HC Deb 07 November 2000 vol 356 cc172-207

Motion made, and Question proposed, That at today's sitting the Speaker shall put the Questions necessary to dispose of proceedings on the Motions in the name of Margaret Beckett relating to Programming of Bills and Deferred Divisions not later than Ten o'clock, and such Questions shall include the Questions on any amendments selected by the Speaker which may then be moved; and those Questions may be decided, though opposed, after the expiration of the time for opposed business.—[Mr. Kevin Hughes.]

4.9 pm

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst)

This motion is yet another attempt by the Government to truncate debate on—arguably—one of the most important matters that has come before the House, perhaps in its history, but certainly for a very long time. It proposes to alter the balance between the Government, the Executive and the House of Commons. Given that, one would have thought that even this Government would want the House of Commons to have sufficient time to consider properly the matter in its totality, including the amendments to the motions, which you, Mr. Speaker, have kindly selected.

However, we find that the opposite is the truth. In what can only be a calculated insult to the House, the Government have had the gall to suggest that such vital matters, affecting, as they might if hon. Members agreed them, the very balance between the Executive and the House, can be disposed of at an arbitrary hour—in this case 10 o'clock. That strikes me as gratuitous and completely unnecessary—and, might I add, insulting.

That is even more true given that the Order Paper on Thursday and then yesterday revealed that the Government were to attempt to cut this business even shorter, by finishing it at 8 o'clock. That is notwithstanding the fact that we have had an important statement today, and therefore time is even shorter. That cannot be right. One would have thought that agreeing such radical and fundamental changes to Standing Orders, and therefore the relationship between the Executive and the House—and, in the matter of deferred Divisions, the basis on which the House has been used to debating and voting for many centuries—required proper time for consideration.

Under the motion, the House is asked to agree that justice can be done to such matters by 10 o'clock, even though we have started to consider them after 4 o'clock. Indeed, the situation is worse than that, because, subject to your guidance in due course, Mr. Speaker, the Government are suggesting that we debate all matters at once and then vote on them in a group after 10 o'clock. In other words, the House will not be able to consider its decision on one matter before it moves to another. That is unnecessary and highly irregular.

Surely it would have been appropriate, in this of all debates, to have given Members, as has happened in debates not just in this Parliament but in many previous Parliaments, proper and ample opportunity to deliberate these matters until whatever time we think appropriate, rather than presenting us with what can be described only as a guillotine on the ending of the traditional role of the House of Commons.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath)

Does my right hon. Friend think that it is particularly ironic that the Government should be seeking so to undermine parliamentary democracy in the few days immediately after Guy Fawkes night? Nearly 400 years since the successful foiling of the previous attempt to damage this House, the Government are trying to blow up parliamentary traditions.

Mr. Forth

I am grateful to my hon. Friend; with much greater elegance than I am ever able to muster, he has summarised the nature of the decisions before us. [Interruption.] Labour Members obviously find this amusing. The distressing thing is that they would, wouldn't they? Given what we have come to know as the collective contempt of Government Members for this House, its traditions and conventions, and more particularly for the role that Members of Parliament have assumed until now that they can play in holding the Government to account, it would appear that there is a remarkable similarity. The Government, in the guise of the Modernisation Committee—for this purpose the two are identical—have decided to assault the House of Commons.

As has become the custom in such cases—I regret to say this, with the Leader of the House in her place—there has not even been an attempt by the Government or anyone else to explain to the House why the motion is on the Order Paper, and why the Government believe that discussion of these vital issues, which touch on the most fundamental relationship between the House and the Government, must be truncated and limited as is proposed.

As usual, we are all at sea. We do not know the rationale behind the proposal. The assumption seems to have been made, as ever it is by the Government, that the House will meekly accept this outrageous attempt to limit us before we get to the substance of the matter, when the Government and the Modernisation Committee will attempt irrevocably to change the relationship—

Sir Peter Emery (East Devon)

Will my right hon. Friend remind the House that the normal practice has been that we would debate such matters, and orders would later be tabled for the House to decide on, having considered what the debate had produced? That will not happen today.

Mr. Forth

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. That is yet another flaw in the proceedings. Neither the Government nor the so-called Modernisation Committee have any idea at this stage how far the House agrees with the thrust and the principle of what they are trying to do, Not for them an attempt to seek the views of the House, and in the light of those to present proposals to change Standing Orders. Instead, we are faced with a peremptory effort to change the principles and the subject of the matter, and rolled within that, an attempt to change Standing Orders.

Mr. Speaker, you have said kindly that you will guide us as to the procedures that will be followed—but if I may say so, even subject to that, I doubt very much whether we will be able to do justice to the issues before 10 pm. That should be a matter for the House to decide; it is not for the Government to say that we have from now until 10 o'clock to decide these matters.

The business motion that we are considering represents as good a summation as one could get of the contemptuous attitude with which the Government are dealing with the matter. It is not good enough, and I shall seek to divide the House on the motion, so that hon. Members who are as unhappy as I am about it will be able to express their views on this attempt to gag the House even in such a vital matter.

4.17 pm
Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire)

I support the general remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth). Even at this late stage, I appeal to the Leader of the House to fulfil that role, as she well can and as she frequently has, and to serve the House by withdrawing the motion and allowing us to debate the general principles behind a number of very different issues.

It is possible that some Opposition Members are in favour of some of the Government's propositions and violently opposed to others. I hope that this will be a parliamentary occasion on which hon. Members on both sides will examine each proposal on its individual merits and decide whether it will advance the interests of Parliament to pass the motion.

The only sensible, logical and fair way of doing that is for the Leader of the House to allow us to have a general debate this afternoon on the principles proposed. After all, we do not have the state opening of Parliament until 6 December and we need not prorogue until 4 or 5 December. We have ample time for each of the orders to be tabled separately and for the House to concentrate on it, debate it and pass it or reject it.

The Leader of the House would be serving the House and fulfilling her historic role if she listened to this plea for common sense and logic, as I hope she will.

4.19 pm
Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

Sometimes in the House of Commons the language used seems to suggest that particular items of discussion are considered solely on a party basis. I therefore want to make my position clear. I have looked carefully at the wording of the motion and I am deeply disturbed that we should be proceeding with major changes, apparently on a timetabled motion. I am not quite clear why the Leader of the House has not chosen to introduce the business motion; presumably, she will comment at the end of the debate.

These are not small matters. They may be presented as a moving of the furniture and an alteration here and there. They may even be presented as modernisation, by those who basically do not approve of the close examination of legislation and somehow feel that whatever the Government say must automatically be right. Long acquaintance with Governments of all parties has taught me that Members are wise to examine carefully what is being presented to them—and not only in terms of whether it fits in with their individual ideas or with the ideas of their party, on which they accepted nomination. They should consider carefully whether what is being presented affects the interests of their constituents.

Timetable motions, however they are presented, reduce the time available to the House to debate major matters. It is not only a matter of convenience. Were I a cynic, I might say that the accident of the decision to have the debate today, when many Members might be expected to want to go elsewhere and to enjoy the no doubt abundant hospitality of well known embassies, might have an effect on the attendance within the Chamber. I am sure, however, that that is not the case.

I have opposed timetable motions under many Governments, not only the present Government. I feel strongly that the Back-Bench Member has only one real weapon, and that is careful scrutiny. Back Benchers can be bought off occasionally with patronage; they can be encouraged and frightened. Occasionally they get themselves into positions which some of us would feel are slightly uncomfortable in relation to their masters and mistresses. However, they have the power to question what lies behind particular pieces of legislation. They can examine the use of particular words—the semantics that present major changes as minor changes, and present essential alterations as though they were methods of making life convenient for individual Members.

I am delighted to know that the proposals are being presented so that I may know in future more securely what my day will be like. That will be a tremendous improvement on the past 35 years. But I did not think that I was coming to Parliament to have my day secured. I rather thought that I was coming to this place to examine in considerable detail laws that carry sanctions against people's lives.

There are parts of the reports that make it clear what we are supposed to be doing in the House. Parliamentary draftsmen have spelt out the difference between the wording of laws and the wording of information leaflets. They have made it clear why Members must accept the responsibility of dealing with complex legislation, which in its terms and in its English leads them to experience difficulty, and to require explanation.

I say sincerely that I shall accept some of the suggestions that will be discussed today, while others I find unacceptable. However, they are major changes, not small alterations. They will have an enormous impact, and every Government will benefit from them. In due course, every Front-Bench team will want to agree them, irrespective of its political power and irrespective of where it comes from, or what it presents itself to the electorate as representing. That should be a warning signal to individual Members, and make them ask why suddenly such matters can be dismissed so quickly. Is it because awkward questions may be asked?

I support the strange old-fashioned idea that a lot of us are elected to the House to ask awkward questions and to get some fairly straight answers. My experience is that those who seek to curtail debate—whatever their reasons and however they express them—should be distrusted, if only mildly. We should treat them with affectionate respect, but we should also listen carefully to what they say. That is not simply a question of saying, "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts." Believe me, it is always wise for Back-Bench Members to beware of motions proposed by Front Benchers who argue that the proposals in the motion are for the convenience of Back Benchers.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You safeguard the interests of Back Benchers. Bearing in mind the opaque nature of the motion, would it have been appropriate for the Leader of the House, whose role is to represent the interests of all Members of the House, to have begun with an explanation of that motion? That would have made it clear where we stand. Alternatively, Sir, bearing in mind the fact that you announced that you intended to make a statement, would it be appropriate for you to say, on behalf of the House, how you believe that those important questions, which are about the fundamental nature of the House, should be dealt with? The decisions that we take today will be binding.

Mr. Speaker

The answer is no.

4.26 pm
Mr. Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks)

I, too, oppose the motion. First, although it is deplorable for any debate to be curtailed, it is particularly deplorable and appalling for debate on a motion that will curtail our rights to be curtailed. Those important rights—rights of debate and of assent to legislation—are central to our work.

Secondly, the proposed changes are fundamental. In essence, they, and in particular the proposal to defer Divisions, will change the parliamentary week. They could turn us into a one-day-a-week Parliament.

Thirdly, as the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) said, the changes will be convenient for Ministers of either political complexion, and may be convenient for some hon. Members, but they will be irreversible, and should therefore be debated at greater length.

If the motion is agreed to, we shall bury one of the principles of our democracy tonight. If we are to do that, we should at least do it with some thought, without curtailment and with a certain amount of dignity. I very much regret that a procedural change designed to stifle debate should itself be stifled by a guillotine motion. I join my hon. Friends in asking the Leader of the House: why the rush? There is no other urgent business on the Order Paper, and there is plenty of time before the end of the Session. Big issues are at stake on programming motions and deferring Divisions. If the Leader of the House is so keen to have a vote by the 10 pm deadline tonight, why do we not have a longer debate, and why does she not try out the proposals? We could defer the Division until tomorrow, which would allow us to debate the motion at greater length.

4.29 pm
Mr. Ian Pearson (Dudley, South)

I shall be brief. I share many of the concerns that have been expressed.

I have always supported the sensible programming of Bills, and although I have some concerns about the orders, Parliament should take that step. I have many more concerns about the proposal to defer voting.

In many ways, the proposals fundamentally alter my terms and conditions of employment. I was sent here to do a job, and it has been put to me that in many ways, the proposals will make my job easier. But I was not elected to have an easy job; I was elected to scrutinise legislation. When I ask the fundamental questions—whether the proposals will make the business of Government easier, and whether they will make it more difficult to scrutinise legislation—I have to answer yes to both. Therefore, it is imprudent of the Government—

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, whose contribution the House is listening to with interest, but I hope that you have noticed that the hon. Member speaking is incorrectly recorded on the monitor as being the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Sutcliffe).

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst)

We did not need that explanation. It is fairly obvious to all of us. We all know who we are.

Mr. Pearson

I certainly know who I am, and I am prepared to say what I believe on the matter before us, even though it might not be acceptable to some of my right hon. and hon. Friends.

I was not put here to have an easy job; I was put here to scrutinise the Government, and I believe in doing that. It is imprudent for the Government to timetable a motion on a fundamental change to my terms and conditions of employment that will make life easier for Government and for Back Benchers, but which will produce a result which is far worse for democracy. Therefore I shall vote against the timetable motion.

4.31 pm
Sir Peter Emery (East Devon)

I rise to make two important points. The Modernisation Committee has not seen, let alone discussed, the orders on the Order Paper. The principles behind them have appeared in reports, but when it comes to the detail of how the orders will apply, they may well represent a different view and approach, which the House might wish to consider and debate.

Mr. Forth

Is my right hon. Friend suggesting that the words before us today are the Government's interpretation of what the Modernisation Committee wanted to say?

Sir Peter Emery

I do not know if "wanted to say" is right. The words are the Government's words, interpreting the reports which have been before the House for some time. In as detailed a matter as this, I should have expected the method by which the alterations would be applied to have come before the Committee, which has been dealing with the matter for some months, so that it could have seen the way in which the Government wanted matters to operate in the House.

Sir Patrick Cormack

Does not that reinforce my plea to the Leader of the House that we should debate the principles this afternoon, and the motions should be tabled at a later date?

Sir Peter Emery

I am delighted to have given way to my hon. Friend, but he has stolen the last line of my speech.

My second point is that it is most unusual for the person who leads for the Opposition on the Modernisation Committee to come forward with a detailed Opposition paper on the recommendations under consideration. That report is a detailed outline by my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young) of how the procedures might better be applied. I urge all hon. Members to read the report; it will not take more than a few minutes. It suggests a different pattern and sets out a slightly different view of the final proposal, which was agreed only by the Government and the Liberal Democrats; Conservative members of the Committee opposed it.

Helen Jackson (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

I do not want to continue a Modernisation Committee discussion, but does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the principle of better timetabling in the House has been the subject of numerous debates? Was not it the view of the Modernisation Committee that the place to discuss the important matter that we are considering today was the Chamber, so that the whole House could make a decision by the end of the Session? That was the wish of the whole Committee, and we are realising it today.

Sir Peter Emery

The hon. Lady is an assiduous member of the Modernisation Committee, and has most ably contributed several views, which are not always popular with her party. Her comments reinforce those of my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack). She is right to say that the Modernisation Committee believes that the changes should be presented by the end of the Session so that they can apply next Session. However, that does not mean that we have to do it all in a rush tonight; after all, the Queen's Speech will not take place next week. We are sent away Friday after Friday; the Government therefore do not have so much business that they cannot hold a debate on the matter, hear the views of the House, consider them and present recommendations.

I am most critical of one matter. I believe that there are ways in which one should assist in getting measures through the House, but every aspect of a Bill should be considered in Committee. That does not often happen; it should happen far more. For a long time I have argued that when timetabling, we should ensure that every part of a Bill is considered. However, that point is not made in any of the orders. If it is not in order to ensure that a Committee considers every aspect of a Bill, I wonder whether it is right to proceed with the motion that we are considering, because it will curtail the sort of discussion that the House has the right to expect the Leader of the House to provide for our convenience. Although the Leader of the House is a Minister—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, whose expertise in procedural matters is widely acknowledged in the House, but I must direct his attention to the fact that the contents of the motion relate not to whether we should proceed but to whether the correct amount of time has been allowed.

Sir Peter Emery

I am delighted that you interrupted, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because you remind me of what I am trying to say. I am obviously not saying it well enough, and I need much longer, to ensure that I do.

The timetabling that the motion suggests is unfair to the ordinary Back-Bench Member. The duty of the Leader of the House to the House means that she must always be fair to hon. Members from all parties, not only to the Government. I perceive no reason—if there is a reason, perhaps the Leader of the House will provide it—for not proceeding with a general debate on the two reports, with reference to a third. Any thoughts that arise from those could be put forward in a new motion to the House, which would alter Standing Orders. All that can be done before we rise. We have the time. Why will the Leader of the House not consider that appeal? I hope that from the noise that greets me when I sit down, she will realise how strongly the House feels about it.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear!

4.40 pm
Ms Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate)

I have listened with no small interest to the contributions from hon. Members on both sides of the House in this short debate. I confess to a sense of stupefaction at what I have heard. The image of the Chamber that has been presented is in marked contrast to my practical experience of the Chamber during the years that I have been a Member.

I acknowledge that my experience of this place is not as long as, for example, that of my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), who posited the possibility that the debate had been introduced because there was an overwhelming desire among the majority of Members to be the guests of friendly embassies, but she will be aware of at least two occasions, which I experienced, when debate in the Chamber was kept deliberately long in order that the majority of Members would not be distracted from watching television screens during an important football match. On another occasion, a debate was kept deliberately long to facilitate some dinner organised by Her Majesty's Opposition to celebrate someone who requires no kind of celebration at all. The basic argument that we have heard is that the Chamber's overriding business is to scrutinise the Executive—would that it did.

Sir Patrick Cormack

The hon. Lady has missed the point. We are asking for the same treatment that the Government and the Leader of the House will give to the Liaison Committee report on Thursday. It will be debated in principle on a motion for the Adjournment of the House. Presumably, at a later date, there will be a proper opportunity—there certainly should be—to vote on the report's specific recommendations. We are asking for a debate in principle on the Modernisation Committee report's far-reaching proposals—some of which might be acceptable, some of which will not—so that the House can come to a general view and then specifically debate each order when it is laid.

Ms Jackson

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making that point, but I regret to say that I disagree. He has markedly failed to understand my point. He is arguing, as the majority of Members consistently do, that longevity equates with acuity. It does not. As I am sure he is aware, it is simply not the case that, via these proposals, a debate in the Chamber will be in any way curtailed. The Chamber will be allowed—

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham)

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms Jackson

May I finish the point? I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman.

The Chamber will be entirely capable of debating any issue until 4, 5 or 6 o'clock in the morning if that is its wish. There is no basic change in that respect. If Members genuinely wish to hold the Executive—this or any other Executive—to account, surely we should be looking for much longer and more detailed Question Times and the shortening of Back-Bench speeches. If Members cannot say what they wish to say within 10 minutes, they have little to say.

Mr. Redwood

In that case, can the hon. Lady explain how modernising has so far helped us to hold the Executive to account? We have had a halving of the number of Prime Minister's Question Times, no statement on Biarritz and no statement on the fuel protests because Parliament was on an extended holiday. How does that help us to hold the Executive to account?

Ms Jackson

By failing to listen to what anyone else says and being more concerned with producing some party political soundbite, the right hon. Gentleman has yet again fallen into the terrible trap that reduces the respect that my constituents believe they should be able to have for the Chamber. What is proposed by the Modernisation Committee is, despite the outrage that has emanated in the Chamber, minor in the extreme. What is not minor is what I believe to be serious inroads into the democratic remit of this place in relation to those who send us here to represent them. What happens in the Chamber, certainly as far as my constituents are concerned, is becoming increasingly irrelevant because of the games that are played in it—games that have nothing whatever to do with genuine scrutiny of legislation, and do virtually nothing to enable our constituents' concerns to be represented at a time when they wish them to be.

Why is there such a vast lobby out there? Why have we seen people organising themselves in various ways? Because this Chamber—via its Standing Orders, which were created by Members for a different age and, in the main, for an exclusively male representation—does not meet the needs of our constituents, and cannot do so until we begin to examine those Standing Orders in detail and argue for modernisation.

4.46 pm
Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham)

I support the six right hon. and hon. Members who have so far spoken against the imposition of the guillotine. They have expressed very different political opinions, they have spoken in different tones of voice, and they have made different kinds of plea to the Leader of the House.

I find it sad that the Leader of the House is not listening, and has made no statement about why she wishes to crash on with the business in this thoroughly undemocratic way. She does not even listen to the sensible advice of her hon. Friends, let alone Opposition Members who have a passion for Parliament similar to that of many Labour Members who are offended by the proposal.

The Government have already gained the all-comers record for the imposition of the guillotine. Guillotines are always very contentious. When they were imposed by Conservative Governments, there were times when some of us felt uncomfortable about that; but Conservative Governments imposed nothing like the number—with nothing like the ruthlessness and consistency—imposed by this miserable Government so far.

The President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mrs. Margaret Beckett)

I know that the right hon. Gentleman would not want to give the House incorrect information. It is not true that the present Government hold the record for guillotines; it is held by the Conservative party.

Mr. Redwood

If the right hon. Lady looks at the annual rates, she will see that—as she well knows—the Government hold the all-comers record by a mile. It was foolish of her to try to make that point.

Mrs. Lorna Fitzsimons (Rochdale)

Would the right hon. Gentleman care to qualify his statement by giving the actual figures?

Mr. Redwood

They are on the record in Hansard, having been given in an earlier debate. I shall not delay the House by putting them all on the record again—although my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd), who is now looking for them in the text, may well return to them himself. However, I well remember the burden of the argument, and the evidence of the figures is overwhelming—as the hon. Lady will find if she cares to check them.

We are engaging in an important set of debates, or perhaps a single debate, on the big issue of how the House of Commons is to hold the Government to account.

Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton)

Perhaps I can assist my right hon. Friend by answering the point made by the Leader of the House. Between 1946 and 1949, under Labour, there were three timetabled Bills; between 1951 and 1963, there were 15; between 1966 and 1970, under Mr. Wilson, there were five; under my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Sir E. Heath), there were five; under the subsequent Governments of Wilson and Lord Callaghan, there were 12; under Lady Thatcher, there were 34; under my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major), there were 17; and under the present Prime Minister, between 1997 and 2000, there have been 34.

Mr. Redwood

I hope that the Leader of the House will now withdraw what she said. I did indeed remember correctly, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend.

This is symptomatic of how the House is treated by the present Government. Not only do Ministers not want to come here and make statements; not only do they not want to come here and answer questions; but when they do come here, they attempt to mislead the House in an appalling way. The only statements that they wish to make are those that will gain cross-party support, or show them in a good light.

This place is here to hold the Executive to account. How can we do that this afternoon and this evening if major procedural changes are to be rushed through, and if we cannot even have an explanation of why time is so limited that the debate must be truncated?

Mr. Bercow

Given that the Order Paper contains no fewer than 10 specific proposals from the Government and 11 amendments tabled by other right hon. and hon. Members, does my right hon. Friend not agree that it is essential for the public to understand that the Leader of the House thinks it appropriate that, on average, each of those matters should receive approximately a quarter of an hour of the House's attention?

Mr. Redwood

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I fear that several big issues will receive no attention whatsoever because the Leader of the House is proposing to the House that debate should take place in a dreadful way.

Why are we short of time today? We had 13 weeks off, but when the Opposition asked for the House to be recalled to discuss important matters, we were denied the opportunity to do our job in September or early October. We have now been sitting for two weeks, but the business does not often stagger through to 10 o'clock because it is not of great interest to many right hon. and hon. Members, especially those on the Government Benches. We have now been told that we are so short of that precious commodity, time, that our debate has to be steamrollered.

Conservative Members and, I believe, some Labour Members, think that this matter is being deliberately steamrollered on a busy news day outside this place. The Government want to make their life easier and do not want difficult questions to be asked, and certainly have no intention of answering them. They do not want to find time to debate legislation in detail because so much of it is drafted so appallingly badly that they know it would not stand up to proper scrutiny.

The Government are trying to push the matter through on a day when the United States of America is busy electing the most powerful man in the world and an awful lot of briefing is taking place on what will be in the pre-Budget statement tomorrow—which, of course, should be kept quiet until the Chancellor makes his speech to the House. Once again, the Government are showing contempt for the House by briefing the press and speaking to journalists long before Members of Parliament.

Mr. Andrew Tyrie (Chichester)

A moment ago, my right hon. Friend referred to bad drafting. Is he aware that the motion that we are debating is badly drafted? A careful reading makes it clear that if our current debate goes on until after 10 o'clock, it will not be possible for us to vote on the following two motions, which will be dropped.

Mr. Redwood

I am grateful for the important point made by my hon. Friend. If the timetable motion is passed tonight, followed by that on the business of the House, Parliament will get an unflattering name for itself. Historians and the British people have a habit of giving Parliaments names, so we have had the Merciless Parliament, the Addled Parliament and the Parliament of the Saints—which one could hardly call this Parliament. I fear that this Parliament will go down in history as the Useless Parliament without backbone, thanks to the reluctance of so many Government Members to hold the Executive to account and stand up against the guillotine tonight. All that they seem to want is to do their knitting at the base of guillotine as the tumbrel falls.

The silence of the babes on this matter is eerie, and it is about time that they started to represent the views of their constituents to the Government, instead of just representing the Government to their constituents. They could start tonight by speaking out in favour of proper parliamentary procedure.

Ms Julia Drown (South Swindon)

My constituents tell me that they find this place embarrassing. They find contributions such as those of the right hon. Gentleman the most embarrassing, as they are the yah-boo of this place. One reason that my constituents sent me here is that they want Parliament modernised and changed. They want the Executive to be held to account and they want legislation to be properly scrutinised. I want that to happen, but I do not see it happening under current procedures. Today, we are debating a way of improving that.

Mr. Redwood

I look forward to the hon. Lady joining us in the Division Lobby, should there be a Division on this matter. She must accept that there cannot be proper accountability if guillotines are imposed on every piece of business and votes are divorced from the argument. Everyone outside knows that when a discussion or debate takes place, the issue is put to the vote, and voted on then and there. One does not invite people who were never part of that debate to come in up to a week later to vote on the matter. However, the House is being asked to do that, and the motion is designed to strengthen the power of the Executive, not the House.

Of course, people out there want change. They want a Parliament of people who speak up for their rights and they want Members of Parliament who tell the Government that they are wrong on the fuel tax, the Budget and how they are trying to run the country.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)

Does the right hon. Gentleman not feel at all guilty about the night on which the Conservative party forced through 17 orders on the poll tax—which consisted of 32 pages on matters including imprisonment and other things—when there was only an hour and a half to debate all those orders?

Mr. Redwood

I think that that was a mistake, and, eventually, the previous Government saw that it was a mistake. Eventually, the previous Government listened to public opinion and removed that tax. If the hon. Gentleman would like to look at the record, he will see that I was the Minister who was given the rotten task of removing that tax and introducing one that was a bit more palatable. It is a very good example of why Parliament should not have been sidelined. That Government should have listened then, when the voices were very clear. This Government should now listen to the fuel protesters and to all the other members of the public who dislike what the Government are doing in health and education and in the Budget.

Above all, however, will Labour Members join us today in demanding proper scrutiny and discussion, and tell the Leader of the House that she speaks for no one but the Government in trying to stifle debate and stop proper voting?

4.55 pm
Mr. Doug Henderson (Newcastle upon Tyne, North)

I did not plan on speaking in the debate, until the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) spoke. If I remember correctly, when he was the Government spokesman on the poll tax, I was an Opposition local government spokesman and, therefore, had to endure the same procedures that he had to endure. I am sure that members of the public watching this debate who are familiar with the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that there is nothing quite like the zeal of the convert.

I remember when the right hon. Gentleman was pushing and prodding through legislation, and he and I had the type of private chats that spokespeople have. He would say, "I have to do this because there is no other way that we can get the business through." He knows how Governments work.

Mr. Redwood

Does the hon. Gentleman not remember that, when I was a Minister, I asked the shadow spokesmen how they would like to organise the time? I was always very keen that the Opposition had sufficient time to deal with the two or three big issues that mattered most to them. Will he confirm that that is so?

Mr. Henderson

I can confirm that the right hon. Gentleman used to consult Opposition spokespeople on statements that he was about to make to the House, and I thank him for doing that. However, he was not his own man, as his Whips sometimes had other ideas about how business should be conducted, and his view did not always prevail. The Whips often wanted to timetable business, because they recognised that the Government had to get their business through.

I am speaking in this debate not as an apologist for the Government, but as someone who has constituents to represent. My constituents, like those of my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon (Ms Drown), would laugh us out of court if they saw this debate, in which some hon. Members seem to be saying that the future of democracy depends on how and when we do our business. Consumers do not judge cars on the basis of when they were made or the circumstances in which they were made, and people do not judge lawyers on the basis of when they gave advice or the circumstances in which they gave it. People, and consumers, care about results.

I believe that the public hold this place in disrepute more than ever before in my lifetime, largely because of the way in which we conduct our affairs. The public want decisions to be taken well and Government legislation to be scrutinised. I think that any British citizen would tell us, however, that the best way of scrutinising legislation is not to use 650-plus people, but to use small groups of people to examine the detail, to cross the t's and dot the i's. That belief is based on their experience of life—the way in which they work, participate in social clubs and become involved in charities.

The public are far too wise to believe that relying on set-piece speeches in the Chamber that last halfway through the night is a sensible way of conducting parliamentary affairs. They are far too wise to believe that there should be seven or eight Divisions when one would be enough to clarify the issue. I believe that the public are looking for the results of our action to improve health, education and other services, and that, at the next general election, they will be judging all of us on those results. It surely makes sense for us to have procedures that lead to good decisions being made as efficiently and effectively as possible.

I shall support the guillotine motion. I have said all I wanted to say, but I should like to do hon. Members the courtesy of allowing them to intervene.

Mrs. Dunwoody

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Does he not realise that the logic of what he is saying is that the ability of hon. Members to speak for their constituencies would be reduced to a series of administrative decisions? Indeed, one way in which we could produce very rapid decisions with apparently a certain amount of consultation would be to have us all e-mail our views and then to collate the result. Does he not realise that one of his privileges here is to be able to speak openly? Although many people may deeply disapprove of hon. Members expressing views that are not regurgitated from their Front Bench, that is fundamentally what Parliament is about.

Mr. Henderson

I do not disagree with my hon. Friend about the fundamentals of Parliament; I am arguing about how it is done. I do not think that it takes 20 minutes to make a point. It is possible to make a point in two or three minutes, as many other Parliaments around the world require. Quite frankly, to be flippant and derisory about e-mail is to live in the last century. The business community does not spend endless hours at face-to-face meetings dealing with detail. Most people deal with the principles face to face and leave the detail to e-mail. We may have to involve e-mails in Committees in future. I do not know about that, but I would not be derisory about them.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate)

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. Does he not appreciate that although some people will have the privilege of serving on a Committee and examining legislation in detail and at length—but even that is likely to be programmed—others, for whatever reason, will not be selected to serve on that Committee? We, as Back Benchers, have a responsibility to examine legislation in detail, if we so wish and if we have responsibilities as constituency Members of Parliament representing particular interests. We should not be denied that.

Mr. Henderson

Of course I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman, but when the opportunity arises on Report or whenever for an hon. Member to make an observation on a Committee recommendation that he or she has not been part of, it should be expressed succinctly at a reasonable hour and we should vote on it at a reasonable hour. That is what the public would expect.

Sir Robert Smith (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. Does he realise that we are being asked to vote on a motion that the public would find perverse as it says that we should vote at 10 o'clock regardless of where the discussion has reached and whether or not we have had an informed debate or reached the end of business? Does he really support the idea of a guillotine on our procedures?

Mr. Henderson

The public, like many right hon. and hon. Members, would find the wording of the motion rather strange, but they would expect us to be able to discuss it in a set time, to allow various points of view to be expressed and for the House to reach a decision. I believe that if we cannot do that in four or five hours tonight, we will never do it. Not everyone who wishes to continue the debate after 10 o'clock tonight wishes to extend it in order to demoralise those who seek change and encourage them to go to embassy parties a little earlier. I am not saying that every hon. Member who seeks an extension of the debate is motivated by that, but those of us who have been here a little while know that an awful lot of them are.

5.3 pm

Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills)

My right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) was correct in saying that this Labour Government have imposed more guillotines than any other Government since the war. In fact, annexe C to the Select Committee report indicates that there have been 36 guillotines, 18 of them having been agreed between Front Benches and 18 having been imposed by the Government. Of course, the report was written before the Government got into their full stride and before the end of July, since when there have been at least another two.

Mrs. Beckett

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman so early in his remarks, but he has said something very important and I am grateful to him for placing it clearly on the record. He makes no distinction—and it is a perfectly legitimate point—between programme motions that have been agreed across the House for the convenience of scheduling proper debate and guillotines that have been imposed by the Government. It is important that we recognise that he has made that point.

Mr. Shepherd

I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for clarifying her position. The fact remains that the Government have imposed more than 20 guillotines, in addition to, as she and I agree, guillotines agreed between the Front Benches. We have rehearsed the arguments about guillotines over many years. I lived through 34 guillotines during the Thatcher years—but that was 11 years. I lived through 17 guillotines during the Major years, and have since lived through more than 20 during the Blair years.

To curtail freedom of expression used to be considered one of the greatest offences against parliamentary practice. As the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) said, if this House stood for anything, it was for the right to stand up and speak, no matter how lonely that task might be, for one's constituents or for one's country. That is an important consideration. The House can justify itself to the outside world in no other way.

Mr. Forth

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Shepherd

Not for the moment.

The hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson) spoke true when she said that the House is in crisis. No one believes that Members of Parliament have any role. As I go around my constituency, I encounter, as do other hon. Members, business men and constituents who ask what is the point of us. "You never change anything the Government say", they tell me.

We have reached the stage, in this modern world, in which Governments may talk directly to the nation. Traditionally, the nation responded through its elected representatives, but we are no longer a House of representatives in any true sense. In fact, those elected here are impatient to support their Government. That, ultimately, is why we have a motion before us that will ensure that we guillotine everything. There lies the essence of what has gone wrong with the House. No one knows how to talk back to the Government. We are all, in a sense, bought placepeople.

I recognise the role and importance of party, but surely some importance must be attached to being ourselves and standing up for what we believe. The hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate was right in one sense. I have no problem with the hours at which the House sits. The motion before us is incomprehensible to almost anyone; it was probably written by someone with a PhD from the London School of Economics. I doubt whether many hon. Members have actually troubled to read it from beginning to end.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. May I remind the hon. Gentleman that we are discussing the business motion? I hope that he will not anticipate what he might say if he catches my eye later on the substantive motion.

Mr. Shepherd

Of course not, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My point is that this outrageous guillotine is inappropriate because of the nature of the business that it would guillotine. That must require some discussion of the length and complexity of that business. That must be a fair point.

The motion is inexplicable, and we have, indeed, had no explanation of it. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) and my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack) have made the important point that this debate is the only one in which we may discuss the principles—if one can call them that—set out in the report of the Select Committee on the Modernisation of the House of Commons, "Programming of Legislation and the Timing of Votes". We shall come later to the substance of what is a change to our Standing Orders.

No one had seen the motions before last week. Some principles had been enunciated in the report, but the proposals were never put before the Modernisation Committee in the form before us now. Nor were they referred to the Select Committee on Procedure so that it might deliberate on whether they provided an appropriate way to achieve an end.

We need time to debate many issues. The hon. Member for Cambridge (Mrs. Campbell) was very concerned about our sitting hours. Did the Modernisation Committee discuss those? Does the issue appear in the report? Is it the way to solve the problem?

Essentially, this—the business that we are being denied the opportunity to discuss fully within the terms of this motion—is a bluff. We never looked into whether, in this modern world, the House could sit at 9 am and rise at 7.30 pm. We never looked at the rhythm of the parliamentary year. Why? All those matters have been discussed long ago. If we look at the Crossman diaries, which were circulated to all the Committee members, we can see where the power lies in this matter—it lies in the Cabinet. So, create a diversion and grab something while one is at it.

I am convinced that this proposal will mean the aggrandisement of Government on a scale that is unacceptable to the House, or should be. It is saying, "We shall get our business." That rules out the views of individual Members, as the hon. Member for Dudley, South (Mr. Pearson) said, and of the hundreds of others who have served in the House in the years that I have been here. The Government should not always get—

Mrs. Fitzsimons

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the final verdict is in the Lobby? That is the most powerful way to express how one feels.

Mr. Shepherd

The hon. Lady forgets our traditions. Our process has never been merely a question of x divided by 2 + 1; it is the process by which one gets there. The Opposition, or those who oppose the might and weight of a Government's argument, must be allowed to make their case. The hon. Lady, who will doubtless support the timetable motion, asks, "Why have a debate? We have just announced our policy. We can determine the matter in the Lobby." That is essentially what is behind all such arguments. We are asking the outside world to listen to these arguments. When we speak, we are meant to be the people's elected representatives.

Sir Patrick Cormack

Is not the essential difference between the two sides of the House the fact that far too many Labour Members think that they were elected to support the Government, not to represent their constituents?

Mr. Shepherd

To be fair, I have been in enough Parliaments in which that could have been said of Government Members of whatever party.

This is meant to be a House of Commons debate about us as Members of Parliament. I am trying to point out that this guillotining of a debate on a fundamental principle, without allowing the House first properly to discuss that principle, is wrong. It is as simple as that. The Committee did not consider whether the House could meet at 9 am or 10 am and rise at 7 pm or 7.30 pm, without the need to impose such guillotines.

Let us remember what is behind this guillotine on a motion to guillotine for ever—albeit initially only for the next Session. It is meant to assure the Government that they own the House in the most positive way.

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

To put the record straight, I spent 18 years practising what the hon. Gentleman claims is a good method. It fails because we play with time in this place, which brings the House into disrepute. The proposal before the House is a way to improve the quality of legislation and of not legislating in the middle of the night. That is what it is about and that is what we should get on with.

Mr. Shepherd

That failure is no reason to insist on how another Opposition should conduct their business, but that is the conceit behind the proposal. Now, Governments tell Oppositions how they should perform their job. That is outrageous, and yet the outrageousness marches through the business motion, and through the next motion on the programming of Bills.

How do we discuss in detail these individual parts that are the jigsaw that makes up the totality of the absoluteness of the Government's control over this House? In truth, the House is nothing but an instrument of the Executive as long as we do not pause to ask why Labour Back Benchers could not have insisted that sitting hours were a reasonable matter for consideration by the Modernisation Committee—whose Chairman, the Leader of the House, is a member of the Cabinet—and should be in the proposal before us, and further insisted that the Committee should examine why the House cannot sit.

The hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate made a fair point, which is appreciated by many Conservative Members, that the House will seem dead to the outside world if it discusses business at 10 pm, 11 pm, midnight or 1 am. We want to be vital contributors to the arguments in the country. This proposal does nothing to meet that need. It ensures only that our debates will take place at the traditional times—perhaps starting at 5 or 6 pm.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

My hon. Friend has pointed out that we are putting the House into the hands of the Government. Are not Governments—whoever is in power—resistant to changes in hours, because Ministers cannot be in the Chamber in the morning? That is why the House cannot sit in the morning. The Government and the Cabinet resist changes that some Members might find convenient.

Mr. Shepherd

That is why I drew the attention of the House to the Crossman diaries—the entry to which I referred is that for Thursday 17 November 1976. Cabinets oppose such changes. However, Ministers are in the House at an early hour. They have to take Bills through Standing Committees and answer Adjournment debates in Westminster Hall. It would liberate the House if we could all go out and make our party political speeches after 8 o'clock. It would enable Opposition Front Benchers to do so.

Until this Session, the Prime Minister voted extremely casually—in only 5 per cent. of the votes. He is now up to 10 per cent. No Prime Minister has either attended the House so rarely or voted so little. That is also true of Ministers, who expect their measures to be voted through by Back Benchers—such as the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate—at 10 or 11 o'clock at night. That is what we have come to. So confident are they—so assured in their hold over those elected to the Chamber—that Back Benchers will do almost anything, Ministers do not have to give any time to such matters.

The matter is all in the Crossman diaries—what goes around comes around. Such matters are repeated time and again, but never so much as under the Labour Government. In Opposition, Labour Members vigorously criticised the Conservative use of guillotines—I agreed with the Labour Back Benchers who did so—but the Labour Government now say that was all a terrible waste of time because they are in government and they must use the guillotine as often as they want.

The assumptions in the report—we will not have the opportunity to consider it now—are extraordinary: the Government must get their business. What new constitutional principle do the Government propose by that? If the House believes that is right for the country, we must accept that principle; but if the House believes that it is wrong for the country, we must reject it. That is the most basic assertion of the representative functions of the House, but we are setting it aside.

Mr. Pike

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not want to mislead the House. Does he agree that the whole purpose of today's motions is to move away from the use of the guillotine and towards sensible programming? That will ensure better scrutiny of legislation. That is why we are holding the debate.

Mr. Shepherd

The distinguished hon. Gentleman is a member of the Modernisation Committee. The only evidence offered to us on the supposed programming of Bills was mixed. It is set out in an appendix written by the Clerk. The hon. Gentleman is aware that, even when such programming was agreed between Members of the Front Benches, we did not discuss all parts of a Bill.

The debates on the poll tax offer a powerful and instructive example. Individual Members on both sides of the House took the opportunity—and had the time—to set out why the tax was defective and could not be borne. That began to turn the tide of opinion in the Government. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham said, he eventually had to ameliorate the legislation under another Prime Minister. Do not doubt the importance of holding in the hands of the House the ability to check Governments. However impatient we are, if business were conducted during the day, most of us would not regret being here for an extra half hour or hour. There would not then be the need to impose guillotines. I hope that the new Labour hon. Ladies and Gentlemen are not fooled by this device of guillotining everything.

A distinguished Leader of the House, now Lord Biffen, when confronted with the precursors to the Jopling proposals said, from where the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett), is sitting now: All Governments are tomorrow's possible Opposition.—[Official Report, 27 February 1986; Vol. 92, c. 1088.] As the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich and the hon. Member for Dudley, South said, that is the truth of the situation. Do not deny that right.

Ms Glenda Jackson

The thrust of the hon. Gentleman's argument up to this point has been that Back Benchers must be assured that they will have the time to hold whatever Government are in power to account. As the hon. Gentleman knows, it is simply not the case that the present structures of the House afford that opportunity to every Back Bencher. If we are genuine about affording to Back Benchers of whichever party the opportunity to hold the Executive to account, we must consider structures that will afford that opportunity to all Back Benchers. They certainly do not do so at the moment. Unless the Speaker chooses to limit speeches to either 10 or 15 minutes, the majority of debating time in the Chamber is taken up by the most asinine, childish debate, usually rooted in empty party political badinage, which has nothing to do with scrutiny and not only brings this place into disrepute, but is contemptuous of the people who sent us here to represent them.

Mr. Shepherd

The hon. Lady is talking about Second Reading. We are talking about Report stage. The hon. Lady does not give evidence that she has even troubled to read the report that is before the House. Annexe C deals with what has happened to what we call agreed guillotines as opposed to imposed guillotines. If she had troubled to read that, she would know that her analysis is not borne out. The evidence is not there to support her contention.

Ms Jackson

My analysis was not of the report, which I have read: my analysis was of the hon. Gentleman's argument.

Mr. Shepherd

I do not see how, by guillotining absolutely everything, the hon. Lady achieves what we are arguing for on this side of the House.

Mr. Redwood

The great weakness in the hon. Lady's argument is that if everything is guillotined, a small group of trusties who support any Government can come in and take up practically all the time available for debate and prevent independent-minded Back Benchers on either side from getting their views across. That is what we object to.

Mr. Shepherd

That is the fundamental argument. I am not rehearsing all the arguments, I am talking about the guillotine.

Helen Jackson

I appreciate the fervour with which the hon. Gentleman regularly talks to the House about guillotines, but does he agree that he is making a blinkered refusal to recognise the difference between the old-fashioned guillotine, which stops debate on a Bill, and the new modern approach to programming legislation, which is fully supported by the Hansard Society and many other Parliaments around the world? The new approach has at its heart the need to discuss and scrutinise Government Bills thoroughly. Such a distinction exists and, by basing his argument on the assumption that there is no distinction, the hon. Gentleman loses the whole point.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. That intervention was far too long, but it illustrates that we are becoming much more involved in the substance of the motions to come. I realise that this motion cannot be entirely divorced from the others, but the hon. Gentleman has had some scope to develop his argument. We should not have too much more debate on the substance, given that the House has yet to reach a decision on when it will tackle the other motions.

Mr. Shepherd

I absolutely agree, Mr. Deputy Speaker. However, this is a guillotine motion and the issue is whether we shall have the time to discuss the substantive issues. The Modernisation Committee's report examined whether guillotine motions allow for full consideration of all the constituent parts. It considered the programmes motions on the Northern Ireland Bill and the Transport Bill. About the Transport Bill, it said: 42 groups of amendments were selected by the Chair; 11 of them were debated, but 31 (of which 4 consisted of minor and drafting amendments) were not reached. The belief that one can fix a timetable that is necessarily appropriate means that we do not discuss legislation. That is now done by the other place, which is the working part of our constitution. We have become the dignified part of the constitution.

A Cabinet Minister tabled a motion that proposes fundamental changes to the Standing Orders of the House in the hope that it will fulfil the half-baked idea that a fixed programme will get people home at 10 o'clock. However, that will make the House more and more irrelevant and that is why this debate is so timely.

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Mid-Bedfordshire)

Does my hon. Friend agree that, if we vote for a guillotine on such extraordinarily important matters, we shall not be able to discuss sitting hours or what the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson) believes is the abuse and misuse of Question Time? We will not be able to discuss those points, because we will not have the time.

Mr. Shepherd

I am only too conscious of that point. I regret that my speech has already lasted 25 minutes, but the fact is that more Members have attended this debate than any other on a procedural matter. That suggests to me that many of them wish to speak.

I know full well what will happen, because I have served in many Parliaments. Therefore, I put the hypothesis to the Leader of the House—a Cabinet member—that if we discuss the procedural motion until 10 o'clock, the attitude will be, "Go hang the debate on the substantive matter. We'll just pass it on the nod." People will then say, "You see just how ridiculous the House of Commons is."

Mr. Forth

It might help my hon. Friend if I inform him that the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr. Bradley), the Government Deputy Chief Whip, is hovering by the Speaker's Chair and that he is on the point of asking for a closure motion. The Government might not even allow us a proper amount of time to finish this debate.

Mr. Shepherd

I do not know what the Deputy Chief Whip will do, so I shall not consider that point.

As I understand the Order Paper, the business of the House may be discussed until any hour. However, if we discuss this motion until 10 o'clock, we shall not be able to discuss the motions that the Government so desperately want.

Mr. Tyrie

To reiterate a point that I made earlier, if this debate goes beyond 10 o'clock, the House will not have an opportunity to vote on the motions on the programming of Bills and on deferred Divisions. The business will therefore fall.

Mr. Shepherd

I would have loved the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire to have been taken on board. There should have been a debate on the principles that lie behind the motions and on the report itself. The Government should have made their proposals after such a debate.

5.30 pm
Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

I want to make a brief contribution, not only because I care about the House, but because I am also a member of the Modernisation Committee and as my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) knows, I am happy to support some of the proposed changes to Standing Orders. However, I want the House, and the Leader of the House in particular, to know that I think that the Government's handling of the matter is totally unacceptable.

I share the view expressed by my hon. Friends the Members for Aldridge-Brownhills and for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack) who, picking up on remarks made by the hon. Members for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) and for Dudley, South (Mr. Pearson), said that we should debate the general principles and issues contained in the Modernisation Committee's report as it relates to programming, the establishment of business sub-committees and, of course, deferred Divisions.

Sir Patrick Cormack

Is it not the case that the Leader of House could help the House enormously if, when my hon. Friend finishes his speech, she accepted the principle that has been raised by so many hon. Members?

Mr. Winterton

As an eternal optimist and a believer in democracy, I would—to use a most unparliamentary phrase—love the right hon. Lady to do just that. She has it within her discretion and power to heed the concern that has been expressed by hon. Members on both sides of the House.

I found some contributions rather sad, not least the remarks of the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Mr. Henderson) about the new programming. My hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills said that programming is another word for guillotine. I think that it is a more rational word and that programming might lead to improvements that are not available within the guillotine system. The hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North appears to think that under this guillotine motion, which covers all the business that will subsequently come before the House, the concerns, responsibilities and role of Back Benchers will be properly safeguarded. I do not believe that they will be.

I am deeply worried about some of the proposals—in particular, the fact that Back Benchers will have less opportunity to do what they are here to do. As the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich said, we are here to represent our constituents. As hon. Members have said, Members of the House might not have the privilege of serving on a Standing Committee and, because of the number of people who want to speak, may not be able to speak on Second Reading of an important Bill. Therefore their only opportunity to make a contribution would be on Report or during remaining stages. If even those stages are to be programmed and limited, many Members on both sides of the House will be very unhappy that their responsibilities are being removed, reduced and undermined.

I am surprised that the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North—who, as a distinguished Minister, did very well in the positions that he held—has so little understanding of the impact of what the House, under a guillotine motion, will decide this afternoon.

Mr. Doug Henderson

Did the hon. Gentleman understand my point? I did not say that Back Benchers should have less opportunity to speak, but that they should have at least as much opportunity as they have now. My point was that they should speak more succinctly within a programmed motion. [Interruption.]

Mr. Winterton

I am hearing murmuring to the effect that that is not in the proposed amendments to the Standing Orders. I must agree with my hon. Friends and those on the Government Benches that that point is not dealt with. However, I must still say to the hon. Gentleman—a distinguished ex-Minister—that there are occasions on which Members believe that the interests of their constituents or constituency deserve more than two or three minutes, in which he says hon. Members should be able to get their point across. If he is right, why do Ministers and shadow Ministers take so long to speak from the Dispatch Box? Even the hon. Gentleman when a Minister took rather longer than two or three minutes. Why should he as a Minister be treated any differently from me, an evergreen Back Bencher?

Mr. Henderson

I hate to prolong the debate, but I was not for a second advocating that Ministers should be allowed lengthy periods in which to speak. They should be equally succinct.

Mr. Winterton

I note what the hon. Gentleman says—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Hon. Members must debate the business motion. How long Ministers have spoken or intend to speak has nothing to do with the business motion—perhaps another time.

Mr. Winterton

I accept your courteous reprimand, Mr. Speaker, and shall seek to keep my remarks to the business motion.

Mr. Redwood

Has my hon. Friend noticed that one of the many ironies of this debate is that we have now spent almost two hours discussing how the business is to proceed? If the Government had let us debate the substance right from the beginning, we might have found that six hours was sufficient to expose the problems with the proposals. Have not the Government contributed to making it impossible for the House to consider the matters properly?

Mr. Winterton

I believe that I implied that in saying that I fully support the request of my hon. Friends the Members for South Staffordshire and for Aldridge-Brownhills and of Government Members.

Mrs. Dunwoody

As someone who has been in the House a very long time, can the hon. Gentleman tell me of an occasion on which debate on a business motion of such importance was not opened by a statement from the Government Front Bench?

Mr. Winterton

I have to be a little careful in how I respond to that question because I fully accepted the Speaker's reply to my point of order on that matter. I felt that the debate might have been so opened, but I must fully support our Speaker: he does not have any role in who wants to speak and who does not. If the Leader of the House had provided an explanation of the business motion, it might well, as the hon. Lady and my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire suggested, have enabled the House to make more progress and proceed with the debate in a much more orderly and informed way.

Mr. Hawkins

Does my hon. Friend agree that one thing that is upsetting so many hon. Members on both sides of the House is the constitutional outrage of the Government's guillotining something which itself will guillotine future debate?

Mr. Winterton

I was intending to begin my brief speech by saying that the motion is the guillotine of all guillotines. I am sad because, as I am sure my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young), the former shadow Leader of the House, would agree, we had established some common ground for progress. However, in certain other areas of the Government's proposals, the Opposition are deeply concerned that their role and that of Back Benchers will be eroded.

One great problem in debates on matters that relate entirely to the House, and should therefore be House of Commons matters, is that, however impartial the individual in question may seek to be, these are presided over by a member of the Cabinet. That causes me some concern because, as has been said, none of the details on the Order Paper today have been discussed by the Modernisation Committee. The motions have clear implications for the way in which the House can operate. The House would be far better to proceed by having a general debate on the issues contained in the Select Committee's report, and then having separate debates on the important changes to Standing Orders.

I make a plea to the right hon. Lady. I know that she has a difficult job to do, and that in general she does a very good job in the Committee. I respect her for it and praise her for it, but will she not listen? As my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills, who is no longer in his place, said, referring to words originally spoken from the very position in which the right hon. Lady is sitting, today's Government is tomorrow's Opposition. The House needs to proceed with agreement and by agreement on such important matters.

5.41 pm
Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton)

The Leader of the House has heard representations from both sides reflecting how strongly right hon. and hon. Members feel about the two motions before us.

The House will recall that only last week, the right hon. Lady proposed that our deliberations tonight should be curtailed at 8 pm, rather than 10 pm. I ask her to reflect carefully on the reason that she gave me at business questions on Thursday for the timetabling of debates of such importance to the House: It is more time than we spent debating the parliamentary calendar and as much time as we spent debating whether we should set up the experiment in Westminster Hall. There is therefore nothing unprecedented about the time allowed for the debate.—[Official Report, 2 November 2000; Vol. 355, c. 854.]

From the contributions that she has heard tonight, the Leader of the House must know that there is a world of difference, particularly in respect of parliamentary representation of the democratically elected representatives of the people. There is a world of difference between motions of the magnitude of those before us, and the arrangements for Westminster Hall and the parliamentary timetable.

I hope that the right hon. Lady has taken on board the feeling of the House. As several hon. Members on both sides have said, this is not a party political matter; it is a matter for Parliament. It is at the heart of our democratic proceedings. The way that we deal with it tonight will be seen as a reflection of the extent to which the Government, of which the right hon. Lady is a member, respect the right of individual hon. Members to challenge the Executive, and the right of an official Opposition to have sufficient time and opportunity to challenge the Government of the day, whichever party is in government.

I see the right hon. Lady's papers on the Dispatch Box. I hope that she will address that issue. No doubt the House will want to consider other important matters of a constitutional nature, and it would be wrong of the Modernisation Committee—I say this as a new member of the Committee—to give equal weight to matters such as Westminster Hall and the motions before the House tonight.

There is one litmus test that should be applied to our deliberations tonight, whether in this debate or on the substantive matters to follow: do the proposals strengthen the Executive, or do they strengthen the right of hon. Members to scrutinise, question and debate? That is the test. It is not a matter of hon. Members' personal arrangements for attendance in the House. The fundamental question has been reflected in many of the contributions that we heard.

I shall not take up any more of the time of the House, but I hope that there will be an opportunity later to make a more substantive contribution to the discussion of matters that will change the House and our proceedings in the next Session, to the detriment of hon. Members on both sides, who are here to represent their voters.

I hope that the right hon. Lady will reassure us that she understands the importance of the motions and that, as Chairman of the Modernisation Committee, she will reflect carefully on the differences between matters that have constitutional significance and those that are simply procedural and deal with the efficient running of the House.

5.45 pm
Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall)

I shall speak briefly because I want the substantial debate to begin as soon as possible. The past hour and a half has demonstrated to my mind beyond doubt how much better it is for the House to come to an agreement between the parties, including Back-Bench Members as far a possible, on the programming of business.

Over the past hour and a half we have taken up time when it is important to discuss substance, not the ethereal issue of whether we think that a guillotine is a guillotine or a programme motion. To my mind, a programme motion is the sensible way to make our business more orderly and to provide opportunities to Opposition Members to ensure that their issues are properly addressed. There have been occasions when we have managed to do that.

I shall be advising my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote against a timetable motion that is a guillotine. We should not use a guillotine for business of this sort. However, I believe that a programme motion is a proper way for us to undertake our business, and to do so in an orderly fashion. I am extremely disappointed that we have spent an hour and a half discussing the various merits of these different procedures, and during that time have not heard from the Leader of the House. I hope that we shall hear from her now.

5.46 pm
The President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mrs. Margaret Beckett)

In line with the many injunctions that I have received, I do not propose to detain the House for long. It was because I thought, and still think, that the substance of what we are here to debate was what was really important, that I did not take the time of the House to explain the business of the House motion. It is unfortunate, to put it no higher, that the use of the word "guillotine" has become so commonplace that it is used for any motion of any sort that seeks in any way to curtail debate.

I am aware that the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd), who I am sorry is not in his place, takes and expresses the view that any curtailment of the length of speech that an hon. Member wishes to make is a guillotine and something which he regards as an abuse of our procedures. We all know that we would never complete any business if that were the approach adopted by the House as a whole.

I shall repeat what I said to the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning) last Thursday. We are not dealing with a guillotine. Before us is a business of the House motion that is designed to ensure—[Interruption.] It is a normal sort of motion that appears on the Order Paper every day of the week. It is designed to ensure that the House can come to a view on the orders that are before it at a sensible time.

Sir Patrick Cormack

Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Beckett

No, not for a moment.

The hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton quoted some of the examples that I gave about time. To be frank, I am astonished that the House thinks that an ordinary full parliamentary day is wholly inadequate to discuss the business that is before us, all the more so given the precedents that I gave the hon. Lady from this Parliament and the previous reports from the Modernisation Committee. In addition, I am sure that she will recall an occasion when the previous Administration made changes to the Welsh Grand Committee. Those changes were of such weight that they were considered an alternative to devolution.

Sir Patrick Cormack

Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Beckett

Not for the moment, please.

That was the importance and the weight that the previous Administration put on those changes, and they were debated for only half a day. In allowing a full parliamentary day for the processes of the debate, the Government were not acting in any way that was out of the ordinary.

Sir Patrick Cormack

I ask the right hon. Lady to reflect on what Opposition Members have been saying. The debate is not about programming. We are asking for a proper debate on the principle of the Modernisation Committee's reports, such as the right hon. Lady is providing for on Thursday when the Liaison Committee's report can be debated in principle, so we can later address in detail the specific orders.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Sir P. Emery) has said, even the members of the Modernisation Committee have not seen the terms of the orders. They have not had a chance to discuss them in that Committee. Can the right hon. Lady not accept what so many of us are asking for in the interests of the House, and allow us to have the debate in principle and then allow us to debate the orders at a later date?

Mrs. Beckett

I shall return to that point in a moment, but first I want to discuss another matter. Inadvertently, I am sure, the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) gave the House what I understand to be incorrect information. It is not the case that the greatest number of guillotines in a Parliament or in one year occurred during this Government—that record continues to be held by a Conservative Government.

Mr. Redwood

indicated dissent.

Mrs. Beckett

It is no good the right hon. Gentleman shaking his head. The facts, I fear, are not on his side. During the Parliament of 1987–92, there were 27 guillotines, and more were used during one of those years than during any year of this Parliament.

Mr. Shepherd

The right hon. Lady is misleading the House.


Order. I do not think that the right hon. Lady is misleading the House. The hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) may wish to withdraw that statement.

Mr. Shepherd

The right hon. Lady is mistaken.

Mr. Speaker

To say that the right hon. Lady is mistaken is better.

Mrs. Beckett

I simply inform the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills that that is my information, which I have had checked and cross-checked. He believes that any motion that curtails debate, whether by agreement in a programme motion or by imposition by the Government, is a guillotine. The distinction that I use is recognised by the Clerks of the House and everyone else. If he has other information that he wants to share with us, I would be happy to give way to him.

Mr. Shepherd

The right hon. Lady makes the common mistake of counting the number of guillotines used. Current jargon refers to the number of Bills guillotined, but a Bill may require one, two, three or four guillotines during its passage through the House. I thought that that was clear in the right hon. Lady's mind. I do not seek to contradict her, but she is genuinely wrong to say that the number of Bills guillotined during the 1987–92 Parliament was greater than the number guillotined during this Parliament. This Government hold the record.

Mrs. Beckett

I accept that the hon. Gentleman makes his point in good faith, but on every previous occasion when Conservative Members have alleged that fewer questions are being answered, that recesses are longer or that more guillotines are being used, their information has never proved more accurate than ours. I leave that thought with him.

Mrs. Browning

Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Beckett

If the hon. Lady will forgive me, I am anxious not to take up the House's time discussing this matter at length.

Mrs. Browning

I hope that the right hon. Lady will examine annexe C of the report of the Modernisation Committee—her own Committee. The language and methodology used to put the information into the public domain was at her and her Committee's discretion. Annexe C refers to the Numbers of Bills timetabled since 1945. The list that I read out earlier clearly shows that during the past three years, 34 Bills have been timetabled.

Mrs. Beckett

This matter will no doubt be aired time and again. I do not accept the hon. Lady's point. If one calculates the figures in exactly the same way, it is clear that there was a heavier use of the guillotine in previous Parliaments.

That brings me to my second point, which was raised by, I believe, my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody)—not, I believe, by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley, South (Mr. Pearson). My hon. Friend said that hon. Members came here not to discuss the daily timetable but to examine what affects people's lives. She is correct—that is why we are all here. Unfortunately, however, we are discussing the timing rather than the substance of the debate. That is, I fear, a very good parallel. We have spent a long time discussing how long we should discuss what we are all told is an important matter.

Mrs. Dunwoody

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mrs. Beckett

I want to make one further point in response to my hon. Friend, who has already made several contributions to this debate. She went on to say that we are concerned with the curtailing of debate. My response to her and to other hon. Members who made the same point is that this discussion is not about whether we curtail debate, unless we adopt the legitimately held attitude of the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills, who said that any attempt to end a debate involves curtailment. Others would argue that the ordinary process of having a measured debate in a suitable time allows people to focus that debate better and that it is not necessary to cut the time that is available.

Mrs. Dunwoody

The way the House organises its debates, including their time, date and place, directly impinges on the quality of those debates and on their meaning. Even in the Labour party, we normally appreciate the connection between the way in which agendas and debates are organised and the effect that that has on the discussion that ensues.

Mrs. Beckett

We have debated, and will undoubtedly continue to debate, whether there is merit in changing the way in which debates are focused to ensure that they cover all the important and substantive issues. Is that more important than not limiting the length of time that is available, which does not provide a structure to the debate?

Mr. Redwood

Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Beckett

I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman. I want to bring my remarks to a close. I am anxious to turn to the substance of our debate. I remind Conservative Members, who talk as if these are unprecedented proposals—the words "binding" and "irreversible" have been used on several occasions—that the motion, should we ever reach it, involves Sessional Orders, which would expire if they were not renewed. The order contains an experiment, and no proposals would be binding or irreversible. I refer those Conservative Members who said that our approach is unprecedented to the remarks of another of my distinguished predecessors, Lord Newton of Braintree. He said that the voluntary timetabling of legislation, has improved the sensible scrutiny of legislation. It has certainly taken us away from the rather absurd situation that existed when I first became a Member of Parliament, in which, almost routinely, the Opposition, of which I was then part, talked endlessly about the early clauses of a Bill, which inevitably drove the Government to impose a guillotine, and the later parts of the Bill got very little discussion.—[Official Report, 11 July 1996; Vol. 281, c. 628.]

This debate has moved to and fro not for some hours today but for at least 10 years in the House, and probably for much longer. To some extent, I take issue with the hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack), whose views I know and respect. There is a world of difference between the issues that we are discussing today and those to which he alluded. This is not the first occasion on which the programming of discussion in the House has been considered—it is probably the 155th occasion. The principles that lie behind the motion raise matters of importance—the Government do not dispute that. That is why we are anxious for those proposals to be discussed. The ideas that underlie our proposals are not new, and the substance and the principle about whether to structure debate or to leave it unstructured are not new; what is new is the detail of the proposals.

Mr. Tyrie

Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Beckett

I am sorry. If the hon. Gentleman seeks to intervene later in our debate, I shall certainly give way to him. I have concluded the remarks that I wanted to make, and I am anxious to move on to the substance of our debate.

Mr. Keith Bradley (Treasurer of Her Majesty's Household)

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put.

The House proceeded to a Division.

Mr. Hawkins

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to protest at the timing of your acceptance of the closure motion moved by the Government Deputy Chief Whip.

I and my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt) were present throughout the debate and we were the only two Members to rise regularly as soon as an hon. Member had finished speaking. We had shown our interest by some brief interventions and we had hoped to contribute. I submit that it would have been more appropriate not to accept the closure motion until after our speeches had been made.

Mr. Speaker

Any hon. Member can move, That the Question be now put. Whether to accept the motion is a matter for the discretion of the Chair, and there can be no discussion about that.

The House having divided: Ayes 251, Noes 164.

Division No. 321] [5.59 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Cox, Tom
Ainger, Nick Cranston, Ross
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Alexander, Douglas Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Allen, Graham Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack (Copeland)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Ashton, Joe Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Atherton, Ms Candy Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Atkins, Charlotte Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Austin, John Davidson, Ian
Banks, Tony Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Barnes, Harry Dawson, Hilton
Barron, Kevin Dean, Mrs Janet
Beard, Nigel Doran, Frank
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Dowd, Jim
Bell, Martin (Tatton) Drew, David
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough) Drown, Ms Julia
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C) Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Benton, Joe Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Berry, Roger Edwards, Huw
Best, Harold Ellman, Mrs Louise
Blackman, Liz Etherington, Bill
Blizzard, Bob Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Flint, Caroline
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Flynn, Paul
Bradshaw, Ben Follett, Barbara
Browne, Desmond Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Burden, Richard Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Butler, Mrs Christine Foulkes, George
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen Fyfe, Maria
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Gapes, Mike
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Gardiner, Barry
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Campbell-Savours, Dale Godman, Dr Norman A
Caplin, Ivor Goggins, Paul
Casale, Roger Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Caton, Martin Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Cawsey, Ian Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Chaytor, David Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Clapham, Michael Grocott, Bruce
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields) Grogan, John
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S) Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Clwyd, Ann Hanson, David
Coffey, Ms Ann Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Colman, Tony Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Connarty, Michael Heppell, John
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston) Hinchliffe, David
Cooper, Yvette Hood, Jimmy
Corbett, Robin Hope, Phil
Cousins, Jim Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim Pearson, Ian
Hoyle, Lindsay Perham, Ms Linda
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Pickthall, Colin
Hurst, Alan Pike, Peter L
Hutton, John Plaskitt, James
Illsley, Eric Pollard, Kerry
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead) Pond, Chris
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough) Pope, Greg
Jamieson, David Pound, Stephen
Jenkins, Brian Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn) Primarolo, Dawn
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark) Prosser, Gwyn
Jones, Helen (Warrington N) Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Quinn, Lawrie
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S) Rammell, Bill
Keeble, Ms Sally Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston) Roche, Mrs Barbara
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth) Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Kemp, Fraser Rooney, Terry
Khabra, Piara S Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Kidney, David Rowlands, Ted
Kilfoyle, Peter Ruane, Chris
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green) Ruddock, Joan
Kingham, Ms Tess Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ladyman, Dr Stephen Ryan, Ms Joan
Lammy, David Savidge, Malcolm
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie Sawford Phil
Laxton, Bob Sheerman, Barry
Lepper, David Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Leslie, Christopher Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Levitt, Tom
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen Skinner, Dennis
Linton Martin Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C) Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Llwyd, Elfyn Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Love, Andrew Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
McAvoy, Thomas Snape, Peter
McCabe, Steve Soley, Clive
McCafferty, Ms Chris Southworth, Ms Helen
McFall, John Spellar, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne Starkey, Dr Phyllis
McIsaac, Shona Stevenson, George
McNulty, Tony Stewart, David (Inverness E)
MacShane, Denis Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
McWalter, Tony Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
McWilliam, John Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Mahon, Mrs Alice Stuart, Ms Gisela
Mallaber, Judy Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Martlew, Eric Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Maxton, John Timms, Stephen
Meale, Alan Tipping, Paddy
Merron, Gillian Touhig, Don
Michael, Rt Hon Alun Trickett, Jon
Michie, Bill (Shefld Heeley) Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Mitchell, Austin Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Moffatt, Laura Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Moran, Ms Margaret Tynan, Bill
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N) Vis, Dr Rudi
Morley, Elliot Walley, Ms Joan
Mountford, Kali Ward, Ms Claire
Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie White, Brian
Mullin, Chris Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck) Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood) Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen) Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Naysmith, Dr Doug Worthington, Tony
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton) Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
O'Hara, Eddie Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Olner, Bill Wyatt, Derek
O'Neill, Martin
Organ, Mrs Diana Tellers for the Ayes:
Osborne, Ms Sandra Mr. Clive Betts and
Palmer, Dr Nick Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe.
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Allan, Richard Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Amess, David Horam, John
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Baldry, Tony Hunter, Andrew
Beggs, Roy Jenkin, Bernard
Beith, Rt Hon A J Johnson Smith, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Blunt, Crispin Keetch, Paul
Boswell, Tim Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness W)
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia Key, Robert
Brady, Graham Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Brake, Tom Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Brand, Dr Peter Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Brazier, Julian Lansley, Andrew
Breed, Colin Letwin, Oliver
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Browning, Mrs Angela Lidington, David
Burnett, John Livsey, Richard
Burns, Simon Loughton, Tim
Burstow, Paul Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Butterfill, John MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife) McIntosh, Miss Anne
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Cash, William McLoughlin, Patrick
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet) Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Chidgey, David Mates, Michael
Chope, Christopher Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Clappison, James Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh) May, Mrs Theresa
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Moore, Michael
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Norman, Archie
Collins, Tim Oaten, Mark
Corbyn, Jeremy O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Cormack, Sir Patrick Öpik, Lembit
Cotter, Brian Ottaway, Richard
Cran, James Page, Richard
Curry, Rt Hon David Paterson, Owen
Davey, Edward (Kingston) Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Davies, Quentin (Grantham) Prior, David
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice) Randall, John
Day, Stephen Redwood, Rt Hon John
Duncan, Alan Rendel, David
Duncan Smith, Iain Robathan, Andrew
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Evans, Nigel Ross, William (E Lond'y)
Fabricant, Michael Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Fallon, Michael Ruffley, David
Flight, Howard Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Foster, Don (Bath) St Aubyn, Nick
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Sanders, Adrian
Fox, Dr Liam Sayeed, Jonathan
Fraser, Christopher Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Gale, Roger Shepherd, Richard
Garnier, Edward Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
George, Andrew (St Ives) Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Gibb, Nick Soames, Nicholas
Gill, Christopher Spicer, Sir Michael
Golding, Mrs Llin Spring, Richard
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Gray, James Streeter, Gary
Green, Damian Stunell, Andrew
Greenway, John Swayne, Desmond
Grieve, Dominic Syms, Robert
Hague, Rt Hon William Tapsell, Sir Peter
Hammond, Philip Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Hancock, Mike Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Hawkins, Nick Taylor, Sir Teddy
Heald, Oliver Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Tonge, Dr Jenny Whittingdale, John
Townend, John Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Trend, Michael Wilkinson, John
Tyler, Paul Willetts, David
Tyrie, Andrew Willis, Phil
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Viggers, Peter Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Walter, Robert Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Wardle, Charles
Waterson, Nigel >Tellers for the Noes:
Wells, Bowen Mr. Eric Forth and
Whitney, Sir Raymond Sir Archie Hamilton.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Main Question put accordingly:—

The House divided: Ayes 251, Noes 168.

Division No. 322] [6.11 pm
Ainger, Nick Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Alexander, Douglas Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Allen, Graham Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Davidson, Ian
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Ashton, Joe Dawson, Hilton
Atherton, Ms Candy Dean, Mrs Janet
Atkins, Charlotte Doran, Frank
Austin, John Dowd, Jim
Banks, Tony Drew, David
Barron, Kevin Drown, Ms Julia
Beard, Nigel Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Eagle, Maria (L 'pool Garston)
Bell, Martin (Tatton) Edwards, Huw
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough) Ellman, Mrs Louise
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C) Etherington, Bill
Benton, Joe Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Berry, Roger Flint, Caroline
Best, Harold Flynn, Paul
Blackman, Liz Follett, Barbara
Blizzard, Bob Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Foulkes, George
Bradshaw, Ben Fyfe, Maria
Browne, Desmond Gapes, Mike
Burden, Richard Gardiner, Barry
Butler, Mrs Christine George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen Godman, Dr Norman A
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Goggins, Paul
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Campbell-Savours, Dale Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Caplin, Ivor Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Casale, Roger Grocott, Bruce
Caton, Martin Grogan, John
Cawsey, Ian Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Chaytor, David Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Clapham, Michael Hanson, David
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields) Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Healey, John
Clwyd, Ann Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Coffey, Ms Ann Heppell, John
Colman, Tony Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Connarty, Michael Hinchliffe, David
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Hood, Jimmy
Cooper, Yvette Hope, Phil
Corbett, Robin Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Cousins, Jim Howells, Dr Kim
Cox, Tom Hoyle, Lindsay
Cranston, Ross Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley) Hurst, Alan
Cryer, John (Hornchurch) Hutton, John
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack (Copeland) Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jamieson, David Plaskitt, James
Jenkins, Brian Pollard, Kerry
Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatheld) Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn) Pound, Stephen
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark) Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N) Primarolo, Dawn
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Prosser, Gwyn
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S) Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
Keeble, Ms Sally Quinn, Lawrie
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston) Rammell, Bill
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth) Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree) Roche, Mrs Barbara
Khabra, Piara S Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Kidney, David Rooney, Terry
Kilfoyle, Peter Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green) Rowlands, Ted
Kingham, Ms Tess Ruane, Chris
Ladyman, Dr Stephen Ruddock, Joan
Lammy, David Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie Ryan, Ms Joan
Laxton, Bob Savidge, Malcolm
Lepper, David Sawford, Phil
Leslie, Christopher Shaw, Jonathan
Levitt, Tom Sheerman, Barry
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Linton, Martin Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C) Skinner, Dennis
Llwyd, Elfyn Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Love, Andrew Smith, Angela (Basildon)
McAvoy, Thomas Smith, John (Glamorgan)
McCabe, Steve Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
McCafferty, Ms Chris Snape, Peter
McFall, John Soley, Clive
McGuire, Mrs Anne Southworth, Ms Helen
McIsaac, Shona Spellar, John
McNulty, Tony Starkey, Dr Phyllis
MacShane, Denis Stevenson, George
Mactaggart, Fiona Stewart, David (Inverness E)
McWalter, Tony Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
McWilliam, John Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Mahon, Mrs Alice Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Mallaber, Judy Stuart, Ms Gisela
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S) Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Martlew, Eric Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Maxton, John Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Meale, Alan Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Merron, Gillian Timms, Stephen
Michael, Rt Hon Alun Tipping, Paddy
Michie, Bill (Shefld Heeley) Touhig, Don
Mitchell, Austin Trickett, Jon
Moffatt, Laura Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Moran, Ms Margaret Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N) Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Morley, Elliot Tynan, Bill
Mountford, Kali Vis, Dr Rudi
Mullin, Chris Walley, Ms Joan
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck) Ward, Ms Claire
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood) Wareing, Robert N
Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen) White, Brian
Naysmith, Dr Doug Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton) Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
O'Hara, Eddie Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Olner, Bill Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
O'Neill, Martin Worthington, Tony
Organ, Mrs Diana Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Osborne, Ms Sandra Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Palmer, Dr Nick Wyatt, Derek
Pendry, Tom
Perham, Ms Linda Tellers for the Ayes:
Pickthall, Colin Mr. Clive Betts and
Pike, Peter L Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe.
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Hammond, Philip
Allan, Richard Hancock, Mike
Amess, David Hawkins, Nick
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Heald, Oliver
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Baldry, Tony Horam, John
Ballard, Jackie Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Barnes, Harry Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Beggs, Roy Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Berth, Rt Hon A J Jenkin, Bernard
Bercow, John Johnson Smith, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Body, Sir Richard Keetch, Paul
Boswell, Tim Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness W)
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia Key, Robert
Brady, Graham Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Brake, Tom Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Brand, Dr Peter Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Brazier, Julian Lansley, Andrew
Breed, Colin Letwin, Oliver
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Browning, Mrs Angela Lidington, David
Burnett, John Livsey, Richard
Burns, Simon Loughton, Tim
Burstow, Paul Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Butterfill, John MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife) McIntosh, Miss Anne
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Cash, William McLoughlin, Patrick
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet) Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Chidgey, David Mates, Michael
Chope, Christopher Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Clappison, James Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh) May, Mrs Theresa
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Moore, Michael
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Norman, Archie
Collins, Tim Oaten, Mark
Corbyn, Jeremy O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Cormack, Sir Patrick Öpik, Lembit
Cotter, Brian Ottaway, Richard
Cran, James Page, Richard
Curry, Rt Hon David Paterson, Owen
Davey, Edward (Kingston) Pearson, Ian
Davies, Quentin (Grantham) Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice) Prior, David
Day, Stephen Randall, John
Duncan, Alan Redwood, Rt Hon John
Duncan Smith, Iain Rendel, David
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Robathan, Andrew
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Evans, Nigel Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Fabricant, Michael Ruffley, David
Fallon, Michael Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Flight, Howard St Aubyn, Nick
Foster, Don (Bath) Sanders, Adrian
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Sayeed, Jonathan
Fox, Dr Liam Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Fraser, Christopher Shepherd, Richard
Gale, Roger Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Garnier, Edward Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
George, Andrew (St Ives) Soames, Nicholas
Gibb, Nick Spicer, Sir Michael
Gill, Christopher Spring, Richard
Golding, Mrs Llin Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Streeter, Gary
Gray, James Stunell, Andrew
Green, Damian Swayne, Desmond
Greenway, John Syms, Robert
Grieve, Dominic Tapsell, Sir Peter
Hague, Rt Hon William Taylor, Ian (Esher& Walton)
Taylor, John M (Solihull) Wells, Bowen
Taylor, Matthew (Truro) Whitney, Sir Raymond
Taylor, Sir Teddy Whittingdale, John
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion) Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Tonge, Dr Jenny Wilkinson, John
Townend John Willetts, David
Trend, Michael Willis, Phil
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Tyler, Paul Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Tyrie, Andrew Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Viggers, Peter
Walter, Robert Tellers for the Noes:
Wardle, Charles Mr. Eric Forth and
Waterson, Nigel Sir Archie Hamilton.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Ordered, That at today's sitting the Speaker shall put the Questions necessary to dispose of proceedings on the Motions in the name of Margaret Beckett relating to Programming of Bills and Deferred Divisions not later than Ten o'clock, and such Questions shall include the Questions on any amendments selected by the Speaker which may then be moved; and those Questions may be decided, though opposed, after the expiration of the time for opposed business.