HC Deb 11 May 2004 vol 421 cc161-8 12.51 pm
The Minister for Housing and Planning (Keith Hill)

I beg to move,

That the programme order of 12th January 2004 in relation to the Housing Bill be varied as follows—

  1. 1. Paragraphs 4 and 5 of the order shall be omitted.
  2. 2. Proceedings on consideration shall be taken in the order shown in the first column of the following Table. In that column, any reference to new Clauses, Amendments or new Shedules relating to any of Parts 1 to 7 does not include new Clauses, Amendments or new Schedules relating to overcrowding or the definition of 'house in multiple occupation.
  3. 3. The proceedings shown in the first column of the Table 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
New Clauses, Amendments and new Schedules relating to Part 1 One and a quarter hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion for this order
New Clauses, Amendments and new Schedules relating to Part 2; new Clauses, Amendments and new Schedules relating to the definition of 'house in multiple occupation'; new Clauses, Amendments and new Schedules relating to Part 3; new Clauses, Amendments and new Schedules relating to Part 4 Two and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion for this order.
New Clauses, Amendments and new Schedules relating to Part 5 Three and three quarter hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion for this order
New Clauses, Amendments and new Schedules relating to Part 6; new Clauses, Amendments and new Schedules relating to overcrowding; new Clauses, Amendments and new Schedules relating to Part 7 and any remaining proceedings on the Bill Five and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion for this order.
4. Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion six and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion for this order.

We have important issues to consider today and I look forward to debating them. I therefore intend to be brief in speaking to the programme motion.

The Housing Bill will help to create a fairer and better housing market and it will protect the most vulnerable. It will fulfil two manifesto commitments, and will introduce many of the legislative measures necessary to help to create sustainable communities, as announced by my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister in February last year. The Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), and I are genuinely grateful to all members of Standing Committee E for the full and positive contributions that they made in the substantial amount of time allowed to consider the Bill. We had full debates on all the substantive issues and, in my view, their contributions and amendments have improved the Bill.

We have a number of amendments to consider today. My hon. Friend the Member for Castleford and Pontefract and I committed ourselves to revisit a range of issues, and I am delighted that we have been able to do so. I am sure that members of Standing Committee E will welcome the Government amendments, the vast majority of which respond to concerns raised in their debates. The Government have tabled a programme motion that allocates time for consideration of each part of the Bill. The proposed order of consideration broadly follows the order of clauses in the Bill, but there are some exceptions. We propose that schedules are considered alongside the clause that first introduces them, as their provisions relate to that particular clause and it seems appropriate to consider them together. It also seems logical to discuss new clauses relating to each part alongside amendments to that part. Part 2 deals with the licensing of houses in multiple occupation, so it seems sensible to consider amendments relating to the definition of HMOs when we consider that part. Government and non-Government amendments on overcrowding will be considered when we discuss part 6.

12.53 pm
Mr. Robert Syms (Poole) (Con)

This is a long and complex Bill. In fact, it could easily have been four or five separate Bills, and throughout our deliberations it has been subject to major Government amendment and change. Even on Report, many Government amendments have been tabled. Given the grouping of amendments and the knives, it is unlikely that the programme motion will allow us to do justice to all the important matters that need to be discussed as part of the public debate, so we shall oppose the motion. I do not intend to detain the House as we want to get on with business. However, the Government are again forcing a diktat on the House and we wish to make it clear that we oppose their manner of conducting business in the Chamber.

12.54 pm
Matthew Green (Ludlow) (LD)

I accept that the Government have discussed with Opposition parties the order of consideration and where the knives will fall. There has been agreement about that, but there is clearly not agreement about the amount of time allowed for debate. Two days were allowed for the Report stage and Third Reading of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Bill. Three days have been allocated next week to consideration of the Pensions Bill, although that may be because the Government have not finished writing it. There is clearly a case for allowing more time to consider the Housing Bill. There is a great deal of interest from Labour Back Benchers, who have tabled a number of amendments and new clauses, but we are unlikely to reach all of them. The Government have not only sold the Bill short by failing to allow for proper discussion of amendments and new clauses, but have sold their own Back Benchers short. Labour Members want to discuss tenancy deposit schemes, compulsory leasing and so on, but will struggle to do so given the time allowed for debate.

We cannot support the motion because it allows insufficient time to discuss the Bill. Whatever good will Ministers have shown about dividing up the available time, regrettably they do not have the clout to win sufficient time from the business managers, so we shall vote against the motion.

12.56 pm
Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con)

I wish to place on the record the fact that, yet again, the Government are giving the House pathetically inadequate time to deal with a Bill which, by any measure, is important. A mere glance at the Speaker's provisional list of amendments and the Government's suggested allocation of time reveals the shocking truth. One and a quarter hours, for example, has been allowed for amendments on housing conditions. A debate in the Chamber should provide Members of Parliament with an opportunity to express a view about an issue or set of issues. The first group of amendments on housing conditions—there can be few issues more important to our constituents—is a large one, yet the Government have insulted the House by offering 659 Members of Parliament one and a quarter hours to debate it. That is the extent of the Government's impertinence.

The situation is even worse when we reach the second group of amendments, on houses in multiple occupation, for which another hour and a quarter has been allowed. The group includes a large number of Government amendments and new clauses, and subsumed within it is a separate group of amendments on interim and final management orders. Limited time has been offered to all Members of Parliament, including Ministers and Opposition spokesmen. Home information packs are a controversial part of the Bill but, again, a mere hour and a quarter has been allowed for discussion of amendments, including many Government amendments.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire) (Con)

Is my right hon. Friend not being a little too generous to the Government? If we wish to have a Division, the time taken is subtracted from debating time. That is one way in which the Government put pressure on Labour Members who feel strongly about an issue not to have a vote.

Mr. Forth

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, because there is a danger that these things are becoming accepted as the way in which the House of Commons works. We are now operating sunder completely artificial constraints. There is no reason why our debate should take six and a half hours—we could take as long as we wanted. In fact, as you know, Mr. Speaker, there is provision for a business motion to be moved to allow us to continue our deliberations after 7 pm, and there is open-ended business following proceedings on the Bill. Bizarrely, unlimited time has been allowed for the subsequent debate on a House of Commons matter which, Mr. Speaker, is dear to your heart. The Order Paper states, I am happy to say, "Until any hour", yet on such a vital Bill, with dozens of Government amendments and dealing with crucial matters that affect our constituents' everyday lives, the Government have the impudence to say, "You, the House of Commons, will have only six and a half hours to consider all these matters." That is an outrage, but it is in danger of passing into our proceedings as though it were perfectly normal. Members of Parliament are expected to accept it, take it in their stride, shrug and say, "Obviously, I can't participate because there is so little time."

Any examination of the time proposed in the motion would show that it is an insult to the House of Commons and to the parliamentary process. For the Minister, in his insouciant way, to sit there and say, "Take it or leave it. This is it. This is all the Government believe the House of Commons should have", illustrates how far the House of Commons has fallen. It pains me to say so, but that, sadly, is the truth. Here we are, reduced to an hour and a quarter—the total time allocated to all Members of Parliament to debate a subject as important as, for example, home information packs.

Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire) (Con)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that even to call this a programme is an insult? Programmes are supposed to be consensual; this is a guillotine.

Mr. Forth

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. That is true. I may have slipped into conceding that this is a so-called programme. My hon. Friend is right: they are systematic guillotines of all business. Today's motion is a prime example of what we have to put up with. It is increasingly difficult for us to look our voters in the face and claim that we are even beginning to do our job, as their representatives, in scrutinising legislation. In no way can these time limits allow us properly to scrutinise; in no way can proper speeches be made by Members of Parliament—points of criticism or points of elucidation. The Government do not allow us to do that any more.

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne) (Con)

My right hon. Friend is probably far too modest to say that such a motion is an attempt to gag him. The time being taken now—this is a criticism not of him, but of the Government—comes out of the time that the Government generously say we can have to debate other matters. That is another scandal.

Mr. Forth

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Many people try to gag me in many different ways, but my hon. Friend knows me well enough to know that that is usually not very successful. I shall be demonstrating that later today in the business that will come on, courtesy of the Government, well after 7 o'clock and may continue for some time thereafter. So gagging me is usually a fairly futile exercise, although it is tried from time to time, as my hon. Friend points out.

All in all, the motion is an egregious example of so-called programming, which is in fact systematic vicious guillotining of business in the House in order that the Government can get their business with a minimum of debate. I am glad we are opposing it.

1.2 pm

Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con)

The programme motion—or guillotine, as it is better called—is yet another example of the Government trying to remove from the House powers to hold them to account. I shall address the paltry one and a quarter hours that has been allocated to home improvement packs, which is a detailed, complex matter on which many Government amendments have been tabled. It is a matter that is crucial to consumers, to the housing market and the operation of that market, and to the industry—estate agents and solicitors. The House must get such a crucial matter right, and in one and a quarter hours there is not enough time properly to debate all the detailed amendments that have been tabled to that part of the Bill.

Within the total time, the Bill is supposed to get its Third Reading. It is outrageous and a removal of the powers of the House properly to hold the Government to account.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 246, Noes 146.

Division No. 164] [1:03 pm
Abbot, Ms Diane Coffey, Ms Ann
Ainger, Nick Cooper, Yvette
Ainsworth, Bob(Cov'try NE) Corbyn, Jeremy
Allen, Graham Cousins, Jim
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary Cranston, Ross
Atherton, Ms Candy Crausdy, David
Atkins, Charlotte Cruddas, Jon
Austin, John Cryer, Ann(Keighley)
Bailey, Adrian Cryer, John(Hornchurch)
Baird, Vera Cummings, John
Banks, Tony Cunningham, rh Dr. Jack(Copeland)
Barnes, Harry
Battle, John Cunningham, Jim(Coventry S)
Beard, Nigel Cunningham, Tony(Workington)
Bell, Sir Stuart Davey, Valerie(Bristol W)
Bennett, Andrew Davies, rh Denzil(Llanelli)
Benton, Joe(Bootle) Davies, Geraint(Croydon C)
Best, Harold Dawson, Hilton
Betts, Clive Dhanda, Parmjit
Blackman, Liz Doran, Frank
Blizzard, Bob Drew, David(Stroud)
Borrow, David Eagle, Angela(Wallasey)
Bradley, rh Keith(Withington) Efford, Clive
Bradley, Peter(The Wrekin) Ellman, Mrs Louise
Bradshaw, Ben Ennis, Jeff(Barnsley E)
Brennan, Kevin Farrelly, Paul
Brown, Russell(Dumfries) Field, rh Frank(Birkenhead)
Browne, Desmond Fisher, Mark
Bryant, Chris Fitzpatrick, Jim
Buck, Ms Karen Foster, rh Derek
Burden, Richard Foster, Michael Jabez(Hastings & Rye)
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy Foulkes, rh George
Byers, rh Stephen Gerrard, Neil
Cairns, David Gibson, Dr. Ian
Campbell, Alan(Tynemouth) Gilroy, Linda
Campbell, Mrs Anne(C'bridge) Goggings, Paul
Caplin, Ivor Griffiths, Jane(Reading E)
Casale, Roger Griffiths, Nigel(Edinburgh S)
Cawsey, Ian(Brigg) Griffiths, Win(Bridgend)
Chapman, Ben(Wirral S) Grogan, John
Chaytor, David Hall, Mike(Weaver Vale)
Clapham, Michael Hall, Patrick(Bedford)
Clark, Mrs Helen(Peterborough) Hanson, David
Clark, Dr. Lynda(Edinburgh Pentlands) Harris, Tom(Glasgow Cathcart)
Healey, John
Clark, Paul(Gillingham) Henderson, Doug(Newcastle N)
Clarke, rh Tom(Coatbridge & Chryston) Henderson, Ivan(Harwich)
Heyes, David
Clelland, David Hill, Keith(Streatham)
Hinchliffe, David Murphy, Denis(Wansbeck)
Hoey, Kate(Vauxhall) Murphy, Jim(Eastwood)
Hope, Phil(Corby) Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Hopkins, Kelvin O'Brien, Bill(Normanton)
Howells, Dr. Kim O'Brien, Mike(N Warks)
Hoyle, Lindsay Olner, Bill
Hughes, Beverley(Stretford & Urmston) O'Neill, Martin
Organ, Diana
Hughes, Kevin(Doncaster N) Perham, Linda
Hurst, Alan(Braintree) Pickthall, Colin
Hutton, rh John Plaskitt, James
Iddon, Dr. Brian Pollard, Kerry
Irranca-Davies, Huw Pond, Chris(Gravesham)
Jackson, Glenda(Hampstead & Highgate) Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Gordon(Pendle)
Jackson, Helen(Hillsborough) Primarolo, rh Dawn
Jamieson, David Purchase, Ken
Jenkins, Brian Purnell, James
Johnson, Miss Melanie(Welwyn Hatfield) Quin, rh Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Jones, Helen(Warrington N) Rapson, Syd(Portsmouth N)
Jones, Jon Owen(Cardiff C) Raynsford, rh Nick
Jones, Kevan(N Durham) Reed, Andy(Loughborough)
Jones, Lynne(Selly Oak) Robinson, Geoffrey(Coventry NW)
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Eric(Falkirk W) Roche, Mrs Barbara
Kaufman, rh Gerald Rooney, Terry
Keen, Alan(Feltham) Ross, Ernie(Dundee W)
Kelly, Ruth(Bolton W) Roy, Frank(Motherwell)
Kemp, Fraser Ruane, Chris
Khabra, Piara S. Russell, Ms Christine(City of Chester)
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy(Rugby) Ryan, Joan(Enfield N)
King, Ms Oona(Bethnal Green & Bow) Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mohammad
Knight, Jim(S Dorset) Savidge, Malcolm
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie Sawford, Phil
Lepper, David Shipley, Ms Debra
Leslie, Christopher Skinner, Dennis
Levitt, Tom(High Peak) Smith, rh Andrew(Oxford E)
Lewis, Terry(Worsley) Smith, Jacqui(Redditch)
Liddell rh,Mrs Helen Smith, Llew(Blaenau Gwent)
Linton Martin Soley, Clive
Love, Andrew Southworth, Helen
Lucas, Ian(Wrexham) Squire, Rachel
Luke, lain(Dundee E) Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
McCabe, Stephen Steinberg, Gerry
McDonagh, Siobhain Stewart, David(Inverness E & Lochaber)
McDonnell, John
MacDougall, John Stewart, Ian(Eccles)
McFall, John Stinchcombe, Paul
Mclsaac, Shona Stoate, Dr. Howard
McKechin, Ann Stringer, Graham
McKenna, Rosemary Taylor, rh Ann(Dewsbury)
Mackinlay, Andrew Taylor, Dari(Stockton S)
Mactaggart, Fiona Taylor, David(NW Leics)
McWalter, Tony Tipping, Paddy
McWilliam, John Todd, Mark(S Derbyshire)
Mahon, Mrs Alice Touhig, Don(IsIwyn)
Mallaber, Judy Truswell, Paul
Mann, John(Bassetlaw) Turner, Dennis(Wolverh'ton SE)
Marsden, Gordon(Blackpool' S) Turner, Dr. Desmond(Brighton Kemptown)
Marshall, Jim(Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert Twigg, Derek(Halton)
Meale, Alan(Mansfield) Vis, Dr. Rudi
Merron, Gillian Walley, Ms Joan
Michael, rh Alun Ward, Claire
Milburn, rh Alan Watson, Tom(W Bromwich E)
Miller, Andrew Watts, David
Mitchell, Austin(Gt Grimsby) White, Brian
Moffatt, Laura Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Mole, Chris Wicks, Malcolm
Moran, Margaret Williams, Betty(Conwy)
Mountford, Kali Wills, Michael
Mullin, Chris Winnick, David
Munn, Ms Meg
Winterton, Ms Rosie(Doncaster C) Wright, Tony(Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek
Wood, Mike(Batley)
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D.(Gt Yarmouth) Tellers for the Ayes:
Mr. John Heppell and
Wright, David(Telford) Ms Bridget Prentice
Ainsworth, Peter(E Surrey) Gray, James(N Wilts)
Amess, David Grayling, Chris
Ancram, rh Michael Green, Damian(Ashford)
Arbuthnot, rh James Green, Matthew(Ludlow)
Atkinson, David(Bour'mth E) Greenway, John
Atkinson, Peter(Hexham) Grieve, Dominic
Baker, Norman Gummer, rh John
Baldry, Tony Hammond, Philip
Barker, Gregory Hancock, Mike
Barrett, John Hawkins, Nick
Beith, rh A. J. Hayes, John(S Holland)
Bellingham, Henry Heald, Oliver
Bercow, John Heath, David
Beresford, Sir Paul Heathcoat-Amory, rh David
Blunt, Crispin Hendry, Charles
Boswell, Tim Hoban, Mark(Fareham)
Brake, Tom(Carshalton) Holmes, Paul
Brazier, Julian Horam, John(Orpington)
Breed, Colin Howarth, Gerald(Aldershot)
Brooke, Mrs Annette L. Jenkin, Bernard
Burnett, John Johnson, Boris(Henley)
Burns, Simon Jones, Nigel(Cheltenham)
Burstow, Paul Kennedy, rh Charles(Ross Skye & Inverness)
Butterfill, Sir John
Cable, Dr. Vincent Key, Robert(Salisbury)
Calton, Mrs Patsy Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Cameron, David Knight, rh Greg(E Yorkshire)
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies(NE Fife) Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lamb, Norman
Carmichael, Alistair Lansley, Andrew
Cash, William Liddell-Grainger, Ian
Chapman, Sir Sydney(Chipping Barnet) Lilley, rh Peter
Llwyd, Elfyn
Chope, Christopher Loughton, Tim
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey McIntosh, Miss Anne
Collins, Tim Maclean, rh David
Conway, Derek McLoughlin, Patrick
Cotter, Brian Maples, John
Curry, rh David Marsden, Paul(Shrewsbury & Atcham)
Davey, Edward(Kingston)
Davis, rh David(Haltemprice & Howden) Maude, rh Francis
May, Mrs Theresa
Djanogly, Jonathan Moss, Malcolm
Duncan, Alan(Rutland) Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Evans, Nigel Oaten, Mark(Winchester)
Fabricant, Michael O'Brien, Stephen(Eddisbury)
Field, Mark(Cities of London & Westminster) Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, George(Tatton)
Flight, Howard Paice, James
Flook, Adrian Portillo, rh Michael
Forth, rh Eric Price, Adam(E Carmarthen & Dinefwr)
Foster, Don(Bath)
Gale, Roger(N Thanet) Prisk, Mark(Hertford)
George, Andrew(St. Ives) Pugh, Dr. John
Gibb, Nick(Bognor Regis) Randall, John
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl Redwood, rh John
Goodman, Paul Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Angus(Moray) Taylor, Matthew(Truro)
Robertson, Hugh(Faversham & M-Kent) Taylor, Sir Teddy
Thomas, Simon(Ceredigion)
Robertson, Laurence(Tewk'b'ry) Thurso, John
Rosindell, Andrew Tonge, Dr. Jenny
Sanders, Adrian Turner, Andrew(Isle of Wight)
Selous, Andrew Tyler, Paul(N Cornwall)
Shephard, rh Mrs Gillian Walter, Robert
Shepherd, Richard Waterson, Nigel
Simpson, Keith(M-Norfolk) Watkinson, Angela
Smith, Sir Robert(W Ab'd'ns & Kincardine) Webb, Steve(Northavon)
Whittingdale, John
Smyth, Rev. Martin(Belfast S) Wiggin, Bill
Soames, Nicholas Williams, Hywel(Caernarfon)
Spicer, Sir Michael Willis, Phil
Spink, Bob(Castle Point) Wilshire, David
Steen, Anthony Winterton, Ann(Congleton)
Streeter, Gary Wishart, Pete
Stunell, Andrew Young, rh Sir George
Swire, Hugo(E Devon) Tellers for the Noes:
Syms, Robert Mr. David Ruffley and
Tapsell, Sir Peter Mr. Mark Francois

Question accordingly agreed to.

Ann McKechin (Glasgow, Maryhill) (Lab)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I have just received information that an explosion has occurred at the ICL Plastics factory in my constituency. I understand that the building has collapsed, and reports mention more than 60 casualties, with many people still lying in the rubble. May I ask, through your good offices, if the appropriate Department will investigate at the earliest opportunity, and if a Minister will come to this House to make a statement as soon as more information is known?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Lady is a constituency neighbour of mine, and I know the Maryhill district very well indeed. I will ensure that the appropriate Ministers go about the business of gathering whatever information it is possible to obtain. I am sure that the fire service and the police will do their best, and I thank the hon. Lady for bringing the matter to the House.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire) (Con)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The House has just passed a timetable motion, and after the five and a half hours of debate you or whoever is in the Chair, is likely to say, "Consideration concluded. Third Reading, what day?" May I put it to you, Mr. Speaker, that that is to mislead the House, and that it would be more suitable to say that the Government's timetable means that no further discussion can take place? Rather than misleading the House by saying, "Consideration concluded," perhaps a new form of words should be found.

Mr. Speaker

I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Chair would never mislead the House.

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