§ Lords amendment: No. 5, in page 2, line 35, leave out ("or by a government department") and insert
("by a government department or by the National Assembly for Wales")
§ Mr. Speaker
With this it will be convenient to discuss Lords amendments Nos. 6 to 10, 25, 28 to 34, 36 to 38, 68, 69, 74, 77, 78 and 82.
§ Mr. O'Brien
The amendments ensure that the Bill takes full account of devolved arrangements in Wales and Northern Ireland, and ensure appropriate consultation. I shall deal with any questions later.
§ Mr. Hawkins
Although the Minister has moved the amendments briefly, the House should spend some time on them. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) and others may have some points to make. The swift dismissal on a matter as crucial as freedom of information of all the amendments tabled by the Government themselves on matters relating to the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly displays a worrying approach to the new, devolved institutions that the Government set up. We have repeatedly made clear our concern about the brief time left to us by the Government's guillotine, and it is surely incumbent on the Minister to justify the many changes that the Government want to make to their own Bill.
The Government created the new, devolved institutions. Surely when they were producing the Freedom of Information Bill, in the curious manner in which they have approached it throughout, they should have got all the parts relating to Wales and Northern Ireland right first time around rather than having to table a raft of consequential amendments now. We shall wait to hear the important points that my right hon. and hon. Friends will make, and, as the Minister spoke so briefly, I reserve my right to intervene on him when he responds to them. He has not given the House the courtesy of an opening statement in moving important amendments, and we must have an opportunity to intervene on him later.
§ Mr. Forth
My hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) is correct.
750 I want to dwell for a few moments on Lords amendments Nos. 5, 10, 29, 31, 68 and 74, on which several important questions arise. For example, amendment No. 5 proposes to amend clause 3 subsection (2)(b) to bracket togethera Minister of the Crown in his capacity as Ministerand "a government department" and the National Assembly for Wales. As my hon. Friend pointed out, that immediately raises some important points which heighten our disappointment that the Minister felt it unnecessary to speak to the House on such an important group—dealing as they do with vital relationships between the National Assembly for Wales, in particular, and Departments. I hope that there will be no attempt to skip lightly over these matters, as they are of considerable importance.
Is the Minister satisfied that the amendment, in bringing together a Department and the National Assembly, is correct in its assumption that the powers exercisable by a Department on the one hand and the National Assembly on the other—two extremely different political entities—have validity? Can we be content with that provision simply on the basis on which it is offered?
When we consider amendment No. 10 to clause 6, matters become more difficult. It states:Before making an order under subsection (3), the Secretary of State shall … if the order relates to the National Assembly for Wales or a Welsh public authority, consult the National Assembly for Wales.For some time, I have been worried about the extent to which that word "consult" has slipped into statute or into Bills, because I am not sure whether any of us has a clear idea of what it means in practice, or to what it commits the Government or—in this case—the Secretary of State.
Let us suppose that the Secretary of State goes through that process of consultation—as yet undefined. What do we suppose will happen if the Secretary of State consults the National Assembly and there is disagreement during that process? Whose word will be final? We can take a pretty good guess. I would hazard a guess that it would be the Secretary of State—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh no".] If that were so—and I am only guessing—where does that leave the National Assembly? Is it a mere consultee? Are the views of the Assembly simply to be brushed aside by the Secretary of State of the day? Can the Minister offer us any reassurance that the Assembly will be taken seriously?
§ Mr. Redwood
The original draft of the Bill states thatgovernment department" includes the National Assembly for Wales.Has my right hon. Friend noticed that? However, we are being invited to insert that idea in several places before it is mentioned in the original text, and to include provisions on consultations.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Government have been rapped over the knuckles by the National Assembly for presuming that the Secretary of State can act on behalf of the Assembly without asking it? As a result, the Government are introducing a consultation process in a lukewarm way to try to cover up their deep embarrassment.
751 It also looks as though the drafting was extremely sloppy, which is why this idea that a Department is the same as the National Assembly for these purposes has to be inserted in various parts of the Bill. Once again, the Government have placed incompetent legislation before the House.
§ Mr. Forth
I share my right hon. Friend's view, but when the Minister winds up the debate he will have an opportunity to answer those points. He declined to do so at the beginning, when he might have saved himself and us a lot of time if he had taken the trouble to explain these matters to us. However, I hope he will cover the points made by my right hon. Friend in due course.
§ Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal)
I am rather concerned about what would happen if the provision were not included. Was the intention not to consult the National Assembly? Is the provision being included to make sure that such consultation takes place? Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is odd that the whole Bill should have been published as though the National Assembly did not exist? At the last moment, we have to draw up all these provisions in case someone complains. Should not the House demand that, in future, the Government get Bills right in the first place?
§ Mr. Forth
Of course that would be ideal. My right hon. Friend is right; we are beginning to see the possibility of the Government being devoured by their own children. I can certainly believe what both my right hon. Friends have suggested.
We will hear from the Minister shortly, when he will exercise that freedom of information concept with which we are all so absorbed. He will share with us exactly what is the background of the matter and tell us whether or not there has been a row behind the scenes between the Government and the National Assembly for Wales because the Government ignored the Assembly when drafting the Bill and have been forced to include a specific undertaking.
§ Mr. Bercow
I would not dream of delaying my right hon. Friend for longer than necessary, but does he not agree that his anxiety about tokens and fig leaves is further reinforced by the fact that the Labour party has in the past distinguished between consultative referendums on the one hand and binding referendums on the other?
§ Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)
Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that we in the National Assembly for 752 Wales would find it very off-putting to be described simply as a Government Department? The National Assembly for Wales is a Government in its own right, not a Department. The proposed wording seems as though it has been added on at a late stage. The Government need to do more than move the motion formally; they need to explain how the Bill has developed at this late stage into a model that hardly gives us confidence that the Assembly's views will be taken on board.
§ Mr. Forth
I sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman because I can see, now that he points it out to me, that the proposal looks like an afterthought. If we and the people of Wales were to think that their Assembly was little more an afterthought in the eyes of the Labour Government, I should not like to be in the shoes of either the Minister or, more particularly, the Secretary of State for Wales when he next visits Wales, because he would have a lot of explaining to do. I hope that the Minister will give us an initial explanation, and then we shall see what happens.
§ Mr. Hawkins
I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way. Does he not agree that this is but the latest example of the Government's embarrassment over matters connected with Wales? He will recall that the Prime Minister suffered the enormous embarrassment of the person whom he sought to impose as First Minister being thrown out.
§ Mr. Lilley
The National Assembly for Wales is clearly not a Department. The right hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) suggested that it was a Department in its own right, but surely it is not really a Department.
§ Mr. Lilley
Surely it is not really a Government in its own right either; it is an Assembly. Is it suggested therefore that information held by Members of that Assembly should be covered by the Bill? If so, is there not a dangerous analogy, in that, subsequently, information held by Members of Parliament would be covered by it? Why is my right hon. Friend so worried about Wales and the Welsh Assembly, and why does he expect to receive any answer from the Minister, when he has not answered the far more important question asked by me and my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) about whether the House will have less entitlement to information than members of the public? That is the supreme aspect of parliamentary privilege
753 raised by the Bill, but the Minister failed to respond because of his tawdry political attempts to misrepresent people.
§ Mr. Forth
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. He raises another question—as to whether anywhere in the Bill or the amendments there is a commitment that the Government should consult the House of Commons. On this occasion, is the National Assembly for Wales being placed above the House of Commons in terms of the obligation to consult? I was hoping to leave this subject but, while I am on it, I have a final thought. Will the consultation process with the National Assembly for Wales include the possibility of a vote by the Assembly on whether it is satisfied with the Secretary of State, or will the consultation process take another form?
That leads me directly to proposed paragraph (b) in amendment No. 10. It states thatif the order relates to the Northern Ireland Assembly,the consultation will take place withthe Presiding Officer of the Assembly.A different principle is being introduced here. Under proposed paragraph (a), the National Assembly for Wales will be consulted in a way that is still mysterious to us, but paragraph (b) is much more specific. The commitment is to consult the Presiding Officer only.
I do not know whether we are supposed to assume that the Presiding Officer will make arrangements to consult Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly. The only obligation in the amendment is to consult the Presiding Officer, which will give that individual an enormous degree of influence and the power to speak on behalf of the Assembly.
§ Mr. Gummer
I do not know whether my right hon. Friend agrees, but I still think it difficult to understand how one consults the National Assembly for Wales. Clearly, it has been decided that it is impossible to consult the Northern Ireland Assembly and that one has to discuss the matter with the Presiding Officer only, but what is the mechanism for consulting the National Assembly for Wales? Will there be a meeting which its Members all attend, or does one harangue them? What does the Bill suggest one can do to consult the National Assembly for Wales? I can understand how one can consult the Presiding Officer of the Northern Ireland Assembly, but not how one can consult the National Assembly for Wales.
§ Mr. Forth
As my right hon. Friend points out, although paragraph (b) of the amendment specifically refers to the Presiding Officer of the Northern Ireland Assembly—it is helpful in that regard—in a sense, it undermines the consultation concept because it is directed solely at one individual. Although paragraph (a) refers to a wider group of people—namely, the National Assembly for Wales—as my right hon. Friend points out, it leaves us completely in the dark as to how one adequately and satisfactorily consults under the terms of the amendment. The Minister has much explaining to do before we move on.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)
The right hon. Gentleman is following an interesting line of argument.
754 I have considered the issue in detail and I thought that the different provisions might result from the fact that the Presiding Officer of the Northern Ireland Assembly has a seat in the other place: but I then realised that the Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales has a seat in the other place, too. Could the aim therefore be to consult one parliamentarian at the expense of the other, while ignoring the Northern Ireland Assembly by saying that the Presiding Officer there would do the job adequately?
§ Mr. Forth
As far as I can see, it is all very tidy: jobs for the cronies. All these people are multi-tasking and shuttling between Assemblies, Parliaments and the House of peers. How they can do justice to their posts is beyond me. The hon. Gentleman is right, and we will want to hear more from the Minister about that.
§ Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne)
My right hon. Friend is agonising over why only the Presiding Officer of the Northern Ireland Assembly will be consulted. However, might not the answer be that the only way to obtain a single coherent opinion from the Northern Ireland Assembly is to ask one person? In that way, one would obtain a coherent view.
My right hon. Friend also might like to consider why the Government chose to consult only the Presiding Officer in Northern Ireland. If Ministers consulted Sinn Fein-IRA and refused to agree with them, they might get shot.
§ Mr. Forth
I hope that would not be the case, and I doubt whether that point was at the forefront of Ministers' minds when they considered the wording of the Bill. However, the issue shows the extent to which they have got themselves into difficulty.
Moving swiftly on to the next amendment in this group which has caught my eye—amendment No. 29—we see that the plot definitely thickens. The amendment explicitly refers to communications taking place, first, between Ministers of the Crown. We understand that concept because two of them are sitting here, eager to answer our questions. It refers also to communications between Northern Ireland Ministers, including Northern Ireland junior Ministers, which may or may not be a satisfactory definition—that remains to be seen. It then refers to communicationsbetween Assembly Secretaries, including the Assembly First Secretary.The amendment introduces a rather odd matrix of different persons. I assume that the term "Ministers of the Crown" subsumes Secretaries of State, Ministers of State and Parliamentary Under-Secretaries, but the Minister might want to confirm that. A different nomenclature is used to refer to Northern Ireland Ministers, including junior Ministers, which could be confusing. The amendment then refers to Assembly Secretaries. More explanation is required, because it is not clear how all-embracing those descriptions are, or whether they are meant to be, to use the current jargon, inclusive.
I move on to amendment No. 31, which, intriguingly, mentions for the first time the proceedings of the executive committee of the National Assembly for Wales.
§ Mr. Forth
The right hon. Gentleman implies that there is no such thing. If that is true and if he can catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, he may want to make his own contribution. The amendment, which we are being asked to agree to, clearly refers to the proceedings of the executive committee of the National Assembly for Wales, and that may be not only confusing but downright inaccurate and dangerous. How does it relate to the references to different Ministers, Presiding Officers and the Assembly for Wales as a whole? The amendment introduces a new entity into the Bill, and I should like to know more about how the Minister thinks that it will operate, if indeed such an executive committee exists.
Amendment No. 68 gives rise to possible confusion. If I read it out, that will be sufficient to demonstrate the extent to which it is unclear to me, and perhaps then the Minister will elaborate and explain. It says:leave out subsection (1) and insert—("(1) For the purposes of this Act each government department is to be treated as a person separate from any other government department.That strikes me as stating the extremely obvious, and we must ask why the Minister believes it necessary to insert it in the Bill.
Unhelpfully, the amendment continues:Subsection (1) does not enable—(a) a government department which is not a Northern Ireland department to claim for the purposes of section 39(1)(b) that the disclosure of any information by it—that, presumably, is the Government Department, and not a Northern Ireland department—would constitute a breach of confidence actionable by any other government department (not being a Northern Ireland department).I am not sure where that is leading us. It is unhelpful that, at this stage in our proceedings, we are being asked to introduce wording that is possibly confusing. That merits explanation from the Minister, and I regret that he did not give us an explanation at the beginning of the debate, because that might have saved everybody a lot of time.
§ Mr. Gummer
Surely my right hon. Friend can see what a disaster it would be if the new paragraph were not included in the Bill. If it were possible fora government department which is not a Northern Ireland department to claim for the purposes of section 39(1)(b) that the disclosure of any information by it would constitute a breach of confidence actionable by any other government department (not being a Northern Ireland department),that would obviously be a serious disaster. I entirely understand why the Government felt, even at this very late stage, that that provision needs to be included. However, I should like to understand from the Government, as I am sure would my right hon. Friend, quite what sort of disaster that would be.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth
I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's giving way. He makes a serious point, which relates to the concept of confidences and, for example, the requirement by the Saville inquiry that the minutes of a Cabinet meeting be produced; or that a former Prime Minister should give evidence; or the announcement on the radio this morning in Northern Ireland that a junior Minister had dictated to the Army Board that two guardsmen should be retained. That is surely exempt information. Perhaps the Minister will give us guidance on that when he winds up.
§ Mr. Forth
That is a useful point, although I shall not explore it at this stage. It touches on the conceptual similarity or difference between a leak and freedom of information—a matter that no doubt interests all hon. Members. With respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth), however, I do not think that we should dwell on it now.
From this short analysis of amendment No. 68, we can already see that we are all at a loss to understand why it is included, and at even more of a loss to understand what it means and how it will strengthen the Bill.
§ Mr. Redwood
Like my right hon. Friend, I think I welcome the amendment, but the Minister should be drawn into the debate, because the amendment is couched in extremely abstruse language. As I understand it, there is a good principle involved, as well as a damaging principle.
The good principle is that we all know that Government Departments disagree with one another, and sometimes the disagreements are of great interest to the press, the public and the Opposition. We would like the opportunity to find out more about those disagreements. The problem for the Government is that they are meant to believe in collective responsibility. The advantage of the amendment is that it will enable us and the public to learn a little more about the disagreements. The disadvantage for the Government is that it makes collective responsibility more difficult.
§ Mr. Forth
I should like to believe that, but I do not have quite the same faith as my right hon. Friend that the provision will reveal anything of the kind. We have seen right from the beginning of the sorry saga of the so-called Freedom of Information Bill that it is nothing of the kind. It will reveal very little, or only what the Government want to reveal, which undermines its entire purpose. For that reason, I have severe doubts as to whether the process that my right hon. Friend described will take place.
757 I conclude my brief remarks, as I said I would, with a quick look at amendment No. 74. Although it helpfully describes itself asMeaning of "Welsh public authority",which one would have thought should make it helpful, it goes on, rather disappointingly, to listany public authority which is listed in Part II, III, IV or VI of Schedule 1 and whose functions are exercisable only or mainly in or as regards Wales, other than an excluded authority.Surely that complicates matters unnecessarily. When I see the word "mainly" written into a Bill and potentially a statute, that worries me considerably. What does "mainly" mean in the present context? Who will define "mainly"? What ismainly in or as regards Wales?I find that phrase distinctly unhelpful and potentially confusing. One can foresee any number of disputes arising over it.
One would almost have thought that the provision was designed to help the lawyers. As there are two lawyers sitting on the Treasury Bench right now, I am not totally surprised at that, but I should have thought that the Government might not be so blatant in recommending to us, presumably, that we accept such amendments. I can see Members of another place, stuffed as it is with eminent lawyers, being rather keen on this form of words. I cannot imagine the citizenry and taxpayer being so keen. Much more explanation is needed.
The same issue arises in subsection (2), which reads:excluded authority" means a public authority which is designated by the Secretary of State by order as an excluded authority for the purposes of that paragraph.That is almost the opposite of what I have been saying. We are supposed to trust implicitly in "mainly" as guiding us in the right direction. I doubt that it does. Yet we have something that is all too explicit. The provision states in a rather brutal way that the excluded authority is whatever the Secretary of State says it is. Is there to be any flexibility? Will there be any appeal? Will the Secretary of State act by fiat? Will the declaration that the Secretary of State is giving an order be the definition?
§ Mr. Bercow
Somewhat uncharacteristically, my right hon. Friend has understated his case. He referred to the presence of two lawyers on the Treasury Bench, one of whom services the Lord Chancellor's Department. Is my right hon. Friend aware that within the Home Office team of six Ministers, no fewer than four—that is two thirds—are lawyers? Is that not a reason to cry?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I do not understand what that intervention has to do with the amendment.
§ Mr. Forth
As ever, I am grateful to my hon. Friend for clarifying the matter. My concern was the nature of the role of the Secretary of State in terms of amendment No. 74(2), the explanation of "mainly", and how the 758 Minister believes that that word will bear upon the interpretation of this important provision when it comes to reality, if it ever does.
I wanted to illustrate only one brief point, which by now must be self-evident. Ministers should have learned by now that if they did the House the courtesy of giving us a brief and elegant explanation of why they think that each amendment should or should not be supported by the House, we could probably obviate much debate. I have not had time thoroughly to analyse these matters, because the time for our consideration has been brutally truncated, which in turn means that none of us has had an opportunity properly to examine them. However, having skimmed over them, it is clear to me that many questions arise.
I hope that the Minister will do us the courtesy, when this short debate comes to an end, and my right hon. and hon. Friends have had the chance to engage in their much more penetrating analysis of the matter, of providing us with many more explanations. I hope that we can then move on.
§ Mr. Gummer
I had hoped not to intervene in the debate, but I feel bound to do so because of the shortness of the Minister's statement. I hope to confine my remarks as much as possible.
The first question that the House should ask about the amendments is how we came to be in the position of considering a Bill that is so poorly drafted that neither the proper rights of the National Assembly for Wales nor those of Northern Ireland were included in it. I should have thought that the Minister would have felt it necessary to start the debate by saying how sorry he was that, for doubtless extremely good reasons, those rights had not been included in the Bill initially.
I cannot remember having proposed a National Assembly for Wales, nor one for Northern Ireland. However, the Government did. They brought forward the proposals and created the constitutional position in which they find themselves. They must have known that such rights mattered to the Assemblies. Now that we have the Assemblies, I believe that we should respect them, their responsibilities and their authorities. I cannot understand how the Government got themselves into such a position. I had hoped that I would not have to raise the issue. I had thought that the Government would explain it as a necessary beginning to a debate that will now have to be extended, as we ask the questions that could well have been answered at the outset.
§ Mr. Wilshire
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that he said that he was surprised that the Government did not start by saying sorry? If he was, will he tell the House why he was surprised, because it is a bit of a mystery, given that no one here can remember the Government ever saying sorry for anything?
§ Mr. Gummer
I always believe the best of people before I find the worst. I remain surprised that the Government have not said sorry.
I hope that the House will not mind if I return to the lead amendment, No. 5, which suggests that we leave out the words "a government department" and insertby a government department or by the National Assembly for Wales.759 My right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) has explained how the two things were regarded in the same light and how the National Assembly for Wales was originally perceived as being a Government Department, which must have been the case. However, I wish to raise a second problem, which is that it does not strike me as entirely helpful to speak of the National Assembly for Wales as though it can be treated as a Government Department.
With a Government Department, one at least knows to whom one must refer if one wishes to consult—or do anything. One naturally goes to the head of the Department, either the ministerial head or the bureaucratic head. However, the problem with the National Assembly for Wales is that it specifically excludes approaching the person whom one might have approached in a Department, and whom one does approach in Northern Ireland; instead, one approaches a thing called the National Assembly for Wales. I can understand that as an institution, but I do not understand it as a corporate consultative person, which it seems to me one has to create if the amendment is to be carried through.
§ Mr. Redwood
My right hon. Friend makes powerful points. He will agree that the proposed amendment offers a slight improvement on the obviously wrong text. We are faced with a Government in blunderland—an incompetent Government presenting more than 1,000 amendments this week. However, has my right hon. Friend noticed that the Government do not propose to excise the phrasegovernment department" includes … the National Assembly for Waleswhich appears in part VIII, page 41, lines 2 and 9. The Government blunder continues: they will end up with a hybrid piece of legislation, which, in one place, treats the National Assembly for Wales as a Government Department and, in another, does not.
§ Mr. Gummer
My right hon. Friend raises a matter of considerable importance, not least because it begins to open up better than any Freedom of Information Bill could the inner workings of the Government's mind. The Government did not intend that the National Assembly for Wales should play a part; they had not thought about that, but had instead thought about treating everybody in the same way as they intend to treat Government Departments. They have got themselves in their current position only as an afterthought and, as my right hon. Friend says, the afterthought has not been completed. The Government have not trawled through the Bill successfully. Perhaps they should have typed into their Microsoft software the phrase "National Assembly for Wales" and so ensured that every example came up and they did not miss any; but they did not, and someone clearly turned over two pages at once.
That means that we must look carefully at the amendments before us. Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 are extremely similar and the same problems arise in connection with both. It is important to look again at amendment No. 8, which states:Before making an order under subsection (1), the Secretary of State shall—(a) if the order adds to Part II, III, IV or VI of Schedule 1 a reference to—(i) a body whose functions are exercisable only or mainly in or as regards Wales.760 I have read that on several occasions and find it extremely opaque. No doubt, from time to time, the Royal Horticultural Society makes decisions "as regards Wales". However, what does that phrase mean? In what other piece of legislation is "as regards" used as a term of art? It is difficult to believe that many people will be able to handle that phrase, except with reference to the courts. I hesitate to tread on hallowed ground, but my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst raised the matter of lawyers. I am one of the few members of my generation at Cambridge who did not read law, so I may be prejudiced in believing that we have too many lawyers who always seem to be protected by the way in which we legislate. If ever there was an opportunity for lawyers, the phrase "as regards Wales" provides it, as it opens up every possible argument about almost every element of government that can be characterised "as regards Wales".
It is unacceptable for part of the Bill to refer tofunctions exercisable … as regards Wales.That phrase is not grammatical and means nothing, so I do not know why it has been proposed. If, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you can imagine an example of a function that is not exercisable only or mainly in something, but as regards it, you are a better man than I am. I cannot imagine any circumstance that is covered, not by "only" or "mainly", but by "as regards", unless that means everything. I am sure that the Minister did not choose that phrase of his own volition. He has been dumped in it, as he has by much more that he will have to explain this evening.
Proposed paragraph (a)(ii) states:the holder of an office whose functions are exercisable only or mainly in or as regards Wales.What office in the United Kingdom could do that? Perhaps a member of the Government or one of my colleagues from Wales can give me an example of a function that is exercisable not only or mainly in Wales, but only as regards Wales. Is there such an office and, if so, should it be covered by the Bill? Unless we know that, I do not see how we can accept the amendment.
I am afraid that that applies to almost every amendment in the group. I shall look quickly at amendment No. 10, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst referred. It, too, contains a series of parallels in paragraphs (a),(b) and (c). Paragraph (a) refers tothe National Assembly for Wales or a Welsh public authority.The suggestion is that the Secretary of State should consult the National Assembly for Wales. Although my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst is a distinguished investigator of the rules, he failed to raise an important matter. Why will the Secretary of State consult only the National Assembly for Wales when he wishes to deal with an order that relates to a Welsh public authority? Would it not be reasonable for the changes to include the public authority itself, even if consultation with it is only peripheral? Is it reasonable to exclude that public authority from consultation?
The necessity to include a new provision in the Bill to enable the Secretary of State to consult the National Assembly for Wales means that, without it, he cannot or
761 may choose not to do that. In that case, the House must ask a simple question: would the Secretary of State ignore the Welsh public authority because the Bill did not state that he must consult it? Can the Welsh public authority go to blazes as far as the Secretary of State is concerned for want of a word or two? Perhaps with a word or two, the Secretary of State could get it right. Why does not the Welsh public authority have at least some say in the circumstances that we are discussing?
It is impossible to understand why amendment No. 10(b) would provide for consulting the Presiding Officer of the Northern Ireland Assembly but not the Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales. I assumed that the National Assembly for Wales did not have a Presiding Officer; I thought that the Government knew something that I did not. However, I checked and discovered that there is a Presiding Officer in both Assemblies. Indeed, their functions are parallel in almost every way. What do the Government know about the Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales that makes him an unsuitable consultee?
§ Mr. Gummer
Well, the alternative is that the Government know something about the Presiding Officer of the Northern Ireland Assembly that makes him a suitable consultee. There is something to be discovered. It would be the ultimate irony—
§ Mr. Gummer
First, I want to talk about the ultimate irony. It would be ironic if, in discussing Lords amendments to the Freedom of Information Bill, we discovered something about the National Assembly for Wales and its parity with the Northern Ireland Assembly that we would not otherwise have known. The Under-Secretary must explain why one Presiding Officer is suitable for consultation when the other is not. We need to know; without an explanation, the amendments should not be accepted.
§ Mr. Bercow
My right hon. Friend casts the National Assembly for Wales in the role of hapless victim on the basis that its Presiding Officer will not be consulted, whereas the equivalent public servant in the Northern Ireland Assembly will be consulted under amendment No. 10. Does my right hon. Friend accept that the alternative view of the matter is that the Northern Ireland Assembly has reason to be aggrieved because only its Presiding Officer will be consulted, whereas the terms of the amendment give the impression that a bigger entity—the National Assembly for Wales—will be consulted if the Government get their way? Either way, someone has good reason to be aggrieved.
§ Mr. Gummer
My hon. Friend is right to say that the amendment can be interpreted in both ways. Why is that the case? That is the fundamental question. Why has division been introduced into an otherwise innocuous matter? On one hand, the Government have failed to consider Northern Ireland or Wales and have had to make up for that hastily. On the other hand, they have included 762 changes to some aspects but, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst said, failed to incorporate others.
Now we discover that the Government's changes have created a difference that is difficult to understand and leads many of us to be suspicious of their purposes and reasons. They may be due to incompetence—perish the thought. Perhaps the Government have simply got it wrong. Perhaps, accidentally, nobody read the provision straight or thought about the parallel, but I cannot believe that the Government, who put great emphasis on joined-up government, could possibly have made so elementary a mistake. Therefore, there must be something behind the provision, but what we do not know. We must ask, very clearly, what it is.
I do not like to criticise my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst in any way, but he passed over the matter with too much alacrity. Amendment No. 10 says thatif the order relates to a Northern Ireland department or a Northern Ireland public authority, consult the First Minister and deputy First Minister in Northern Ireland.Well, that is an interesting situation indeed. If an order relates to a Welsh public authority, the Secretary of State will consult the National Assembly for Wales, but how he will do that is not explained. Will he stand before all its Members and declaim? Will he listen to them or take any notice of what they say? None of that is made clear.
We all know that the word "consult" is used most widely, but when the Secretary of State is dealing with a Northern Ireland Department it appears that he will consult not the Northern Ireland Assembly, but the First Minister and Deputy First Minister. That would be perfectly reasonable, but I understand that, after a great deal of difficulty and arm twisting, which was unsuccessful, there is a First Secretary in Wales—a person of that kind, though not the person that the Labour party wanted. Why will he not be consulted? Must he sit among all the other Assembly Members and wait for the Secretary of State to consult the lot of them? Why will he be excluded from the consultation? Why will he not be offered the pride of place given to the First Minister and Deputy First Minister in Northern Ireland?
If the provision has been included by choice, not by accident, the First Secretary in Wales has a reason to complain. Why is he not considered to be the representative of the Welsh nation, whereas the First Minister and Deputy First Minister are considered to be the representatives of Ulster? That is an extremely difficult issue to follow and I should be happy to leave the case there but for the difficult situation and issues raised by other amendments. Therefore, I ask hon. Members to turn to amendment No. 74, not because there is little to say about the other measures, but because they can easily be included in these remarks.
Amendment No. 74 explains what a Welsh public authority is. I remember a phrase of GK Chesterton that complained about the sentence, "Alone withouten any company," as translated by an American to, "Alone without any company." Chesterton said, "If there can be any person who does not understand that withouten means without—he must be alone withouten any company at all." Can there be anybody who does not understand what a Welsh public authority is, save those who have read the Bill's explanation?
763 Of all the things that have worried me in my life, the definition of a Welsh public authority is not high on the list. I come of a Welsh-speaking father. I am very fond of the Principality and yield to no one in my love of its history, but that definition has not kept me awake on any night in the past 61 years. That is the reality, because one understands the definition: a Welsh public authority is a public authority in Wales.
§ Mr. Gummer
That is the point. A Welsh public authority must be in Wales or may be part of Wales. Now we have this definition, which is important because the definition of Welsh public authority is as understood under clause 80.
I hope that the House has read that clause carefully, because it is very important. It states:In this Act "Welsh public authority" means—(a) any public authority which is listed in Part II, III, IV or VI of Schedule I—happily, there are none in part V—and whose functions are exercisable only or mainly in or—I have to say it again—as regards Wales, other than an excluded authority.Well, that does make us happy. The amendment includes any authority that has anything whatever to do with Wales, in any circumstances to which one could possibly get a lawyer to agree, except authorities that are excluded.
I thought, "If the provision includes everything, I had better find out what it excludes." Now, this is a freedom of information Bill: it is a Bill stating how the Government will open their doors so that we can all understand what is happening—so that nothing will be hidden from public view. And what is stated in subsection (2) of the new clause provided by Lords amendment No. 74?In paragraph (a) of subsection (1) "excluded authority" means a public authority which is designated by the Secretary of State by order as an excluded authority for the purposes of that paragraph.You can forget your "as regards". Any authority that the Government do not want to be included becomes an excluded authority, although it may have functionsexercisable only or mainly or as regards Wales.How can it be excluded? It can be excluded by fiat. This is a good mediaeval operation: promise everyone everything, but exclude anything that matters. That is what the amendment means.
Of course this Government—and particularly this Minister—are not like that at all. I know that the Minister would not want to do any of this. So why has he given himself the powers to do it? He is opening the door to future Ministers without his probity, his legal training, his charm, and his ability to explain.
I have tried to get inside the Minister's prejudices. Has he not thought what a Conservative Government might do with this framework? Has he thought what—perish the thought—a Liberal Government might do with it?
764 The Liberals would find it very hard, of course, because they include and exclude at the same time; but that is how they would respond.
Has the Minister not thought about what he is doing? First he produces a definition so wide as to be meaningless; then he produces powers enabling him to exclude everyone whom he happens not to want to be included. This is a freedom of information Bill. How does the Minister justify leaving out the provision in the first place, returning it partially, and now producing it in a form that is utterly intolerable?
People may wonder why we are still discussing this at 11.18 pm. We are still discussing it because it is not a meaningless issue, but a fundamental issue. It concerns freedom of information for the public, and the definition of those from whom the information may properly be demanded. It seems to me that the Government have failed to produce an answer that is credible, acceptable, or indeed decent.
I have not finished, because there is more to the amendment. As I have said, proposed subsection (2) states:In paragraph (a) of subsection (1) "excluded authority" meansa public authority excluded by the Secretary of State. Proposed subsection (3), however, states:Before making an order under subsection (2)—that is, before excluding anyone—the Secretary of State shall consult the National Assembly for Wales.Thanks a lot. He goes to the National Assembly for Wales and says, "Hello, National Assembly for Wales. I have arrived. I wish to exclude the following authorities." The National Assembly says, "We do not think that that is a good idea." Then he goes home and says, "I have consulted the National Assembly for Wales and I have decided that it is wrong, so I am excluding those authorities." Nothing in the amendment means that anyone can do anything about that, even if it is an authoritywhose functions are exercisable … as regards Wales".I am terribly sorry, but I still have great difficulty with the grammar of that. I know that I am one of the last remaining people who were educated in the classics, but I do not know how to parse that sentence. It is extremely difficult. I wonder whether the Minister will be kind enough to explain what Hillard and Botting would have explained about "as regards". It seems an issue that should not be missed. [Interruption.] It is no good the Minister asking the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, who Hillard and Botting are. That is the problem. If a few more people had read Hillard and Botting, we would not have "as regards" at all.
The House deserves at least a parsable sentence and "as regards" is not parsable—it is not even quocumque. There is no Latin or Greek equivalent. Why? Because it does not mean anything. One of the great things about the classical language is that one has to mean something to be able to say something. There could not have been a Labour party in either Greece or Rome because there was a connection between statement and meaning, which is, of course, extremely embarrassing.
765 I do not think that one can finish there. We need to turn to amendment No. 77, which so far has not been discussed. It says—it is very interesting:'executive committee', in relation to the National Assembly for Wales, has the same meaning as in the Government of Wales Act 1998.I do not wish to quote the right hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) because he spoke from a seated position, but he gave me to understand that the precise nature of the "executive committee" as defined in the Government of Wales Act 1998, or not as defined, was somewhat difficult to express—he did not believe that it existed. If it does not exist, it is difficult to consult it. If it does exist under another name, we should have the other name.
I am sure that executive committee, with a small E and small C, cannot be something that one consults. Either it is an Executive Committee, with a capital E and capital C, or it is an equivalent, which I understand is called Cabinet, but are Ministers afraid of consulting the Cabinet of the National Assembly For Wales? Are they frightened of that child that they have borne? Do they not want it to grow up and become the proper representative of the Welsh people? Do they want to keep it down, with a small E executive and a small C committee? Is not that what this is about—the humiliation of the people of Wales, not in a big sense, but in the small sense of using the language to make people small? That is what it is about. Amendment No. 77 is one of those amendments. No. 78 is just as bad.
Amendment No. 78 is a genuine miracle. It says:'Northern Ireland public authority' means any public authority, other than the Northern Ireland Assembly or a Northern Ireland department, whose functions are exercisable only or mainly in or as regards Northern Ireland and relate only or mainly to transferred matters.Members will notice that, in that phrase, there is a difference. Why did it not mention transferred matters in the Welsh bit? Why does it have to mention transferred matters in this bit? What is so special about the north of Ireland? I am one of those odd persons who is a Catholic Unionist, so I have a pretty sinuous mind when it comes to considering Northern Ireland. However, I cannot understand what that means. What does it mean? What difference is made by the addition ofor mainly to transferred matters?Let us imagine for a moment a public authority whose functions are not exercisable only in Northern Ireland or mainly in Northern Ireland, but only "as regards" Northern Ireland. So, we have an immediate picture of the type of public authority of which we speak. However, we would have to say that the authority is not really covered by the provision because its functions as regards Northern Ireland are not related mainly to transferred matters. I think that we immediately see which authorities the Government seek to exclude.
I must ask the Minister to attend on this. Why does the second half of the provision not say, "relate only or mainly or as regards transferred matters"? What have transferred matters done to have "as regards" excluded from them in the second part of the phrase? It is nonsense, and it is unacceptable nonsense.
766 Lords amendment No. 82 is another very revealing amendment. It states:at end insert(""Welsh public authority" has the meaning given by section (Meaning of "Welsh public authority").")What does that add to our understanding? It is in double inverted commas for some reason. I do not know what it means. I have criticised the Government for their grammar, but, now, I have to criticise them for their punctuation. There are two sets of brackets and four sets of inverted commas, none of which add anything to our understanding of the actual phrase. Do we know anything more after the amendment than we did to start with?
I think that we should oppose these appalling amendments very simply because, first, if they are necessary, they should have been in the Bill initially, and the fact that they were not showed that the Minister cared nothing at all about either Wales or Northern Ireland. Secondly, if they are important, why are they incomprehensible? Thirdly, they contain within them such internal inconsistencies that no sane person would have allowed them to reach the House in such terms. Fourthly, it is inconceivable that they will not provide meat—and very good meat, too; of the sirloin-steak type—for large numbers of lawyers.
Fifthly, they are—if not otiose—not only incomprehensible, but probably bad. I cannot say that they are certainly bad because they are incomprehensible—which, of course, is the problem with the Government. They have presented us with a list of amendments that we are supposed to pass because we cannot understand any of them. However, those that we have begun to understand are clearly dangerous. The exclusion clause is utterly unacceptable.
I do wish that the Minister had explained all this to us at the beginning. However, I now know why he did not—because he could not explain it. He has not a clue, and rightly not. What a boring collection of things for him to spend time thinking about. He left it to his civil servants and they have let him down. We look to him for an explanation because, whether he likes it or not, the buck stops there.
§ Mr. Wigley
I hesitate to follow the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) who, as a Catholic Unionist—with a Welsh-speaking father, I believe—spoke about Northern Ireland. I am likely to be out of my depth. We also heard from the right hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood), who is a former Secretary of State for Wales, not to mention the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) who on a clear day could see Wales from his former Worcestershire constituency.
Important questions have been raised. We support freedom of information as a principle, but we want an Act that works effectively for the National Assembly for Wales—one that is understandable, operable and clear, not only to the Assembly and its Ministers but to the people of Wales.
Frankly, it is difficult to understand where we stand. On page 3, the Bill says:government department" includes the National Assembly for Wales.767 On page 19, it says the same again, but on page 41 it says:government department" … does not include … the National Assembly for Wales.
§ Mr. Redwood
Perhaps, from his experience in the National Assembly, the right hon. Gentleman can help me. Was the Assembly consulted about the amendments? Did it say that it was an insult to be called a "government department" when it is something different? Have the Government given any ground to it?
§ Mr. Wigley
The right hon. Gentleman goes to the heart of the question of who is to be consulted when one consults the National Assembly for Wales. The Government never consulted me, certainly. I do not know whether they consulted the Presiding Officer. I do not suppose that they consulted the First Minister—we are allowed to use that term, it seems, because on page 19 the Bill refers to "Ministerial communications" and Lords amendments Nos. 31 and 32 would extend that to include Wales. "Ministerial" will now include the Ministers of the National Assembly for Wales, so they are not Secretaries but Ministers.
I hope, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that henceforward, when reference is made to "Ministers" in Wales, it will be in order to include all the Secretaries, by virtue of what we are now enacting. Mr. Speaker said last week that that was out of order, but we seem to be changing it now.
§ Mr. Richard Livsey (Brecon and Radnorshire)
Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that one of the reasons why the First Minister has on occasions been excluded in the amendments is that he is a strong believer in freedom of information, and has said that he wants to publish the Cabinet minutes in the National Assembly?
§ Mr. Wigley
The Cabinet minutes—not "executive committee" minutes; I do not know where that legalese came from—are indeed being published. The hon. Gentleman may have mistaken the reason why we are being a little circumspect about what the First Minister is allowed to do. If the First Minister was ill, the Deputy First Minister, who is a Liberal Democrat, would take over. The Government are probably exercising a certain amount of care.
The points raised by the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal and others underline the basic problem with the devolution model that has been enacted in these islands. We have four tiers of devolved government—one in Scotland, one in Northern Ireland, one in London and one in Wales—and they are all different. When one tries to reconcile these, one gets into all sorts of problems, as we are finding with the wording and the verbiage in the Bill.
The logic of the situation, if we are to have devolved government—as I passionately hope we will, otherwise I will be out of a job—is that it must be coherent. The challenge to the Government, after an election, if not before, or to an alternative Government, is to get some form of devolved government that has a coherence running through it. That does not exist at the moment, which means that when cases come before the courts, bearing in mind the fact that Wales has the same legal structure as England, there will be considerable difficulty in interpreting parts of the legislation.
The executive committee exists as far as legislation is concerned, but in Wales we deal with a Cabinet. The National Assembly is a body corporate. Therefore, 768 reference to the body as a whole does not spell out who is meant but implies that if communication or consultation is with the First Minister or the Presiding Officer it may be with the body as a whole.
§ Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion)
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the fiasco of the census form in Wales for next year, and that in the consultation concerning that form, the National Assembly for Wales was listed as a Government Department? Does he believe that following that fiasco, the Government have had second thoughts as to whether the National Assembly for Wales could be described as a Government Department, and that that is the reason for these amendments?
§ Mr. Wigley
Patently, the National Assembly for Wales is not a Government Department. It is a body that includes a Government of Wales, with restricted powers, within the terms of the Government of Wales Act 1998. If some pieces of legislation refer to it as a Government Department and other pieces do not, we have nothing short of a pig's ear. The Government need to have a consistent approach to the National Assembly for Wales, not least with regard to the nomenclature used. I suggest that such consistency of treatment should also apply to the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Scottish Parliament and any other devolved bodies.
§ Mr. Bercow
For the avoidance of doubt, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the Government did not suddenly see the light and decide to stop describing the National Assembly for Wales as a Government Department? Rather, it is my understanding—which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will confirm is also his—that it was specifically at the request of the First Secretary that the Government conceded, and agreed that they would no longer subsume the National Assembly for Wales within the definition of a Government Department.
§ Mr. Wigley
The First Secretary would most certainly have reflected the feeling in the Assembly, and fair play to him. He would have spoken in a way that reflected the aspirations of all of us—to be a body in our own right. If we exist, we exist in our own right. If we are simply a Government Department, that hardly justifies our existence at all. If we exist, let us be able to do things—or let us not exist at all. The same is true about how the First Secretary, or the First Minister, is described. If we believe in devolution, we must allow people to do things for themselves.
The Minister has not tried to justify any of the amendments before us. When so many aspects of these issues have not been properly thought through—aspects that in the original Bill were contradictory at best, if not totally opaque and impossible to comprehend—the Minister owes the House, at the very least, a duty to explain what the Government are doing and why they got into such a tangle in the first place. Ultimately, I hope that there will be legislation to provide freedom of information and the maximum possible transparency for the National Assembly for Wales and for other bodies, whether they cover Wales, parts of Wales or Wales only by implication.
769 We want open government, and to that extent I support what the Government are doing with the legislation—but my goodness, let us do it in a better way than we have done in the Bill.
§ Mr. Hawkins
I want to reinforce several excellent points made in the debate, and to say that, as I suspected when I spoke for only one minute to set out the weaknesses in the amendments and express my regret that the Minister had not sought to put them forward other than in an almost formal way, we feel that they contain so many flaws that we propose to divide the House.
§ Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I believe that the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) has spoken twice in this debate, without the leave of the House. Several of my hon. Friends have waited some time to contribute to the debate.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. It is up to the Chair to decide who shall be called. I believe that the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Mr. Livsey) sought to catch my eye.
§ Mr. Livsey
Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I shall not take too much time.
The key to this debate is the definition of a public authority, as outlined in amendment No. 74. The debate has been revealing, particularly in the skilful near-filibuster of the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer), whose Welsh ancestors should be proud of the non-conformist zeal with which he pursued his exposé of the amendments. Amendment No. 74 reveals that the Secretary of State has too much power, in that he is able to exclude various public authorities in relation to Wales. If the First Minister is not to be consulted, there will be a major problem, and the drafting of the amendments has produced a mess.
Amendment No. 10 also raises problems over consultation with the National Assembly and with the Presiding Officer in Northern Ireland. Wales also has a Presiding Officer. I agree with the right hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) that the Bill is not right for the devolution settlement in Wales, which is less effective than those for Northern Ireland and, especially, for Scotland. The fact that the Government have treated the National Assembly as a Department tends to expose the way in which they treated Wales in the Government of Wales Act 1998. Many amendments were tabled when that Bill went through the House, but the National Assembly was refused the right to make primary legislation. If that had been allowed, we should have had far less trouble in tonight's debate.
Mr. LembitÖpik (Montgomeryshire)
Does my hon. Friend agree that all the issues raised will have to be resolved? The problem is that they will be resolved by precedent, and probably as a result of friction arising from the testing of the arrangements. It would be much better if the Government would clarify the issues raised so that we might understand the process of consultation, and how far the National Assembly can be confident that consultation will be taken seriously.
§ Mr. Livsey
I thank my hon. Friend for his objective comments. We do need answers from the Government.
770 Lords amendment No. 74 displays the power of the Secretary of State over the National Assembly, in its references to excluded authorities. Subsection (1)(a) of the proposed new clause within it refers to functionsexercisable only or mainly in or as regards Wales.Will the Minister explain whether that would apply to a body such as the Environment Agency, which has dual powers in England and Wales?
When we consider the word "mainly", we might recall the song about the rain in Spain falling "mainly in the plain". The provision is broadly drawn and it is extremely difficult to work out what it means.
The measure is especially disappointing given that, when freedom of information legislation was being drawn up in Scotland, its architect was the Deputy First Minister of the Scottish Parliament, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace). That was because the Scottish Parliament has primary powers. Indeed, as a result of that legislation, there will be more disclosure of information powers in Scotland than in Wales or England. Legislation for Wales falls short in that regard.
§ Mr. David Heath
My hon. Friend refers to the differences between arrangements for Scotland, for Wales and for Northern Ireland. Is not one illustration of that difference the fact that the draft of the Scottish legislation is so superior in both form and content to the legislation for England and Wales, which we are considering?
§ Mr. Livsey
My hon. Friend's question underlines the fact that the Deputy First Minister is a skilled Scottish lawyer and has, with the legal authorities in Scotland, drafted freedom of information legislation for Scotland that is far superior to that for England and Wales. It is difficult to divine how many of the amendments, and many aspects of the Bill, will apply to freedom of information in Wales. That certainly points to the need for reform of the legislation for Wales.
We are considering a maze of amendments with different meanings. Wales needs a settlement identical to that for Scotland, and we need a new freedom of information Bill to clarify the points that I, and other Members, have been making.
§ Mr. Mike O'Brien
When I opened this debate on what I thought was a relatively uncontroversial set of amendments, I little realised how many questions I should be faced with. During my closing speech on the previous group of amendments, I referred to a week of Tory waffle. When I saw the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) rise to speak, I knew what I was in for. No one admires more than I do the right hon. Gentleman's ability to think up detailed questions on minutiae while remaining in order and taking up time. He appears before us like a verbal magician to delay matters.
§ Mr. O'Brien
No, I shall not give way.
771 I sigh when I hear the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst say that he intends to make brief comments, for I know that brief they will not be—[HON. MEMBERS: "Give way."] As we found out, they were not brief; he spoke for 29 minutes.
§ Mr. O'Brien
The right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) spoke for more than 37 minutes. It was like a wonderful parliamentary version of the BBC Radio 4 programme "Just a Minute", except that the right hon. Gentleman was required to speak in order for as long as he could, without repetition, deviation or hesitation. I award him the points. I also award him Hillard and Botting points.
The Opposition's use of time is a matter for them. I do not criticise them; they choose to focus on minutiae rather than substance—that is a matter for them. Let Hansard record my suspicion—it is merely a suspicion—that the Conservative Opposition are making use of pedantry to make a point about the guillotine.
§ Mr. O'Brien
I want to make a few closing points. The right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst asked me what "consult" means—a penetrating question. "Consult" means just that. The Secretary of State will listen carefully to the views of the Assembly and the others that are put to him. The right hon. Gentleman then asked whether I was satisfied that the effect of the powers of a Department and the National Assembly for Wales was valid. Well yes, I am.
The right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal made a vexed speech about Wales. As he did nothing to create an Assembly for Wales—no doubt he also opposed the devolution that the Government proposed—and as there are no Tory Members in Wales, forgive me if I find his concerns heartening; perhaps they represent the Tory party's Damascus-like conversion to Wales. The Government care about Wales. That is why we are responding to the concerns of the people of Wales, specifically by consulting them and ensuring that their views are taken into consideration.
Opposition Members, specifically those on the Tory Benches, have ignored Wales all too often, but the Government have responded to the concerns of Wales. We have consulted, where appropriate. We have ensured that the devolved Assemblies and the other organisations that need to be consulted are properly consulted, because the Government care about them; others do not.
§ Mr. Redwood
The Minister has just shown his contempt for the House by his failure to answer a series of detailed and important questions on this disgracefully badly drafted Bill.
§ Mr. Redwood
The Minister is trying to redeem the Bill even at this late hour with some cobbled-together amendments that are not worthy of the Government.
§ Mr. Redwood
I have no intention of giving way unless an hon. Member wishes to intervene. I am making 772 a speech; the Minister has finished. [Interruption.] I am happy to give way to the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik).
§ Mr. Redwood
The hon. Gentleman makes a powerful point—one of many that the Minister could not be bothered to deal with. The original draft of the Bill was an insult to the National Assembly for Wales, which was treated as a Department.
§ Mr. Redwood
I shall give way in a moment, when I have made some progress. There is very little time because of the ridiculous guillotine on this important devolution and freedom of information legislation.
The Assembly was insulted. Although the Minister will not clarify this, we believe from the debate that the First Secretary—who is of the Minister's own political party, we thought—had to object strongly to the insult and the Bill's inaccurate drafting. So the Minister has belatedly, at this late hour, moved the amendments which will strike out most of those provisions that state that the National Assembly is a Department and should be treated as such, instead inserting the phraseby a government department or by the National Assembly for Wales.The Minister has not answered the question that I had to ask in an intervention: why have the Government not proposed striking out those words in clause 81 on page 41? That clause contains the overall definitions, but the Government are still keeping that reference to the Assembly being a Department. My understanding is that even if these Lords amendments are approved, the Bill will be nonsense because of that reference.
§ Mr. Redwood
It is a great pity that the Minister was not a little more vocal at the beginning. I think that he will still find that the Bill is extremely badly drafted because it does not make clear the difference between the National Assembly for Wales and a Department. He has not explained the point that many Opposition Members have made—it is almost impossible to consult an elected Assembly.
§ Mr. Gummer
Has my right hon. Friend noticed that the Minister was prepared to answer that question, but none of the other detailed questions that we have asked? Is that not an abuse of the House? The purpose of asking such questions is to get serious answers, but the Minister has not given a single serious answer.
§ Mr. Redwood
My right hon. Friend is right, and the Minister has just mislead the House again. [Interruption.] I shall explain my allegation. Lords amendment No. 9 refers to:Page 3, leave out line 12.It does not refer to page 41.
I am much more interested in the bigger debating point that has come out tonight. How does the Minister propose that he and his colleagues should consult the National Assembly for Wales? Will he consult every Member in turn, will he consult just the ruling coalition, or will he consult just the Presiding Officer even though the Bill makes it explicit that the Presiding Officer is to be consulted in Northern Ireland, but not in Wales?
The Minister is clearly all at sea over an extremely scruffily amended Bill. Even now he is reading cobbled-together notes from officials, who know the Bill better than he does. It is pathetic that he is responsible for the Bill but does not know what is in his own amendments. He then tries to mislead the House by saying that he is amending something that amendment No. 9 does not amend.
§ Mr. O'Brien
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for allowing me to deal with his concern that I have misled the House. I certainly had no intention of doing so. Page 41 excludes the National Assembly for Wales from the definition. If he looks at the Bill, he will see that that is the position. The public who read Hansard will be able to judge the seriousness with which some Conservative Members have made their points.
§ Mr. Redwood
That intervention shows just how important this examination is. In contrast to what he said originally, the Minister has now said that amendment No. 9 does not make the change that I am seeking. Amendment No. 9 clearly does not do that. The Minister remains in a sedentary position, so he confirms that I am right and that the amendment has nothing to do with it.
I ask the Minister to read page 41, because he has not read that very well, either. Page 41 says clearly that the definition of "government department" includes—we go down to line 9 and paragraph (c)—the National Assembly for Wales.Is the Minister going to strike out that provision or not? Why has he not tabled an amendment to try to make sense of his cobbled-together and useless Bill? This is a week of more than 1,000 amendments—national guillotine week—and what a mess he is making of the first Bill this week to come before us under a guillotine.
We still await a response on how the Minister intends to go ahead and consult a complete National Assembly. Why is the United Kingdom Parliament not treated in the same way? Why is the Northern Ireland body treated differently from the Welsh body? It looks as though strong and special representations were made by the First Secretary, who realised what an insult to Wales the whole procedure was. The Government have made a half-hearted and bodged attempt to deal with the matter.
§ Mr. Redwood
I will give way to the hon. Gentleman, although it is a bit rich his asking to intervene because he has not been here for this important debate.
§ Mr. Taylor
The right hon. Gentleman describes the drafting and content of the Bill as an insult to the Welsh Assembly and to the people of Wales. Does he agree that what is more of an insult to the Welsh Assembly and the people of Wales is the way in which Conservative Members have dealt with Lords amendments this evening? They have done that in such a way that the 12 o'clock closure means that seven groups of amendments have received no debate. That has occurred because of the way in which the Conservative party has approached this debate.
§ Mr. Redwood
If the guillotine had not been imposed, we would have had three more hours to discuss the Bill's substance. If Ministers had come to the Dispatch Box and tried to explain the amendments and win the House over at the beginning of the debate, we might have saved a lot of time.
My right hon. and hon. Friends, as well as Liberal Democrat and Welsh nationalist Members, have asked serious, detailed and important questions as is befitting of proceedings at this stage of a Bill. If the Minister had had the wit, the gumption, the wisdom and the information to have provided explanations at the beginning of the debate, some of those questions might not have been necessary.
§ Mr. Lilley
Can my right hon. Friend confirm that, on this Bill on the freedom of information, the Minister has not only not replied to most of the questions put to him but has not, as is customary, promised to do so in writing subsequently? Will my right hon. Friend seek to elicit such a response from the Minister in the dying moments of this truncated debate?
§ Mr. Redwood
It has not even been a question of a mute Minister, which, as my right hon. Friend implies, is normal in this Parliament. The Minister does not know his own Bill and then seeks to give wrong information to the House when he is put on the spot.
§ Mr. O'Brien
The right hon. Gentleman keeps referring to page 41 and accusing me of not knowing the Bill. Perhaps he should read the Bill. It uses the words "but does not include"—
§ It being Twelve midnight, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question required to be put at that hour, pursuant to Order [this day].
§ Question put, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 368, Noes 115.778
|Division No. 356]||[12 midnight|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)|
|Ainger, Nick||Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary|
|Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)||Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy|
|Allan, Richard||Ashton, Joe|
|Allen, Graham||Atherton, Ms Candy|
|Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)||Atkins, Charlotte|
|Austin, John||Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)|
|Ballard, Jackie||Dalyell, Tam|
|Banks, Tony||Darling, Rt Hon Alistair|
|Barnes, Harry||Darvill, Keith|
|Barron, Kevin||Davey, Edward (Kingston)|
|Battle, John||Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)|
|Bayley, Hugh||Davidson, Ian|
|Beard, Nigel||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)|
|Begg, Miss Anne||Davis, Rt Hon Terry|
|Bennett, Andrew F||(B'ham Hodge H)|
|Benton, Joe||Dawson, Hilton|
|Berry, Roger||Dean, Mrs Janet|
|Best, Harold||Dismore, Andrew|
|Betts, Clive||Dobbin, Jim|
|Blackman, Liz||Dobson, Rt Hon Frank|
|Blears, Ms Hazel||Donohoe, Brian H|
|Boateng, Rt Hon Paul||Doran, Frank|
|Borrow, David||Dowd, Jim|
|Bradley, Keith (Withington)||Drew, David|
|Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)||Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)|
|Bradshaw, Ben||Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)|
|Brake, Tom||Edwards, Huw|
|Brand, Dr Peter||Efford, Clive|
|Breed, Colin||Ennis, Jeff|
|Brinton, Mrs Helen||Fearn, Ronnie|
|Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)||Field, Rt Hon Frank|
|Brown, Russell (Dumfries)||Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna|
|Browne, Desmond||Flint, Caroline|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Flynn, Paul|
|Buck, Ms Karen||Foster, Rt Hon Derek|
|Burden, Richard||Foster, Don (Bath)|
|Burgon, Colin||Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)|
|Burnett, John||Foster, Michael J (Worcester)|
|Burstow, Paul||Foulkes, George|
|Butler, Mrs Christine||Galloway, George|
|Caborn, Rt Hon Richard||Gapes, Mike|
|Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)||George, Andrew (St Ives)|
|Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)||George, Bruce (Walsall S)|
|Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies||Gerrard, Neil|
|(NE Fife)||Gibson, Dr Ian|
|Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)||Gidley, Sandra|
|Campbell-Savours, Dale||Gilroy, Mrs Linda|
|Cann, Jamie||Godsiff, Roger|
|Casale, Roger||Goggins, Paul|
|Caton, Martin||Golding, Mrs Llin|
|Cawsey, Ian||Gordon, Mrs Eileen|
|Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)||Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)|
|Chaytor, David||Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)|
|Chidgey, David||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Clapham, Michael||Grocott, Bruce|
|Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)||Grogan, John|
|Clark, Dr Lynda||Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)|
|(Edinburgh Pentlands)||Hall, Patrick (Bedford)|
|Clark, Paul (Gillingham)||Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)|
|Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)||Hancock, Mike|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)||Hanson, David|
|Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)||Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet|
|Clelland, David||Harris, Dr Evan|
|Clwyd, Ann||Harvey, Nick|
|Coaker, Vernon||Healey, John|
|Coffey, Ms Ann||Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)|
|Coleman, Iain||Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)|
|Colman, Tony||Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)|
|Connarty, Michael||Hepburn, Stephen|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton N)||Heppell, John|
|Corbett, Robin||Hesford, Stephen|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Hewitt, Ms Patricia|
|Corston, Jean||Hill, Keith|
|Cotter, Brian||Hinchliffe, David|
|Cousins, Jim||Hodge, Ms Margaret|
|Crausby, David||Home Robertson, John|
|Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)||Hood, Jimmy|
|Cryer, John (Hornchurch)||Hope, Phil|
|Cummings, John||Hopkins, Kelvin|
|Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack||Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E)|
|(Copeland)||Howarth, George (Knowsley N)|
|Howells, Dr Kim||Merron, Gillian|
|Hoyle, Lindsay||Michael, Rt Hon Alun|
|Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)||Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)|
|Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)||Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)|
|Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)||Milbum, Rt Hon Alan|
|Humble, Mrs Joan||Miller, Andrew|
|Hurst, Alan||Mitchell, Austin|
|Hutton, John||Moffatt, Laura|
|Iddon, Dr Brian||Moonie, Dr Lewis|
|Illsley, Eric||Moore, Michael|
|Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)||Moran, Ms Margaret|
|Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)||Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)|
|Jamieson, David||Morris, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Johnson, Miss Melanie||Mudie, George|
|(Welwyn Hatfield)||Mullin, Chris|
|Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)||Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)|
|Jones, Helen (Warrington N)||Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)|
|Jones, Ms Jenny||Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)|
|(Wolverh'ton SW)||Naysmith, Dr Doug|
|Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)||Norris, Dan|
|Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)||Oaten, Mark|
|Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)||O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)|
|Keeble, Ms Sally||Olner, Bill|
|Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)||O'Neill, Martin|
|Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)||Öpik, Lembit|
|Keetch, Paul||Organ, Mrs Diana|
|Kemp, Fraser||Palmer, Dr Nick|
|Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)||Pearson, Ian|
|Khabra, Piara S||Pendry, Tom|
|Kidney, David||Perham, Ms Linda|
|Kilfoyle, Peter||Pickthall, Colin|
|King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)||Plaskitt, James|
|King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)||Pollard, Kerry|
|Kirkwood, Archy||Pond, Chris|
|Kumar, Dr Ashok||Pope, Greg|
|Ladyman, Dr Stephen||Pound, Stephen|
|Laxton, Bob||Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)|
|Lepper, David||Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)|
|Leslie, Christopher||Primarolo, Dawn|
|Levitt, Tom||Prosser, Gwyn|
|Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)||Purchase, Ken|
|Lewis, Terry (Worsley)||Quinn, Lawrie|
|Linton, Martin||Rammell, Bill|
|Livsey, Richard||Rapson, Syd|
|Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)||Raynsford, Nick|
|Llwyd, Elfyn||Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)|
|Lock, David||Roche, Mrs Barbara|
|Love, Andrew||Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff|
|McAvoy, Thomas||Rooney, Terry|
|McCabe, Steve||Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)|
|McCafferty, Ms Chris||Rowlands, Ted|
|McCartney, Rt Hon Ian||Roy, Frank|
|McDonagh, Siobhain||Ruddock, Joan|
|Macdonald, Calum||Russell, Bob (Colchester)|
|McDonnell, John||Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)|
|McFall, John||Ryan, Ms Joan|
|McGuire, Mrs Anne||Salter, Martin|
|McIsaac, Shona||Sanders, Adrian|
|McNamara, Kevin||Savidge, Malcolm|
|McNulty, Tony||Sawford, Phil|
|MacShane, Denis||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Mactaggart, Fiona||Shaw, Jonathan|
|McWalter, Tony||Sheerman, Barry|
|McWilliam, John||Short, Rt Hon Clare|
|Mahon, Mrs Alice||Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)|
|Mallaber, Judy||Singh, Marsha|
|Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)||Skinner, Dennis|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Marshall-Andrews, Robert||Smith, Angela (Basildon)|
|Martlew, Eric||Smith, Miss Geraldine|
|Maxton, John||(Morecambe & Lunesdale)|
|Meacher, Rt Hon Michael||Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)|
|Meale, Alan||Smith, John (Glamorgan)|
|Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)||Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)|
|Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)||Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)|
|Snape, Peter||Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)|
|Soley, Clive||Turner, Neil (Wigan)|
|Southworth, Ms Helen||Twigg, Derek (Halton)|
|Squire, Ms Rachel||Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)|
|Starkey, Dr Phyllis||Tyler, Paul|
|Steinberg, Gerry||Tynan, Bill|
|Stevenson, George||Vis, Dr Rudi|
|Stewart, David (Inverness E)||Walley, Ms Joan|
|Stewart, Ian (Eccles)||Ward, Ms Claire|
|Stinchcombe, Paul||Wareing, Robert N|
|Stoate, Dr Howard||Watts, David|
|Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin||Webb, Steve|
|Straw, Rt Hon Jack||White, Brian|
|Stringer, Graham||Whitehead, Dr Alan|
|Stuart, Ms Gisela||Wicks, Malcolm|
|Stunell, Andrew||Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd|
|Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Taylor, Ms Dair (Stockton S)||Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)|
|Taylor, David (NW Leics)||Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)|
|Taylor, Matthew (Truro)||Willis, Phil|
|Temple-Morris, Peter||Winnick, David|
|Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)||Woolas, Phil|
|Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)||Worthington, Tony|
|Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)||Wray, James|
|Timms, Stephen||Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)|
|Tipping, Paddy||Wright, Tony (Cannock)|
|Todd, Mark||Wyatt, Derek|
|Tonge, Dr Jenny||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Trickett, Jon||Mr. Don Touhig and|
|Truswell, Paul||Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe.|
|Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)||Greenway, John|
|Amess, David||Grieve, Dominic|
|Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James||Gummer, Rt Hon John|
|Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)||Hammond, Philip|
|Baldry, Tony||Hawkins, Nick|
|Bercow, John||Hayes, John|
|Beresford, Sir Paul||Heald, Oliver|
|Blunt, Crispin||Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Boswell, Tim||Horam, John|
|Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)||Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)|
|Brady, Graham||Jack, Rt Hon Michael|
|Brazier, Julian||Jackson, Robert (Wantage)|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Lait, Mrs Jacqui|
|Browning, Mrs Angela||Lansley, Andrew|
|Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)||Leigh, Edward|
|Burns, Simon||Lewis Dr Julian (New Forest E)|
|Butterfill, John||Lidington, David|
|Cash, William||Lilley, Rt Hon Peter|
|Chapman, Sir Sydney||Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)|
|(Chipping Barnet)||Luff, Peter|
|Chope, Christopher||Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth||McIntosh, Miss Anne|
|(Rushcliffe)||Maclean, Rt Hon David|
|Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Collins, Tim||Madel, Sir David|
|Gran, James||Malins, Humfrey|
|Curry, Rt Hon David||Maples, John|
|Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen||Maude, Rt Hon Francis|
|Duncan, Alan||Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian|
|Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter||May, Mrs Theresa|
|Evans, Nigel||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Fabricant, Michael||O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)|
|Fallon, Michael||Page, Richard|
|Flight, Howard||Paice, James|
|Forth, Rt Hon Eric||Pickles, Eric|
|Fraser, Christopher||Prior, David|
|Gale, Roger||Randall, John|
|Gibb, Nick||Redwood, Rt Hon John|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Robathan, Andrew|
|Green, Damian||Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)|
|Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)||Taylor, Sir Teddy|
|Ross, William (E Lond'y)||Townend, John|
|Ruffley, David||Tredinnick, David|
|St Aubyn, Nick||Trend, Michael|
|Sayeed, Jonathan||Tyrie, Andrew|
|Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian||Waterson, Nigel|
|Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)||Wells, Bowen|
|Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)||Whitney, Sir Raymond|
|Soames, Nicholas||Whittingdale, John|
|Spelman, Mrs Caroline||Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann|
|Spicer, Sir Michael||Wilkinson, John|
|Spring, Richard||Willetts, David|
|Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John||Wilshire, David|
|Steen, Anthony||Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)|
|Streeter, Gary||Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)|
|Swayne, Desmond||Yeo, Tim|
|Syms, Robert||Young, Rt Hon Sir George|
|Tapsell, Sir Peter||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)||Mr. Peter Atkinson and|
|Taylor, John M (Solihull)||Mr. Stephen Day.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Lords amendment agreed to.
§ MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER then put the remaining Questions required to be put at that hour.
§ Question put, That this House agrees with the Lords in the remaining Lords amendments:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 364, Noes 116.781
|Division No. 357]||[12.13 am|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)|
|Ainger, Nick||Brown, Russell (Dumfries)|
|Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)||Browne, Desmond|
|Allan, Richard||Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)|
|Allen, Graham||Buck, Ms Karen|
|Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)||Burden, Richard|
|Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)||Burgon, Colin|
|Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary||Burnett, John|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Burstow, Paul|
|Ashton, Joe||Butler, Mrs Christine|
|Atherton, Ms Candy||Caborn, Rt Hon Richard|
|Atkins, Charlotte||Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)|
|Austin, John||Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)|
|Ballard, Jackie||Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies|
|Banks, Tony||(NE Fife)|
|Barnes, Harry||Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)|
|Barron, Kevin||Campbell-Savours, Dale|
|Battle, John||Cann, Jamie|
|Bayley, Hugh||Casale, Roger|
|Beard, Nigel||Caton, Martin|
|Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret||Cawsey, Ian|
|Begg, Miss Anne||Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)|
|Bennett, Andrew F||Chaytor, David|
|Benton, Joe||Chidgey, David|
|Berry, Roger||Clapham, Michael|
|Best, Harold||Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)|
|Betts, Clive||Clark, Dr Lynda|
|Blackman, Liz||(Edinburgh Pentlands)|
|Blears, Ms Hazel||Clark, Paul (Gillingham)|
|Boateng, Rt Hon Paul||Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)|
|Borrow, David||Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)|
|Bradley, Keith (Withington)||Clarke, Tony (Northampton S|
|Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)||Clelland, David|
|Bradshaw, Ben||Clwyd, Ann|
|Brake, Tom||Coaker, Vernon|
|Brand, Dr Peter||Coffey, Ms Ann|
|Breed, Colin||Coleman, Iain|
|Brinton, Mrs Helen||Colman, Tony|
|Cook, Frank (Stockton N)|
|Corbyn, Jeremy||Hinchliffe, David|
|Corston, Jean||Hodge, Ms Margaret|
|Cotter, Brian||Home Robertson, John|
|Cousins, Jim||Hood, Jimmy|
|Crausby, David||Hope, Phil|
|Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)||Hopkins, Kelvin|
|Cryer, John (Hornchurch)||Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E)|
|Cummings, John||Howarth, George (Knowsely N)|
|Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack||Howells, Dr Kim|
|Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)||Hughes, Ms Beverly (Stretford)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)|
|Darling, Rt Hon Alistair||Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)|
|Darvill, Keith||Humble, Mrs Joan|
|Davey, Edward (Kingston)||Hurst, Alan|
|Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)||Hutton, John|
|Davidson, Ian||Iddon, Dr Brian|
|Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)||Illsley, Eric|
|Davis, Rt Hon Terry||Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)|
|(B'ham Hodge H)||Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)|
|Dawson, Hilton||Jamieson, David|
|Dean, Mrs Janet||Jenkins, Brian|
|Dismore, Andrew||Johnson, Miss Melanie|
|Dobbin, Jim||(Welwyn Hatfield)|
|Donohoe, Brian H||Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)|
|Doran, Frank||Jones, Helen, (Warrington N)|
|Dowd, Jim||Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)|
|Drew, David||Jones, Martyn, (Clwyd S)|
|Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)||Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)|
|Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald|
|Edwards, Huw||Keeble, Ms Sally|
|Efford, Clive||Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)|
|Ennis, Jeff||Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)|
|Feam, Ronnie||Keetch, Paul|
|Field, Rt Hon Frank||Kemp, Fraser|
|Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna||Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)|
|Flint, Caroline||Khabra, Piara S|
|Flynn, Paul||Kidney, David|
|Foster, Rt Hon Derek||Kilfoyle, Peter|
|Foster, Don (Bath)||King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)|
|Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)||King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)|
|Foster, Michael J (Worcester)||Kirkwood, Archy|
|Foulkes, George||Kumar, Dr Ashok|
|Galloway, George||Ladyman, Dr Stephen|
|Gapes, Mike||Laxton, Bob|
|George, Andrew (St Ives)||Lepper, David|
|George, Bruce (Walsall S)||Leslie, Christopher|
|Gerrard, Neil||Lewis, Ivan, (Bury S)|
|Gibson, Dr Ian||Lewis, Terry, (Worsley)|
|Gidley, Sandra||Linton, Martin|
|Gilroy, Mrs Linda||Livsey, Richard|
|Godsiff, Roger||Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)|
|Goggins, Paul||Llwyd, Elfyn|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||Lock, David|
|Gordon, Mrs Eileen||Love, David|
|Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)||McAvoy, Thomas|
|Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)||McCabe, Steve|
|Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)||McCafferty, Ms Chris|
|Grocott, Bruce||McCartney, Rt Hon Ian|
|Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)||McDonagh, Siobhain|
|Hall, Patrick (Bedford)||Macdonald, Calum|
|Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)||McDonnell, John|
|Hanson, David||Mcfall, John|
|Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet||McGurie, Mrs Anne|
|Harris, Dr Evan||McIssac, Shona|
|Harvey, Nick||McNamara, Kevin|
|Healey, John||McNulty, Tony|
|Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)||MacShane, Denis|
|Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)||Mactaggart, Fiona|
|Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)||McWalter, Tony|
|Hepburn, Stephen||McWilliam, John|
|Heppell, John||Mahon, Mrs Alice|
|Hesford, Stephen||Mallaber, Judy|
|Hewitt, Ms Patricia||Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)|
|Hill, Keith||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Martlew, Eric||Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Maxton, John||Smith, Angela (Basildon)|
|Meacher, Rt Hon Michael||Smith, Miss Geraldine|
|Meale, Alan||(Morecambe & Lunesdale)|
|Merron, Gillian||Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)|
|Michael, Rt Hon Alun||Smith, John (Glamorgan)|
|Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)||Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)|
|Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)||Smith, Sir Robert(W Ab'd'ns)|
|Milburn, Rt Hon Alan||Snape, Peter|
|Miller, Andrew||Soley, Clive|
|Mitchell, Austin||Southworth, Ms Helen|
|Moffatt, Laura||Squire, Ms Rachel|
|Moonie, Dr Lewis||Starkey, Dr Phyllis|
|Moore, Michael||Steinburg, Gerry|
|Moran, Ms Margaret||Stevenson, George|
|Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)||Stewart, David (Inverness E)|
|Morris, Rt Hon Sir John||Stewart, Ian (Eccles)|
|Mudie, George||Stoate, Dr Howard|
|Mullin, Chris||Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin|
|Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)||Straw, Rt Hon Jack|
|Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)||Stringer, Graham|
|Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)||Stuart, Ms Gisela|
|Naysmith, Dr Doug||Stunell, Andrew|
|Norris, Dan||Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann|
|O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)||Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)|
|O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)||Taylor, David (NW Leics)|
|Olner, Bill||Taylor, Matthew (Truro)|
|O'Neill, Martin||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Öpik, Lembit||Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)|
|Organ, Mrs Diana||Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)|
|Palmer, Dr Nick||Thomas, Simon, (Ceredigion)|
|Pearson, Ian||Timms, Stephen|
|Pendry, Tom||Tipping, Paddy|
|Perham, Ms Linda||Todd, Mark|
|Pickthall, Colin||Tonge, Dr Jenny|
|Plaskitt, James||Trickett, Jon|
|Pollard, Kerry||Truswell, Paul|
|Pond, Chris||Turner, Dennis (Wolverhton SE)|
|Pope, Greg||Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)|
|Pound, Stephen||Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)|
|Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)||Turner, Neil (Wigan)|
|Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)||Twigg, Derek (Halton)|
|Primarolo, Dawn||Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)|
|Prosser, Gwyn||Tyler, Paul|
|Purchase, Ken||Tynar, Bill|
|Quinn, Lawrie||Vis, Dr Rudi|
|Radice, Rt Hon Giles||Walley, Ms Joan|
|Rammell, Bill||Ward, Ms Claire|
|Rapson, Syd||Wareing, Robert N|
|Raynsford, Nick||Watts, David|
|Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)||Webb, Steve|
|Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff||White, Brian|
|Rooney, Terry||Whitehead, Dr Alan|
|Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)||Wicks, Malcolm|
|Rowlands, Ted||Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd|
|Roy, Frank||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Ruane, Chris||(Swansea W)|
|Ruddock, Joan||Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)|
|Russell, Bob (Colchester)||Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)|
|Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)||Willis Phil|
|Ryan, Ms Joan||Winnick, David|
|Salter, Martin||Woolas, Phil|
|Sanders, Adrian||Worthington, Tony|
|Savidge, Malcolm||Wray, James|
|Sawford, Phil||Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)|
|Sedgemore, Brian||Wright, Tony (Cannock)|
|Shaw, Jonathan||Wyatt, Derek|
|Short, Rt Hon Clare|
|Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Singh, Marsha||Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe and|
|Skinner, Dennis||Mr. Don Touhig.|
|Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)||Luff, Peter|
|Amess, David||Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas|
|Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James||McIntosh, Miss Anne|
|Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)||Maclean, Rt Hon David|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Baldry, Tony||Madel, Sir David|
|Bercow, John||Malins, Humfrey|
|Beresford, Sir Paul||Maples, John|
|Blunt, Crispin||Maude, Rt Hon Francis|
|Boswell, Tim||Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian|
|Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)||May, Mrs Theresa|
|Brady, Graham||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Brazier, Julian||O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)|
|Brooke, Rt Hon Peter||Page, Richard|
|Browning, Mrs Angela||Paice, James|
|Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)||Pickles, Eric|
|Burns, Simon||Prior, David|
|Butterfill, John||Randall, John|
|Cash, William||Redwood, Rt Hon John|
|Chapman, Sir Sydney||Robathan, Andrew|
|(Chipping Barnet)||Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)|
|Chope, Christopher||Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth||Ross, William (E Lond'y)|
|Collins, Tim||St Aubyn, Nick|
|Cran, James||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Curry, Rt Hon David||Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian|
|Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen||Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)|
|Duncan, Alan||Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)|
|Duncan Smith, Iain||Soames, Nicholas|
|Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Spelmam, Mrs Caroline|
|Evans, Nigel||Spring, Richard|
|Fabricant, Michael||Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Fallon, Michael||Steen, Antony|
|Flight, Howard||Streeter, Gary|
|Forth, Rt Hon Eric||Swayne, Desmond|
|Fraser, Christopher||Syms, Robert|
|Gale, Roger||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Gibb, Nick||Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Green, Damian||Taylor, Sir Teddy|
|Greenway, John||Townend, John|
|Grieve, Dominic||Tredinnick, David|
|Gummer, Rt Hon John||Trend, Michael|
|Hammond, Philip||Tyrie, Andrew|
|Hancock, Mike||Waterson, Nigel|
|Hawkins, Nick||Wells, Bowen|
|Hayes, John||Whitney,Sir Raymond|
|Heald, Oliver||Whittingdale, John|
|Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas||Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann|
|Horam, John||Wilkinson, John|
|Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)||Willetts, David|
|Jack, Rt Hon Michael||Wilshire, David|
|Jackson, Robert (Wantage)||Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)|
|Lait, Mrs Jacqui||Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)|
|Lansley, Andrew||Yeo, Tim|
|Leigh, Edward||Young, Rt Hon Sir George|
|Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)|
|Lidington, David||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Lilley, Rt Hon Peter||Mr. Stephen Day and|
|Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)||Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Lords amendments agreed to.
§ Mr. Simon Hughes
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. We are about to consider a motion on the business of the House, which may not be taken tonight if it is opposed. It would provide that the House could sit and wait for messages from the Lords, as we did last 782 Thursday. Given that Mr. Speaker made it clear from the Chair that he supported a more modernised procedure, can you do anything to ensure that when the House is sitting—
§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Sylvia Heal)
Order. I must inform the hon. Gentleman that that motion is not debatable.
§ Mr. Hughes
Last Thursday, before we returned late at night, there was a period when the House was sitting but we were doing nothing. Tonight, we have discussed two groups of amendments in three hours while seven groups, containing 119 amendments, have not been considered. Can we please use our time to better effect?
§ Madam Deputy Speaker
I must inform the hon. Gentleman that the points that he is raising are matters for debate. The House has proceeded in a way that is fully in order, as the House agreed earlier today.