HC Deb 09 April 2001 vol 366 cc805-20

1.—(1) Clauses 1 to 3 and 16 to 53 and Schedules 4 to 11 shall be committed to a Committee of the whole House.

(2) The remainder of the Bill shall be committed to a Standing Committee.

2.—(1) Proceedings in Committee of the whole House shall be completed in two allotted days.

(2) The proceedings to the taken on each of those allotted days shall be as shown in the second column, and shall be brought to a conclusion at the times specified in the third column, of the following Table:—

Allotted day Proceedings Time for conclusion of proceedings
First day Clauses 16 to 22 7.00 p.m.
Clauses 23 and 24, Schedule 4, 9.00 p.m.
Clauses 25 to 27, Schedule 5,
Clause 28, Schedule 6, Clause 29,
Schedule 7, Clause 30
Clauses 31 and 32, Schedule 8, Midnight
Clauses 33 to 35, Schedule 9,
Clauses 36 to 46, Schedule 10,
Clauses 47 to 49
Second Day Clauses 1 to 3 7.00 p.m.
Clauses 50 to 53 and Schedule 11 10.00 p.m.

(3) If either of those allotted days is Thursday, the times specified for that allotted day in the third column of the Table are brought forward by three hours.

(4) On the first of those allotted days, paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 15 (Exempted business) shall, notwithstanding sub-paragraph (a) of that paragraph, apply to the proceedings on the Bill for only two hours after ten o'clock or, if that day is Thursday, for only two hours after seven o'clock.

(5) On that allotted day, any period during which proceedings on the Bill may be proceeded with after ten o'clock (or, if that day is Thursday, seven o'clock) by virtue of paragraph (4) or (5) of Sessional Order I (provision in the event of a debate under Standing Order No. 24) made by the House of 7th November 2000 shall be in addition to that period of two hours.

(6) Sessional Order B (Programming Committees) made by the House on 7th November 2000 shall not apply to proceedings in Committee of the whole House.

(7) An allotted day is one on which the Bill is put down as first Government Order of the day.

3.—(1) The Standing Committee shall have leave to sit twice on the first day on which it shall meet.

(2) Proceedings in the Standing Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on Thursday 24th May 2001.

4. When the provisions of the Bill considered, respectively, by the Committee of the whole House and by the Standing Committee have been reported to the House, the Bill shall be proceeded with as if it had been reported as a whole to the House from the Standing Committee.

The motion sets out the allocation of the various clauses and schedules of the Finance Bill between the Committee of the whole House and the Standing Committee.

The motion also sets out the timetable for the clauses and schedules to be debated in the Committee of the whole House. On the first day, it will discuss clauses and schedules on the aggregates levy, and on the second day it will consider clauses and schedules on hydrocarbon oil duties and income tax.

There is a lot of business to get through on the first day, so the motion provides for a midnight finish. On the second day, there will be fewer clauses and schedules, so it provides for the normal 10 o'clock finish. It also specifies that the proceedings of the Standing Committee shall be completed by Thursday 24 May, which will allow for a total maximum of 18 Standing Committee sittings.

10.15 pm
Mr. Letwin

The programme motion has two deficiencies: it is the wrong motion, and it is wrong to have it in the first place: otherwise, it is perfect.

What is wrong with the motion? I do not quite know the answer. I do not know what error the Whips fell into, but I know what the whole process illustrates. The Paymaster General and I had a conversation some time ago in which she properly and generously offered to allow us to debate what we wanted in the Committee of the whole House. We wanted to debate the items that I described on Second Reading.

Had there not been this barbaric and unusual practice of introducing programme motions, which have never before been imposed on a Finance Bill, there would have been no problem, because there would have been agreement through the usual channels. Even Treasury Ministers, in an honest moment, will accept that, during the entire proceedings on last year's Finance Bill we never once sought to filibuster or prolong proceedings unnecessarily. We treated the Bill seriously and helped constructively to improve various parts of it. Of course we had arguments with the Government, but we never sought to create unnecessary delay.

This year, simply because the Government are wedded to programme motions, they are curtailing debate on the Finance Bill. That is shown by the fact that it has proved impossible to come up with the right kind of programme motion, because the new clauses for which time in the first day in Committee of the whole House should have been allocated—I hope that it will be allocated in a subsequent motion tomorrow—could not have been tabled at the time when the motion was constructed, because it is a rule of the House that one cannot table amendments or new clauses before the completion of Second Reading. There was a structural inability to produce a programme motion to allow the debate that is by convention allowed on the Floor of the House on matters of concern to the Opposition.

A Finance Bill is the centrepiece of our democratic system—the Gladstonian system of control—and if we cannot debate on the Floor of the House what the Opposition consider to be essential propositions related to it, we are very close to the end of parliamentary democracy. I do not say that the Government intended that result, but they brought it about through their dogmatic adherence to programme motions and their inability, or that of their business managers, to recognise that if one tries to draft such a motion in the absence of the new clauses, because under the rules of the House they could not be tabled, one will end up with the wrong debate on the wrong subject, which is what has happened.

The problem goes wider and relates to the very idea of programme motions. The problem is not, with the exception that I have outlined, that the substance of the motion is obnoxious—Thursday 24 May is a reasonable date—but that there is something wrong altogether with the idea that there should be imposed on Parliament a time limit for debate on matters that are necessarily complex. I admit that, on this year's Finance Bill, because there is not so much material and the matters are not so contentious, it is unlikely that our debate would have extended beyond 24 May.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham)

My hon. Friend made the point that these are very technical matters. He will get representations from the accountancy profession and others on the content of the Bill. That being so, does he agree that we do not and cannot know whether 24 May is, or is not, an appropriate end date?

Mr. Letwin

I was coming to that precise point. The Bill is relatively uncontroversial, with the exception of the aggregates tax in its current form, but it involves complex and technical matters, so we cannot know how the debate will carry us as we proceed. However, last year's Finance Bill, which may be a precursor of next year's Finance Bill and other future Finance Bills, was 500 pages long and dealt with immensely complex matters. On that evidence, no one can be expected to make even a reasonable guess at the right date.

We are establishing a precedent for successive attempts by the Government to guess the right date for the end of debate on a Finance Bill that, as I said, is an attack on something that is fundamental to the nature of our democracy. I do not know what, if anything, still makes the House of Commons important perhaps. Ministers regard it as wholly unimportant. However, if it has any importance, the scrutiny of Finance Bills is at the centre of that importance. The power of the House to give the Government money to spend confers on the House such power as it possesses over other matters. Had it not established the right to control taxation some centuries ago, it would not have established the power over the Executive that it then developed.

By any account, a Finance Bill is at the centre of our democracy. An attempt to guess in advance how long it will take to cash out the details of what is often an immensely complicated piece of legislation is an attempt to stifle to debate. Conservative Members will have nothing to do with that. As a result of dogmatic adherence to the idea of programme motions, the Government have managed to come up with what is, even by their own standards, the wrong programme motion. I shall therefore urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to oppose it.

10.22 pm
Mr. Edward Davey

Liberal democrat Members support the argument of the hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin). In many debates on programme motions, my hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) has expressed our principled opposition to such motions, but tonight our arguments involve both the principle and the substance of the motion on the Order Paper. As the hon. Member for West Dorset said, Opposition Front Bench spokesmen were contacted by Ministers, who asked courteously what we wished to debate in the Committee of the whole House. Liberal Democrat Members made it clear that they wished to table new clauses and to debate issues, especially in relation to foot and mouth. We wished to make sure that such issues were debated in a Committee of the whole House because they are important. Foot and mouth is not a minor matter; it affects the whole country, not just rural areas, as I made clear in my speech on Second Reading.

Both Opposition parties feel strongly about that important matter, and we should be able to debate a new clause on how to reduce the tax burden on industries hit by foot and mouth. That is our main concern about the substance of the motion: it does not enable the Committee of the whole House to debate new clauses that could relieve the tax burden confronting sectors hit by foot and mouth. I anticipate that, in replying to the debate, the Paymaster General will say that there is no precedent for debating new clauses in a Committee of the whole House. However, given the grave crisis before us, I submit that we should set a precedent. What is wrong in principle with a Committee of the whole House debating a new clause to the Finance Bill? There is nothing wrong with that. It is disgraceful for Treasury Ministers to dismiss that notion as outrageous.

Mr. Letwin

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it would be difficult for the Government to use that argument in any event, because there certainly is precedent—from last year and many other years—for debating amendments? The procedure that the Government have used in this case has prevented us from debating amendments on the Floor of the House.

Mr. Davey

The hon. Gentleman is right. The Government talk about modernising the procedures of the House, yet here we have an example of where we could modernise and debate issues of key importance to our country.

I ask Ministers to state where in "Erskine May" or the Standing Orders there is a barrier preventing us from debating new clauses. If they cannot produce that barrier, could they not come back to the House tomorrow with a new motion to enable Opposition parties to table new clauses, so that we could debate the way in which we can help the struggling sectors of our economy?

10.25 pm
Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire)

This is yet another example of the Government riding roughshod over the House of Commons, and it is disgraceful. It is interesting that no Labour Member stood to defend the motion, which the Paymaster General moved in a most perfunctory manner. She did not attempt to justify it and merely said what we would be discussing.

This is a programme motion too far. The Finance Bill is—using the word properly—a unique part of the parliamentary calendar; this is where the House of Commons, properly, has full control. This is where the House of Commons, as my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) has said, must vote Supply, exercise its judgment and call the Government to account properly.

As my hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) said in his admirable speech, last year—notwithstanding the fact that the Government have an enormous majority—the Finance Bill was improved as a result of rigorous scrutiny and proper debate. For the Government to deny opportunity in this way and to place a straitjacket on the House of Commons is an insult, not just to Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition and the other Opposition parties, but to the whole House of Commons.

Mr. Hogg

Does my hon. Friend accept that the Government have often relied on the other place to cure Bills in respect of which they have imposed a timetable but that, in respect of the Finance Bill, the other place is under particular inhibitions in curing errors?

Sir Patrick Cormack

Of course, and that is why I referred to the Bill as unique. The other place, quite rightly, has no control over supply. What it can say about financial matters is, by precedent and by statute, limited, as the Government know only too well. The motion is an insult to every single Member of the House of Commons. It is not just a question of rubbing the noses of the Opposition parties in it. The Government, with high-handed arrogance, are saying what we will do on particular days and in what way we will debate the clauses.

The hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey) made a good point when he talked about the new clauses that we would have wished to debate on foot and mouth. We are gripped by a crisis, the like of which the British countryside has not seen for a century or more, but the House of Commons has not been given a single opportunity by the Government to debate foot and mouth. The Opposition have provided two opportunities.

There is nothing in the parliamentary calender, as far as one knows from the business announced last week, to enable us to debate foot and mouth in the foreseeable future. Yet on 23 and 24 April, it would have been possible for Members with real knowledge and experience of the countryside—we are getting stories every day, some of which are immensely tragic—to debate these things. In our new clauses, we could have made suggestions on which, we hope, the Government would look sympathetically.

Ministers always talk, as the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food did this afternoon, about wanting a bipartisan approach. They want us to tackle this great crisis together, they say. We are more than willing to do so, and, to be fair, so are the Liberal Democrats. There is no opposition to acting in that way, but when the Government set us the example of this motion, what do they expect? It is disgraceful that we should be faced with such a motion.

The hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton mentioned precedent. When Ministers return to the Treasury, I hope that they will reflect on the precedent that they are setting tonight. When the mantle of power passes to my party—as it undoubtedly will, either at the next general election as I devoutly hope and believe, or at some subsequent one—they will not want to be ridden over as roughshod as they are riding over us. If they have the duty of scrutinising a Finance Bill from the Opposition Benches, they will not want it to be subject to diktat from the Government of the day.

A Government with a majority as immense as that enjoyed by the present Government have an obligation even greater than that of a Government with a narrow majority to have regard to the niceties of parliamentary democracy. The Government have, time after time, shown scant regard—indeed, contempt—for the House of Commons. Never have they shown it more graphically than in the motion perfunctorily and embarrassingly moved by the Paymaster General this evening. I hope that every hon. Member will vote against it. I hope that Labour Members will recognise what is happening and will, at the very least, have the decency to abstain.

10.32 pm
Mr. Tom King (Bridgwater)

I have not before spoken on a programme motion, and I did not expect to do so tonight. As I listened, however, to the Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) and the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Mr. Davey), I was struck by the decision to curtail any opportunity to speak about the problems faced by people in our country at present. We have questions about the Treasury position, but there will be no opportunity to move any amendment or make any proposal that might help.

That announcement followed the earlier confirmation by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food that there will be no statement tomorrow about the rural taskforce, the chairman of which appears to have disappeared without trace. There will be no statement on whether there will be any help beyond the inadequate measures that the Paymaster General faithfully read from her brief. She told us about the Inland Revenue, value added tax, encouraging banks to be sympathetic and the small business guaranteed loans scheme. [Interruption.] I am sorry if the Paymaster General does not know that those are the Government's proposals, but that is what she said about being helpful. She may not have known what her own proposals were, but they are in the Government advertisement that is advising people on what assistance is available.

The Chief Secretary can take some pride in having played a part in accumulating a substantial Government surplus, so he cannot plead a shortage of funds for the one-off crisis that we face. He has made a point of saying, in fact, that the Government are flush with funds, and the Chancellor certainly did not understate that case in his Budget statement. Since the Chief Secretary is here, I must tell him that it is widely believed that the Treasury is blocking matters. It has been reported, and I have it on good authority, that the chairman of the taskforce, the Minister for the Environment, was going to make a statement last week—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are debating a programme motion, and the right hon. Gentleman is going beyond its scope.

Mr. King

I accept that, Mr. Speaker. The point that I am trying to make, however, is that the programme motion allows us no opportunity to bring before Treasury Ministers the case that must be made. We want to table amendments, for which I understand no time is provided. That complaint has been made by spokesmen on the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Front Benches and is entirely in accordance with the motion.

Why do we want additional time under the programme motion? It is because the Government are concerned about tourism; I believe that the Prime Minister is genuine about that. In my constituency, agriculture and tourism are closely interlinked. The hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) is in the Chamber, as are other hon. Members who know Exmoor and Dartmoor. Anyone who represents a rural constituency knows about the problems for businesses at present. At this time last year, a business in my constituency had a turnover of £25,000; for the comparable period this year, the amount was £9.47.

In those circumstances, it is no good telling people that they will receive a VAT refund or that the Inland Revenue will look sympathetically at their problems. It is no good telling a chap that he can have a guaranteed loan under the small business scheme when he will have to pay 8.5 per cent. and add to his borrowings and outgoings.

My right hon. Friend the Member for it Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague) made proposals in as bipartisan a way as he could and gave the Prime Minister time to consider them. Unless the Treasury is prepared to put in real money and to offer interest-free loans, we can forget the rest. I would not bother about it—it is a waste of money. If other schemes are to be proposed—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The right hon. Gentleman is a very experienced Member of the House. As I said to him, this is a programme motion; he puts a case that must surely relate to the Finance Bill itself. He must talk about the programme motion.

Mr. King

I apologise, Mr. Speaker. It is entirely my fault for not making my case earlier.

My case is that there must be time under the programme motion for Opposition Members and Government Members, who care deeply about the issues and who see inadequacies in the Bill, to move amendments. The motion does not provide enough time for that. I thus have to make the case for why more time is necessary—indeed, imperative. That needs an understanding of the situation. I am trying to point out clearly to Treasury Ministers that the worrying situation in the tourism industry needs more than temporary palliatives; we must have more time to move amendments to the Bill.

With your courtesy, Mr. Speaker, perhaps you will let me give one fact. I was talking to Business Link advisers today. They told me that people in the tourism industry initially thought that the problem would last between four and six weeks. They considered their financial situation and thought that they could just about sweat it out. However, what has just hit them is the realisation that the problem will certainly last for six months and that, because their season is only six months, this year is a write-off.

If the Government said that that was tough and that people cannot expect the Government it to help—that we cannot expect public money to be given to individual private businesses—that would be their position, although I would not agree with it.

Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall)

In support of the right hon. Gentleman's point that the programme motion is wholly inadequate, he might be interested to learn that I and my right hon. and hon. Friends met representatives of all four clearing banks today. Their view is that six months is an underestimate of the time that it is likely to take to move beyond the crisis.

Mr. King

If there is not to be a statement, we must find a way to deal with the matter in the Finance Bill. There must be time during its proceedings to table amendments that address the problem. The situation is grave. We are about to go into recess and will return in two weeks. During that Easter period, people will have experienced the effects of the problem in various ways—through the banks, for example. After the recess, it may be too late to deal with the matter.

I take this opportunity to tell Treasury Ministers how grave the situation is. It will not take long to prove me right or wrong.

10.39 pm
Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham)

I rise to support what my hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) has said. I suppose that I have spoken in a dozen programme motion debates, and it gives me no pleasure to have had to do so, but I am deeply opposed to programme motions in general. They are wholly offensive, and they are yet more offensive when they relate to Finance Bills.

I want to put before the House a number of objections, the first of which builds on a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack). The control of Supply is the beginning of the authority of the House of Commons. If we go back in the history of the House—[Interruption.] Hon. Members may sneer, but one needs to keep a grip on history. When we got a grip on Supply, we began to diminish the control that the Executive exercised over the people. When control over Supply is lost, the control that Government have over the people is enhanced. I do not want to enhance the control that any Government have over the people—far less that lot over there. Thus on a Finance Bill more than most, a timetable motion is contemptuous of the House and its history.

I come to a point—my second, not my last—made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King). In all Governments, the Treasury exercises a very great control. I suspect that, with the current Chancellor of the Exchequer, this Government seek to exercise yet greater control—but they do it from the shadows. They are seldom exposed to public argument; they do things in Cabinet Committees. [Interruption.] There is no point in hon. Members making moaning noises. I speak with authority; I have attended endless Cabinet Committees, and I speak from considerable experience.

In the end, the Treasury exercises almost total control over the affairs of other Departments, so Finance Bills are a particularly important way for the House, by amendments and new clauses, to express to Treasury Ministers—even inadequate ones, as we have now—the concerns that affect our constituents and the House. When the debate on the Finance Bill is restricted so that Treasury Ministers are not exposed to arguments from the Opposition or elsewhere, the quality of government, not to mention democracy, is seriously diminished.

There was an interesting little piece from the Paymaster General. She said that we shall be very busy on the first day in Committee on the Floor of the House. However, she did not reflect on the fact that while we may be busy on her business, she does not know what my hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset, those on the Liberal Democrat Front Benches or those on the Conservative Back Benches will table. So the truth is that we shall be busy dealing with Government business, but no attention at all has been paid to the business that the rest of us will introduce. Where lies the democracy in that?

Mr. Letwin

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the Treasury knows one fact—because of the way in which it has designed the programme motion, it will be necessary for hon. Members, especially those in the Opposition parties, to table amendments on 33 of 108 clauses within 24 hours of the time when it was first possible to do so, and without the benefit of consulting industry, which would be the normal practice under such circumstances? Is that not absolutely astonishing?

Mr. Hogg

It is absolutely astonishing. The Bill is 292 pages long and the timetable motion provides for two days of debate on the Floor of the House, but we have not yet had an opportunity to table a single amendment or new clause. No one can tell whether we will have sufficient time to debate the clauses that have been grouped for those days. That is an absolute scandal.

You and I, Mr. Speaker, arrived in the House at the same time, so you know I have been here a long time. Let me say in deference to my hon. Friends in the Whips office—they always like to know the intentions of Back Benchers—that I propose to stay here a lot longer. The interpretation of the Finance Bill and the consequences for the taxpayer are usually a matter of considerable difficulty for the courts, but those consequences are critical. Our ability, and that of our constituents, to pay taxes, and their liability for penalties if they get things wrong, are the consequences of the business that we do on the Floor of the House and in Committee. If debates are so constrained that the Finance Bill is not properly considered, we can be sure that the law will be in error.

Mr. Geraint Davies (Croydon, Central)

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the Bill has already been out for 10 days? I urge him to use the time available in the recess constructively to consult industry so that he can achieve the results that he wants.

Mr. Hogg

It is clear to anyone who has just heard that intervention that the hon. Gentleman, wherever he comes from, has no idea about legislation. Does he suppose for a moment that interested groups—accountants, lawyers, tax specialists, my constituents and even his constituents—have got to grips with this Finance Bill? Does he suppose that they will spend the Easter recess pondering it? That is nonsense. Only the folly of those on the Government Benches would lead to the suggestion that that would happen.

Mr. Letwin

My right hon. and learned Friend is being much too charitable to the hon. Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Davies). I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend realises—I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman does—that if people spent the recess considering those matters, it would not do the blindest bit of good, because the Standing Orders of the House mean that we cannot table amendments following the recess.

Mr. Hogg

That is right. I hope that I have not been unduly generous to the hon. Gentleman; that was not my intention. He and the Labour party have been undermining democracy since 1997. I, for one, have had enough of it. This place is being treated in a scandalous, discourteous and tyrannical manner, and it is the business of the House to protest, protest and protest again.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate)

Is my right hon. and learned Friend's argument not supported by the fact that the Government know how badly they are behaving, because they have not yet dared to bring forward motion 2, under "Remaining Orders and Notices", on the conduct of my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) and three of my—

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are debating the programme motion.

Mr. Hogg

My hon. Friend may very well be right, but I suspect that, if I tried to expand on that line of argument, you, Mr. Speaker, would call me to order.

Mr. Bercow

rose —

Mr. Hogg

It is always a pleasure to give way to my hon. Friend.

Mr. Bercow

In the context of the programme motion, what does my right hon. and learned Friend think is the relationship between the time available for debate and Treasury Ministers' comprehension of the Bill? Does he not agree that one reason why those on the Treasury Bench are reluctant to have adequate debate on the subject is that they know that allowing such an opportunity would enable the Confederation of British Industry, the Institute of Directors, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Forum of Private Business and the British Chambers of Commerce to develop in detail their critiques of the Bill?

Mr. Hogg

My hon. Friend makes a serious point. I had charge of many Bills and took, I suppose, 12 or 15 of them through the House. I was not too bad at doing that and came to one clear view: no Minister can handle more than about 30 clauses, top whack I suspect that two or three junior Ministers who are not up to the job will be responsible for the Bill. They do not like lengthy scrutiny because it proves their inadequacy. That is why they want the Bill to be completed after two days on the Floor of the House and out of Committee by 24 May. They know that an extended Committee stage—no matter where it takes place—exposes them to the criticism that they are unable to withstand because they are personally incompetent.

I want to summarise my objection—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is entitled to a hearing.

Mr. Hogg

Let me take advantage of—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I gave an instruction, and I expect better from a senior Whip.

Mr. Hogg

I want to take advantage of this burble to say that I shall never be shouted down, or intimidated by, Labour Members because, in truth, I despise them. For the past four years or so, they have consistently and persistently—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I remind the right hon. and learned Gentleman that we are entitled to hear temperate language. I do not expect him use the word "despise". [Interruption.] Mr. Bercow, you talk too much.

Mr. Hogg

Never has my hon. Friend talked too much in my hearing. I am sorry that you do not feel the same way, Mr. Speaker. If "despise" is too strong, perhaps you will accept the term "hold in disregard". I hold Labour Members in disregard because, since 1997, they have consistently and persistently undermined democracy in this place. Some did it knowingly; the others have no business being here.

The significance of the fact that we are debating a Finance Bill is lost on Labour Members because they do not understand our history. They think that the Bill can be tucked away as if it were nothing. Well, it cannot. In addition, they are denying my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater, who has served in the House for 20 or 30 years, the opportunity to raise on behalf of his constituents matters of fundamental importance, especially to the agricultural sector. They are also denying hon. Members the opportunity to ensure that legislation is put in proper order. Those are grave failings.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough)

The charitable view of the Government's approach is that, to use their language, they are trying to modernise our procedures, but why does that always appear to result in less, rather than more scrutiny? Surely it will be possible for the incoming Conservative Government both to modernise our procedures and to increase scrutiny.

Mr. Hogg

My hon. Friend —my constituency neighbour—is right. When Labour Members talk about modernisation, they always mean reducing scrutiny. That is characteristic of the Government When we get back into power, it will be my business, and that of my hon. Friend, to ensure that we increase scrutiny; in fact, we will do that whichever party is in power.

10.54 pm
Mr. Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham)

When I came here this evening I did not intend to make a contribution, but given the passion with which my right hon. and hon. Friends have made their it case, I felt minded to make my few points. Night after night, we have sat through the charade in the democratic process that is the debate on the programme motion. This one is a programme motion too far. Programming consideration of a Finance Bill is an absolute abuse of the House. My right hon. and hon. Friends were right to say that the perfunctory, nonchalant way in which the motion was moved by the Paymaster General was beneath contempt.

In my short time in the House, I have sat on two Finance Bill Committees, and at no point during those proceedings was there any filibustering by Conservative Members. If there had been, the Chairman would have ruled us out of order. My experience of those Committees is that the longer they go on, the more the wheels fall off the Government's wagon; and the more details emerge from the clauses, the more lacking the Government's case is felt to be.

Why do the Government feel it necessary to guillotine consideration of this Bill? What is the urgency? After all, the Budget speech was over a month ago. The Government have had plenty of time to initiate these proceedings. This is the most important legislation in the parliamentary calendar, but we have been messing around with minor Bills in the past month, so why the hurry now? Will it not appear strange to the public that the day before the House breaks for a two-week recess, the Government are steamrollering through the House a programme motion to curtail debate on the most important legislation in the parliamentary year? It will appear very odd indeed to my constituents.

As my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack) said, the Bill is unique. There might just be a case, as the Government always try to make out, for saying that Bills might be frustrated in the other place and that their Lordships might seek to prolong debate beyond the time that is legitimately required. However, that case cannot be made with the Finance Bill, because their Lordships have limited powers in that respect.

Is it not also disgraceful that the Government have singularly failed to live up to some of the timetables that they have sought to impose on measures in the Finance Bill? Only last week, we heard that the introduction of stamp duty exemptions for deprived areas, which were promised at the beginning of the new financial year, which was last week, have been postponed because the Government are incapable of coming up with the details. As we warned at the time, the measures that were heralded in the pre-Budget report, and which the Chancellor proposed in the Budget, would result in people who owned houses worth £750,000 in places such as Islington getting a £40,000 windfall. Yet it has taken the Government until now to work out that there are serious problems with the measures. The Government have failed on their own timetable, but tonight they are trying to impose a timetable on consideration of the entire Bill and its passage through Parliament. Is that not yet another abuse of the whole system?

As other hon. Members have said, the foot and mouth situation is fast moving—

It being forty-five minutes after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, MR. SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Order [7 November 2000].

The House divided: Ayes 303, Noes 158.

Division No. 184] [10.59 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Battle, John
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) Bayley, Hugh
Anderson, Rt Hon Donald (Swansea E) Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary Bennett, Andrew F
Atherton, Ms Candy Benton, Joe
Atkins, Charlotte Bermingham, Gerald
Austin, John Berry, Roger
Bailey, Adrian Best, Harold
Banks, Tony Betts, Clive
Barnes, Harry Blackman, Liz
Barron, Kevin Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul Foulkes, George
Borrow, David Fyfe, Maria
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Gapes, Mike
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)
Bradshaw, Ben Gerrard, Neil
Brinton, Mrs Helen Gibson, Dr Ian
Brown, Rt Hon Gordon (Dunfermline E) Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godman, Dr Norman A
Browne, Desmond Godsiff, Roger
Buck, Ms Karen Golding, Mrs Llin
Burden, Richard Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Burgon, Colin Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Caborn, Rt Hon Richard Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Grocott, Bruce
Campbell-Savours, Dale Hain, Peter
Cann, Jamie Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Caplin, Ivor Healey, John
Casale, Roger Hendrick, Mark
Caton, Martin Hepburn, Stephen
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Heppell, John
Clapham, Michael Hill, Keith
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields) Hinchliffe, David
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) Hodge, Ms Margaret
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S) Hoey, Kate
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Hood, Jimmy
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge) Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Clelland, David Hope, Phil
Clwyd, Ann Hopkins, Kelvin
Coffey, Ms Ann Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E)
Cohen, Harry Howells, Dr Kim
Coleman, Iain Hoyle, Lindsay
Colman, Tony Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Connarty, Michael Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Humble, Mrs Joan
Corbyn, Jeremy Hurst, Alan
Corston, Jean Hutton, John
Cousins, Jim Iddon, Dr Brian
Cox, Tom Illsley, Eric
Crausby, David Jamieson, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley) Jenkins, Brian
Cryer, John (Hornchurch) Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Cummings, John Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Dalyell, Tam Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Darvill, Keith Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W) Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Jowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C) Joyce, Eric
Davis, Rt Hon Terry (B'ham Hodge H) Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Dean, Mrs Janet Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Denham, Rt Hon John Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Dismore, Andrew Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Dobbin, Jim Khabra, Piara S
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank Kidney, David
Donohoe, Brian H King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Doran, Frank King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Dowd, Jim Kumar, Dr Ashok
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey) Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston) Lammy, David
Edwards, Huw Laxton, Bob
Efford, Clive Lepper, David
Ellman, Mrs Louise Leslie, Christopher
Ennis, Jeff Levitt, Tom
Etherington, Bill Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Field, Rt Hon Frank Linton, Martin
Fitzpatrick, Jim Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna Lock, David
Flint, Caroline Love, Andrew
Flynn, Paul McCabe, Steve
Follett, Barbara McCafferty, Ms Chris
Foster, Rt Hon Derek McCartney, Rt Hon Ian (Makerfield)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
McDonagh, Siobhain Roy, Frank
Macdonald, Calum Ruddock, Joan
McDonnell, John Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
McFall, John Ryan, Ms Joan
McGuire, Mrs Anne Salter, Martin
McIsaac, Shona Sarwar, Mohammad
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary Shaw, Jonathan
Mackinlay, Andrew Sheerman, Barry
McNulty, Tony Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
MacShane, Denis Skinner, Dennis
Mactaggart, Fiona Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
McWalter, Tony Smith, Angela (Basildon)
McWilliam, John Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Mahon, Mrs Alice Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Mallaber, Judy
Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S) Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury) Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Soley, Clive
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Southworth, Ms Helen
Martlew, Eric Spellar, John
Maxton, John Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael Steinberg, Gerry
Meale, Alan Stevenson, George
Michael, Rt Hon Alun Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley) Stoate, Dr Howard
Milburn, Rt Hon Alan Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Miller, Andrew Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Mitchell, Austin Stringer, Graham
Moffatt, Laura Stuart, Ms Gisela
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N) Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley) Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Mountford, Kali Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Mullin, Chris Timms, Stephen
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck) Tipping, Paddy
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood) Touhig, Don
Naysmith, Dr Doug Trickett, Jon
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton) Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks) Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Olner, Bill Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
O'Neill, Martin Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Organ, Mrs Diana Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Osborne, Ms Sandra Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Pearson, Ian Tynan, Bill
Perham, Ms Linda Vis, Dr Rudi
Pickthall, Colin Walley, Ms Joan
Pike, Peter L Ward, Ms Claire
Plaskitt, James Wareing, Robert N
Pollard, Kerry Watts, David
Pond, Chris White, Brian
Pope, Greg Wicks, Malcolm
Pound, Stephen Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle) Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Prescott, Rt Hon John Wills, Michael
Primarolo, Dawn Winnick, David
Prosser, Gwyn Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Quinn, Lawrie Wood, Mike
Radice, Rt Hon Giles Woodward, Shaun
Rapson, Syd Woolas, Phil
Raynsford, Nick Worthington, Tony
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough) Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland) Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Roche, Mrs Barbara Tellers for the Ayes: Mr. Graham Allen and Mr. Mike Hall.
Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Rowlands, Ted
Allan, Richard Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Amess, David Baker, Norman
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Baldry, Tony
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E) Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Blunt, Crispin Kirkwood Archy
Body, Sir Richard Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Boswell, Tim Leigh, Edward
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Letwin, Oliver
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Brady, Graham Lidington David
Brand, Dr Peter Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Brazier, Julian Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Loughton, Tim
Browning, Mrs Angela Luff, Peter
Burns, Simon McCrea, Dr William
Butterfill, John MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife) McIntosh, Miss Anne
Maclean, Rt Hon David
Cash, William McLoughlin, Patrick
Chapman, Sir Sydney Madel, Sir David
(Chipping Barnet) Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Chidgey David Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
Chope, Christopher May, Mrs Theresa
Clappison, James Moore, Michael
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Moss, Malcolm
Oaten, Mark
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Collins, Tim Öpik, Lembit
Cormack, Sir Patrick page, Richard
Cotter, Brian Paice, James
Cran, James Pickles, Eric
Curry, Rt Hon David Portillo, Fit Hon Michael
Davey, Edward (Kingston) Prior, David
Davies, Quentin (Grantham) Redwood, Rt Hon John
Donaldson, Jeffrey Rendel, David
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen Robathan, Andrew
Duncan, Alan Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Duncan Smith, Iain Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Evans, Nigel Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Fabricant, Michael Ruffley, David
Fallon, Michael Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Fearn, Ronnie St Aubyrl, Nick
Flight, Howard Sanders Adrian
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Fraser, Christopher Shepherd, Richard
Garnier, Edward Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Gibb Nick Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Gidley, Sandra Soames Nicholas
Gill, Christopher Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl Spicer, Sir Michale
Gray, James Spring, Richard
Green, Damian Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Greenway, John Streeter, Gary
Grieve, Dominic Stunell, Andrew
Gummer, Rt Hon John Swayne Desmond
Hague, Rt Hon William Syms, Robert
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie Taylor, Ian Esher & Walton)
Hammond, Philip Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Hancock, Mike Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Harvey, Nick Taylor, Sir Teddy
Hawkins Nick Thomas Simon (Ceredigion)
Hayes, John Tonge, Dr Jenny
Heald, Oliver Tredinnick, David
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome) Trend, Michael
Tyler, Paul
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David Tyrie, Andrew
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas Viggers, Peter
Horam, John Walter, Robert
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Waterson Nigel
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot) Webb Steve
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N) Wells, Bowen
Jack, Rt Hon Michael Whitney Sir Raymond
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Whittingdale, John
Jenkin, Bernard Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Johnson Smith, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Willis, Phil
Key, Robert Wilshire David
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton) Tellers for the Noes: Mr. Owen Paterson and Mr. Stephen Day.
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Question accordingly agreed to.


That the following provisions shall apply to the Finance Bill:—

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