HC Deb 09 January 2001 vol 360 cc982-97

  1. 1. The Bill shall be committed to a Select Committee.
  2. 2. The Select Committee shall report the Bill to the House on or before Thursday 15th March.
I shall be brief. It will come as no surprise to those Members who attended today's Second Reading debate that the Bill is to be committed to a Select Committee. The motion proposes that the Committee should report by 15 March.

The House values the procedure whereby armed forces Bills are examined by a Select Committee. That can encourage the development of a consensual approach to the proposed legislation, which is appropriate when we consider the maintenance of the services' disciplinary procedures. A consensual approach is, of course, not at all the same as an uncritical approach. The Select Committee's report will inform the debate on subsequent stages of the Bill in the House and in another place.

We consider it appropriate for the House to ask the Select Committee to complete its important work by a certain date. The date of 15 March proposed in the motion will allow some two months for the Committee to conduct its inquiries and to examine the Bill.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst)

What assurances can the Minister give the House that, in the event of an early general election, which would mean dissolving the House before 15 March, this important measure would have made progress by then?

Dr. Moonie

There has been an occasion when an early general election precluded completion of a Bill until after it had been brought back. There is very little chance of that event happening. [Interruption.] That is not the Government view; it is my view.

Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal)

May I ask the hon. Gentleman the opposite question? If, as the discussions go on, the Government consider that a number of alterations ought to be made and that more time is needed, will it be possible to defer the date proposed, if the Government think that that is necessary? I ask merely as a matter of practicality.

Dr. Moonie

Clearly, we would examine any eventuality, but were consideration of the Bill to be delayed, the Committee would sit for longer to ensure that the Bill passed by the requisite time.

Mr. Bercow

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. On the model of a Select Committee and in the absence of witnesses, is it intended that the Committee will sit in private or in public? Between now, if the motion is passed, and 15 March, for approximately how many hours is it intended that the "Select Committee" will sit?

Dr. Moonie

Those are matters for the Committee, once it has been properly constituted. It will come to its conclusions at the appropriate time.

Mrs. Dunwoody

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who is being very tolerant. It is unusual for Select Committees to sit without advisers, particularly with a cut-off date. The Bill is important, and the House of Commons is ill served by Select Committees that rush through their work without the proper support staff. Can my hon. Friend assure me that the Committee, which has already been criticised for its membership, will perform the task that it is meant to perform?

Dr. Moonie

I am happy to give my hon. Friend that assurance. We will ensure that the Committee performs its task. If my hon. Friend stays for the start of the next item of business, she may well hear something that will please her. She knows what I am speaking about.

The date of 15 March proposed in the motion will allow some two months for the Committee to conduct its inquiries and to examine the Bill. In my view, that is adequate for a 41-clause Bill, the main purpose of which, I believe, the House is united on.

Needless to say, the Ministry of Defence will do what it can to assist the Committee in its work. I commend the motion to the House.

10.48 pm
Mr. Key

The Government have a number of problems with the motion. We should remember that the guillotine that we are considering, for that is what it is—the euphemism "programme motion" will rarely pass my lips—is the fruit of the labour of the Modernisation Committee. It came to the House without the Opposition's support, for sound reasons. We mind very much about the imposition of the guillotine procedure on this Bill of all Bills, which is unique in terms of the way in which the House works. It is the only Bill that has always had pre-legislative scrutiny and it sets a fine precedent for other legislation.

We agree that we must have the Bill. That is the basis of our armed forces. However, the Opposition have never been happy with the guillotine motion. I have already informed the Minister for the Armed Forces that we shall have great difficulty in getting through all the work involved in the tight time available. We shall do our best to assist with proper scrutiny in the circumstances, but the time that has been proposed overall is short compared with that for previous Quinquennial Bills.

I served on the previous Bill, which had a much more relaxed time scale in which to take stock of the situation and make recommendations to the House. The Bill received its Second Reading in December 1995 and, as far as I recall, it received Royal Assent in July 1996. That was proper consideration. The Select Committee met in January and reported at the end of April. That also was a reasonable time. On that occasion, we were able to agree with the then Opposition on roughly how long proceedings might take. However, no one could predict that, because we could not predict what the Government of the day would wish to add to the Christmas tree that a Bill such as this always is. The Opposition could not predict exactly what would turn up as a result of the depositions made, the evidence taken and the correspondence with the Committee during the period in question. It is never possible to predict precisely what will happen.

We recognise the arithmetic of the situation, but it is still not appropriate to impose strict time limits. There are a number of reasons for that. The first is that the terms of the Bill were set out before Second Reading and before the arguments had been deployed on both sides of the House. We regret that, too, but it was a fait accompli.

Several Government Members even talked about what they would do when they were in the Committee. Considering the strong representations from the right hon. Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George), the Chairman of the Defence Committee, about the composition of the Committee—much more will be said about that later—the Government have built for themselves a stack of problems on the issue. They should be under no misapprehension about the deep sense of unhappiness in the House, not just on the Opposition Benches, about this procedure. Perhaps a number of hon. Members thought that, under the new regime, we would all go home at 10 o'clock. On current reckoning, they could be six hours out, but we shall see.

However reasonable the Bill—much of it is reasonable—it should receive proper scrutiny. Another reason why the Government have problems is that no provision has been made in the inflexible guillotine motion that has been imposed for any new clauses or amendments to be properly considered at any stage.

One of the huge benefits of the pre-legislative process is that it makes the defence community feel empowered and enfranchised. This is the one occasion in the course of five years when they can all make representations, not just to the Ministry of Defence but to the people who pay for the Ministry of Defence—the House of Commons on behalf of the taxpayer—and they are losing that. It would be bad enough if they were losing that enfranchisement in a normal Standing Committee; it is worse when we have what is alleged to be a pre-legislative scrutiny Committee, and they have lost all that too.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) rightly asked whether the Government could ask for more time. As I understand it, the Government could do that, but there is a delicious irony here. If the Government come back to the House and ask for more time, that is debatable. If they come back to shorten the length of time, it is not debatable, which is an extraordinary situation.

The first question must be whether the Government will add anything at all—one phrase, one letter, one comma—to the Bill. If they do, we hope that they will extend the time within which the Committee must report back to the House.

If we abide by the motion, there will be 28 sitting opportunities between next Tuesday and 8 March, which is the last reasonable date on which we could sit before reporting, with a printed report appearing on 15 March. That is more than 14 sitting days, and would involve a considerable break with precedent. When the previous Quinquennial Bill was considered, the Select Committee met on Tuesday mornings and occasionally Tuesday afternoons, but not Thursdays, which was when it went out and about to take evidence and to pay visits, as is envisaged under the motion before us.

However, we cannot have it both ways. Are the Government saying that we must sit in Committee and that people must travel to London? Are they saying that we must not go out into a service atmosphere if the timetable is to be achieved? Or are they suggesting that we should get out, as has been mentioned? The hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Ms Squire) said how valuable it was to go out to the defence community and listen to it, but that is incompatible with the Committee remaining here.

Mr. Forth

What assumptions is my hon. Friend making in mentioning the 28 sitting days? What period of time does he expect the Government to allow the Committee to deliberate? There is a considerable difference between 28 days of mornings only and 28 days in which the Committee may have to finish by 5 pm or 8 pm. What about Thursdays? What assumptions is my hon. Friend making?

Mr. Key

First, Thursday is a normal sitting day, and the sitting may finish at 7 o'clock. Come to that, as my right hon. Friend will know, Friday is a normal sitting day. The only assumption I have made so far is that precedent suggests that we should sit on those days. However, if that precedent is not kept—which would be no surprise—it would be for the Committee to decide when it sits. On this occasion, the arithmetic is that the Committee equals the Government.

Mr. Gummer

Will my hon. Friend help me? Precedent is based on the principle established when the Government knew that they had to come to an agreement with the Opposition to carry through their business. It was necessary to have more sitting days and the Government had an interest in achieving that. I am sure that the Minister would not do this, but there is now a system in which the Government could say that there is only one sitting day, even though they never mentioned that in debate. They could say, "That's it. That is how we are going to do it." I do not think that any other institution would accept a timetable motion that did not state what the timetable was. This is truly a guillotine: we are underneath it, waiting for it to fall.

Mr. Key

Yes, indeed—while la tricoteuse is observing somewhere else, no doubt. We shall return to that later.

Mr. Bercow

With reference to the observation made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), is my hon. Friend aware of, and does he share my disgust at, the fact, that, so far as the Government are concerned, the working day in a Committee considering a Bill is not comparable to a working day in the House? The Government have the audacity to propose that the Committee should conclude its deliberations at 5 pm on Thursdays. Are we part-timers or what?

Mr. Key

Compared with the days when a Committee had to deliberate for a 100 hours before any consideration could possibly be given to a guillotine motion, the answer is yes.

Dr. Moonie

That is how stupid the House was.

Mr. Key

Well, there was a good reason—[Interruption.] I am sorry, the Minister was not here when that procedure took place. We should not accept his interpretation of this matter, as many of my right hon. and hon. Friends were here when that procedure used to happen.

There is another reason why we have a problem with the guillotine. The Ministry's explanatory notes on part V of the Bill helpfully state: This clause provides a general order-making power which would enable the Secretary of State to make for the armed forces provisions equivalent to those contained in any future civilian criminal justice legislation or any existing legislation that it amends. Oppositions do not like giving such carte blanche to any Minister of the Crown.

It will be difficult to fit all the business into such a short time when we do not yet know for how many hours a day or days a week the Committee will sit, or how many visits outside London we shall have to make. During today's debate, several suggestions have been made of important aspects of defence life that we should examine. For example, defence medical services, with which HMS Haslar is associated, have been mentioned. We have been told that we should hold an inquiry into the pensions trough that exists for thousands of Ministry of Defence pensioners. We should hold another inquiry into depleted uranium; we should even consider passports for service family pets. There are doubtless many other aspects that we should examine.

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham)

Is my hon. Friend aware that many of the Government's measures have required several hundred amendments? Sometimes half—or more—of a Bill has to be rewritten. Will my hon. Friend insist on behalf of the Opposition parties that if that happens to the current Bill, the time for its consideration must be extended? Otherwise, it will be impossible to accommodate such detail.

Mr. Key

The Ministry of Defence is modest about such matters. It has a bite at the legislative cherry about once every five years, unlike some other Departments, which wage a constant battle with the House. I have never known the Ministry of Defence to produce hundreds of amendments to such a Bill, but there is always a first time. As I suggested earlier, if it introduced many amendments, we would insist that the Government returned to the House to procure an extension of time. The next couple of months are wholly unpredictable.

Five years ago, the previous Select Committee was due to visit the resident garrison for Cyprus. For local reasons that prevailed at that time, we were unable to go. Instead, we went to visit garrisons in Germany, where we took formal evidence on courts martial procedures and other matters that were relevant to the Bill. We believe that it would be appropriate for the Committee to visit garrisons, not exclusively abroad, but, for example, a garrison centre that hosts a court martial centre. That would entail quite a lengthy visit. I cannot think of anywhere better than Aldershot for such a visit; I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth) would welcome the Committee there. However, we may not have time to do that. We need to take a lot of evidence.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough)

With the benefit of his experience, will my hon. Friend explain what sort of Committee we are considering? A Select Committee is traditionally very different from a Standing Committee. The former comprises independent-minded members and no Whips. The proposed membership of the Select Committee that will consider the Bill bears more resemblance to a Standing Committee: it will comprise Ministers and Government trusties. What is it? Will it be genuinely independent, do what the Minister wants and examine the Bill critically?

Mr. Key

It will probably be a therapeutically cloned Committee. Of course, it may be a genetically modified Committee. However, we do not know. We shall spend a lot of time later on motion 4, which is entitled "Armed Forces Bill". It would not, therefore, be in order for me to pursue my hon. Friend's point far. However, it is worth saying that, five years ago, the previous Committee consisted of one Minister, who attended three out of 15 sittings. He was there only when he needed to be. It included one parliamentary private secretary and no Whips. It was a proper Select Committee, which functioned as such. This time, we are considering a different sort of animal. However, that will be the subject of debate later.

We need to take a lot of evidence from the Adjutant-General, the head of the Army Legal Service, and groups of private sector lawyers who make up the Forces Legal Network. Several provisions will affect service life. We shall therefore need to take evidence from the Army Families Federation, Airwaves, which covers the Royal Air Force, and naval families. We shall also need to take evidence from the Commission for Racial Equality, Stonewall, the Chaplain-General, the Equal Opportunities Commission, Liberty, Combat Stress—I could go on, and I shall. All those groups have an important contribution to make. My fear is that they will have no opportunity to give evidence to the Committee.

In connection with parts II and IV, the Committee will want to take evidence from the Royal Military Police, the MDP, the Defence, Police Federation and the Police Federation of England and Wales. I think we shall need to visit the MDP headquarters at Wethersfield near Braintree, and those of the Royal Military Police; and a visit to the corrective institution in Colchester known as the glasshouse would no doubt be extremely valuable.

All this will put great strain on the timetable, but further matters must also be examined. In that regard, the Government are in difficulty and disarray, and there is as yet no sign of their putting matters right, apart from their reference to a new tri-service Act. I am thinking particularly about the whole question of increased "purple"—in other words, tri-service—activity, and tri-service activity with other nations. That is the direction in which we are moving. There is no doubt that we are engaging in more such activity, not just with NATO and the United Nations but with other European nations.

I suspect that any defence Minister who sends forces into action overseas crosses his fingers several times, takes a deep breath and hopes that there will be no problems with local law. We currently have something called a status of forces agreement, which—as its name implies—determines the status afforded to forces visiting this country. When our troops go to Germany, for example, we have to negotiate memorandums of understanding with the German Government in regard to what will happen if British troops infringe, say, traffic legislation in that or another country in which they are not used to driving. The Visiting Forces Act 1952 is relevant here.

The issue is extremely complex. It was flagged up as a problem area in a letter to me from the Under-Secretary of State, dated 2 April 2000, but we have been given no indication of the point at which it will arise. The letter states: When our forces are overseas, and the provisions of the SOFAs do not apply, the Government must negotiate terms comparable to those in the SOFA, with concurrent jurisdiction for ourselves and the receiving state, to ensure that our personnel are subject to UK jurisdiction while on duty and, as far as possible, are exempted from certain punishments for offences committed outside the course of their duties. The Government hope to "secure exclusive UK jurisdiction". It gets complicated, however. For example, UK forces operating under NATO or the UN in the Balkans —where they have been for some time— are immune from the local jurisdiction under arrangements negotiated by the UK, NATO and the UN.

This is a huge area of complex international law, and other parts of British military law are lost in the mists of time—a phrase used by the Minister in another letter. If we are to commit our forces overseas to increasingly difficult and dangerous activities, it is the House's responsibility to establish a firm legal basis for their actions. If we have no time to do so because of a programme motion of this kind, otherwise known as a guillotine—I said this twice earlier —we are doing a disservice to Her Majesty's forces. I do not consider that a responsible course.

I have outlined our concerns about the programme that has been set before us. I am deeply concerned about the imposition of any sort of guillotine, particularly in the case of a Committee of this nature. I do not think that the Government have justified it so far, and I shall be interested to hear the views of my right hon. and hon. Friends.

11.9 pm

Mr. Gummer

I thank the Minister for introducing the guillotine motion. Last night, a motion was produced with no introduction of any kind. I also thank the Minister for his courtesy in responding to questions. I hope that he will not think that we raise the issue in any personal spirit of contradiction—the issue is difficult. We have no timetable motion, which is why I call this a guillotine motion. A motion cannot be a timetable motion unless there is a timetable—unless we know to what the end date refers. We do not know that. We do not know what the sitting arrangements will be. We do not know how many hours will be available. We do not know what the procedure will be that will enable the type of investigation that a Select Committee should have.

It is not now that we should discuss the Select Committee's membership—that is for a later discussion—but a quick look at it suggests that it is an unusual Select Committee. I can, for example, see no rebellious Opposition Member on the Committee. I make no comment about the Labour Members on the Committee. I can see no one who is likely to ask the difficult and awkward questions that should be asked on a Select Committee. That gives me some concern because of the nature of what we are discussing in this debate. It is not a timetable motion as we have only an end date.

Historically, guillotine motions have been different because they have been properly negotiated by the two sides in the House. Both sides had something to give. The Government were able to say, "If you are prepared to allow this business to go through in a reasonable way, we will be prepared to accept one or two of the sensible suggestions that you have put forward." The Opposition were able to say, "On that ground, we are prepared to have an informal arrangement." That ensured that the Bill was properly debated, but concluded at a reasonable hour and on a reasonable date.

That is not what we have been asked to do tonight. Instead, we have been asked to agree an end date with no knowledge of how many sittings there will be and what arrangements will be made, and without any ability to take into account the debate earlier today. That is not part of the arrangement. The motion was tabled before anyone had heard that debate.

The Minister courteously replied to my question about what would happen if the MOD discovered that, as a result of the discussions of the Select Committee, it needed to make significant changes to what is a significant measure. He kindly said that, in those circumstances, he would have to make some other arrangements. He cannot do that under the arrangement in the motion; he can do it only by overturning that arrangement. There is no way in which the Government can agree with the Opposition that a few more days might be appropriate. He will have to come back to the House and the House will then have to have a debate of this sort to give him an extension.

You, Mr. Speaker, know from your experience that on those occasions Governments are in the hands of the Leader of the House and various authorities, all of whom will tell the Minister that he cannot have any more time for debate on the Floor of the House. There is not another 45 minutes available because there are all sorts of other things to be done. Therefore, even if he is—and I believe him to be—honourable in his belief that, if there were the need, he would come back to the House, as a Minister of 16 years standing I must tell him from bitter experience that he will not win.

The Leader of the House is a powerful lady in those circumstances. She will say to the Minister, "You may be right, but you will not get the time." She might put it more directly than that, if I know the right hon. Lady, but that is what she will say.

Mr. Leigh

It is worse than that. Can my right hon. Friend imagine any Select Committee—for example, the Select Committee on Defence, which is now considering Westland—having to finish its inquiries by 15 March? Can he imagine the Committee having a Whip and wanting to have more meetings and call more witnesses? It would have to sit late into the night. That would not happen. Exhaustion would set in. The number of witnesses and the inquiry would be curtailed because the Committee would have to finish by 15 March. Parliamentarians are busy and there are only so many hours in the working week; therefore, it would not be a proper Select Committee looking at the issues in real depth.

Mr. Gummer

I am afraid that my hon. Friend is not right; it is worse than he has suggested. If this were a normal Select Committee, it could be trusted to insist upon having enough time, even with an end date, to do its job properly. The problem is that it is not a normal Select Committee, so it will not demand enough time. It will be the patsy of the Whip and the Government. For the British armed forces to be in the hands of a Committee which has an end date upon which it can depend in order not to do its job properly is extremely serious.

I understand what the Government are about and I know who has been pressing them. It happened to me on many occasions. Civil servants would say to me, "Secretary of State, why do we have to go on with these Committees that sit for so long? We have to listen to all the arguments, all sorts of people come and speak for a long time and we have to go on and on with it. Would it not be more convenient to have some sort of guillotine motion early in the procedure so that we could do this in a modern and sensible way?" I used to say, "It would be more convenient and I would like to go to bed, but this is what is called democracy." It is about allowing everybody every opportunity, which you defend so well, Mr. Speaker, to put his or her point of view.

It is not just a matter of democracy in the House—it is what makes people outside believe in the House. It is not just a matter of us defending our rights—it is about us defending our ability to meet the requirements of our constituents and ensure that they feel that the democratic system represents them and that they do not have to go outside that system to get the responses that they want.

My hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) pointed to a series of issues, many of which have arisen unexpectedly. Nobody expected the issue of depleted uranium to arise. Two sites in my constituency are affected by that problem and I have been defending the Ministry of Defence and the Minister. I have told people not to worry, that it seemed to me that proper measures were being taken, and that we would have direct and specific answers for them. However, they will feel safe about that only if the Select Committee is able, where necessary, to discuss those issues in the context of the Bill. After all, it will be another five years before there is another opportunity and it is not unreasonable for people to expect there to be plenty of time available.

Imagine if, some time in the future, it was discovered that something ought to have been done. What would people say? They would say that issues were not raised because the Government did not provide enough time. That is the hook that could be used. I am afraid that I know Oppositions well enough to know that they would use that hook and blame the Government even if it were their own fault. Therefore, the Government have an interest in ensuring that, wherever possible, they have an agreement—not a forced agreement—between those on a Committee to fix the time to meet the needs and not to fix the time and then restrict the needs. That is the difference between what we are being asked to do and what ought to be done.

The Minister should accept that there are some serious constitutional issues in the Bill. Like the Homes Bill yesterday, this is not a Bill to which we are generally opposed and it does not divide us in a serious way. We want to make it work. There are issues on which we disagree, but it is fundamentally a Bill that we want the Government to have because it is the basis upon which the armed forces proceed. Yesterday, there were many elements in the Homes Bill that we wanted to have, but in that Bill and this there are serious and significant questions about the powers given to Ministers to act outside the real power of Parliament. My hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury used the phrase "carte blanche" to describe the powers given to Ministers to act outside the supervision of the House. Many people are worried about that. I do not believe that it is proper that we should restrict the time available for debate.

Finally, this motion would be reasonable if the history of Bills of this sort featured Oppositions—Labour and Conservative—who had made it impossible for Governments to organise the armed forces. However, I know of no occasion since the war when a Government have been unable to secure their armed forces legislation because of filibustering and procrastination by the Opposition.

The Minister is known for his courtesy, so why can he not be courteous enough to allow the House to come to a common mind in a traditional way? That is achieved not by enforcing an end date, but by agreeing a proper procedure for a Select Committee, which ought to be able to behave in an adult and courteous manner. What have Members of Parliament of all parties done to deserve this? Why are we considered to be unworthy of proper, human and courteous treatment?

I suspect that those of us who are modernisers are not always wise or knowledgeable. They have decided that they want what in theory they think that they need, instead of recognising that this procedure undermines the democratic accountability of the House and that it will render our democracy less and less respected.

This Bill is not unique. It is another example of hon. Members conspiring together in this House to give up the powers for which our ancestors fought. This is the moment to say, "No more." Until the Government learn that part of their heritage is to ensure that those without a voice can speak, we must make a stand and be determined to prevent guillotines such as this.

11.23 pm
Mrs. Dunwoody

I am by nature a trusting creature, so when I hear Ministers in previous Governments declaring their affection for the protection of the rights of the House of Commons I believe every word. I therefore resolutely put from my mind those occasions when they supported measures that I considered were not necessarily in the interests of Back Benchers or of democracy as a whole.

However, this is the second of three programme motions this week. I declare that I do not have a strong involvement in this Bill, but the principle involved is such that the debate should not be allowed to pass without a Labour Member registering the fact that the rights of Back-Bench Members are not served by programme motions whose imposition is occasionally regarded as automatic.

Bad legislation is not new in this House, and it is not the prerogative of one party in government. I have been here long enough to know that the parliamentary draftsmen are often not masters of the English language, and that they are not always able to express in terms acceptable to the House of Commons those ideas that hon. Members expect to appear in our legislation. However, getting into the habit of assuming that legislation can be automatically programmed or put through the House of Commons on the basis that it is convenient for the Government—even a Government whom I support wholeheartedly and whom I want to see returned with a large majority—is not something that I can allow to pass.

All legislation needs to be properly examined. The pre-legislative Select Committee system is a sensible development and one which we should all support, but it needs to be properly organised and serious. It ought not to be subjected to packed Committees or arrangements that do not allow Select Committees to have proper advice or useful and sensible sessions at which they can take evidence about legislation.

I object to programme motions; I make no secret of that. I have spoken about them before and shall do so again. But I object even more to the assumption that the Government have an automatic right to rush their legislation through to the statute book in the form in which it issued from the parliamentary draftsmen. That attitude will lead not only to extremely bad Bills, but to Bills that the House of Commons will learn to regret. Those of who us who have been here for some time have seen it over and over again. The previous Government set the abominable precedent of tabling 400 amendments, in some cases, at a late stage of legislation. When I sat in the Chair I found that unacceptable, and I would find it unacceptable if my own Government did the same thing.

Tonight, we have on the Front Bench a Minister whose tact, ability and civilised intelligence marks him out as suitable for any Front Bench. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I hope that I have not damaged my hon. Friend's career irrevocably by saying that. He understands the importance of the rights of individual Back Benchers. If we allow this procedure to continue consistently, automatically or unquestioned—as if it were something that we had to accept because that was, the way in which Governments proceed—we will do a disservice not only to the House of Commons and to those who expect us to pass legislation that is acceptable, but to ourselves.

I am proud to be a Member of Parliament; I have been here for a long time. I am proud of the ability of individual Members to have an influence on legislation. I find the increasing tendency of Governments—including, I am sorry to say, my own—of moving forward on this basis not only unacceptable, but something that I deeply regret. I did not want this occasion to go past as though it were a ritual dance involving people rolling out arguments simply to hold up the Bill without any serious thinking. I believe that the House of Commons should think about what it is doing. The motion is wrong, unhelpful and does us all enormous harm.

11.28 pm
Mr. Blunt

I follow the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) with trepidation, given her experience in the House. However, I wholly agree with what she said. I particularly want to reinforce the remarks of my right hon. and hon. Friends—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am sorry to cut the hon. Gentleman short.

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

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 320, Noes 130.

Division No. 40] [11.29 pm
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Ashton, Joe
Anderson, Rt Hon Donald (Swansea E) Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Austin, John
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary Bailey, Adrian
Barnes, Harry Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Barron, Kevin Edwards, Huw
Battle, John Efford, Clive
Bayley, Hugh Ellman, Mrs Louise
Beard, Nigel Ennis, Jeff
Begg, Miss Anne Etherington, Bill
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough) Fearn, Ronnie
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C) Field, Rt Hon Frank
Bermingham, Gerald Fisher, Mark
Berry, Roger Fitzpatrick, Jim
Betts, Clive Flint, Caroline
Blackman, Liz Flynn, Paul
Blears, Ms Hazel Follett, Barbara
Blizzard, Bob Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul Foster, Don (Bath)
Borrow, David Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Foulkes, George
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Gapes, Mike
Breed, Colin Gardiner, Barry
Brinton, Mrs Helen George, Andrew (St Ives)
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E) George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Gerrard, Neil
Browne, Desmond Gibson, Dr Ian
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Gidley, Sandra
Burden, Richard Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Burgon, Colin Godsiff, Roger
Butler, Mrs Christine Goggins, Paul
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Golding, Mrs Llin
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies (NE Fife) Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Campbell-Savours, Dale Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Cann, Jamie Grogan, John
Casale, Roger Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Caton, Martin Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Chaytor, David Hancock, Mike
Clapham, Michael Hanson, David
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields) Healey, John
Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands) Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham) Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S) Hendrick, Mark
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge) Hepburn, Stephen
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Heppell, John
Clelland, David Hesford, Stephen
Clwyd, Ann Hill, Keith
Coaker, Vernon Hinchliffe, David
Coffey, Ms Ann Hoey, Kate
Cohen, Harry Hopkins, Kelvin
Colman, Tony Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E)
Connarty, Michael Howells, Dr Kim
Corbett, Robin Hoyle, Lindsay
Corbyn, Jeremy Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Corston, Jean Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Cotter, Brian Hughes, Simon (Southward N)
Cousins, Jim Humble, Mrs Joan
Cranston, Ross Hurst, Alan
Crausby, David Hutton, John
Cummings, John Illsley, Eric
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S) Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Dalyell, Tarn Jenkins, Brian
Davey, Edward (Kingston) Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Davidson, Ian Johnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davis, Rt Hon Terry (B'ham Hodge H) Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Dawson, Hilton Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Dean, Mrs Janet Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Dismore, Andrew Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Dobbin, Jim Joyce, Eric
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Donohoe, Brian H Keeble, Ms Sally
Doran, Frank Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Drew, David Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey) Keetch, Paul
Kemp, Fraser Pike, Peter L
Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles (Ross Skye & Inverness W) Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree) Pond, Chris
Khabra, Piara S Pope, Greg
Kidney, David Pound, Stephen
Kilfoyle, Peter Powell, Sir Raymond
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth) Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Kirkwood, Archy Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Ladyman, Dr Stephen Primarolo, Dawn
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie Prosser, Gwyn
Laxton, Bob Purchase, Ken
Leslie, Christopher Rammell, Bill
Levitt, Tom Rapson, Syd
Lewis, Terry (Worsley) Raynsford, Nick
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Linton, Martin Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Livsey, Richard Rendel, David
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C) Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Lock, David
Love, Andrew Rogers, Allan
McAvoy, Thomas Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
McCabe, Steve Rooney, Terry
McCafferty, Ms Chris Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian (Makerfield) Rowlands, Ted
Roy, Frank
McDonagh, Siobhain Ruane, Chris
Macdonald, Calum Russell, Bob (Colchester)
McDonnell, John Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
McFall, John Sanders, Adrian
McGuire, Mrs Anne Sarwar, Mohammad
McIsaac, Shona Savidge, Malcolm
Mackinlay, Andrew Sawford, Phil
McNamara, Kevin Sedgemore, Brian
McNulty, Tony Shaw, Jonathan
MacShane, Denis Short, Rt Hon Clare
Mactaggart, Fiona Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
McWalter, Tony Skinner, Dennis
McWilliam, John Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Mallaber, Judy Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S) Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury) Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Martlew, Eric Southworth, Ms Helen
Maxton, John Spellar, John
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael Squire, Ms Rachel
Meale, Alan Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Michael, Rt Hon Alun Steinberg, Gerry
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley) Stevenson, George
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute) Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Miller, Andrew Stoate, Dr Howard
Mitchell, Austin Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Moffatt, Laura Stringer, Graham
Moonie, Dr Lewis Stuart, Ms Gisela
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N) Sutcliffe, Gerry
Morley, Elliot Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Mountford, Kali Temple-Morris, Peter
Mudie, George Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Mullin, Chris Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck) Tipping, Paddy
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood) Todd, Mark
Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen) Touhig, Don
Naysmith, Dr Doug Trickett, Jon
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks) Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
O'Hara, Eddie Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
O'Neill, Martin Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Öpik, Lembit Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Organ, Mrs Diana Tyler, Paul
Osborne, Ms Sandra Tynan, Bill
Palmer, Dr Nick Vis, Dr Rudi
Pearson, Ian Walley, Ms Joan
Perham, Ms Linda Ward, Ms Claire
Pickthall, Colin Wareing, Robert N
watts, David Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
White, Brian Wood, Mike
Whitehead, Dr Alan Woodward, Shaun
Wicks, Malcolm Worthington, Tony
Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W) Wray, James
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy) Tellers for the Ayes:
Wills, Michael Mr. Jim Dowd and
Winnick, David Mr. David Jamieson.
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Letwin, Oliver
Amess, David Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Lidington, David
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E) Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Baldry, Tony Llwyd, Elfyn
Beggs, Roy Loughton, Tim
Bercow, John Luff, Peter
Blunt, Crispin Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Body, Sir Richard MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Boswell, Tim McIntosh, Miss Anne
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Maclean, Rt Hon David
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia McLoughlin, Patrick
Brady, Graham Madel, Sir David
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Malins, Humfrey
Browning, Mrs Angela Maples, John
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Burnett, John Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Burns, Simon May, Mrs Theresa
Cash, William Moss, Malcolm
Chapman Sir sydney (Chipping Barnet) Nicholls, Patrick
Norman, Archie
Chope, Christopher O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Clappison, James Ottaway, Richard
Collins, Tim Page, Richard
Cormack, Sir Patrick Paice, James
Cran, James Pickles, Eric
Curry, Rt Hon David Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Davies, Quentin (Grantham) Prior, David
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice) Randall, John
Day, Stephen Redwood, Rt Hon John
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen Robathan, Andrew
Duncan, Alan Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Duncan Smith, Iain Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Evans, Nigel Ross, William (E Lond'y)
Forth, Rt Hon Eric Ruffley, David
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman St Aubyn, Nick
Fox, Dr Liam Sayeed, Jonathan
Fraser, Christopher Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Gale, Roger Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Gibb, Nick Soames, Nicholas
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Spicer, Sir Michael
Green, Damian Spring, Richard
Greenway, John Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Grieve, Dominic Steen Anthony
Gummer Rt Hon John
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie Streeter, Gary
Hammond, Philip Swayne, Desmond
Hawkins, Nick Syms, Robert
Hayes, John Tapsell, Sir Peter
Heald, Oliver Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Horam, John Taylor, Sir Teddy
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot) Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Hunter, Andrew Thompson, William
Jack, Rt Hon Michael Tredinnick, David
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Trend, Michael
Jenkin, Bernard Tyrie, Andrew
Key, Robert Walter, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater) Waterson, Nigel
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Wells, Bowen
Lansley, Andrew Whitney, Sir Raymond
Leigh, Edward Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann Tellers for the Noes:
Wilkinson. John Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown
Wilshire, David
Yeo, Tim and
Young, Rt Hon Sir George Mr. James Gray.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That the following provisions shall apply to the Armed Forces Bill: