HC Deb 16 June 2003 vol 407 cc79-82

1. Paragraphs 4 and 5 of the order shall be omitted.

2. Proceedings on consideration shall be taken in the order shown in the first column of the following Table and each part of the proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the time specified in the second column.

Proceedings Time for conclusion of proceedings
Amendments relating to Clause 1, Schedules 1 and 2, Clauses 2 to 8, Schedule 3 and Clauses 9 to 15 Two hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order.
Amendments relating to Clauses 16 to 111, Schedule 4, Clauses 112 to 176, Schedule 5 and Clauses 177 to 192 Four hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order.
Amendments relating to Clauses 193 to 196 and Schedules 6 to 8, New Clauses, New Schedules and remaining proceedings on the Bill Five and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order.

3. Proceedings on Third Reading shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion six and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order.

As hon. Members know, the Bill has received long and detailed scrutiny both here and in another place. There were some five hours debate on Second Reading in another place, six days in Committee in another place, three days on Report and more than three hours of debate on Third Reading—getting on for 60 hours in all.

We had a full and wide-ranging Second Reading debate in this House. The Bill was considered for 17 sittings of the Standing Committee, and I am grateful to all hon. Members who participated in our consideration of it for their constructive contributions, which made for a useful and thorough discussion. I do not doubt that the Bill is all the better for that.

The programme motion will allow us to discuss the issues in a sensible way. Grouping amendments with the relevant clauses and schedules will allow us to take a logical approach to the debates. Again, I emphasise that there has already been ample discussion in both Houses of the vast majority of the issues before us today. That is why I believe that the full day of debate today should provide us with sufficient time to refine many of the arguments that have been exposed during the Bill's passage. I appreciate that there are outstanding issues to which hon. Members will wish to return. We have given careful consideration to the structure, and the time allotted to each group of amendments reflects that.

Ms Julia Drown (South Swindon)

My hon. Friend emphasised the long discussions that have taken place on the Bill, but it is a wide-ranging Bill. I am particularly interested in the two hours allotted for schedule 1, as that affects my constituents who suffer from motocross events that are not licensed, and could have been covered by schedule 1. As no amendment to that has been selected today, will he ensure that there are further ministerial meetings with me and colleagues from Swindon so that we can pursue the matter further?

Dr. Howells

I am well aware that my hon. Friend has done sterling work in trying to reflect the great difficulties that some of her constituents have suffered as a consequence of the nature of the event that she described, and some of the behaviour associated with it. I understand that ministerial meetings will take place with her so that the matter can be pursued a little further through more appropriate channels than discussion during our consideration of the Bill.

A considerable number of the amendments to be debated today have been tabled by the Government, following careful consideration of points raised in Committee, and I hope that these will be generally welcomed. I look forward to an interesting and lively debate.

6.47 pm
Mr. Malcolm Moss (North-East Cambridgeshire)

May I begin by congratulating the Minister on his promotion and change of Department? I see from today's Evening Standard that he has wasted no time in putting the fares up on the railways. Whether he is to be congratulated on that, I am not sure. [Interruption.] That is news to him, he says.

Perhaps it is a pity that such a fine Minister was part of a botched reshuffle. Following on from the Government's indecisiveness over that, today we had one Minister nominated to take the Report stage through, then another, and then back to the previous Minister. We welcome him this evening, because he understands the issues more than any other of his colleagues, but we are also disappointed, because we know before we start that he is highly unlikely to yield anything at all this evening, as he would not want to leave any potential hostages to fortune to his successor, whoever that might be.

During our proceedings this evening, we may get a feeling that the Minister considers himself well shot of this difficult Bill. He has, of course, been unfortunate in having the two major Bills from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to take through Parliament this Session—the Communications Bill and the Licensing Bill. It would have been superhuman of him to be able to devote the full time and deal properly with all the issues arising from the two massive Bills that were handed to him.

If there has been one recurrent and consistent theme throughout the passage of the Bill, first through their lordships' House and now through this House, it is the fact that many interested parties, organisations and groups have not had the consultation that they feel they need and deserve.

I have forgotten the number of times that I have heard from interested parties that their letters have been ignored and their requests for meetings turned down. As a result, at this very late stage, a sizeable number of people who are faced with the impact of the legislation on their lives and businesses are, to put it mildly, distinctly unimpressed. They see the motion as yet another demonstration of the desire of an arrogant and out-of-touch Government to railroad a Bill through the House with their huge majority while totally ignoring the views of those who know more about the practicalities and the operation of licensing and entertainment in all its guises than—I say this with all due respect—those who have compiled the Bill.

As the Minister told us, there are about 115 amendments and new clauses to debate this evening. The Opposition have some serious reservations about the groupings and the way in which the guillotines will fall. For example, in the first two hours there are only 22 amendments to discuss, but in the next two hours there are some 80 amendments, 52 of which are Government amendments. The Minister was proud to boast about those amendments, but the fact is that the majority of the issues with which they deal were not even mentioned in Committee, and the Government have thought them up since. Notwithstanding all the issues that were debated in Committee and the points that were made, the Government have not taken up one of those proposals in any shape or form.

Time and again, those who will be most affected—in some cases, this applies to those who were actively involved in the process in the early stages—have told me that the Bill has evolved to be much wider than what was proposed in the White Paper. New issues have been introduced on which there was no consultation in respect of the Home Office White Paper. In Committee, and now on Report, when the Opposition attempt to give voice to those resentments and frustrations, the Government seem oblivious to any proposals or suggestions, however pragmatic and workable. Worse than that, they reversed almost all the Lords amendments in Committee, where guillotines fell to cut off debate on some key issues. Similarly, the time allotted on Report for the groups of amendments will no doubt mean that the guillotine will fall and key issues will not be debated.

The Government's tactics may be to dig in and take their chances in the other place when the Bill returns there on Thursday, but they run the risk of riding roughshod over sensible and helpful suggestions. That can only store up problems for them that will arise when the Bill is enacted and must be implemented in its many forms. This is far too important a measure to be treated in that way.

6.53 pm
Mr. Adrian Sanders (Torbay)

I agree with the comments of the hon. Member for North-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Moss).

The Bill has indeed changed since its original conception in terms of the consultation papers that were available and the broad outline that the Government published. Many Lords amendments have been reversed. A reflection of why we need more time than is being proposed is the number of amendments tabled and the number of representations made to hon. Members associated with the Committee. There is a great deal of disquiet among those involved in the alcohol and entertainment industries. They are rightly concerned on a number of levels because of what they understand that the Bill contains.

I concede that in some respects, the perception of the Bill is far worse than the detail, but it is the Government's job to go out and sell the Bill and to give the industry confidence that they are not going to tie it up in added expense, red tape and difficulty. At the same time, they must ensure that the public's expectations of the Bill in terms of improved law and order will be met. At the moment, that message is not getting through. There is a need to consider the Bill at some length—certainly at greater length than is being proposed.

Question put and agreed to.