HC Deb 29 January 2001 vol 362 cc124-39

7. 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 motion to vary or supplement this order for the purpose of allocating time to proceedings on consideration of any Lords amendments, or on any further messages from the Lords, and the question on any such motion shall be put forthwith.—[Mr. Mike Hall.]

Several hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

I call Mr. Heald.

Mr. Heald


Mr. Speaker

My apologies. I should have called Mr. Clarke.

10 pm

Mr. Charles Clarke

I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker. I apologise to you and to the House for not being quick enough off the mark.

The motion proposes that the Committee stage of the Bill should finish by Thursday 8 March. By suggesting that date, we believe that we have allowed adequate time in Committee—that is, a total of 16 sittings. Of course, the Programming Sub-Committee will consider the detailed timetable and may decide that it is necessary for the Committee to sit more frequently than usual.

The Programming Sub-Committee will also enable Conservative Members to decide to spend more time on the parts of the Bill that they most wish to discuss. Let me take this opportunity to reiterate what we see as one of the most positive aspects of the programming of debates: it offers the Opposition the opportunity to determine the structure and focus of the debate. We believe that the arrangement of business within the time allocated should be a matter principally for the Opposition and for Back-Bench Members.

It may be of interest to reflect on the experience of the programming of the Vehicles (Crime) Bill, on which I led for the Government. The Government's stance throughout, in the Programming Sub-Committee and elsewhere, was very simple: we wanted to have debates in which there was cogent argument and room for full discussion. We were less concerned with some of the techniques that certain Opposition Members sought to use and develop to take up time. Our experience was that the programme motion allowed the issues to be fully and cogently debated despite the substantial effort to consume time of some Opposition Members of the Committee, who preferred listening to their own voices to debating the points before them.

We believe that it should be for the Opposition to come forward and say, within the time available, "These are the issues that we most want to debate." I place it on record that we will listen and that we will honour that wish as we proceed.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate)

It has already been said in the House that Programming Sub-Committees are unaccountable. Their proceedings are not transparent and there is no record of them. Now the Minister is giving an account of what happened on the Vehicles (Crime) Bill as a way of explaining how everything is working perfectly. Is the hon. Gentleman now a convert to the idea of having a proper record of the proceedings?

Mr. Clarke

I did not suggest that it was working perfectly. In fact, the Government's view, as clearly set out, was that they were very happy with whatever arrangements were made in that regard. However, the rules of conduct of the Programming Sub-Committee were a matter for the Chair, and you, Mr. Speaker, have made your judgment on that. I think I am right in saying that the Chair's decision was that the Programming Sub-Committee was to be treated broadly speaking as a Select Committee.

I am saying that, above and beyond that, there is in my opinion an obligation on all members of the Committee to take the debate on the legislation seriously and make a distinction between points that are serious and substantive and those that are not. As Conservative Members in Committee and even the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) may concede from our experience of Bills in the last Session of Parliament, as a Minister I sought at all times to take seriously the serious points that were made and to accept amendments that were put forward, including those from the Opposition, if they seemed right. However, there is a distinction between serious debate, which the procedure is designed to encourage, and the kind of time-wasting filibustering that some Conservative Members sought to engage in.

Mr. Heald

Is not the problem that, according to the programme motion, on a substantial Bill with more than 130 clauses, we will have to finish consideration by 8.30 pm and Third Reading by 10 pm? That really is not good enough. If there were a statement on the day in question and the time was even further constrained, it would not leave us enough time to debate such a substantial Bill. Does the Minister not agree that, with a Bill of this size, it is inevitable that a significant number of amendments will be tabled? He has already mentioned that.

Mr. Clarke

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman, but I accept that his points are legitimate. By that, I mean that he is right to focus on the amount of time that will be taken up with genuine debate—and I believe that the hon. Gentleman will engage in serious debate rather than in the kind of filibustering that I have just described. He raises an important and legitimate point. However, when he asks whether I think we shall have enough time, my answer is that I think we shall.

Furthermore, we have the ability, through the Programming Sub-Committee procedure, to extend the amount of time available by increasing the frequency of our sittings or by whatever means may be necessary in order to achieve that end, if it is desirable. To give an example from our deliberations on the Vehicles (Crime) Bill, we reconvened the Programming Sub-Committee at one point during the Committee stage to change our timetable. That was entirely legitimate and was done with the agreement of all members of the Committee.

Mr. Malins

I want to make a serious point, and I hope that the Minister will forgive me for saying this. Will he accept that the Bill covers territory with which I am very familiar through my judicial work? Will he also accept that I cannot serve on the Committee because I am on the Chairmen's Panel? Thirdly, will he accept that I asked him a dozen questions during the course of this afternoon's debate, and that he has not been able to answer any of them? I appreciate that he might possibly write to me about them.

Does the Minister accept that someone in my position finds the prospect of so truncated a consideration of the Bill on Report quite impossible? I have at least a dozen amendments to table on Report which I cannot table in Committee, all of which will need the proper scrutiny of the House.

Mr. Clarke

I accept the hon. Gentleman's first two points, relating to his expertise and his membership of the Chairmen's Panel, and to the consequence of that membership on his ability to serve in Committee. As the hon. Gentleman was speaking, Mr. Speaker, I asked for and received your guidance as to whether people on the Chairmen's Panel could serve in Committee. You confirmed to me the view that the hon. Gentleman has expressed.

I can commit myself to answering in detail the points that the hon. Gentleman raised in debate this afternoon. I am sorry that I could not do so in the short time available for summation earlier. Secondly, I also guarantee that all the points that he raised will be addressed in Committee. If they are not addressed to his satisfaction, he may wish to table amendments at a later stage. However, I remain of the view that the amount of time allocated in the programme motion is perfectly sufficient to allow us to debate the issues at great length. I am therefore delighted to support the motion.

10.7 pm

Mr. Heald

The Opposition find this procedure unacceptable. Before Second Reading, the Government tabled a motion setting out how much time there would be for debate in Committee. At that point, we had heard neither the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) nor any of the range of views expressed in almost 20 other speeches made today.

The Bill clearly throws up a range of issues, including the practical issues about the way in which fixed-penalty notices will work, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Malins) brought his knowledge. The right hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) proved an expert on curfews and told the House how good they would be, despite the fact that not one has been granted under the present regime, which he introduced. A range of issues on civil rights, among other matters, was also raised.

What makes this programme motion even worse than the others that have gone before it is that, this time, the Government are seeking in advance to programme consideration and Third Reading. That has never been done before in a programme motion, and it should not happen. The idea that a Standing Committee's proceedings can be programmed without hon. Members' having heard the Second Reading debate is laughable. The idea that we can say how much time will be needed for consideration and Third Reading, when we do not have a clue what the Committee will throw up, is even worse. It is time for those who understand the procedures of the House in detail, and the usual channels, to reconsider the matter. How can it be right to programme proceedings when we do not know the ambit of debate? That is nonsense.

We know that a significant number of amendments to the Bill will be tabled on the range of issues outlined by my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon—issues relating to the scientists being persecuted at Huntingdon Life Sciences, and to other scientists referred to tonight. It seems daft to say, "Oh well, we haven't seen the amendments, but we know that we need 16 sittings." More than 16 sittings are provided for us to consider the Finance Bill, which is usually about the same length as this Bill, even though the range of issues considered by a Finance Bill Committee is in some ways narrower.

The Government are wrong to have tabled the motion. If consideration is taken on a day on which there is a statement, it may begin at five o'clock but it will still have to finish by 8.30 pm—even though the Bill deals with a range of issues such as civil rights, fixed-penalty notices, curfews and evidential requirements involved with disclosure of information. That is unrealistic and I ask the Minister to think again. The hon. Gentleman referred to the Vehicles (Crime) Bill—as he will remember, I complained loudly about the programme motion—and said, "Actually, you were right because we had to change the timetable mid-way through the proceedings." That represents a concession that the procedure is flawed.

Mr. Clarke

May I clarify that? We changed the timetable, but we did not lengthen it. The time allocated remained the same and we completed our debates within it, to the satisfaction of all sides.

Mr. Heald

But does not the Minister agree that the fact that the programme had to be changed while the Committee was in full flow showed that deciding all such matters at the outset is wrong? It is not in the Opposition's gift to say how long will be needed in Committee and how long will be needed for consideration and Third Reading. The Opposition used to have more locus and more ability to influence such matters. The change is bad for democracy.

This big Bill deals with many issues and it will take a long time to consider them thoroughly. As the Minister said, I am not one for filibustering, although I like to take him to task on the provisions in detail, but we simply cannot say at this stage that 16 sittings are enough; nor can we say that it is adequate—and I am sure it is not right—for consideration and Third Reading to take place on one curtailed day.

A considerable number of new clauses will be tabled on matters other than Huntingdon Life Sciences and its problems—on prisoners who have been released early, for example. [Interruption.] The Minister laughs, but that is a serious point. Large numbers of police officers are being assaulted and the people going to prison for such assaults are being released having served less than half their time. That is an insult to the police, who feel that early releases are bad for morale. The hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) originally agreed with the Minister on that matter but has been converted. It is time that the Minister also came round. Police morale is a serious issue and letting people who have assaulted officers out of prison early is an insult. The Minister can be fairly sure that there will be a new clause on that, because I have just tabled one. Similarly, he can be pretty sure that there will be a new clause on the important issue of the early release of child sex offenders, because I have just tabled one. There is a range of new clauses that will require debate.

We ought to reflect on the issue of modernisation. Is it progress to say that the Opposition cannot have the time they need to debate important issues? What could be more important than how we deal with the persecution of people in their own homes and how we tackle violence in our streets? Confidentiality and the Inland Revenue, documents that may help in huge investigations, and importing pornography are big issues; and it is not right for the Minister to guillotine proceedings, particularly as he always appears to enjoy engaging in debate. Why be so sparing with time?

Mr. Clarke

I do not know whether it would help the hon. Gentleman if I gave him the assurance that I gave the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) in connection with the Vehicles (Crime Bill); but in the event of serious debate of serious issues in Committee, if there is no attempt to filibuster and if we seem to be running short of time, I am prepared to commit myself to discussing with Opposition parties the possibility of reconvening the Programming Sub-Committee to establish how we can make time available.

Mr. Heald

I realise that the Minister feels he has made a great concession. That is marvellous for him, but we should not have to request time for debate from him; the Opposition should have a right to the time that they need to scrutinise the Government's legislation. It should indeed be a right, not a privilege. I made the same point when we discussed the Vehicles (Crime) Bill. "Modernisation" is a backward step if it means inadequate time for scrutiny.

In a way, it is typical of Labour to describe something so retrogressive as modernisation. If anything, it means returning to an era when there was no true democracy, and a Member could not argue his case. The whole principle is wrong. There is likely to be an election and the Bill may well not make the statute book, but we could at least do it the justice of debating each and every clause in detail.

Mr. Clarke

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman can refresh our memories. Was there any occasion in the 18 years during which his party was in government when it guillotined consideration of these matters, in Committee or at any other stage?

Mr. Heald

There were guillotines—no one would argue with that—and Labour Members often objected. It is rather sad when a Minister stands at the Dispatch Box and says "Oh, you were absolute shockers, and we are going to be worse." That is no way in which to govern the country sensibly.

The Government are developing a bad reputation. There were 118 amendments to the Bill that became the Freedom of Information Act 2000, 77 of which were not debated here. There were 268 amendments to what became the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, 47 of which were not debated here. There were 666 amendments to what became the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, 522 of which were not debated here. Those amendments were debated more extensively in the House of Lords, where people are not elected to represent the interests of electors, than here in the House of Commons, where we are all elected to come and do this job. Is it right for Labour Members, in the interests of finishing early or having an easy ride in debate, to deprive the Opposition of the time that is needed?

Let me make two more points. First, the Minister has made an offer regarding the Standing Committee, but what about Report and Third Reading? Not everyone can be on the Committee, but issues involving civil rights and the like are of great interest to members of all parties. It seems wrong that the debate on Report—when members of the Committee give the House their views, and others can consider what happened in Committee and present their own opinions—should be so curtailed. What account is being taken of all the Members who cannot be on the Committee?

Secondly, what about Back Benchers? True, the Minister and I, and doubtless a Whip from each side—perhaps more—will go into a huddle, and there will be no record of the proceedings. In Committee I may unburden myself a little, so that other Committee members know something of what happened. But the fact is that we shall be there making judgments on how long Back Benchers want to discuss particular issues in Committee, which is not an easy exercise.

When I was a silent one, I did quite a lot of trying to timetable debates involving the whole House—on, for instance, the Bills that became the Scotland Act 1998 and the Government of Wales Act 1998. We often found, with the best will in the world—having worked hard to decide how long was needed—that a Member from Scotland or Wales would have a perfectly legitimate point to make about a particular aspect of the legislation, and others would not be able to make their points. In a number of debates significant points could not be debated because we had not managed to secure the fingertip control of timing that we wanted. It is unfair to Back Benchers if a heavy-handed approach is taken.

I therefore ask the Minister whether it is not time to reconsider, to withdraw the programme motion and to allow matters to proceed as they used to in the good old days—when time was allowed seriously to debate the issues for as long as was warranted. Is not the motion a backward step, and should not the Government think again?

10.20 pm
Mr. Malins

This programme motion—I have not spoken to a programme motion before—is shameful. I hope that the Minister will be kind enough to listen to my arguments.

Never mind for now that the Minister and the Government have decided that the Committee should finish by 8 March—although I simply do not know where they got that date from. Let us consider how consideration on Report will operate. As described on the Order Paper, it seems that Report may last for less than four hours. The Bill has well over 130 clauses and various schedules. Moreover, it raises a great many issues.

The Minister will know that, today, on Second Reading, I spoke for 14 minutes and never strayed from the subject, focusing only on the Bill's first dozen or so clauses. He knows that the penalty issues—the so-called on-the-spot penalties—are themselves a fairly major topic that has to be examined very closely by people who know what they are talking about, but the Government are offering us only four hours to consider those provisions.

It is worse than that. As I said earlier, the Committee will include only three or four Opposition Members, each of whom may or may not have some expertise on the subject. Other Labour Members and Opposition Members will not be able to serve in Committee. Believe it or not, some of those hon. Members may have real expert knowledge of the subject. In my view, one of the great tragedies of this Chamber is the amount of our debate that consists of our doing no more than mouthing platitudes at one another or watching the clock until there is another vote. There may be another shout and another rampage, but where, oh where is the constructive, sensible thinking?

Today, the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) alluded to the fact that many hon. Members have some knowledge of a subject but that very rarely do they have the chance to share it. As he said, there are so many ways of approaching a Bill to make it better.

It is not many weeks since the House considered two quite important pieces of legislation—the Criminal Justice (Mode of Trial) (No. 2) Bill and the Football (Disorder) Act 2000, which had to do with jury trial and with preventing some football fans from going abroad. I may lack absolute knowledge of many subjects, but I worked very hard on those two Bills, preparing amendments for consideration on Report.

I thought that my amendments were worthy of debate, so I sat in the Chamber all day in the hope of speaking to them. I had not spoken in the House for weeks, but I wanted to comment on an issue about which I knew. Is anyone surprised to learn that our consideration was guillotined and that not one of my amendments was touched? That made me sad, not because I have that much great wisdom but because I had something to say on those matters. There are hon. Members who have something to say about the Criminal Justice and Police Bill.

So the Bill will be considered in Committee and the usual formalities will be observed. As we know, someone will say, "Please speak for 20 minutes." If another hon. Member asks me to speak for 20 minutes, I shall go mad. I may want to speak for 20 seconds, five minutes or 25 minutes. I want to speak about things that really matter. I do not mind instructions telling me to speak for 15 minutes, except that Labour Members have been told the same thing. What type of Chamber is this? How often do hon. Members with real expertise have a chance to make a difference? It is a tragedy.

Some hon. Members may want to table new clauses on Report. Some will have something positive to say about the remaining stages of the Bill. However, I know what will happen, as does the Minister. We will not have the time. What were we elected to this place for? Was I elected to go through the Lobbies night after night? Was I elected to be told to speak for 15 minutes? Was any Member to this place elected for that? It is sad, but many of us feel that we were.

The Minister knows as well as I do that four hours on Report may not be enough for the serious debate that the Bill deserves. To force us to complete the debate in four hours is to attack the rights of Back Benchers. It is sad that we have reached this stage, which is why I repeat that this is a shameful motion.

10.26 pm
Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall)

These programme motion debates are now colloquially referred to as "pot and kettle" debates, because so much time is spent trying to pretend that the sins of the previous regime somehow mitigate those of the present regime—or vice versa.

There is however a serious issue here. The motion is defective in two important respects. The Minister made the best of a bad brief, but frankly, had he been a member of the Modernisation Committee, he would have known that his explanation this evening was misleading. The Modernisation Committee wished to make it certain that Opposition parties and Back Benchers on both sides had a real opportunity to debate issues in a Bill that were important to them.

The Government have a right to expect that their legislation will get through in due course, assuming that they maintain their majority in the House, and they may seek to put a marker down for when they want the Committee to be completed. However, they do not have a right to determine precisely what debate takes place in the intervening period.

In advance of the Second Reading of the Bill, it is ludicrous to determine precisely how much time will be required for Report and Third Reading. If the Minister made a genuine concession just now by saying that he was prepared to listen to arguments from other parts of the House about the progress of the Bill, let him say clearly now from the Dispatch Box that he is also prepared to take back to his colleagues the proposal that Report and Third Reading may also have to be extended if necessary.

This is a Bill different from many of the others that have been programmed in recent weeks. First and foremost, there has been no preliminary discussion, draft Bill or inquiry by a Committee. The House has never looked at most of the issues before. Secondly, there are huge issues that are not even in the Bill, yet which the Minister has said he intends to try to include in it. I know that amendments have already been taken to the Clerk for tabling. When preparing the programme motion, how did the Minister and his colleagues know how many amendments were to be tabled or how significant they would be? How many new clauses will be tabled by the Government to deal with issues that are outwith the Bill?

This is very much a tentative Bill; it is not by any means a complete work. There are already in excess of 132 clauses. I wager that there will be a considerable increase in that number and, if anything, we may find that the existing clauses are subject to substantial Government amendment.

The timing is absurd. To table a programme motion even before the Second Reading debate has taken place is to make an absurd presumption about the views of both Opposition Members and Government Back Benchers. I serve on the Selection Committee. On Wednesday, we will appoint the members of a Committee to consider the Bill. We will look at the contributions made by hon. Members on Second Reading. Without knowing who the Committee members will be, how can we pre-determine how they will want to handle the Bill? How can they decide how they want to handle it before they know who they are?

There is no practical reason why the Government should continue to insist on taking programme motions on the same day as Second Reading. It flies in the face of common sense and practical reality. Incidentally, if the Conservatives have not decided whether to force a vote on Second Reading, we can end up with very late votes on programme motions, directly contrary to the Modernisation Committee's intentions of trying to ensure that main votes are taken at 10 pm and not thereafter.

The motion is a bad one, and I hope that the Minister will withdraw it.

10.31 pm
Mr. Clappison

I agree with the description applied to the motion by my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Malins): it is shameful. He made more eloquently than I could the point that the amount of time allotted for Report will prevent many of us from contributing at that stage.

That also casts a reflection on how the Government intend to approach the Committee stage. Whoever is in government, Ministers will rarely accept in Committee amendments tabled by the Opposition. They more commonly say that they will reflect on the point and perhaps table an amendment on Report. The shortness of the time allowed for Report stage means that it will be very difficult to do that.

The Minister spoke about past guillotines. I cannot recall an occasion when a criminal justice Bill of this length has had such a short Report stage. For example, I remember that the then Opposition spent several days on Report on the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill of 1994, introducing matters such as the right to silence—an important and sensitive subject that it was right to debate—and it is interesting to see that, in government, Labour has gone back on what it said then and abolished the right to silence for 10 to 14-year-olds.

The motion suggests to me that the Government are not interested in listening to argument and certainly not interested in the details of the legislation, which is being pushed contemptuously through the House. It suggests that what really matters to them is not getting the detail right so that the legislation works in practice but all the headlines that were generated some weeks ago, before the Queen's Speech, when Cabinet Minister after Cabinet Minister was wheeled out to talk about the yob culture.

We even heard the right hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson), when he was still one of the band of brothers, saying that the Bill was an attack on yob culture. The only time I have heard him saying something deranged is when he said that the Government were winning the war on crime. The rest of the time, he has made perfect sense.

This contemptuous motion says all that we need to know about the Government's attitude towards policy, towards the House and towards democracy.

10.34 pm
Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot)

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison). Indeed, I agree with all the comments by Opposition Members, including the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler), about the programme motion.

I was unfortunately unable to attend the whole debate, but I heard some of the Home Secretary's remarks on the issue that worries many hon. Members: the attacks on scientific workers who practise around the country. The problem affects many constituencies, especially that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major). When my right hon. Friend mentioned his anxieties about Huntingdon Life Sciences, the Home Secretary was good enough to say that he hoped to table amendments in Committee to deal with the serious problem that affects so many ordinary people around the country who feel intimidated. The headquarters of Novartis is in my constituency. I met the staff on Friday, and they are worried about what is happening.

However, the Home Secretary said that he could not give an undertaking to table amendments in Committee that are capable of dealing with that genuine problem. The public expect Parliament to respond to the serious problem of intimidation. If, for good and valid reasons, the Home Secretary is unable to table well drafted amendments in Committee because the Government have so programmed that stage of our proceedings that it must end by 8 March, there will be no other opportunity to table them. The idea that the Home Secretary will be able to table them on Report is unrealistic. If Report lasts only hours, and there is a statement on the relevant day, the debate will be truncated even more. We will then be in the farcical position that, although the Home Secretary has told the House that he wants to table the amendments and hopes to do so in Committee, after failing to do that, he is unable to do so on Report.

The Minister is a reasonable man; we believe that he is being groomed for even higher office. Would it not be bizarre if a matter of such importance could not be decided or even properly debated in the House because tonight the Government have hamstrung themselves with a timetable motion which will prevent a serious matter from being resolved in the House? It would therefore be the responsibility of the other place to try to resolve the matter. I have great confidence in the ability of the hereditary peers to do their constitutional duty. I believe that immense wisdom reposes in their Lordships, and I have no doubt that they would be able to deal with the matter. [Interruption.] The Minister says that they are enabled to do so by birth. That is true, but they also have the wisdom of experience.

Mr. Malins

They are independent.

Mr. Howarth

My hon. Friend is right.

It is not good enough for the Government to table such a motion. It is inconsistent with the Home Secretary's earlier commitment to deal with the matter to which I referred. The Government are curtailing the debate so that even if they are able to table amendments in Committee, there will be only four hours on Report for other hon. Members who are not members of the Committee to comment on important measures for dealing with intimidation at Huntingdon Life Sciences, and also with the hunt saboteurs who go round disrupting hunting in this country.

Mr. Heald

Does my hon. Friend agree that some Members whose constituents are affected—perhaps even our right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major)—will not be able to sit on the Committee, but will be desperately keen to attend the debate on Report—[HoN. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] It will not be possible for every Member with a constituency interest in the matter to be a member of the Committee, so it would be wrong if they did not have the opportunity on Report to propose new clauses or amendments on further points that needed to be dealt with.

Mr. Howarth

My hon. Friend is entirely right. The case that the measure is shameful is overwhelmingly made. The motion does not even meet the Government's own requirements; it puts a straitjacket on their intentions for the Bill. It undermines one's confidence in the Government's commitment to address the serious issues.

If we can deal with the problems for scientists on Report, I hope that I shall be able to raise the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act 1875—many of whose provisions could well do with re-enactment in the Bill.

10.41 pm
Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate)

The manner of the programme motion is not just shameful—it is scandalous. The motion brings the House into grave disrepute—as do all its predecessors during this Session.

It is an example of the complete contempt in which the Executive hold the legislature that a representative of the Executive can tell the House that he thinks there is enough time for the Committee to discuss the Bill. In a fit of seeming generosity, the Minister of State responded to an intervention by saying that, of course, if he considered that there had been serious discussion in Committee of the proposed amendments, he would generously be prepared to reconvene the Programming Sub-Committee to see whether a few more sittings could be squeezed in for the House to consider the measure. That is an appalling example of an overweening Executive, supported by legislators on the Labour Benches who betray their duty to the people whom they represent.

The motion is a scandal. We do not yet know who is to be appointed to the Standing Committee.

Mr. Charles Clarke

Does the hon. Gentleman concede that only six Back-Bench Conservative Members contributed to the Second Reading debate?

Mr. Blunt

I am glad that the Minister made that point. He draws attention to the extraordinary fact that the number of contributions made in the debate by Members on both sides of the House reflects the relative number of Members elected to the Chamber—in other words, there were 17 speeches from Labour Members and 10 from Opposition Members, of which six were made by Conservatives. That is almost a precise reflection of the make-up of the House of Commons.

For it to be a matter of such extraordinary note that Government Back Benchers contribute to a debate in the same ratio as their election to this place shows what an idle lot they normally are, because they do not turn up to represent the interests of their own constituents. Now that we have timetabled programmes for Standing Committees, they have no excuse not to make contributions. It can make no difference to the passage of the Bill. Labour Members should be able to turn up and speak on the interests that they are supposed to represent rather than sitting in Standing Committee like a lot of jellyfish, saying nothing that would disturb the Executive.

The problem is that there is a large number of newly elected Labour Members who see their duty as simply to support the Executive. In this Parliament, legislators are betraying their duty to the people who elected them—they are betraying the House of Commons. These programme motions and the contempt they show for our legislative duty are a prime example of that. Such motions should earn the Executive the calumny that they so thoroughly deserve.

10.44 pm
Mr. Charles Clarke

There is, of course, room for argument as to whether there should be programming. As hon. Members have pointed out, it is a serious debate and it divides the House. In my opinion, and that of the Government, programming allows more contributions from the House than would otherwise be made. That key point needs to be understood. I believe that the current system is vastly superior to what went before, when debates were curtailed and guillotined all the way through. As it happens, I respect the contributions made by the hon. Member for Woking (Mr. Malins)—

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

The House divided: Ayes 286, Noes 137.

Division No. 88] [10.45 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Ainger, Nick Davis, Rt Hon Terry
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) (B'ham Hodge H)
Allen, Graham Dean, Mrs Janet
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale) Denham, John
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Ashton, Joe Doran, Frank
Austin, John Dowd, Jim
Bailey, Adrian Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Banks, Tony Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Barnes, Harry Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Bayley, Hugh Ellman, Mrs Louise
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Ennis, Jeff
Begg, Miss Anne Etherington, Bill
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough) Field, Rt Hon Frank
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C) Fisher, Mark
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield) Fitzpatrick, Jim
Bennett, Andrew F Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Benton, Joe Flint, Caroline
Bermingham, Gerald Flynn, Paul
Best, Harold Follett, Barbara
Betts, Clive Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Blackman, Liz Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Blizzard, Bob Foulkes, George
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Gapes, Mike
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)
Brinton, Mrs Helen Gerrard, Neil
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Gibson, Dr Ian
Browne, Desmond Godsiff, Roger
Buck, Ms Karen Goggins, Paul
Burden, Richard Golding, Mrs Llin
Burgon, Colin Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Butler, Mrs Christine Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Caborn, Rt Hon Richard Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth) Hain, Peter
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Campbell-Savours, Dale Hanson, David
Caplin, Ivor Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Healey, John
Clapham, Michael Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields) Hendrick, Mark
Clark, Dr Lynda Hepburn, Stephen
(Edinburgh Pentlands) Heppell, John
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S) Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge) Hill, Keith
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S) Hinchliffe, David
Clelland, David Hoey, Kate
Clwyd, Ann Hoon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Coffey, Ms Ann Hope, Phil
Cohen, Harry Hopkins, Kelvin
Coleman, Iain Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E)
Colman, Tony Howells, Dr Kim
Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston) Hoyle, Lindsay
Corbett, Robin Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Corbyn, Jeremy Hughes, Kevin (DoncasterN)
Cousins, Jim Humble, Mrs Joan
Cox, Tom Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Crausby, David Iddon, Dr Brian
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley) Illsley, Eric
Cryer, John (Hornchurch) Ingram, Rt Hon Adam
Cummings, John Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
(Copeland) Johnson, Miss Melanie
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S) (Welwyn Hatfield)
Dalyell, Tam Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Darvill, Keith Joyce, Eric
Davidson, Ian Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston) Pond, Chris
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth) Pope, Greg
Kemp, Fraser Pound, Stephen
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree) Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Khabra, Piara S Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Kilfoyle, Peter Prescott, Rt Hon John
Kingham, Ms Tess Primarolo, Dawn
Kumar, Dr Ashok Purchase, Ken
Ladyman, Dr Stephen Quinn, Lawrie
Lammy, David Rapson, Syd
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie Raynsford, Nick
Lepper, David Robertson, John
Leslie, Christopher (Glasgow Anniesland)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Levitt, Tom Rogers, Allan
Lewis, Terry (Worsley) Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen Rooney, Terry
Linton, Martin Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C) Rowlands, Ted
Lock, David Roy, Frank
Love, Andrew Ruddock, Joan
McAvoy, Thomas Ryan, Ms Joan
McCabe, Steve Salter, Martin
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian Sarwar, Mohammad
(Makerfield) Savidge, Malcolm
McDonagh, Siobhain Shaw, Jonathan
Macdonald, Calum Sheerman, Barry
McDonnell, John Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
McFall, John Short, Rt Hon Clare
McGuire, Mrs Anne Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
McIsaac, Shona Singh, Marsha
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary Skinner, Dennis
Mackinlay, Andrew Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
McNamara, Kevin Smith, Angela (Basildon)
McNulty, Tony Smith, Miss Geraldine
MacShane, Denis (Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Mactaggart, Fiona Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
McWalter, Tony Snape, Peter
McWilliam, John Spellar, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice Squire, Ms Rachel
Mallaber, Judy Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S) Steinberg, Gerry
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Stevenson, George
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Martlew, Eric Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Maxton, John Stinchcombe, Paul
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Meale, Alan Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Merron, Gillian Stringer, Graham
Michael, Rt Hon Alun Stuart, Ms Gisela
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley) Sutcliffe, Gerry
Milburn, Rt Hon Alan Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Miller, Andrew (Dewsbury)
Mitchell, Austin Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Moffatt, Laura Temple-Morris, Peter
Moran, Ms Margaret Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N) Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Morley, Ellitot Timms, Stephen
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle Tipping, Paddy
(B'ham Yardley) Todd, Mark
Mountford, Kali Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Mudie, George Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Mullin, Chris Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck) Tynan, Bill
Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen) Walley, Ms Joan
Naysmith, Dr Doug Ward, Ms Claire
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton) Wareing, Robert N
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks) Watts, David
O'Hara, Eddie White, Brian
Olner, Bill Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Osborne, Ms Sandra (Swansea W)
Pearson, Ian Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Pike, Peter L Winnick, David
Plaskitt, James Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wood, Mike Tellers for the Ayes:
Worthington, Tony
Wray, James Mr. David Jamieson and Mr. Don Touhig.
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Amess, David Kirkwood, Archy
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E) Leigh, Edward
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Letwin, Oliver
Baldry, Tony Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Ballard, Jackie Lidington, David
Bell, Martin (Tatton) Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Bercow, John Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Beresford, Sir Paul Loughton, Tim
Blunt, Crispin Luff, Peter
Boswell, Tim MacGregor, Rt Hon John
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 Mates, Michael
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) May, Mrs Theresa
Burnett, John Moss, Malcolm
Burns, Simon Nicholls, Patrick
Burstow, Paul Norman, Archie
Cash, William O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Chapman, Sir Sydney Öpik, Lembit
(Chipping Barnet) Ottaway, Richard
Clappison, James Page, Richard
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh) Paice, James
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth Pickles, Eric
(Rushcliffe) Portillo, Ftt Hon Michael
Collins, Tim Prior, David
Cotter, Brian Randall, John
Cran, James Redwood, Rt Hon John
Davies, Quentin (Grantham) Rendel, David
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice) Robathan, Andrew
Duncan, Alan Ruffley, David
Duncan Smith, Iain Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Fabricant, Michael St Aubyn, Nick
Fearn, Ronnie Sanders, Adrian
Flight, Howard Sayeed, Jonathan
Forth, Rt Hon Eric Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Soames, Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Fraser, Christopher Spicer, Sir Michael
Garnier, Edward Spring, Richard
George, Andrew (St Ives) Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Gibb, Nick Stunell, Andrew
Gill, Christopher Swayne, Desmond
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl Syms, Robert
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Tapsell, Sir Peter
Gray, James Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Green, Damian Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Greenway, John Taylor, Sir Teddy
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Hammond, Philip Tonge, Dr Jenny
Hancock, Mike Townend, John
Harris, Dr Evan Tredinnick, David
Harvey, Nick Trend, Michael
Hawkins, Nick Tyler, Paul
Hayes, John Tyrie, Andrew
Heald, Oliver Walter, Robert
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David Waterson, Nigel
Horam, John Webb, Steve
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Wells, Bowen
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot) Whitney, Sir Raymond
Hughes, Simon (Southward N) Whittingdale, John
Hunter, Andrew Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Wilkinson, John
Jenkin, Bernard Willetts, David
Key, Robert Wilshire, David
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton) Tellers for the Noes:
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Yeo, Tim Mr. Stephen Day and Mr. Keith Simpson.
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Question accordingly agreed to.