HC Deb 14 February 2001 vol 363 cc324-41

5. Paragraphs (6) and (7) of Sessional Order A (varying and supplementing programme motions) made by the House on 7th November 2000 shall not apply to proceedings on any programme motion to supplement this order or to vary it in relation to—

  1. (a) proceedings on Consideration of Lords Amendments; or
  2. (b) proceedings on any further messages from the Lords, and the question on any such motion shall be put forthwith.

The motion proposes that the remaining stages of the Bill should be completed this afternoon. I pay tribute to members of the Standing Committee for what were uniformly constructive and often enjoyable debates. The Bill came under close scrutiny and the Committee stage was, as it should be, a valuable exercise.

There were 14 Committee sittings in total. In only two of the seven afternoon sittings did we fully utilise the time available. Indeed, something like five hours and 38 minutes of scheduled time for the Committee was not utilised. None the loss, I think that we gave the Bill good scrutiny.

There was agreement in the Programming Sub-Committee, and the Government showed flexibility in extending time to discuss additional amendments on primary care although, in the event, the extra time that was allocated was not fully necessary.

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield)

The Minister has shown his customary courtesy in praising the members of the Committee. Will he go further and praise the Select Committee on Health, which opposes the community health council abolition proposed in the Bill?

Mr. Denham

I am not aware that the Health Select Committee has formed an opinion on a specific proposal in the Bill. However, the proposals for a better and more powerful system of patient representation and health service scrutiny we re discussed in some detail in Committee.

It is worth noting that the Committee did not utilise all the time that was available and scheduled for discussion of the issue of scrutiny of the NHS, even though it was arguably the most publicly contentious part of the Bill. However, we gave it a good degree of scrutiny and, depending on the interest in the House, I imagine that that subject will attract a great deal of attention later when Opposition amendments are debated along with those of my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe). I look forward to that.

In Committee, the Government tabled a number of amendments. Some were technical and some reflected direct responses to comments that had been made by Members of the House as well as professional and lobby groups. Today's debate and the amendments tabled by Members on both sides of the House will allow us to revisit—albeit in a new form—the major issues on which the Committee spent the most time.

The Government's amendments are for the most part technical and consequential; other amendments pick up on and, I hope, accurately reflect concerns expressed by hon. Members in Committee. We are not introducing by way of Government amendment any major new issues of principle so, in my judgment, one day should give us ample time to debate the remaining stages of the Bill.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham)

It may well be that the Government are not introducing issues of principle, but the Opposition most certainly are doing so. For example, amendment No. 6, which deals with the abolition of CHCs, is a matter of major importance. That will inevitably mean that many Members will want to speak. The effect of the timetable motion will make that extremely difficult.

Mr. Denham

In Committee, when those matters were discussed in some detail, we did hot take all the time allocated for their scrutiny. I see no reason why we should not hold a perfectly adequate debate later today, which will enable us to examine the issues that hon. Members want to raise.

Mr. Philip Hammond (Runnymede and Weybridge)

As the Minister has twice asserted that the Committee did not use all the available allocated time, will he make it clear to the House—for the avoidance of doubt—that the timetable contained fixed milestones, Because of those fixed milestones, it was not necessarily open to the Committee to debate issues that needed further consideration. The total amount of unused time is not an indication that all matters were fully debated.

Mr. Denham

No, but in this case there could have been more discussion of the particular topic that has been mentioned today. The Government flowed flexibility by agreeing to additional time—not all of which proved necessary—to deal with the amendments that we tabled on primary care.

With those comments and in the hope that we can move on to Report at the earliest opportunity, I commend the motion to the House.

4.2 pm

Dr. Liam Fox (Woodspring)

I oppose the motion on grounds of both principle and practicality. Throughout the appalling number of recent debates on such programme motions, we have made no secret of our belief that a contempt for parliamentary process is being systematically operated by a Government who want to avoid scrutiny wherever possible. In recent years, there has been an unhealthy strengthening of the Executive—this is the latest and greatest manifestation of that trend. It diminishes the authority of Parliament itself; it diminishes the voice of each us to represent the needs, wishes and interests of our constituents on a range of issues.

Increasingly, with automatic timetabling, there is an abuse of process and a contempt for scrutiny, coupled with Ministers playing fast and loose with a strict interpretation of the honest truth. For example, it is unusual for us to talk in the House about discussions between the usual channels, but I must refer to the comments made last night during the debate on the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill by the Minister for Public Health. Replying to my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset (Mr. Bruce), she said: I have to tell the hon. Gentleman that the Government offered more time for debate in Committee, and if the Opposition had wanted to, they could have taken up that offer."—[Official Report, 13 February 2001; Vol. 363, c. 189.] I am told that that is not true; no such offer was made through the usual channels. Having said that it was, the Minister needs to come back to the House and explain exactly what she meant by her words. Our use of the English dictionary would not show that an offer for more time was made in a way that we would normally understand.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

I am somewhat surprised, as well as perturbed, by what my hon. Friend says about the Minister for Public Health. Is he aware that that statement by the hon. Lady is in stark contrast to, and incompatible with, what she previously told the House? Previously, she said that she had held no discussions with representatives of the Government Whips Office about the timetabling.

Dr. Fox

My hon. Friend makes a valuable and serious point. Those two statements seem mutually exclusive, and I am sure that he will carry out further investigations because the House will want to know the exact truth. We cannot have Ministers saying that discussions have taken place through the usual channels, which is how we maintain civilised relations and order in the House, when it appears that they have not taken place. That can only undermine confidence in those discussions.

The Government's ethos is one of intensely disliking scrutiny, and they do all that they can to avoid it. The Prime Minister's demeanour at Question Time shows that he regards Prime Minister's questions themselves as impertinent. That is shown in his answers as well as his body language. So that the Government are not scrutinised properly, they ensure that those Labour Members with strong views are not represented in Committee, which causes a further diminution of scrutiny.

During a point of order this afternoon, the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane) made it clear that some Government Back Benchers have not the faintest idea that one of their jobs is to scrutinise the Executive on behalf of their constituents, rather than simply being Lobby fodder and the Whips' poodles, which they are so often in the House.

The timetable motion is another example of the Government playing fast and loose with the House. They have tabled more than 120 amendments to the Bill since the end of its consideration in Committee, and most of them were tabled at the last possible moment. They first appeared at 10.15 the night before last, and the explanatory notes were not available until last night. What are we to conclude from that?

Mr. Hogg

Is not the inevitable consequence of the timetable motion that many of those amendments will not be debated in the House? If they are debated at all, it will be in the other place. If amendments are made there, they will return to the House, probably on a timetable and so will never be debated in the House.

Dr. Fox

It is the ultimate irony that the Government, who came to office with open contempt for the other place, have now created arrangements whereby the electorate rely even more on the other place to scrutinise legislation, because we in this House are given so little time to do so by a Government who ruthlessly use their large parliamentary majority to restrict the time available. People outside want many issues to be debated today and there are many groups of amendments—for example, on medical, dental and pharmaceutical lists; on local authority overview; on patient information; on representation of patients and the community health councils; on nursing care; and on intervention orders.

A huge amount needs to be debated, but that will not happen not only because of the number of Members who want to take part, but because the Minister will have to do a great deal of explaining on the 120-odd amendments and new clauses that the Government have tabled to try to clarify their own Bill. What are we to conclude from the fact that they have tabled so many amendments and new clauses?

Mr. Fabricant

My hon. Friend will be only too aware that so many amendments were tabled to the Utilities Bill that, in the end, it was such a mess that half the Bill had to be discarded after a considerable waste of time. Is he aware that we have just five hours in which to discuss all nine groups of amendments that Mr. Speaker has selected? Perhaps the most important group, which concerns our constituents most of all, is that on the representation of patients and community health councils, which contains 22 amendments. My hon. Friend has correctly said that many amendments and new clauses will not even be discussed, but, by my simple calculation, we shall have less than a minute to discuss each amendment or new clause that is debated. Does he agree that that amount of time is inadequate?

Dr. Fox

My hon. Friend makes several important points, the first of which is that the problem is not confined to the Bill; it has occurred on numerous occasions. Secondly, good legislation requires a lot of scrutiny. No matter how recently hon. Members were elected, they will all know of legislation that would have been better if we had spent more time scrutinising it in greater detail. It is distressing that those of us who are elected to represent our constituents increasingly have to rely on an unelected Chamber to scrutinise legislation appropriately. That cannot be the correct constitutional balance. Major issues have been raised by the fact that the Government have sought to gag the elected House in a way that they are, thankfully, incapable of doing with the unelected House. There is a gross imbalance in the way that we consider legislation.

Mr. David Hinchliffe (Wakefield)

The Committee is one of the most important stages in the scrutiny of a Bill. Unlike me, the hon. Gentleman was a member of the Committee that considered this Bill, but how many Committee sittings did he actually attend?

Dr. Fox

I am afraid that, in addition to selling out on community health councils, the hon. Gentleman appears increasingly to be selling out to his Whips. The issue is how well the Bill was scrutinised in Committee and how much time was given to that. I have every confidence that my Front-Bench colleagues scrutinised the Bill in Committee better than I would have done. They did a magnificent job. The hon. Gentleman knows that there are major issues to be debated, so I am sorry that he has tried to sidetrack the House in a manner that is frivolous and unworthy of him.

The Government have clearly not thought through the issues. What are we to make of the fact that they have tabled so many new clauses and amendments? Does that mean that they had rot thought about possible problems before they introduced the Bill? That is probably part of the answer because we all know that, for all their talk of consultation, very lit le consultation took place with the groups that will be affected by the Bill. The Government probably did not think about the problems in advance.

Have so many new clauses and amendments been tabled because the Bill has been so poorly drafted? Where does the blame for that lie? Do Ministers and the Government take responsibility for any of their actions? Did Ministers miss things when they first read the Bill and did they fail to understand their own legislation? Does the number of consequential amendments that have been tabled suggest that Ministers did not understand the Bill's proposals, speedily drafted as it was? I suspect that all those issues contributed to the mess that we have to put right in a short time today.

Mr. Bercow

The point made by the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe) was pitiful. It was unworthy of his status as Chairman of the Select Committee on Health. Will my hon. Friend confirm that the Secretary of State for Health did not sit and did not seek to sit either on the Standing Committee for this Bill or on that for the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill? We do not particularly criticise him for that: he is very important, very senior, very respected and very busy and has a very full diary. However, my hon. Friend contributed intelligently to the Committee, and he was aided and abetted by my hon. Friends the Members for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr. Hammond) and for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman). It ill behoves the hon. Member for Wakefield to make such a cheap, invalid and thoroughly bogus criticism.

Dr. Fox

Yes, and I have no intention of continuing the debate on this point. We all understand that the Secretary of State is far too important to take part in the scrutiny of his or any other legislation. He is above the normal tasks that the House carries out, and it is far more important these days for Secret tries of State simply to make sure that they are fully available for the photo-opportunities, headlines and soundbites that an the Government's hallmark.

I wonder whether the Bill has been made up as it went along. The strong impression that was given to us in Committee was that Ministers math up their answers as they went along. In the debate on what was clause 59 and is now clause 62, the Government presented information to the Committee as they went along and no notice of it was given in advance. It related to whole new structures for which no explanatory notes were given to members of the Committee. We were working entirely in the dark during our consideration of some q if the Government's most major reforms. Ministers simply seemed to change tack according to the questions that were asked and as notes were passed from civil servants. That is an extraordinarily unsatisfactory way to consider legislation. However, I am afraid that it is not unusual.

This is a hugely centralising and authoritarian Bill. It will give the Secretary of State enormous powers to hire and fire NHS staff. He can fire certain staff at will and replace them with any staff that he wants, but he had the nerve to say on Second Reading that this was a devolving Bill. It could not be more different from a devolving Bill; it is the diametric opposite.

When we considered the community health councils, the Government came up with all thy nonsense about how they had consulted. However, there was no consultation before the Bill's publication, and the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State had to eat if Lot humble pie—I am sure that would have been too indigestible for them—at least their words.

A centralising measure on patient information was also introduced. It will allow the Secretary of State to control information in a hitherto unprecedented way. Almost every group with an interest in health care which wrote to Committee members and wanted to have their voices heard opposed that measure, bin debate on it was curtailed, as it will be today.

Ministers never consider the effect of restricting the length of time between Committee and Report, and between the tabling of amendments and new clauses and their consideration on the Floor of the House. It is not only Members of Parliament who do not have time to research their implications and to get proper legal advice on their impact; outside bodies that have a great interest in the Bill also do not have the time to work out what they entail. They are unable to determine what effect amendments and new clauses might have or to pass information and advice on to Members of the House and Committee members, so that we know how they want us to proceed.

The Government have no time for us, the House, the process of Parliament, the due process of scrutiny or the outside bodies that want to make representations. All those are cavalierly swept away so that the Government can stick to their timetable and complete their legislation, irrespective of its quality. We are being driven entirely by the Government's desire to clear the decks for a general election. The quality of legislate ln is not the main consideration.

In all probability, we will have an hour on Third Reading, which is ridiculous. Any hon. Member who scans Hansard will see that it is traditional for Third Reading to be a shorter part of the scrutiny process. We should devote more time to other aspects of scrutiny. Third Reading deals with the Bill's generalities, but we will fail properly to scrutinise its detail, which will ultimately decide whether we produce satisfactory legislation. All in all, it is an extremely unsatisfactory process from a very unsatisfactory Government who are, for internal reasons, happy to give us unsatisfactory law.

4.17 pm
Dr. Peter Brand (Isle of Wight)

Liberal Democrats do not usually approve of wasting time on programme motions, but it is important to make a few points now.

The Committee stage was useful because it became clear that some of the Bill needs to be rewritten. So many issues were raised that Ministers agreed that they needed to be addressed. However, instead of a proper rethink and rewrite, the Bill has become more complicated in terms of drafting and the extra bodies that are being introduced. Not only do we have a problem of too little time between Committee and Report, but the Government have been unwise to introduce some of the measures.

In Committee, the Minister told us that the working party, which has been beavering away on patient confidentiality for, I think, two years, will be reporting in the autumn; yet we are being invited today to pass legislation to cover that issue. We were also told that a proper complaints and advocacy procedure for patients is about to be announced, yet we are being asked to approve legislation today that is intimately involved with that procedure. In addition, the Prime Minister told the House today that the Government are still consulting on the future of community health councils. That is a short consultation, because we are legislating on that matter today.

I do not like to waste time—it would be better to use it to discuss the amendments—but the Government are unwise to legislate now on at least those three issues. The Bill started as a curate's egg, but has turned out to be a dog's breakfast.

4.20 pm
Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire)

I support my hon. Friend the Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) in opposing the motion. I am not fundamentally opposed to all programme motions. I know that some of my hon. Friends are against them all, and I respect that view. I do not share that view, and there have been occasions when I have put my name to programme motions. I did so because I felt that that was in the best interests of a structured debate, sometimes with benefits to the Opposition. However, I am in favour of programme motions only when they do justice to the issues under discussion and give the House an adequate opportunity to scrutinise them. That is not the position this afternoon.

There are three reasons—the Minister did not deal with them—why the motion is particularly inappropriate. One reason relates to community health councils. Much concern was expressed on Second Reading about CHCs. My hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Mr. O'Brien) initiated a debate in Westminster Hall. There were meetings in Committee Rooms that were well attended by hon. Members from both sides of the House.

For whatever reason—I make no complaint about the Committee of Selection—no Labour Members were notable critics of the Government's policies on CHCs. Their only opportunity to voice their concern will be this afternoon. I am sure that, as we speak, Labour Members are in the Central Lobby, from where I have just returned after a constructive dialogue with the Winchester CHC, being briefed about the damage that the Government propose to do to CHCs. I would be amazed if many Labour Members did not wish to speak later on behalf of their CHCs and register their concern at what is about to happen.

Dr. Fox

Given the Prime Minister's indication at Question Time that the Government may be intending to make a partial U-turn, does my right hon. Friend agree that in the light of the discussions in defence of the Government's original proposals in Committee, in which the Minister of State participated, it would be unacceptable to have any new Government ideas being put briefly to the House this evening? We would be unable fully to scrutinise what the Government intend to do. That opportunity should be available to us in Committee.

Sir George Young

If the Government are about to make a major change in their policy on CHCs, that could not be accommodated within the programme motion, which was tabled before such a U-turn was contemplated. That would be an injustice to the House.

The second reason—

Ms Linda Perham (Ilford, North)

The right hon. Gentleman commented on Labour Members speaking on behalf of community health councils. Does he remember that on Second Reading I spoke on behalf of Redbridge CHC and my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mrs. Gordon) spoke on behalf of the CHC in her constituency? We put forward our views on Second Reading.

Sir George Young

We were sorry not to see the hon. Lady and the hon. Member for Romford (Mrs. Gordon) in Committee, where their concerns were not done justice by the Labour Members who served on it.

Mr. Bercow

The hon. Member for Ilford, North (Ms Perham) has made a challenging and important point. Does my right hon. Friend agree that although she and the hon. Member for Romford (Mrs. Gordon) bravely and eloquently criticised the Government's policy on CHCs on Second Reading, that does not remove or diminish their responsibility, if the Government have not responded to that concern, to repeat their criticism in even more forceful terms?

Sir George Young

The House awaits the hon. Lady's speech with bated breath.

My second reason for thinking that the Government are wrong was touched on by my hon. Friend the Member for Woodspring, and it is the number of Government amendments. There are 15 pages of Government amendments to an 80-page Bill, yet they seriously expect us to consider these matters in the time that remains available, which is about four and a half hours. It is impossible for us to consult the bodies that are interested in the Bill during that time, given the range of amendments that have been tabled. Thirdly, a 9 pm cut-off does not allow adequate time to conclude our consideration, given the important issues that the Bill tackles. For example there is the establishment of care trusts, with all the implications for social services.

My interest in speaking on the motion is that the final group of amendments on Report are in my name. I am concerned that, given the time frame, we may not reach that group.

Mr. Hogg

Perhaps my right hon. Friend will remind the House that there is no reason why we should finish at 10 pm. Last night, we continued until 12 midnight on a Government Bill. The Government were content to allow the House to debate the complications of the Capital Allowances Bill between 10 pm and 12 midnight. Why should we not do the same with today's Bill?

Sir George Young

I am sure that the Minister will deal with that when he replies. My right hon. and learned Friend said that there is no reason why we should not go beyond 10 o'clock but, as he knows, that is what the programme motion says. If it is carried, we will have to stop at 10 o'clock. Health councils, patient information—dealt with in clause 61I, which was previously clause 59—the new regime for prescribing, important changes for residential and nursing homes and the new changes to capital limits are important issues in the Bill to which the House will not be able to do justice by 9 o'clock.

That is symptomatic of the mismanagement of the Government's legislative programme. They are simply trying to get too many Bills through in too short a time. The House cannot do justice to the sheer volume of legislation with which it is confronted. Within their programme, the Government have mismanaged matters because this Bill comes after the Hunting Bill. It is clear that the Hunting Bill will not reach the statute book, but it is conceivable that this Bill could. If the Government had put it ahead of the Hunting Bill, we would not be facing this programme motion and we would have had more time to discuss the Bill.

I want to register my protest against the programme motion. I shall follow my hon. Friend the Member for Woodspring into the Lobby with enthusiasm.

4.26 pm
Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion)

I, too, want to speak briefly against the programme motion. I am not opposed to modernisation or the timetabling of Bills, and I have supported programme motions when I felt that sufficient time and consultation had been allowed. However, it is clear that we do not have enough time to scrutinise the details of this Bill before 9 o'clock.

I was concerned or Monday when I saw that so many Government amendments had been tabled. I was interested in the details of the Opposition's amendments and to see what important issues they brought out. I am also concerned that no Member from Wales served on the Standing Committee. That issue needs to be addressed by the usual channels, whoever they are, because no Welsh Member, whether from the Government or the Opposition, was on the Committee.

The Bill will have a huge impact on Wales. Of course, Wales is keeping community health councils—the National Assembly has already consulted on the matter and decided to keep them.

Mr. Hogg

Will the hon. Gentleman remind the House and, through it, the wider community that a Bill's Report stage is the only occasion when Members as a whole have an opportunity to address its details? As there were no Welsh Members in Committee, that Report stage is the only occasion when Members who represent Welsh constituencies can debate the detail of the Bill. They are being prevented from doing that by the Government.

Mr. Thomas

I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman, which is why I oppose the programme motion.

As I was about to say, last week Me National Assembly for Wales announced the principles of its national plan for the health service in Wales. That raises many issues which should be debated in the context of the Bill, such as the abolition of health authorities in Wales and the fact that many people in Wales want CHCs to be improved, not abolished. There is a moot question whether the Bill allows Wales to change CHCs in a positive way, not merely retain or abolish them. These is also the question of long-term care for the elderly, which now faces people in Wales as, previously, it faced people in Scotland.

Dr. Brand

I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Burstow) is too modest to point out to the hon. Gentleman that he had to make the case for giving powers to the National Assembly for Wales to make its own decisions on matters such as personal care and nursing.

Mr. Thomas

I am grateful for I hat information. I am sure that many hon. Members do not forget Wales. My point is that we need Members front Wales to ensure that all the issues are put across. I am sure that the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Burstow) did his best, but it is important that we acknowledge that, on Report, ordinary Back-Bench Members have an opportunity to scrutinise legislation and to support or oppose individual amendments.

My particular concern is that the worthy and correct debate that we will have on CHCs it England, which may not affect people in Wales as much, will take up so much time—as it should—that we will not have time for the full debate that we need on new clause 3 and the definition of nursing versus personal care. With all due respect to those who have been so concerned about community health councils, to me an even greater issue in the long term is how we look after the increasing elderly population in the United Kingdom. We may run up Against the buffers of 9 pm while we are discussing that.

Although I feel quite warm towards much of what the Government do in the name of modernisation, I do not believe that modernisation should equate to a lack of time for scrutiny of any aspect of legislation. Because I do not think that we will have sufficient time for scrutiny on Report, I shall oppose the programme motion.

4.30 pm
Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills)

I commend to the Leader of the House the speeches that have been made on the guillotine motion. The motion is in the name of the Leader of the House and the Secretary of State for Health, neither of whom had the courtesy to move the motion personally, although it touches on the principal reason why we are in this place: the scrutiny of legislation and the holding of Governments to account. The motion needed the authority of a Cabinet member.

My objection is similar to that of my hon. Friends, but it is wider ranging. Since the Queen's Speech, all Bills have been treated to the guillotine procedure. It is a new procedure, brought in only by a Government majority imposing a new system on the House. My opposition to guillotines goes back a long time. It came about when I first perceived the guillotine as the means by which the Executive could govern the House more totally than it had ever been governed in the past. I used to keep count of the number of guillotines imposed under Mrs. Thatcher—39 or possibly 41; my memory may not be accurate. This Government have been responsible for many more guillotines than were ever envisaged in the 11 years of Mrs. Thatcher.

Under the new device, everything is to be guillotined. Behind that is a Modernisation Committee assumption, which appeared in the first report of that Committee: the Government are entitled to get their business. That was repeated in the Modernisation Committee report that initiated the train of guillotines. It is an entirely new constitutional proposition that a Government are entitled to get their business. That, effectively, is what the guillotine motion states. Scrutiny is not required-the only condition is that the Government have a majority.

The use of the guillotine procedure is a celebration of majoritarianism. The due process by which we achieve consent and acquiescence is thrown out of the window. It does not matter what the Opposition say, because the Government majority will prevail. The logical next step in new Labour's thinking is, "Why do we bother listening to what others say? We have the majority." That view was well expressed by the Leader of the House on Monday and by her one machine gunner in support of that proposition, when Chairmen and members of Select Committees presented their views on the report, "Shifting the Balance".

The Government are increasing their power and their contempt for the House of Commons through motions such as this and the Standing Orders that inform them. It is a denial of the purpose and function of the House of Commons. Ministers who were in opposition for many years know that I say that genuinely. Their views when they were in opposition were an important part of forming public opinion and testing whether the public gave its consent and acquiescence to the measure in question.

The subject of the Bill, community health, is particularly important to many of us. Earlier, we all watched the Prime Minister dancing, yet again. I never know whether he is making a journey between fantasy, half-remembrance and retrieved memories, or just making it up as he goes along. We half expect an announcement of some concession on community health. Whether that can be incorporated into the Bill when a consultation process is still under way raises another question: what is the purpose of legislating on Wednesday, only for the House of Lords to accommodate further changes at a later stage, following the completion of that quiet consultation process?

Dr. Howard Stoate (Dartford)

The hon. Gentleman rails against the Government for using their democratically elected majority to get their business through the House. Does he also rail against the other place for using its huge undemocratically elected majority to hold up business?

Mr. Shepherd

A majority ultimately comes into play, but let us be clear that we are discussing the process. That process, which the motion tries to deny, involves the rights of Members—who represent diverse communities—and their only opportunity, if they are not members of a Standing Committee, to discuss the issues that they deem to be important. That is called process, but the new system has effectively eliminated it.

As a member of the Modernisation Committee, I know that there is great concern about the arrangements, the way in which they are dumped on to the House and the contempt that they bring to it. There is also anxiety that they do not satisfy the one genuine cry of many new Labour Members: "Can we not go home earlier?" I happen to respect that cry. I am not sure why hon. Members should be in the Chamber at midnight when we could start at 9 am, but it was the Government who did not want us to start earlier.

Dr. Fox

I have a further point in line with what my hon. Friend is saying. The Government might cave in to some extent today on community health councils, but there will be restricted time for consideration of any new proposals. Not only will we have little time at this sitting, if the proposals are amended in the other place our consideration will be guillotined yet again, which will be a double insult to us and to our constituents.

Mr. Shepherd

That is the essence of the point that I am trying to make. The Government are not interested in the process or in the fact that we may or may not discuss these matters. No Government should consciously impose an absurd guillotine such as that in the motion—and the motion is not isolated; it is part of the Labour Government's consistent policy to relegate the proper processes within which we try to represent our electorate. There is no question about that.

The Government now try to make us use polite terms such as "programme motion". I notice that that has worked with some hon. Members, even on the Conservative Front Bench. I think that it was an American politician who said that if it squawks like a duck, walks like a duck and looks like a duck, then it is a duck. We are considering a guillotine motion. I reiterate that no Government can sustain themselves in the regard of the people when they treat elected representatives in such a manner. That does not apply only to Conservative Members, as the Government are doing the same to their Back Benchers, some of whom, through lack of experience or wide-eyed optimism, hope that all will come right.

We have a purpose that survives beyond the existence of individual Governments and Parliaments. It is a continuing theme of the British people that they are properly represented and that their elected representatives can speak honourably and openly on the issues of the day.

4.38 pm
Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield)

I support my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd), who spoke with considerable passion. I want to speak not about the constitutional issues, but merely the practical issues raised by the programme motion—or the guillotine, as my hon. Friend called it.

Mr. Speaker has selected nine groups of amendments and new clauses for debate in only five—or maybe four—short hours. That is half an hour per grouping. We have already established that the group that relates to community health councils, which has the heading "Representation of patients", contains 22 amendments and new clauses.

Dr. Fox


Mr. Fabricant

It contains 23 amendments and new clauses, as my hon. Friend points out. It includes some Government amendments. which were presumably tabled because Labour Members learned in Committee that the Bill was incomplete, incorrect or flawed.

Surely the point of scrutiny on the Floor of the House is to enable us, through the democratic process, not only to oppose clauses with which we disagree but to improve the Bill, to ensure that it is not flawed and that drafting errors that may remain after consideration in Committee can be corrected. The Conservative party does not oppose every aspect of the Bill

The programme motion, which will be accepted because the Government will force it through with their huge majority, does not time the debates on the amendment groupings. As the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas), who represents Plaid Cymru and many Welsh people, said, we may spend time debating representation of patients and community health councils but not even reach the amendments on nursing care and personal care, which are important to many elderly patients. Elderly people now comprise 40 per cent. of the population.

The programme motion is facile; it is an insult to Parliament and the House of Commons; and, worse, it is an insult to the people; of Britain.

4.41 pm
Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury)

The Government's Achilles heel is arrogance. The speed with which they took the Bill through Committee demonstrates that. Second Reading occurred on 10 January; barely a month later, on 14 February, we have reached Report. Yet the Bill has 70 clauses, six schedules—

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

The House divided. Ayes 342, Noes 181.

Division No. 123] [4.42 pm
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N) Cranston, Ross
Ainger, Nick Crausby, David
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov?try NE) Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Allen, Graham Cummings, John
Anderson, Rt Hon Donald (Swansea E) Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack (Copeland)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Atkins, Charlotte Dalyell, Tam
Austin, John Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Bailey, Adrian Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Barnes, Harry Davidson, Ian
Battle, John Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Bayley, Hugh Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Beard, Nigel Davis, Rt Hon Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne Dawson, Hilton
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough) Denham, Rt Hon John
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C) Dismore, Andrew
Bennett, Andrew F Dobbin, Jim
Benton, Joe Dobson Rt Hon Frank
Bermingham, Gerald Donohoe, Brian H
Berry, Roger Doran, Frank
Best, Harold Dowd, Jim
Betts, Clive Drew, David
Blackman, Liz Drown, Ms Julia
Blair, Rt Hon Tony Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Blears, Ms Hazel Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Blizzard, Bob Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Blunkett, Rt Hon David Edwards, Huw
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul Efford, Clive
Borrow, David Ellman, Mrs Louise
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Ennis, Jeff
Bradshaw, Ben Etherington, Bill
Brinton, Mrs Helen Field, Rt Hon Frank
Brown, Rt Hon Gordon (Dunfermline E) Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E) Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Flint, Caroline
Browne, Desmond Flynn, Paul
Buck, Ms Karen Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Burden, Richard Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Burgon, Colin Foulkes George
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen Fyfe, Maria
Caborn, Rt Hon Richard Galloway, George
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Gapes, Mike
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)
Campbell-Savours, Dale Gerrard, Neil
Cann, Jamie Gibson, Dr Ian
Caplin, Ivor Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Casale, Roger Goggins Paul
Cawsey, Ian Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Chaytor, David Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Clapham, Michael Grocott, Bruce
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields) Grogan, John
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) Gunnell, John
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S) Hain, Peter
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian) Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge) Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Hanson, David
Clelland, David Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Coaker, Vernon Healey, John
Coffey, Ms Ann Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Cohen, Harry Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Coleman, Iain Hendrick, Mark
Colman, Tony Hepburn Stephen
Connarty, Michael Heppell, John
Cooper, Yvette Hesford, Stephen
Corbett, Robin Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Corbyn, Jeremy Hill, Keith
Cousins, Jim Hinchliffe, David
Cox, Tom Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hoey, Kate Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Hood, Jimmy Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Hope, Phil Martlew, Eric
Hopkins, Kelvin Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E) Meale, Alan
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Merron, Gillian
Howells, Dr Kim Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Hoyle, Lindsay Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford) Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Miller, Andrew
Humble, Mrs Joan Mitchell, Austin
Hurst, Alan Moffatt, Laura
Hutton, John Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Iddon, Dr Brian Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Illsley, Eric
Ingram, Rt Hon Adam Morris, Rt Hon Sir John (Aberavon)
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough) Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Jenkins, Brian Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle) Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn) Naysmith, Dr Doug
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark) Norris, Dan
Jones, Helen (Warrington N) O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Jones, Ms Jenny (Wolverh'ton SW) O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Eddie
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Olner, Bill
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak) O'Neill, Martin
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S) Organ, Mrs Diana
Jowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa Palmer, Dr Nick
Joyce, Eric Pearson, Ian
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Perham, Ms Linda
Keeble, Ms Sally Pickthall, Colin
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston) Pike, Peter L
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth) Pond, Chris
Kelly, Ms Ruth Pound, Stephen
Kemp, Fraser Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree) Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Kidney, David Prescott, Rt Hon John
Kilfoyle, Peter Primarolo, Dawn
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth) Prosser, Gwyn
Kumar, Dr Ashok Purchase, Ken
Ladyman, Dr Stephen Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
Lammy, David Quinn, Lawrie
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie Radice, Rt Hon Giles
Laxton, Bob Rammell, Bill
Lepper, David Rapson, Syd
Levitt, Tom Raynsford, Nick
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S) Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Linton, Martin Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Lock, David
Love, Andrew Roche, Mrs Barbara
McAvoy, Thomas Rogers, Allan
McCabe, Steve Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian (Makerfield) Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
McDonagh, Siobhain Rowlands, Ted
Macdonald, Calum Roy, Frank
McDonnell, John Ruane, Chris
McFall, John Ruddock, Joan
McGrady, Eddie Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
McGuire, Mrs Anne Ryan, Ms Joan
McIsaac, Shona Salter, Martin
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary Sarwar, Mohammad
Mackinlay, Andrew Savidge, Malcolm
McNamara, Kevin Sawford, Phil
McNulty, Tony Sedgemore, Brian
MacShane, Denis Sheerman, Barry
Mactaggart, Fiona Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
McWalter, Tony Shipley, Ms Debra
McWilliam, John Singh, Marsha
Mahon, Mrs Alice Skinner, Dennis
Mallaber, Judy Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S) Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury) Smith, Miss Geraldine (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch) Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Smith, John (Glamorgan) Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Soley, Clive Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Southworth, Ms Helen Tynan, Bill
Spellar, John Vaz, Keith
Squire, Ms Rachel Vis, Dr Rudi
Starkey, Dr Phyllis Walley, Ms Joan
Steinberg, Gerry Ward, Ms Claire
Stewart, David (Inverness E) Wareing, Robert N
Stewart, Ian (Eccles) Watts, David
Stinchcombe, Paul White, Brian
Stoate, Dr Howard Whitehead, Dr Alan
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin Wicks, Malcolm
Stringer, Graham Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury) Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Wills, Michael
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S) Winnick, David
Taylor, David (NW Leics) Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Temple-Morris, Peter Woodward, Shaun
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W) Woolas, Phil
Timms, Stephen Wray, James
Tipping, Paddy Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Todd, Mark Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Touhig, Don Wyatt, Derek
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE) Tellers for the Ayes:
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown) Mr. Greg Pope and
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk) Mr. David Jamieson.
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Cunningham, Ms Roseanna (Perth)
Allan, Richard
Amess, David Curry, Rt Hon David
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Donaldson, Jeffrey
Baker, Norman Duncan, Alan
Baldry, Tony Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Ballard, Jackie Evans. Nigel
Beggs, Roy Faber. David
Berth, Rt Hon A J Fabricant, Michael
Bell, Martin (Tatton) Fallon, Michael
Bercow, John Fearn, Ronnie
Beresford, Sir Paul Flight, Howard
Blunt, Crispin Forth Rt Hon Eric
Body, Sir Richard Foster, Don (Bath)
Boswell, Tim Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Fox, Dr. Liam
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia Gale, Roger
Brady, Graham Garnier, Edward
Brake, Tom Gibb, Nick
Gidley, Sandra
Brand, Dr Peter Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Brazier, Julian Gray, James
Breed, Colin Green, Damian
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Greenway, John
Browning, Mrs Angela Grieve, Dominic
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Gummer, Rt Hon John
Burnett, John Hague, Rt Hon William
Burns, Simon Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Burstow, Paul Hammond, Philip
Butterfill, John Hancock, Mike
Cable, Dr Vincent Harris, Dr Evan
Cash, William Harvey, Nick
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet Hayes, John
Heald, Oliver
Chidgey, David Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Chope, Christopher Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh) Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Collins, Tim Horam, John
Cormack, Sir Patrick Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Cotter, Brian Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Cran, James Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Hunter, Andrew Redwood, Rt Hon John
Jack, Rt Hon Michael Rendel, David
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Jenkin, Bernard Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Johnson Smith, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Russell, Bob (Colchester)
St Aubyn, Nick
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Sanders, Adrian
Keetch, Paul Sayeed, Jonathan
Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness W) Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Shepherd, Richard
Key, Robert Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater) Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Laing, Mrs Eleanor Soames, Nicholas
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Lansley, Andrew Spring, Richard
Leigh, Edward Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Letwin, Oliver Steen, Anthony
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E) Streeter, Gary
Lidington, David Stunell, Andrew
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Swayne, Desmond
Livsey, Richard Syms, Robert
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham) Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Loughton, Tim Taylor, Rt Hon John D (Strangford)
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Taylor, John M (Solihull)
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
McIntosh, Miss Anne Taylor, Sir Teddy
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Maclean, Rt Hon David Thompson, William
McLoughlin, Patrick Tonge, Dr Jenny
Major, Rt Hon John Trend, Michael
Malins, Humfrey Tyler, Paul
Maples, John Viggers, Peter
Mates, Michael Walter, Robert
Maude, Rt Hon Francis Waterson, Nigel
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian Webb, Steve
May, Mrs Theresa Whitney, Sir Raymond
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute) Whittingdale, John
Moore, Michael Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Moss, Malcolm Wilkinson, John
Nicholls, Patrick Willetts, David
Norman, Archie Willis, Phil
Oaten, Mark Wilshire, David
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury) Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Öpik, Lembit Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Ottaway, Richard Yeo, Tim
Page, Richard Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Pickles, Eric
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael Tellers for the Noes:
Prior, David Mr. Peter Luff and
Randall, John Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Ordered, That the following provisions shall apply to the Health and Social Care Bill for the purpose of supplementing the Order of 10th January:

  1. Consideration and Third Reading 76 words
  2. c341
  3. Consideration of Lords Amendments and further messages from the Lords 72 words