This process cannot be said to be reasonable.

By listing the amendments to be considered by the House, I have tried to set out how absurd it is that any Government of any party should treat the House with the contempt implicit in the Government's derisory dismissal of these great issues. The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich correctly said that the business managers want to get through more business and have many important things to do. However, in recalling my 20 years in the House I can think of few pieces of legislation that were crucial to the well-being of the nation. There were few that shaped the decades ahead of them. Most that did were concentrated in the highly contentious and difficult early years of Lady Thatcher's Governments. Gosh, they were bitterly opposed. Guillotines were imposed, and Members on the current Government Front Bench vigorously opposed them with all the fervour with which they now take me aback by promoting them.

Life is like that. Perhaps in the detail of Bills and the actions implicit in the actions proposed by Government we can find the truth. I hope that the Government will realise a truth today. No matter what the outcome of the guillotine motion, I hope that they will not produce such a lamentable motion again. I urge anyone with any spirit to go through the Lobby against the motion, or at least to abstain.

6.57 pm
Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield)

Last night at 10 pm, the Leader of the House told us that a guillotine would be applied. We were debating new clause 4 on clinical freedom and restrictions of prescribing. We were trying to make the Secretary of State admit that there is rationing in the health service, in the hope that the Government would do something to alleviate it. If the Leader of the House had not come here last night, I would have read a letter from a constituent of mine that goes to the heart of our debate. Our debate about time means that I cannot debate the real issue fully. As we are not debating the Health Bill, but a guillotine motion instead, I shall read only a little of the letter, but it is highly relevant.

My constituent wrote: I am an ovarian cancer patient. I have been treated at Stoke Hospital but unfortunately after trying two types of chemotherapy my oncologist could not offer me any more treatment even though I feel 100 per cent. better than I did six months ago. Because I am only forty one and have a young family I asked for Taxol"— a drug known to many hon. Members— which has very good results only to be told Staffs don't fund Taxol and if they did I wouldn't get it when there are so many people waiting for hip operations. As a result of this I decided to go for a 2nd opinion and am now seeing an oncologist". My constituent believes that she will have to pay for Taxol.

Many of my hon. Friends have received similar letters. My right hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) has received hundreds of letters like that, and they demonstrate that rationing exists. However, all that the Secretary of State can do today—he did not bother to turn up at any sitting of the Standing Committee—is talk to his Front—Bench colleagues. He is not listening to what any of us are saying. Finally, he had to be overruled by the High Court, which said that his imposition of rationing—he does not use that word—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin)

Order. The hon. Gentleman is discussing the subject matter of the Bill, rather than the timetable. He must speak to the motion.

Mr. Fabricant

Thank you for your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My point is simply that so many issues that were discussed in the Health Bill Standing Committee need to be discussed again on Report and at Third Reading.

My hon. Friend and near neighbour the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) listed the groups of amendments selected by Madam Speaker. He calculated that the timetable would allow five and a half minutes to discuss each group. As he said, it is not his opinion or even merely our opinion that the clauses are worth discussing; it is Madam Speaker's opinion. Many more clauses and amendments were tabled and published by the House authorities. Those selected were merely a few that Madam Speaker chose. She felt, on behalf of the House, that they ought to be debated this day for the sake of parliamentary democracy, which means for the sake of those people who elect us to this place.

We all realised that we might well have to debate into the early hours of the morning. I think that all of us were girding our loins. Ladies in the Tea Room asked me whether they would get much overtime and if the debate would go until 4 am or 5 am. While one can argue, as I might, that 4 am is not the best time to debate such issues because of human circadian rhythm—

Miss Widdecombe

It is better than not debating them at all.

Mr. Fabricant

Exactly, but that seems to be a common theme under this Government.

Government new clause 18 was the first issue that we debated last night—a tidying-up clause. Perhaps it was minor and technical, which is how the Secretary of State described all the clauses chosen for debate today. New clause 18 was important and it had to be discussed. If the issue was so minor and technical, as the Secretary of State claims, why did he not produce the new clause in Committee? It is not fair to blame the parliamentary draftsmen; it is passing the buck. We have worked with them and in particular the lady who wrote the explanatory notes and who did so much good and sterling work in the past few weeks in Committee. It is not the parliamentary draftsman but the Government who are at fault.

The very wording of new clause 18 is typical. The first line states: Her Majesty may by Order in Council provide"—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We agreed new clause 18. I was in the Chair last night. It is away—gone and lost for ever. The hon. Gentleman must stick to the timetable motion.

Mr. Fabricant

You know that it is not gone and lost for ever, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as it has been added to the Bill and will be discussed on Third Reading, with which this motion is concerned. Therefore, I think that it is relevant, but I will not try your patience. I simply point out that the new clause and other amendments in this and other Bills presented by the Government constantly provide for secondary legislation upstairs in the form of statutory instruments.

In the past, what was contained in a Government Bill was clear. It contained the information that people needed to know, such as how it would operate. Now we find not Henry VIII clauses but what I would call blank-cheque clauses. Those state that the issues will not be discussed on the Floor of the House and passed on Third Reading, but will be discussed in a brief one and a half hour debate in Committee.

Time is pressing. We are to have two hours to debate Third Reading and all the clauses that my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills enunciated at length—it was right that he did so. This is not parliamentary democracy and it is not why I came to the House in 1992. It is not the reason why one single Member of Parliament in this House was elected. If hon. Members vote for this guillotine motion, it will not only be a betrayal of the electors who elected them but of their own principles that brought them here.

7.6 pm

Mr. Philip Hammond (Runnymede and Weybridge)

What we are talking about and what has been exercising my right hon. and hon. Friends is an institutionalised stifling of debate. We are considering two important Bills. They are very different, but they both contain important issues, which still need to be debated by the whole House. They have one theme in common—the extensive use of delegated legislation and the reservation of powers to Ministers. I will speak first on the Health Bill, about which I inevitably know a little more.

The Secretary of State told us in his opening remarks that the Health Bill had been thoroughly debated in Committee. How does he know? He was not there. He did not attend the Standing Committee once, not even for a courtesy visit.

Health was the Government's keynote policy. It was one of the issues that they used to persuade the electorate at the last general election. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House were expecting the Bill to be a major part of the Government's programme. However, as we have seen, the Government are afraid to debate their failures. If anyone doubts that health is one of their failures, they need only to have seen the graphics displayed on BBC television on Sunday night during the election programmes, which showed how the Government's ratings with the general public have fallen further and faster on health than on any other matter.

The Government are good at publishing glossy White Papers and consultation documents and they are good at issuing press releases—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that we are talking not about the issues but the timetable.

Mr. Hammond

Indeed, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall attempt to show that vital issues remain to be discussed, despite the debate in the House of Lords and in Committee, which must be debated on the Floor of the House.

The Government have delayed all along. They delayed between issuing the White Paper in December 1997 and publishing the Bill for initial consideration by hon. Members at the beginning of this year. They maximised the gap before the reality bit—the period of time when the airy language of the White Paper could be circulated and before it was shot down by the harsh reality of what is in the Bill. During that period, it is fair to say that many people in the professions connected with medicine supported what the Government were doing and liked what they saw in the White Paper. However, that changed rapidly and dramatically when they read the detail of the Bill. As the Bill progressed through the House, those professionals came to us because they relied on us, during Report and at Third Reading, to raise the concerns that still exist after the Bill's extensive consideration. The Government could not get the Bill right, even though it had a year in gestation. The Bill deals with realities, not merely the aspirations expressed in the White Paper.

When the Bill was introduced in the House of Lords, it had 54 clauses and 66 pages. The Bill before us this evening contains 68 clauses and 106 pages. The Government made it up as they went along. They are still making it up now; even during the past few days, they have tabled new clauses and substantive amendments. We must have the opportunity to scrutinise those provisions in detail.

Last night, the Leader of the House said, with a flourish, that the Government had given advance notice of their intention to table a clause containing the provisions in new clause 18. She implied that, in some way, that made it less necessary for us to consider and debate that matter. She referred to a letter from the Minister of State about tabling that new clause, but that letter indicated the Minister's intention to table the clause in Committee. The first that we saw of the new clause was when it was introduced last week; none of us had a formal opportunity to scrutinise it until yesterday.

The right hon. Lady also said that the 82 Government amendments were largely technical. I appreciate that she is not able to follow every Bill in detail as it progresses through the House, but she was not correct in saying that.

The Government amendments tabled to address local representative committees are far from technical; they amount to a reversal of the position that the Government took up in Committee on a new clause that was—incidentally—tabled extremely late and was unable to be debated adequately in Committee. In relation to pharmaceutical pricing, the Government have taken on board at least some of the points made by the Opposition in Committee. However, we certainly needed the opportunity to explore those points further.

Several vital issues were included in the Bill as a result of cross-party initiatives in the House of Lords, such as the regulation of private health care, on which the Secretary of State slipped out a press release at 3 o'clock this morning—no doubt thinking that we would be debating the subject at that time; and the transition from primary care groups to primary care trusts. In Committee, the Government used their majority to delete those provisions, so we will now have to send the Bill back to the House of Lords with their lordships' carefully considered and well-argued provisions deleted, without our having had the opportunity to debate on the Floor of this House the reasons for the Government's action.

There is an arrogance about what the Government did yesterday and today. The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) said that Governments always try to avoid scrutiny. I am sure that she is right. However, in this case, the effort to avoid scrutiny is dangerously misplaced; it is clear from the evidence of the passage of the Health Bill through the House so far that it benefited greatly from the scrutiny that it received. The Government fear proper consideration of the issues because that exposes the gap between their rhetoric and the reality that drives their actions tonight.

It is apparent that the Government regard the beauty sleep of Ministers as more important than debate on hospital waiting lists, in which my right hon. and hon. Friends would have been able to probe the alternative solution of considering hospital waiting times. Ministers' sleep is more important than establishing proper relationships between the NHS and the private sector, so that both can benefit. It is more important than the scandal of junior doctors' working hours, which my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Bedfordshire (Sir N. Lyell) touched on during his speech. It is more important than allaying the widespread fears and anxieties of GPs as to the transition mechanisms for primary care trusts.

We have been unfortunate in that the Health Bill and the Immigration and Asylum Bill were side by side in this week's business. There was no need at all for the Government to stop the business at 10 o'clock last night. They could have allowed the debate on the Health Bill to run on through the night without risking, in any way, the progress of the Immigration and Asylum Bill today. However, their business managers seized the opportunity to use that excuse to curtail debate on the Immigration and Asylum Bill. There was no excuse whatever for dragging that Bill into what was, in essence, a health dispute. Those Labour Members who were likely to prove awkward in respect of the Immigration and Asylum Bill had already been sent off on their gardening leave for the appropriate days. No member of the Government wanted to risk any slippage in the timetable.

I am conscious of the fact that I need to leave enough time for the Home Secretary to respond to the debate, but this has been a very shabby episode indeed. My hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Mr. Wardle) used the word "pique", which I had already written down in my notes. The whole matter smacks of pique. The Government are acting like a school bully who was given a thumping on Sunday evening and came into the Chamber on Monday determined to throw his weight around, in a desperate effort to reassert himself—or perhaps I should say "herself'. However, in that process, the Government have proclaimed their contempt for Parliament; they have reasserted their determination to undermine and marginalise this House. I urge my hon. Friends to vote against the timetable motion.

7.16 pm
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Jack Straw)

I begin on what is, I hope, a harmonious note in what has otherwise been a rather discordant debate. It is rare to see a Member on either Front Bench making a seamless transition from one portfolio to another in the course of a single debate. However, that is the honour that has befallen the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe). I congratulate her on her appointment as shadow Home Secretary. She brings to that position a comprehensive—indeed, daunting—knowledge of many aspects of the work of the Home Office. I wish her well and look forward to many constructive engagements.

I also offer my good wishes to the right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler), who has just retired as shadow Home Secretary. Although we have held many arguments across the Floor of the House, I thank him for the way in which he has conducted those arguments, and for the many private conversations that we have held—as is inevitable and necessary with the work of the Home Office. I also send him my good wishes.

My hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) made some important points about guillotine motions with which I agree. I accept her point that debate in the House is at its best when it is allowed to flow freely, where there is give and take, and where there is a real dialectical process—I do not use the phrase in a mocking sense—in which propositions are put forward and countered, and progress is made in the thinking of hon. Members on both sides of the House. For that reason, I say—I hope that these remarks will not be taken down, although I accept that they will be—that I have had some reservations about the limit on speeches that has been instituted. The best part of a debate is when one is challenged—either by one's own side or by opponents. That is what makes debate in the House so different from debate almost anywhere else.

That said, my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich is right in another respect: on occasion, all Governments have to resort to guillotine motions. The Labour Government are no exception to that rule—any more than the previous Conservative Government were.

Mr. Fabricant

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Straw

I shall do so in a second.

Governments resort to guillotine motions when it is not possible to reach agreement through the usual channels on the broad timetable for debates.

I give way to the hon. Member for Lichfield, but I ask him to be brief because time is limited.

Mr. Fabricant

Why did the Government have to up stumps so early last night; and, if that had to be done, why did it have to be done at 10 o'clock? Why not midnight, 1 o'clock or 2 o'clock, which would have allowed us to debate more amendments?

Mr. Straw

I shall come to that point, but let me first finish my more general point.

All Governments have to resort to guillotines when it is not possible to reach a sensible agreement with the Opposition. In the early stages of a 17-year period on the Opposition Front Bench, I, like my colleagues, thought that it would impress the electorate if we filibustered debates. We used the same and well-tried technique as the Opposition used last night, in which colleagues support each other—it is actually quite entertaining and we impress each other, if no one else. I was a party to the use of those techniques and, for quite some time, thought that it would convince our constituents that we were doing the business for them. We used to use similarly high-flown phrases about the end of parliamentary democracy as we knew it and words like "arrogance" when the Government tried to stop us. However, after a while, I discovered that the good people of Blackburn were not terribly impressed.

Miss Widdecombe

The right hon. Gentleman speaks of the failure to reach a sensible agreement, but any failure in respect of any Bill was confined to the Health Bill. Why has he imposed a guillotine on the Immigration and Asylum Bill, which had not been tested in debate on the Floor of the House?

Mr. Straw

Let me come to that point later, along with the point raised by the hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. Fabricant).

As I was saying, I remember the Duke of York activities and our discovery that they were less impressive than we had thought. Towards the end of my sojourn on the Opposition Front Bench, I strove hard and usually successfully, even on very contentious Bills, to reach agreement with people renowned outside the House and even among their own junior Ministers—I should point out that I did not share the view—for not being entirely reasonable. I endeavoured to reach agreement on the conduct of debates, and the debates were the better for that and far more impressive than the Opposition running debates through the night.

That brings me to the question of why both Bills have been included in one guillotine motion. Anyone who was in the House last night, as I was, listening to and observing the debate, and anyone who missed that great delight and has had to read the Official Report, will have noted that there was a most serious filibuster. There is no dispute about that—

Mr. David Amess (Southend, West)

There was not.

Mr. Straw

The hon. Gentleman, whom I greatly admire and who is also an Essex man, protests too much—of course there was a filibuster going on and there is no point in getting into a terrible lather about it.

The Opposition had been told on three occasions, without protesting once, that there would be one day for Report and Third Reading of the Health Bill, yet the whole of yesterday was used up debating only a tiny part of that Bill, with no prospect of agreement with the usual channels on the remainder of the Bill. Despite continuing discussions, no undertakings had been forthcoming, and it was becoming palpably clear that, even if we had gone through the night, which would not have impressed anyone, there was no prospect of finishing the Health Bill before the end of the week—still less commencing and finishing proceedings on the Immigration and Asylum Bill. That is why we regretfully had to adopt the procedure of guillotining two Bills in one motion.

The right hon. Members for Maidstone and The Weald and for Sutton Coldfield are not suffering from total amnesia: they have some vague recollection of the period before 1 May 1997, when they were members of a Government. They have had to admit that, every so often and always with regret, the previous Government introduced guillotine motions, and that, because they were adornments on the Treasury Bench for much of that time, they had to vote for them.

The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield said that the Conservatives did not guillotine the sort of Bills that we are guillotining. He said—I paraphrase, but not completely—that they guillotined only really nasty Bills that everyone opposed, and that they did not guillotine soft and cuddly Bills—like the Immigration and Asylum Bill, I suppose. I am sorry to have to disabuse the right hon. Gentleman, but one of the Bills that was guillotined by his Government was one for which there was serious all-party support and which has, on the whole, stood the test of time: on 26 November 1989, the Children Bill was guillotined. There have been few less controversial Bills than that, but it was guillotined.

That brings us to the central charge levelled by the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald. As a supporter of and then a member of the Conservative Government, she has form and previous convictions for having, time and again, traipsed through the Lobby to vote for a guillotine motion. To try to distinguish her previous convictions from the form that the Labour Government are clocking up, she says that there is a difference between a guillotine motion that guillotines only one Bill and one that guillotines two. She asked, not once, not twice, but three times: when did the previous Government go for a double guillotine? Well, I can tell her when they did that.

To spare the right hon. Lady's blushes, I have not gone back over the full 18 years of Conservative rule; I have taken my evidence only from the middle of 1987, when she became a Member of Parliament. On 11 November 1988, the School Boards (Scotland) Bill and the Housing Bill were guillotined in a double motion. On 26 November 1989, the Children Bill was guillotined with the Companies Bill. I should point out to the hon. Member for Aldridge—Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) that, at 167 clauses, there were more clauses in the Companies Bill, which was a single part of that double bill, than are contained in the Health Bill and the Immigration and Asylum Bill combined.

Barely was the ink dry on the double guillotine motion of 26 November 1989 than, two weeks later, November, the Local Government and Housing Bill and the Employment Bill were guillotined together. Finally, to confirm that double guillotines were a serious habit of the Conservative Government, on 13 March 1992, the Finance Bill and the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Bill were guillotined together.

I have checked the record, in recognition of the possibility that on each of those occasions—November 1988, October 1989, November 1989 and March 1992—the right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald might have been absent from the House. After all, she might have been sent on a trip by her right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), the then Home Secretary. However, I have to inform her that she is plainly suffering from the most profound amnesia, for on every single occasion that the House was invited by the Conservative Government of which she was a member to vote for a double guillotine, she went into the Lobby to do so. She did not miss a single occasion, so strong was her support for the concept of the double guillotine. [Interruption.] One of my colleagues suggests that the right hon. Lady is a recidivist.

As a Home Office Minister, the right hon. Lady introduced courses in Her Majesty's establishments to address offending behaviour. Before one can address such behaviour, one must admit one's guilt. If people are in denial so complete that they have no knowledge of committing an offence, they cannot go on courses to address their offending behaviour. In her ministerial capacity, the right hon. Lady stressed that, if prisoners did not participate in courses to address their offending behaviour, they could not earn parole and early release. I regret that the right hon. Lady and her right hon. and hon. Friends will have a slow release from the labours of Opposition if they continue in this way.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich that 18 years of opposition was a hard school. There are two ways to oppose the Government. The first is to run at the wall. We tried that method for quite a long time—for too long—and wondered why we had a sore head and why no one was terribly impressed. The second is to debate matters properly, agreeing sensible timetable motions with the Government of the day. That is what we decided to do and, as a result, the then Government achieved its business program and the conduct of parliamentary business improved.

Both of the Bills before us have been the subject of thorough discussion, and the Immigration and Asylum Bill has been considered in a Special Standing Committee. I believe that this motion is entirely justified.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 325, Noes 145.

Division No. 205] [7.32 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Corston, Ms Jean
Ainger, Nick Cousins, Jim
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Cranston, Ross
Alexander, Douglas Crausby, David
Allen, Graham Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Cummings, John
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack (Copeland)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary
Ashton, Joe Curtis—Thomas, Mrs Claire
Atherton, Ms Candy Dalyell, Tarn
Atkins, Charlotte Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Barnes, Harry Darvill, Keith
Barron, Kevin Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Battle, John Davidson, Ian
Beard, Nigel Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Begg, Miss Anne Dawson, Hilton
Bell, Martin (Tatton) Dean, Mrs Janet
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough) Denham, John
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C) Dismore, Andrew
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield) Dobbin, Jim
Bennett, Andrew F Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Berry, Roger Donohoe, Brian H
Best, Harold Doran, Frank
Betts, Clive Dowd, Jim
Blackman, Liz Drew, David
Blears, Ms Hazel Drown, Ms Julia
Blizzard, Bob Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Blunkett, Rt Hon David Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Boateng, Paul Edwards, Huw
Borrow, David Efford, Clive
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Ellman, Mrs Louise
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Fisher, Mark
Bradshaw, Ben Fitzpatrick, Jim
Brinton, Mrs Helen Fitzsimons, Lorna
Brown, Rt Hon Gordon (Dunfermline E) Flint, Caroline
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E) Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Browne, Desmond Foulkes, George
Buck, Ms Karen Galbraith, Sam
Burden, Richard Galloway, George
Burgon, Colin Gapes, Mike
Butler, Mrs Christine Gardiner, Barry
Caborn, Rt Hon Richard George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Gerrard, Neil
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Gibson, Dr Ian
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Campbell—Savours, Dale Godsiff, Roger
Cann, Jamie Goggins, Paul
Caton, Martin Golding, Mrs Llin
Cawsey, Ian Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Chaytor, David Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Chisholm, Malcolm Grocott, Bruce
Clapham, Michael Gunnell, John
Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands) Hain, Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S) Hanson, David
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge) Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Clelland, David Healey, John
Clwyd, Ann Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Coaker, Vernon Heppell, John
Coffey, Ms Ann Hesford, Stephen
Cohen, Harry Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Coleman, Iain Hill, Keith
Colman, Tony Hinchliffe, David
Connarty, Michael Hodge, Ms Margaret
Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston) Hoey, Kate
Corbett, Robin Home Robertson, John
Corbyn, Jeremy Hood, Jimmy
Hoon, Geoffrey Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Hope, Phil Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)
Hopkins, Kelvin Mountford, Kali
Howarth, Alan (Newport E) Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Mudie, George
Howells, Dr Kim Mullin, Chris
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford) Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Humble, Mrs Joan Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Hurst, Alan Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)
Hutton, John Naysmith, Dr Doug
Iddon, Dr Brian Norris, Dan
Ingram, Rt Hon Adam O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead) O'Neill, Martin
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough) Osborne, Ms Sandra
Jamieson, David Palmer, Dr Nick
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle) Pearson, Ian
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield) Pendry, Tom
Pickthall, Colin
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Pike, Peter L
Jones, Helen (Warrington N) Plaskitt, James
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Pope, Greg
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak) Pound, Stephen
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S) Powell, Sir Raymond
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Keeble, Ms Sally Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston) Primarolo, Dawn
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth) Prosser, Gwyn
Kelly, Ms Ruth Purchase, Ken
Khabra, Piara S Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
Kidney, David Radice, Giles
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth) Rammell, Bill
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green) Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Kumar Dr Ashok Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Ladyman, Dr Stephen Robertson, Rt Hon George (Hamilton S)
Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Laxton, Bob Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Lepper, David Roche, Mrs Barbara
Leslie, Christopher Rooker, Jeff
Levitt, Tom Rooney, Terry
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S) Rowlands, Ted
Lewis, Terry (Worsley) Roy, Frank
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen Ruane, Chris
Linton, Martin Ruddock, Joan
Livingstone, Ken Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C) Ryan, Ms Joan
Lock, David Sarwar, Mohammad
McAllion, John Savidge, Malcolm
McAvoy, Thomas Sawford, Phil
McCabe, Steve Sedgemore, Brain
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian (Makerfield) Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Macdonald, Calum Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
McDonnell, John Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
McFall, John Skinner, Dennis
McGuire, Mrs Anne Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
McIsaac, Shona Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Mackinlay, Andrew Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
McLeish, Henry Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
McNulty, Tony Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Mactaggart, Fiona Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Mallaber, Judy Snape, Peter
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury) Soley, Clive
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Southworth, Ms Helen
Marshall—Andrews, Robert Squire, Ms Rachel
Martlew, Eric Steinberg, Gerry
Maxton, John Stevenson, George
Meale, Alan Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Merron, Gillian Stinchcombe, Paul
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley) Stoate, Dr Howard
Milburn, Rt Hon Alan Stott, Roger
Miller, Andrew Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Moffatt, Laura Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Moonie, Dr Lewis Stringer, Graham
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N) Stuart, Ms Gisela
Morley, Elliot Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury) Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Taylor, Ms Dan (Stockton S) Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Temple—Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W) Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W) Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Timms, Stephen Wills, Michael
Tipping, Paddy Winnick, David
Touhig, Don Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Trickett, Jon Wise, Audrey
Truswell, Paul Wood, Mike
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE) Woolas, Phil
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk) Worthington, Tony
Twigg, Derek (Halton) Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield) Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Vaz, Keith Wyatt, Derek
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire Tellers for the Ayes: Mr. Kevin Hughes and Jane Kennedy.
Wareing, Robert N
White, Brian
Allan, Richard Hammond, Philip
Amess, David Hancock, Mike
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Harris, Dr Evan
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Harvey, Nick
Baker, Norman Hawkins, Nick
Beith, Rt Hon A J Heald, Oliver
Bercow, John Heathcoat—Amory, Rt Hon David
Beresford, Sir Paul Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Boswell, Tim Horam, John
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Brady, Graham Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Brake, Tom Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Brazier, Julian Jenkin, Bernard
Browning, Mrs Angela Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Keetch, Paul
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Key, Robert
Burnett, John King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Burstow, Paul Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Butterfill, John Kirkwood, Archy
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife) Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Cash, William Lansley, Andrew
Chidgey, David Leigh, Edward
Clappison, James Letwin, Oliver
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Livsey, Richard
Clifton—Brown, Geoffrey Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Cormack, Sir Patrick Loughton, Tim
Cotter, Brian Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Davey, Edward (Kingston) MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Davies, Quentin (Grantham) MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice) Maclean, Rt Hon David
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
Evans, Nigel McLoughlin, Patrick
Faber, David Madel, Sir David
Fabricant, Michael Malins, Humfrey
Fallon, Michael Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Fearn, Ronnie Moore, Michael
Flight, Howard Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Forth, Rt Hon Eric Nicholls, Patrick
Foster, Don (Bath) Norman, Archie
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Oaten, Mark
Fraser, Christopher Öpik, Lembit
Garnier, Edward Ottaway, Richard
Gibb, Nick Paice, James
Gill, Christopher Paterson, Owen
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl Prior, David
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Randall, John
Gray, James Redwood, Rt Hon John
Green, Damian Rendel, David
Greenway, John Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Grieve, Dominic Ross, William (E Lond'y)
Gummer, Rt Hon John Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Russell, Bob (Colchester) Tonge, Dr Jenny
St Aubyn, Nick Trend, Michael
Sanders, Adrian Tyler, Paul
Sayeed, Jonathan Tyrie, Andrew
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian Viggers, Peter
Shepherd, Richard Walter, Robert
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk) Wardle, Charles
Smith, Sir Robert (WAb'd'ns) Waterson, Nigel
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S) Webb, Steve
Soames, Nicholas Wells, Bowen
Spicer, Sir Michael Whitney, Sir Raymond
Spring, Richard Whittingdale, John
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Steen, Anthony Willis, Phil
Streeter, Gary Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Stunell, Andrew Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Syms, Robert Yeo, Tim
Tapsell, Sir Peter Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton) Tellers for the Noes: Mr. Stephen Day and Mr. Tim Collings.
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy

Question accordingly agreed to.


That the following provisions shall apply to the remaining proceedings on the Health Bill [Lords] and the Immigration and Asylum Bill

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