HC Deb 27 March 2001 vol 365 cc918-44 9.59 pm
Mr. Rooker

I beg to move,

That the following provisions shall apply to the Social Security Fraud Bill [Lords]:

I have not moved a programme motion before, so I was briefed to the gunwales; we have a brilliant civil service—it is excellent. I was sent several speeches made on previous motions and I wrote back with a little billet-doux pointing out that, by the way, I am a Member of Parliament and I attend the House even when it is not DSS time. I have listened to at least five programme motion debates—the full 45 minutes—although, looking around the Chamber, it seems that the usual suspects are not present. However, I know almost all the points that they would make.

I take the matter seriously. I shall not tell the House that we shall consider no amendments—I shall not say that. I shall not tell the House that we want to rush the measure through. Although the Bill has been debated in the other place, I thought that the original dates proposed for its proceedings here were a bit unreasonable, so—considering the dates on which Easter falls—I took the view that Maundy Thursday—[Interruption.] Maundy Thursday is on 12 April, so presumably the House is sitting; if it is not we shall make arrangements for it to do so. Maundy Thursday counts as a non-qualifying day in the election timetable—as we all know. It is one of those non-days, but it could still be a sitting day in this place.

So, on the reasonable assumption that we shall begin the Committee stage next Tuesday at 10.30 am—I am looking forward to that—we can probably knock the Bill off in eight sittings. We shall be able to deal with many of the detailed points made today; I am not denigrating them by suggesting that they were Committee points. We can hold useful debates during the period allocated.

Given the scale of the Bill, the number of sittings is justified. Many hon. Members say that it is a small Bill; some have said that we are taking draconian powers. We certainly accept that the Bill has been given a fair wind. On behalf of my colleagues and those people who have worked on the measure, I am extremely grateful for the general good will in response to it. We have to make it work. That is true. It is an extra weapon in the armoury for the fight against social security fraud. It certainly deserves full scrutiny by the House—this is where I dig myself in—if, of course, the House allows that. I ask the House to support the motion.

10.2 pm

Mrs. Lait

Like the Minister of State, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), I, too, have listened to many programme motion debates. It is unfortunate for him that this will be his first and last—or perhaps penultimate—such appearance.

The Opposition are thoroughly against the whole system of programme motions. In many cases, the inability of the House to consider legislation thoroughly because of this new system will create a constitutional problem that will be extremely difficult to deal with; that will come home to roost and the country will be the poorer for it.

As the right hon. Gentleman said, the Bill is broadly welcomed on both sides of the House, but it might not go far enough; we want to consider many issues, as was clear from many of the Second Reading speeches. However, the motion highlights the absurdity inherent in the new system.

Like me, the Minister sat through the proceedings on the Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Act 2000; the Under-Secretary of State for Social Security, the hon. Member for Wallasey (Angela Eagle), sat through the proceedings on the Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999 as well as the Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Act; the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Kali Mountford) sat through the proceedings on both of those Acts; and although the hon. Member for Doncaster, North (Mr. Hughes) will, unfortunately, not be joining us this time, he was also in attendance during the proceedings on those Acts and played a useful role. The cast of characters for the Bill's Standing Committee will, I suspect, be similar to that for all those Acts—

Mr. Willetts

The old lags.

Mrs. Lait

Indeed. I should have thought that the old lags would realise that we have always worked well together in deciding the end dates for Committees and in ensuring that we stick to our agreements. The Minister will remember the help that we gave when there was a bit of an upset during the passage of the Bill that became the Child Support, Pensions and Social Security Act 2000, so I find it sad and absurd that we have to have a programme motion on this Bill.

The motion provides for four days in Committee—eight sittings. We shall either fill those sittings without difficulty or not sit at all. The apparent generosity of the motion leads me to three different conclusions about what the Government have decided. They may be planning to table a lot of Government amendments, which will take a long time to debate. They may intend to encourage their Back Benchers to contribute in a way that we have not seen in the past. Or, may I suggest a cynical calculation on the election date and that we shall not even go into Committee? That, I am afraid, is the only conclusion that I can draw from the mere fact that a programme motion has to be tabled on a Bill of this nature, which is largely uncontroversial, when we have in the past always agreed happily to end dates and other issues regarding the management of a Bill.

We will, as we promised, table amendments to satisfy ourselves that these issues have been thought through. The Minister says that the Information Commissioner has no concerns. I accept that the commissioner has no concerns, but I should like to Know why she now has none, when originally she had many.

The Opposition find it absurd and sad that a Bill like this, which was amended satisfactorily in the House of Lords, should be subjected to a programme motion, as is the usual draconian behaviour of the Government. It is completely unacceptable.

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham)

Does my hon. Friend think that there is now a grave danger that it would take longer to see the Bill through because there is a guillotine; and has she noticed that, ever since the Government tried to modernise, we have gone home later in the evening than we used to before modernisation? Does not that show that the Government are totally incompetent even at reforming the House of Commons?

Mrs. Lait

What else could I do but agree with my right hon. Friend? I do not think that any Bill in whose scrutiny I take part lasts any longer then it needs to, because I do not believe in extending debate any longer than necessary, but 1 think it is very sad that when we have established a good working relationship, this draconian measure should be imposed on us. In the long run, that Government will come to recognise as much as we do the damage that they have done to the constitution.

10.7 pm

Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall)

The hon. Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait) seems to be assuming that the House will be dissolved shortly. Of course, I do not make any such assumption. It could be not 12 days but 12 months before there is a Dissolution, so I shall not make the assumption apparently made by the hon. Lady and other Member including my hon. Friend the Member for Northavon (Mr. Webb), that we have heard the swan song of the Minister of State, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker). I hope that we have not. If we have, though, perhaps I may take the opportunity to pay tribute to the contribution that he has made to the House in many capacities.

I had the pleasure of shadowing the right hon. Gentleman when he was with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and I have the greatest respect for his parliamentary talents. I thought that he introduced the programme motion with consummate modesty and characteristic glee because it looked as though it would not be necessary, so there may be something in the timetable to which the hon. Member for Beckenham referred.

I will not make the assumption that this programme motion is purely academic. Its detail does not present a great problem for us, whether or not the timetable is as supposed. However, on the principle of the way in which these programme motions are still coming before the House, I share the views of many other Members present that these motions are total nonsense, even when they are acceptable in their detail.

I shall let the House into a secret. Tomorrow afternoon I shall attend the meeting of the Committee of Selection, at which we shall decide which Members of the House are to sit on this Committee. Some would think that other people should take that decision, but it will be taken by that Committee.

I can tell the House that more hon. Members will be appointed to the Standing Committee than have attended most of the debate on Second Reading, because I was here and saw it. In the middle of that debate, nine Members were present, and because I was one of them and I will certainly not appoint myself to the Committee, only eight could be eligible to serve on it. It goes without saying that the hon. Members who spoke this afternoon were not necessarily those who will take part in the Committee.

It also goes without saying that the hon. Members who must surely take ownership of the way in which the Committee undertakes its business and those who will decide how best to consider the detail, to which many references were made in the debate on Second Reading, are the members of that Committee. Therefore, for the programme motion to be tabled even before those Members have been appointed to the Committee is obviously absurd.

I can also tell the House, without revealing any great secret between the usual channels or breaking Select Committee confidences, that the Modernisation Committee will consider programme motions tomorrow. I think that that is probably widely known. Given the speech made by the hon. Member for Beckenham from the Conservative Front Bench, I hope that her colleagues on that Committee will support sensible moves to get the proposal back on track.

I hope that the hon. Lady, who said that the motion was draconian, will recall that the right hon. Member for East Devon (Sir P. Emery), who I regret is not in his usual place, made the original suggestion that such programme motions should be introduced. He is the godfather of programme motions. The fact that the godchild has gone somewhat astray in recent months should not blind those on the Conservative Front Bench to the fact that, in the original idea, there was a very good principle at stake. It was simply that the Government of the day. assuming that they could command a majority in Me House, had a right to expect Committees to deal with legislation in good time and to set the end date.

Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire)

Says who?

Mr. Tyler

The hon. Gentleman was not a Member of the previous Parliament, so he has no experience of Conservative Governments, but I can assure him that they made exactly the same assumption. They assumed that, if they had a majority in the House, they had a right to expect that their Bills would reach the statute book. That is parliamentary democracy. However, it has become increasingly obvious that the management of the individual issues of importance are properly discussed with the Opposition parties.

The Opposition parties have a perfect right to decide what are the principal concerns that they believe should be addressed in the debate and by Division. It is also true that Back Benchers on both sides have a right to expect that that scrutiny will take place in a managed and sensible way. That was the original principle of programme motions, as suggested by the right hon. Member for East Devon in his previous capacity of Chairman of the Select Committee on Procedure. I hope that we shall make some progress. We could be here for another 12 months. I do not say that that is likely, but it is possible, and we certainly cannot continue with programme motions in their current form.

The Minister, in winding up the debate on Second Reading and in moving the programme motion, said that there is widespread support in the House, throughout all parties, for the objectives in the Bill, but he also said, very fairly, that much of its detail will require careful consideration to get right. The problem that we face is clearly gigantic. In that context and, I hope, with the support of the House, this programme motion may not be objectionable, but I still believe that it is completely ludicrous in principle that we should decide how a Committee should conduct its business even before it is appointed. I hope very much that, before many days are out, we shall improve the procedure.

10.14 pm
Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne)

I listened carefully to what the Minister had to say before deciding whether to speak in the debate, but something that he said made it important for me to do so. If I heard him correctly, he said that eight sittings ought to be enough "to knock off' the Bill. The assumption that we are here only to knock things off for the Minister's convenience and that what we might think, say or do really does not matter shows almost breathtaking arrogance and a contempt for democracy. With that slip of the tongue, the right hon. Gentleman showed that, although this is the first time that he has introduced a programme motion, he instinctively understands the nature of the beast. When he reflects in the morning on the attitude that he has taken, I hope that he will feel ashamed of himself.

When the Minister said that the civil servants had briefed him, he explained to the House that he did not need a briefing because he was a Member of Parliament. If he were a real parliamentarian who believed in the House and all that it stands for, and if he were a democrat who believed in the democracy that this country enjoys, he would have kept out of this debate on the programme motion. He should not be proud of the fact that it is the first time that he has introduced such a motion; had he been a real parliamentarian, he would have retired from the House never having moved one. He would have said to himself, "This is an affront to Parliament and the way in which we run our democracy."

The right hon. Gentleman faces a problem even though he boasted to us that he had heard it all before. He said that he had been told what to expect. Unfortunately, however good his civil servants are, they did not brief him about what I might say. They will not have found a speech from me on a programme motion. There is a always a surprise in store—even at the end of the right hon. Gentleman's parliamentary career.

The Minister may have thought that he would get off lightly tonight. He looked around and said something about the usual suspects. It should not be a case of the usual suspects; all 659 Members of the House should be affronted by programme motions. Everyone who believes in democracy should be one of the usual suspects.

Mr. Redwood

Is my hon. Friend surprised that Ministers show such contempt for the House by introducing programme motions, given that they are led by a Prime Minister who hardly ever votes in the House and who has the worst voting record by a long way of any Prime Minister that any of us can remember? Does not such complete contempt for the parliamentary and democratic process come from the top?

Mr. Wilshire

My right hon. Friend is correct. I am sure that the Minister has read the briefings that he has been given and he will have seen that many Members consider the Prime Minister's treatment of us and of parliamentary democracy to be a disgrace. The Minister will have read that, and I hope that he has taken that point to heart. I suspect that,if he were being frank, he would say that he agreed, because in many respects he is a genuine parliamentarian who believes in this place—or, at least, he did until he took the Queen's shilling and came here to spout out such undemocratic nonsense.

Madam Deputy Speaker

Order. May I remind the hon. Gentleman that we are debating the programme motion? Will he confine his remarks to that?

Mr. Wilshire

Yes, of course I will, Madam Deputy Speaker. By way of introduction, I was responding to the Minister's comments. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman was talking about the motion or about other things, but I accept what you say and I shall move on.

The Minister said that, as far as he could see, the Committee might want to sit on Maundy Thursday. I do not think that it will, but it is possible that the Prime Minister might put the country and not his party interest first and deal with the things that matter. Even if he did that, we would probably still not be here on Maundy Thursday, given the way in which the House has organised its business in the past. It would be helpful, therefore, if the Minister could tell us what he proposes to do replace the sitting that could take place on 12 April—or does he expect members of the Committee to attend even though the House is in recess? We should know.

I accept that, in some respects, in providing eight sittings for a Bill such as this, the motion is not as mean and nasty as some previous programme motions have been. As my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait) said, one has to ask why. If the Bill can be knocked off quickly because it has been considered in the other place and is relatively non-controversial, why do we need eight sittings?

Why do we need a programme motion? What has happened to the principle that if one wants to be generous and reasonable, in the first instance one discusses the matter through the usual channels to see whether common sense will prevail? As I understand it, common sense would have prevailed in this case and there would have been no need for a programme motion. However, we have now got to the stage where the Government could not care less whether there is any common sense to be had from Conservative Members. They just go in with their boots on without even bothering to find out whether there could be agreement. That tells us a great deal about their approach to the House.

We must ask ourselves why, if the Bill is not controversial, we have been given eight sittings. My hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham said that it did not matter, and the Government could have given us 800 sittings because after next week we will not be here to worry about it. That is probably the explanation, but I guess that the Minister knows no more than we do because the Prime Minister runs these matters in a dictatorial fashion and probably will not consult him. Nevertheless, it is possible that we will be here after next week—a Government who cared about the nation might see their term through.

Let us assume for the moment that we will be here after next week. I wonder whether my hon. Friend is absolutely right and the Government have something up their sleeves. If we cannot work out why eight sittings are necessary, perhaps the Government are concealing something from us and at the very last minute they will table a large number of amendments. When I was listening to my hon. Friend's explanation, it crossed my mind that several Labour Back Benchers may have worked out which of their Front—Bench colleagues will shortly lose their sears and want to use the Committee to make a bid for an Opposition spokesman's job. That might explain why the Minister of State moved the programme motion—it is a chance for him to strut the stage and to point out that, in opposition, he could do a useful job.

Another possibility that occurred to me is that by setting a limit, even a generous one of eight sittings, the Government are saying that they will look only for as much fraud as they can fit into a convenient time before they treat Parliament as a rubber stamp. It does not matter how many good suggestions are made, how many reasonable amendments are tabled or how many people think up new ways of bringing even more fraudsters to book if those factors cannot be tackled in the number of sittings suggested by the Minister. They could not care less about fraud if it does not fit.

The Minister explained why having eight sittings was a particularly good idea, but he did not even mention Report. If I understand the Order Paper correctly, it suggests that the Report stage will be brought to an end at 9 o'clock on the day on which it starts. Presumably, if we do not have the general election that the Labour party seems to want for its own selfish ends—[Laughter.] The laughter tells us a great deal. Labour Members will be laughing on the other side of their face after they have called an election—I will tell you that for free, Madam Deputy Speaker.

If we get to the Report stage, it is likely to be in mid-April, although it is difficult to say because we have not been given a date We will have a maximum of five hours for it, but if my guess about the date is correct, the shambolic way in which the Government have failed to tackle foot and mouth disease means that we will have another interminable statement from the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food or perhaps the Prime Minister will grace us with his presence because, by then, he will have lost confidence in all his Ministers and will have to do everything himself.

Let us assume that we have another statement on the day on which the Report stage is taken. I noticed this afternoon that we were still wending our weary way through statements after 5 o'clock. That means that it does not matter how many amendments or new clauses are tabled on Report, because by the time the Minister has opened the debate and waffled on for ages, about an hour will have gone by, which will leave Back Benchers about an hour in which to say something before the winding-up speeches. That would be an undemocratic Report stage. It is pointless for hon. Members to give any thought to it if it can run for just three hours and Front-Bench spokesmen want to take time over it.

This is the Minister's first outing in a programme motion debate and he should be ashamed. It is a pity that he has not been given the opportunity to leave the House without getting his hands mucky in an undemocratic and unreasonable process. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood) said, the right hon. Gentleman could have gone home earlier had it not been for his Government colleagues.

Programme motions are part of the great modernisation process to allow hon. Members to go home earlier, because if they stayed too long they might have to take this place seriously. The Government have bungled that process. Not only does the Minister have to come here and dirty his hands, but he has to suffer the Government's incompetence. Instead of modernising, they make matters worse. I am sorry for the Minister, who could have left Parliament at the election without joining in an undemocratic procedure and adding his four pennyworth to this incompetent Government, whom we shall shortly remove.

10.26 pm
Mr. Lilley

Like the Minister of State and my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire), this is my maiden speech in a programme motion debate. I am puzzled about why a motion has been tabled to end the Committee stage by Maundy Thursday. If the Prime Minister intends to have an election, there is no reason to table such an insulting idea. He could at least pretend that that is not the case by giving us ample time to consider the Bill. However, instead of letting us have holy week off and completing our deliberations after Easter, he has decided to insult us. Perhaps he is not going ahead with the election but has still decided that the Committee must finish by Maundy Thursday without saying why.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham)

Is not the Government's difficulty compounded by the fact that yesterday's timetable motion on the Adoption and Children Bill gave an exit date of 12 June?

Mr. Lilley

Indeed. The Government compound absurdity with absurdity. Why must the Committee conclude by Maundy Thursday? Will that give us time to get the answers to the unanswered questions that my hon. Friends and I raised in detail? In an otherwise admirable summing up, the Minister, in what is possibly his swansong in a Second Reading debate, did not answer my question about whether a study has been conducted of the savings that were made from the Social Security Administration (Fraud) Act 1997, which I introduced. That was the precursor to this Bill and gave data-matching powers for data within government. Only when we have that information can we decide whether the detailed measures in the Bill are likely to bring about similar savings.

The Bill might not be worth the candle and we might have to re-tailor the provisions to make the savings that the Government have suggested. They assume that there will be 800,000 inquiries. It is estimated that each will cost about £9 and will result in benefit savings of an average of £225. The Committee will want those figures explained, and the Government need time in which to work that out.

Mr. Redwood

Given my right hon. Friend's great experience of trying to combat social security fraud, does he think it likely that many amendments will be needed to the Bill from the Government, to try to make the measure work practically in all the detail that he is describing? Until we know how many amendments will be tabled, is it feasible to know how long it might take to discuss them?

Mr. Lilley

My right hon. Friend makes a good point, and one that undermines the concept of programme motions. Unless and until we know the sort of changes that will be needed in the course of considering a Bill, we cannot allocate time.

We know that the Bill required changes even in the other place, a less contentious place than this place. It was changed quite significantly as it passed through the House of Lords, and it is likely to be changed even more in Committee—if we are given time to make changes, and if we are given time for the Government to answer the questions that we raise, which they have not answered today.

I raised the crucial issue of why fraud is increasing under the Government, despite their claim, in opening the debate, that it is falling. Why did they not subsequently apologise for misleading the House? We know that they try to justify the statement by saying that if errors are allowed as well as fraud, there is a slight fall in fraud. That is not a significant fall, although they were telling us that it was. They have not explained why they made that claim, even though it was not valid.

In Committee, we shall want to consider whether the Bill's provisions will bear down on fraud or on what the Government call errors. That might take some time.

Rev. Martin Smyth (Belfast, South)

From the right hon. Gentleman's experience and from his knowledge of the Bill, will there be time to consider not only fraudulent claims by those seeking benefit, but the actions of those within the Department, who are mostly honest people? I am thinking of one of my constituents who was recently convicted and fined for £250,000-worth of fraud from the inside?

Mr. Lilley

I do not think that we shall have time to consider that activity or to amend the Bill to cover it. If the hon. Gentleman has evidence that that is serious and important fraud—and the numbers to which he refers suggest that it is—we should be able to amend the Bill to take account of it.

I was raising the distinction that the Government draw between fraud and error. They say that if errors are thrown in, they are succeeding in their task. I have not noticed that.

Mr. Chope

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is important that we should be able to reach consideration of clause 16 in Committee? It might then be possible to introduce a presumption of fraud where someone forgets to declare £200,000 of income?

Mr. Lilley

I can guess what my hon. Friend is referring to. Usually, the sort of error that we are discussing does not include forgetting £200,000 of one's income. The average benefit claimant does not forget that, but I gather that it is quite normal on the Government Benches to forget that sort of amount. We should know whether that will be classified as error or fraud, and we will want to consider that at length.

When on that subject, we shall want to consider whether to amend the Bill to give power to the Government or social security officers to obtain information that has been uncovered by DTI inquiries. If they can obtain information from banks and credit card owners, why cannot they get information about people who have been examined in the course of DTI inquiries, especially if there is provision, as there is on the statute book—despite what the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry says—for releasing such information to a designated body that is fulfilling a public function?

It would be possible to take such matters into account in Committee if only there were time. I suspect that the Government want to rush through consideration in Committee because they do not want that sort of embarrassing discussion shortly before a general election. That is why they are trying to curtail discussion by means of a draconian programme motion. They want consideration to be completed by Maundy Thursday. They do not want to allow us the sort of discussion that we shall need to give the Bill the inquisition that it deserves.

10.34 pm
Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold)

I would like to make a few remarks on the programme motion. Following the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire), I should like to ask why there is a need for the motion at all? Did the Government try to come to an informal agreement through the usual channels?

We shall spend three quarters of an hour debating the motion, plus the vote, making one hour. The Programming Sub-Committee will perhaps take an hour or two; there will be another half-hour debate on the programme in Committee and a vote, making three quarters of an hour. That may take the time up to three and three quarter hours. This motion makes provision for a programme motion to be introduced on Report and Third Reading, making another three quarters of an hour, together with a vote, bringing the total to an hour. So a total of four and three quarter hours could be spent on debating the timetable for the Bill to get through the House and the other place, which is the equivalent of a half-day debate in the House.

Before introducing the programme motion in the House, it would have been much more sensible of the Government to try to see whether a voluntary agreement could be reached. Had the Government introduced sensible proposals, I am certain that a voluntary programme could have been entered into; more than four hours could have been usefully devoted to debating the Bill at greater length or debate could have been foreshortened. I am not sure why, under paragraph 3 of the motion, the Government want to complete the Committee stage of the Bill by Maundy Thursday. Unless a general election on 3 May is a racing certainty, it seems that the Government will run out of legislation to introduce. What on earth will we do if the election is delayed until October? Will there be another Queen's Speech? What will happen? We will be scratching around for motions to debate in the House.

The Government are wasting our time because it is practically a racing certainty that we will have an election. However, assuming that we do not, we must deal with the Bill's timetable. I have dealt with one or two timetables before, and there are a couple of things that could be usefully incorporated in future. Why, for example, does the final sitting of the Committee have to be brought to a conclusion at 9 o'clock on a Tuesday or 6 o'clock on a Thursday? I have some Committee experience and, very often, the Committee suddenly gets into a panic towards the end of its consideration of the Bill and an awful lot is discussed on the last day. Given my experience of serving on Committees with timetables, it would make eminent good sense—if one has to have a timetable—to conclude proceedings at midnight. That is not unreasonable.

The worst thing in the timetable motion is paragraph 7, which makes provision for a timetable for messages from the Lords, and states: the question … shall be put forthwith. If ever there was an abrogation of the democratic tradition of debate in the House, that is it. Whatever amendments the Lords make to the Bill, whatever messages they send to us, we shall have no time whatever to debate them. That is totally undemocratic.

Mr. Redwood

Does that not imply that the reform and modernisation of the other place has backfired on the Government, like the rest of their modernisation? Does it not imply that, in advance, the Government are not prepared to trust their Lordships to come up with decent amendments and wish to vote them down forthwith, whatever they say? Does that not show that the Labour peers who were put in to pack the other place cannot even be bothered to turn up to do the job properly?

Mr. Clifton-Brown

As usual, my right hon. Friend's logic is impeccable. He is right: the Government are so incompetent that they cannot organise the other place properly to get the answer that they want. Not satisfied with having a proper democratic debate in the other place, they are determined to use undemocratic means to reverse anything from the other place that they do not like. If that is democracy, the Government will go down in history as one of the most undemocratic ever seen in this country.

Mr. Hogg

The proposal is not only discourteous to the other place, but to the House, as it excludes the possibility of discussing messages from the other place. The House has a right to discuss those messages .

Mr. Clifton-Brown

My right hon. and learned Friend makes my point for me. Of course the House, which is the bastion of democracy and the oldest democracy in the world, is being denied by this undemocratic Government the chance to debate any changes arising from the other place that the Government do not like. The way in which the Government are behaving is unbelievable. Some time, the British people will wake up and realise that the rights that they have had for centuries, vested in the Members of Parliament whom they send as their representatives in Parliament, have been taken away as a result of those very representatives not looking after their rights.

Once the people cotton on to that, as they undoubtedly will, they will say that the representatives who did not look after their rights should be kicked out and replaced by others who can.

Mr. Rooker


Mr. Clifton-Brown

I happily give way to the Minister.

Mr. Rooker

Has the hon. gentleman finished speaking?

Mr. Clifton-Brown

No. I thought that the Minister wanted to intervene. He looks more and more annoyed at what I am saying. That means that I must be hitting the target 100 per cent. true—the bull's eye. He knows that what I am saying is absolutely correct.

I see that time is getting on. In view of what has been said tonight, it is right that the Minister should have a chance to reply. I have a great deal of respect for him personally. Whatever he has done at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and in his present job, he has done with integrity. I hope that he will reply, as he knows that the democratic rights of Parliament are being taken away by the timetable motion that he is proposing.

10.43 pm
Mr. Rooker

I do not think that Parliament's rights are being taken away. I remind the hon. Gentleman that in the other place, the Government have 29 per cent. of the votes. The Bill has been through the other place, and there was not a single Division during its passage. The argument that there could be issues of substance coming back from the other place beggars belief.

I did not have a chance to reply to one of the issues raised by the former Secretary of state, the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley). He obviously feels upset about the matter, but the Library brief is wrong. The baseline that we use is September 1998. The Library has taken 1999, so the figures used are not comparable. I have put that on the record, as it answers one of the questions that was raised. I shall answer the rest in Committee in due course.

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Mid-Bedfordshire)

I am grateful to the Minister. Does he agree that if the Government put eight Committee sittings aside for, say, a 13-clause Bill, they consider eight sittings enough? If new clauses are introduced, should not more sittings be allowed?

Mr. Rooker

That is always an argument. However, it would be arrogant of me to present a programme motion to the House and say that the Government have no plans for any amendments, or that the Government have huge plans for amendments. That would be wrong. We have just passed the Second Reading. We are planning a Committee stage and if that starts on Tuesday, the Government amendments would obviously be published before that. In the normal course of events—

Mr. Redwood

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Rooker

No. The Bill could be knocked off in eight sittings of mature, adult consideration of the issues in it, as we have debated them today, if that consideration is not sullied by time-wasting speeches such as we have heard.

Question put: —

The House proceeded to a Division.

Mr. Deputy Speaker(Mr. Michael Lord)

I ask the Serjeant at Arms to investigate the delay in the No Lobby.

The House having divided: Ayes 269, Noes 149.

Division No. 166] [10.43 pm
Ainger, Nick Clapham, Michael
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Allen, Graham Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)
Anderson, Rt Hon Donald (Swansea E) Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Atherton, Ms Candy Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Atkins, Charlotte Clelland, David
Austin, John Clwyd, Ann
Bailey, Adrian Coaker, Vernon
Banks, Tony Coffey, Ms Ann
Bames, Harry Cohen, Harry
Barron, Kevin Coleman, Iain
Battle, John Colman, Tony
Bayley, Hugh Connarty, Michael
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Begg, Miss Anne Corbyn, Jeremy
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough) Cousins, Jim
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C) Cox, Tom
Bennett, Andrew F Crausby, David
Benton, Joe Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Berry, Roger Cryer. John (Homchurch)
Betts, Clive Cummings, John
Blears, Ms Hazel Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul Dalyell, Tam
Borrow, David Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Bradley, Keith (Withington) Darvill, Keith
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin) Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Brinton, Mrs Helen Davidson, Ian
Brown, Russell (Dumfries) Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Buck, Ms Karen Davis, Rt Hon Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Burden, Richard
Butler, Mrs Christine Dean, Mrs Janet
Caborn, Rt Hon Richard Denham, Rt Hon John
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) Dobbin, Jim
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V) Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Campbell-Savours, Dale Donohoe, Brian H
Cann, Jamie Doran, Frank
Caplin, Ivor Dowd, Jim
Caton, Martin Drew, David
Cawsey, Ian Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S) Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Ellman, Mrs Louise Lock, David
Ennis, Jeff Love, Andrew
Etherington, Bill McAvoy, Thomas
Field, Rt Hon Frank McCafferty, Ms Chris
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna McCartney, Rt Hon Ian (Makerfield)
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul McDonagh, Siobhain
Foster, Rt Hon Derek Macdonald, Calum
Foster, Michael J (Worcester) McDonnell, John
Foulkes, George McFall, John
Galloway, George McGuire, Mrs Anne
Gapes, Mike Mclsaac, Shona
George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S) McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Gerrard, Neil Mackinlay, Andrew
Gibson, Dr Ian McNamara, Kevin
Gilroy, Mrs Linda McNulty, Tony
Godman, Dr Norman A Mactaggart, Fiona
Godsiff, Roger McWilliam, John
Goggins, Paul Mahon, Mrs Alice
Golding, Mrs Llin Mallaber, Judy
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E) Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Martlew, Eric
Grogan, John Maxton, John
Hain, Peter Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale) Meale, Alan
Hall, Patrick (Bedford) Merron, Gillian
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE) Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Hanson, David Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Healey, John Moonie, Dr Lewis
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich) Moran, Ms Margaret
Hendrick, Mark Mountford, Kali
Hepburn, Stephen Mullin, Chris
Heppell, John Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Hill, Keith O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Hinchliffe, David Olner, Bill
Hood, Jimmy Pearson, Ian
Hope, Phil Perham, Ms Linda
Hopkins, Kelvin Pickthall, Colin
Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E) Pike, Peter L
Hoyle, Lindsay Plaskitt, James
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Pollard, Kerry
Humble, Mrs Joan Pond, Chris
Hurst, Alan Pope, Greg
Hutton, John Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Iddon, Dr Brian Prescott, Rt Hon John
Illsley, Eric Primarolo, Dawn
Ingram, Rt Hon Adam Prosser, Gwyn
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough) Purchase, Ken
Jenkins, Brian Quinn, Lawrie
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle) Rammell, Bill
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn) Rapson, Syd
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark) Raynsford, Nick
Jones, Helen (Warrington N) Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak) Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, Rt Hon Tessa Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Joyce, Eric Roche, Mrs Barbara
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston) Rooney, Terry
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworfh) Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree) Rowlands, Ted
Khabra, Piara S Roy, Frank
Kidney, David Ruddock, Joan
Kilfoyle, Peter Ryan, Ms Joan
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green) Salmond, Alex
Kumar, Dr Ashok Salter, Martin
Ladyman, Dr Stephen Sarwar, Mohammad
Laxton, Bob Savidge, Malcolm
Leslie, Christopher Shipley, Ms Debra
Levitt, Tom Skinner, Dennis
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S) Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley) Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Linton, Martin Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C) Snape, Peter
Soley, Clive Truswell, Paul
Spellar, John Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Squire, Ms Rachel Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Starkey, Dr Phyllis Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Steinberg, Gerry Tynan, Bill
Stewart, David (Inverness E) Wareing, Robert N
Stewart, Ian (Eccles) Watts, David
Stinchcombe, Paul Whitehead, Dr Alan
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Stringer, Graham
Stuart Ms Gisela Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Sutcliffe, Gerry Winnick, David
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury) Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wood, Mike
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S) Woodward, Shaun
Taylor, David (NW Leics) Woolas, Phil
Temple-Morris, Peter Worthington, Tony
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W) Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Timms, Stephen Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Tipping, Paddy Tellers for the Ayes:
Todd, Mark Mr. Don Touhig and
Trickett, Jon Mr. David Jamieson.
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey) Gray, James
Amess, David Green, Damian
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael Greenway, John
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James Grieve, Dominic
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E) Gummer, Rt Hon John
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Hague, Rt Hon William
Baldry, Tony Hammond, Philip
Beggs, Roy Harvey, Nick
Bercow, John Hawkins, Nick
Beresford, Sir Paul Hayes, John
Blackman, Liz Heald, Oliver
Blunt, Crispin Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Boswell, Tim Horam, John
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W) Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Brady, Graham Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Brazier, Julian Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Browning, Mrs Angela Jenkin, Bernard
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Key, Robert
Burnett, John Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Butterfill, John Kirkwood, Archy
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies(NE Fife) Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Leigh, Edward
Cash, William Letwin, Oliver
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet) Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lidington, David
Chidgey, David Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Chope, Christopher Livsey, Richard
Collins, Tim Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Cotter, Brian Loughton, Tim
Cran, James Luff, Peter
Curry, Rt Hon David McIntosh, Miss Anne
Davies, Quentin (Grantham) MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Davis, Rt Hon David (Hatemprice) Maclean, Rt Hon David
Day, Stephen McLoughlin, Patrick
Duncan, Alan Madel, Sir David
Duncan Smith, Iain Maginnis, Ken
Evans, Nigel Malins, Humfrey
Fabricant, Michael Maples, John
Fallon, Michael Mates, Michael
Flight, Howard Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Forth, Rt Hon Eric Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman May, Mrs Theresa
Fraser, Christopher Moss, Malcolm
Gale, Roger O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
George, Andrew (St Ives) Ottaway, Richard
Gibb, Nick Page, Richard
Gill, Christopher Paice, James
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl Paterson, Owen
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Pickles, Eric
Prior, David Taylor, Sir Teddy
Redwood, Rt Hon John Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Rendel, David Trend, Michael
Robathan, Andrew Tyler, Paul
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ty) Tyrie, Andrew
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne) Viggers, Peter
Ruffley, David Wallace, Rt Hon James
St Aubyn, Nick Walter, Robert
Sanders, Adrian Waterson Nigel
Sayeed, Jonathan Webb, Steve
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian Wells, Bowen
Shepherd, Richard Whitney, Sir Raymond
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk) Whittingdale, John
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S) Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Soames, Nicholas Wilkinson, John
Spelman, Mrs Caroline Willetts, David
Spicer, Sir Michael Willis, Phil
Spring, Richard Wilshire, David
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Winterton Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Steen, Anthony Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Streeter, Gary Yeo, Tim
Stunell, Andrew Young, Rt Hon Sir George
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert Tellers for the Noes:
Tapsell, Sir Peter Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton) and
Taylor, John M (Solihull) Mr. John Randall

Question accordingly agreed to.


That the following provisions shall apply to the Social Security Fraud Bill [Lords]:

  1. Standing Committee 52 words
  2. c918
  3. Consideration and Third Reading 107 words
  4. c918
  5. Lords messages 63 words
  6. c933
  7. Standing Committee 52 words
  8. c933
  9. Consideration and Third Reading 107 words
  10. c933
  11. Lords messages 63 words
  12. cc933-4
  14. cc934-5
    1. c934
    3. c934
    4. JUSTICES OF THE PEACE 21 words
    5. c934
    7. c934
    8. PARTNERSHIPS 54 words
    9. c934
    10. LOCAL GOVERNMENT 23 words
    11. c935
    13. c935
    14. LOCAL GOVERNMENT 24 words
  17. c935
  19. c936
    1. c936
    2. Religious Broadcasting Licences 127 words
  22. Walsgrave Hospital 4,203 words