HC Deb 24 May 2004 vol 421 cc1388-411

Where Her Majesty or a senior Minister of the Crown thinks that the conditions for making emergency regulations are satisfied, such regulations shall be placed before a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament consisting of members of the Privy Council (known as the Emergency Powers Committee) for consideration prior to the laying of such regulations.'—[Mr. Heald.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Heald

1 beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal)

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments:

No. 49, in clause 21, page 14, line 31, leave out `whether written or oral', and insert— 'in writing to the Emergency Powers Committee'.

No. 63, in clause 26, page 17, line 22, leave out paragraph (a) and insert— `(a) these regulations shall be put to a joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament consisting of members of the Privy Council chosen to reflect the political balance of the House of Commons (hereafter to be known as the Emergency Powers Committee), before their acceptance, to provide an initial and acceptable parliamentary check.'.

No. 70, in clause 26, page 17, line 22, leave out paragraph (a) and insert—

  1. '(a) (i) these regulations shall he put to a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament consisting of members of the Privy Council chosen to reflect the political balance of the House of Commons (hereafter referred to as the Emergency Powers Committee), before their acceptance, to provide an initial and acceptable parliamentary check.
  2. a senior Minister of the Crown shall then, as soon as is reasonably practicable, lay the regulations before Parliament, provided that he believes on reasonable grounds that he has used his best endeavours to consult the Emergency Powers Committee.
  3. a senior Minister of the Crown may dispense with the requirements of paragraph (a) above if he believes on reasonable grounds that it is necessary to do so by reason of urgency.'

No. 3, in clause 26, page 17, line 43, at end insert— '(3A) Paragraph (1) of House of Commons Standing Order No. 16 (Proceedings under an Act or on European Union Documents) shall not apply to proceedings in the House of Commons under this section.'.

No. 74, in clause 26, page 17, line 45, leave out paragraph (a).

No. 75, in clause 26, page 18, line 1, leave out 'affect anything' and insert 'render unlawful'.

No. 4, in clause 29, page 18, line 4l, at end insert— '(3) Emergency regulations may make provision to disapply or modify an enactment under section 21(3)(j) only if a draft of the regulations or order has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament'.

Mr. Heald

It has taken some time, but we are now examining part 2. You will be aware, Madam Deputy Speaker, of the concern expressed by many people, including the Joint Committee on Human Rights, about the progress of the Bill and its scrutiny. In its most recent report, the Committee was optimistic that the Minister for the Cabinet Office would change his position in an amendment to be tabled on Report. Government amendment No. 93, which we may reach later, would require emergency regulations to include a statement that the person making them is satisfied that the regulations are compatible with the Convention rights". The amendment refers only to section 1 of the Human Rights Act 1998, which may be problematic, but it certainly represents progress. At the end of page 8 of its latest report, the Joint Committee says: We remain concerned that clause 21(3) of the Civil Contingencies Bill may be interpreted as allowing regulations to be made which would relieve a public authority of its duty under section 6 of the Human Rights Act, with a … risk of violating Convention rights. Once again, the Committee draws that matter to the attention of the House.

There is still concern about the Bill's compatibility with the Human Rights Act. New clause 3 proposes a small joint committee of Privy Councillors to consider emergency regulations before they are laid in the House with the aim of achieving consensus, all-party support and scrutiny. I pay tribute to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) for proposing such an arrangement on Second Reading. We pursued it in Committee, and its purpose is to provide a quick but effective parliamentary check of proposed emergency powers. In Committee, the Minister for the Cabinet Office was sympathetic to the principle of wider consultation with representatives of key parties when emergency powers are to be used". He spoke of the long-standing convention that the Government should seek in times of serious emergency to build consensus".—[Official Report, Standing Committee F, 10 February 2004; c. 299.] He would not, however, accept our amendments. We have therefore revisited the issue in new clause 3 and I hope for a better response this time.

Given the number of others who wish to speak, there is not time for me to outline each of the other amendments, but all have a bearing on the emergency powers committee, as we call it, and all of them are designed to put into effect a structure whereby the emergency powers committee—a joint committee—could have a role and we could bring to the issue of emergency powers that element of consensus.

The idea behind amendment No. 3 was suggested on Second Reading by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd), who properly argued that for our normal Standing Orders to apply to the emergency regulations and to have only 90 minutes to debate them is wrong. Although he did not use the words, I would say that that is approaching a constitutional outrage. The Government accepted in Committee that 90 minutes is unlikely to be sufficient to debate regulations as important as these will be.—[Official Report, Standing Committee F, 10 February 2004; c. 301.] If they think that that is true, they should put their money where their mouth is and introduce the change in the law that we propose.

Amendments Nos. 74 and 4 are also proportionate measures to prevent the Government from having too much power in these matters.

Mr. Heath

I fully support the intention behind the amendments moved by the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald). It is more than desirable, it is essential, that at a time of emergency, that the broadest possible consensus in the political sphere and on a wider front be achieved to command the agreement and consent of the British people. The hon. Gentleman suggested one mechanism, but there are others. Making that a requirement means that it is not left to the whim of a Minister of the day to implement proper consultation with all parties, which we would all agree is a desirable state of affairs.

I will not speak to amendment No. 3 tabled by the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd), other than to note that my hon. Friends the Members for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Allan) and for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) thought it right to attach their names in support of it. It is entirely inappropriate that debate of such important regulations in the House should be abbreviated. It is important that we have a proper debate. I hope that the amendment will achieve that and that the Government will see fit to support it.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con)

I shall be very brief and make only four points.

First, we need to be aware how wide-ranging the powers to make emergency regulations are. Their scope is extensive and is provided for in clause 21. Secondly, we need to keep it in mind that we are discussing emergency regulations—that is, those that have not been through the parliamentary process. Thirdly, we should keep it in mind that the Ministers thought capable of laying the emergency regulations include very junior ones—namely, Whips. It is extraordinary that Whips should be in a position to lay such draconian provisions before the House.

I therefore support the purpose behind new clause 3 with this proviso: I would not make the committee a consultative committee. I would make its consent a precondition to the emergency regulations being issued. There is much more that I could say, but I do not consider it appropriate that I should at this late hour.

Mr. Shepherd

The lateness of the hour and the fact that there are six minutes before a guillotine falls give urgency and emphasis to amendment No. 3, which states that paragraph (1) of House of Commons Standing Order No. 16 shall not apply to proceedings in the House of Commons under this section.' There is a 90-minute guillotine on such motions and as has been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) and acknowledged by the Government in Committee, 90 minutes would be an unconscionably short time to debate regulations that might touch on some of the most fundamental political and civil liberties that have been at the centre of the life, vitality and purpose of the House over its history.

Therefore, amendment No. 3, which has all-party support, seeks to remove by statute the recourse that the Government could have to Standing Order No. 16. We now live in a time when even this Bill, which touches on some of our most fundamental liberties, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) said, does not receive proper scrutiny. We must have the ability to discuss these matters for longer, if that is what the House determines by the will expressed in the course of the debate, and that should be set out in legislation. I become cynical and distressed because of the way in which even on this important measure, under the guillotine, Back Benchers have not been remotely able to make a contribution on the areas of part 2 that are fundamental to the purpose of many of us.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Fiona Mactaggart)

I am grateful to hon. Members for trying, to make their important points briefly and I hope to address each of them in the very short time that is left to me.

The Government are sympathetic to the principle of wider consultation with representatives of key parties, which is inherent in new clause 3, if emergency powers are to be used, but we do not believe that the proposed mechanism is the appropriate or best way of going about conducting that process. The House is aware that there is a long-standing convention that the Government will seek in times of serious emergency to build consensus across the political spectrum. The Prime Minister regularly briefs senior figures from all the major political parties on a Privy Council basis. The Government's commitment to that approach was most recently demonstrated in relation to the conflict in Iraq. That tried and tested procedure allows the Government to take the views of senior parliamentary figures in a flexible and efficient way that is tailored to the needs of the situation at hand. It is our view that continuing with that tried and tested procedure is a more appropriate way to ensure that the collecting of opinion is properly done.

Of course, we know that we will use the part 2 powers only in moments of extreme emergency. Establishing a pre-set committee may create greater delay, and we need the most flexible possible way to achieve what is needed. That is why we are anxious to avoid a proposal that could delay response efforts without adding anything to the process. Unnecessary delay in situations in which lives may be at stake would be unacceptable.

Hon. Members have raised concerns—they are largely dealt with in later amendments—about the impact on human rights of other constitutional matters that could arise as a result of the regulations. We have sought to take into account the concerns of the House, and the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) was kind enough to refer to Government amendment No. 93, which seeks to make that clear. We believe that it would be impossible to amend the Human Rights Act 1998 through the regulations that we propose.

I understand hon. Members' concerns about the length of time provided for debate, but it is unfair to make much of the fact that very junior Ministers might be in a position to move regulations; the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire knows perfectly well that they will be acting as Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, and that there are clear routines around which they could carry out that function. Fundamentally, the regulations are to be proposed by Secretaries of State and senior Ministers of the Crown.

There is a key point, however, about properly debating the regulations, and I understand why the Opposition are seeking to amend the Standing Orders of the House to guarantee a long enough and proper debate. It is clearly unacceptable to expect to be able to amend regulations in a 90-minute debate. That 90-minute period is established—

It being Nine o'clock, MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKERput the Question already proposed from the Chair, pursuant to Order [19 January].

The House divided: Ayes 136, Noes 278.

Division No. 185] [9:00 pm
Ainsworth, Peter(E Surrey) Howarth, Gerald(Aldershot)
Allan, Richard Jackson, Robert(Wantage)
Amess, David Jenkin, Bernard
Arbuthnot, rh James Key, Robert(Salisbury)
Atkinson, Peter(Hexham) Kirkwood, Sir Archy
Baldry, Tony Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Barker, Gregory Leigh, Edward
Baron, John(Billericay) Letwin, rh Oliver
Barrett, John Lewis, Dr. Julian(New Forest E)
Beith, rh A. J. Liddell-Grainger, Ian
Bellingham, Henry Llwyd, Elfyn
Bercow, John Luff, Peter(M-Worcs)
Beresford, Sir Paul McIntosh, Miss Anne
Blunt, Crispin Mackay, rh Andrew
Boswell, Tim Maclean rh David
Bottomley, Peter(Worthing W) McLoughlin, Patrick
Bottomley, rh Virginia(SW Surrey) Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Brazier, Julian Mawhinney, rh Sir Brian
Breed, Colin Mercer, Patrick
Brooke, Mrs Annette L. Mitchell, Andrew(Sutton Coldfield)
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Malcolm Moore, Michael
Burnside, David Moss, Malcolm
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies(NE Fife) Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Öpik, Lembit
Chapman, Sir Sydney(Chipping Barnet) Osborne George(Tatton)
Ottaway Richard
Chope, Christopher Page, Richard
Clarke, rh Kenneth(Rushcliffe) Paterson Owen
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Prisk, Mark(Hertford)
Collins, Tim Randall, John
Conway, Derek Redwood, rh John
Cormack, Sir Patrick Rendel, David
Curry, rh David Robathan, Andrew
Davey, Edward(Kingston) Robertson, Laurence(Tewk'b'ry)
Davis, rh David(Haltemprice & Howden) Russell, Bob(Colchester)
Sanders, Adrian
Djanogly, Jonathan Sayeed, Jonathan
Evans, Nigel Shephard, rh Mrs Gillian
Fabricant, Michael Shepherd, Richard
Fallon, Michael Simmonds Mark
Flight, Howard Simpson, Keith(M-Norfolk)
Forth, rh Eric Smith, Sir Robert(W Ab'd'ns & Kincardine)
Gale, Roger(N Thanet)
Garnier, Edward Smyth, Rev. Martin(Belfast S)
Gibb, Nick(Bognor Regis) Soames, Nicholas
Gidley, Sandra Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Goodman, Paul Spicer, Sir Michael
Gray, James(N Wilts) Spink, Bob(Castle Point)
Grayling, Chris Spring, Richard
Green, Damian(Ashford) Stanley, rh Sir John
Grieve, Dominic Streeter, Gary
Hammond, Philip Stunell, Andrew
Hancock, Mike Swayne Desmond
Harvey, Nick Swire, Hugo(E Devon)
Hawkins, Nick Syms, Robert
Hayes, John(S Holland) Taylor, Ian(Esher)
Heald, Oliver Taylor, John(Solihull)
Heath, David Taylor, Dr. Richard(Wyre F)
Heathcoat-Amory, rh David Taylor, Sir Teddy
Hendry, Charles Thurso, John
Hermon, Lady Trimble, rh David
Hoban, Mark(Fareham) Turner, Andrew(Isle of Wight)
Hogg, rh Douglas Tyrie, Andrew
Holmes, Paul Viggers, Peter
Horam, John(Orpington) Webb, Steve(Northavon)
Weir, Michael Yeo, Tim (S Suffolk)
Wiggin, Bill Young, rh Sir George
Willis, Phil
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Ann (Congleton) Tellers for the Ayes:
Winterton, Sir Nicholas(Macclesfield) Hugh Robertson and
Mr. Mark Francois
Adams, Irene(Paisley N) Dhanda, Parmjit
Ainger, Nick Dobson, rh Frank
Ainsworth, Bob(Cov'try NE) Donohoe, Brian H.
Allen, Graham Dowd, Jim(Lewisham W)
Anderson, rh Donald(Swansea E) Drew, David(Stroud)
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary Eagle, Angela(Wallasey)
Atherton, Ms Candy Eagle, Maria(L'pool Garston)
Atkins, Charlotte Edwards, Huw
Austin, John Efford, Clive
Bailey, Adrian Ellman, Mrs Louise
Barnes, Harry Ennis, Jeff(Barnsley E)
Barron, rh Kevin Etherington, Bill
Battle, John Farrelly, Paul
Beard, Nigel Field, rh Frank(Birkenhead)
Begg, Miss Anne Fisher, Mark
Bell, Sir Stuart Fitzpatrick, Jim
Bennett, Andrew Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Betts, Clive Flint, Caroline
Blackman, Liz Flynn, Paul(Newport W)
Blears, Ms Hazel Foster, Michael(Worcester)
Bradley, rh Keith(Withington) Foster, Michael Jabez(Hastings & Rye)
Bradley, Peter(The Wrekin)
Brown, rh Nicholas(Newcastle E Wallsend) Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike(Ilford S)
Brown, Russell(Dumfries) Gerrard, Neil
Browne, Desmond Gibson, Dr. Ian
Buck, Ms Karen Griffiths, Jane(Reading E)
Burden, Richard Griffiths, Win(Bridgend)
Burgon, Cohn Grogan, John
Burnham, Andy Hain, rh Peter
Cairns, David Hall, Mike(Weaver Vale)
Campbell, Alan(Tynemouth) Hamilton, David(Midlothian)
Campbell, Mrs Anne(C'bridge) Hamilton, Fabian(Leeds NE)
Casale, Roger Hanson, David
Caton, Martin Havard, Dai(Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney)
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben(Wirral S) Healey, John
Chaytor, David Henderson, Ivan(Harwich)
Clapham, Michael Hendrick, Mark
Clark, Dr. Lynda(Edinburgh Pentlands) Hepburn, Stephen
Heyes, David
Clark, Paul(Gillingham) Hill, Keith(Streatham)
Clarke, rh Tom(Coatbridge & Chryston) Hoey, Kate(Vauxhall)
Hope, Phil(Corby)
Clarke, Tony(Northampton S) Hopkins, Kelvin
Clelland, David Howarth, rh Alan(Newport E)
Clwyd, Ann(Cynon V) Howarth, George(Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann Hughes, Kevin(Doncaster N)
Cohen, Harry Humble, Mrs Joan
Colman, Tony Hurst, Alan(Braintree)
Connarty, Michael Iddon, Dr. Brian
Cook, rh Robin(Livingston) Illsley, Eric
Corston, rh Jean Ingram, rh Adam
Cruddas, Jon Irranca-Davies, Huw
Cryer, Ann(Keighley) Jackson, Glenda(Hampstead & Highgate)
Cryer, John(Hornchurch)
Cummings, John Jackson, Helen(Hillsborough)
Cunningham, Jim(Coventry S) Jamieson, David
Cunningham, Tony(Workington) Johnson, Alan(Hull W)
Dalyell, Tam Johnson, Miss Melanie(Welwyn Hatfield)
Davey, Valerie(Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian Jones, Helen(Warrington N)
Davies, rh Denzil(Llanelli) Jones, Kevan(N Durham)
Dawson, Hilton Jones, Martyn(Clwyd S)
Dean, Mrs Janet Jowell, rh Tessa
Denham, rh John Joyce, Eric(Falkirk W)
Kaufman, rh Gerald Pope, Greg(Hyndburn)
Keeble, Ms Sally Pound, Stephen
Keen, Alan(Feltham) Prentice, Ms Bridget(Lewisham E)
Keen, Ann(Brentford)
Kemp, Fraser Prentice, Gordon(Pendle)
Kennedy, Jane(Wavertree) Prescott, rh John
Khabra, Piara S. Primarolo, rh Dawn
Kidney, David Prosser, Gwyn
Kilfoyle, Peter Purchase, Ken
King, Andy(Rugby) Purnell, James
King, Ms Oona(Bethnal Green & Bow) Quin, rh Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Knight Jim(S Dorset) Rammell, Bill
Kumar, Dr. Ashok Rapson, Syd(Portsmouth N)
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen Raynsford, rh Nick
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie Reed, Andy(Loughborough)
Laxton, Bob(Derby N) Reid, rh Dr. John(Hamilton N & Bellshill)
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher Ross, Ernie(Dundee W)
Levitt, Tom(High Peak) Roy, Frank(Motherwell)
Lewis, Terry(Worsley) Ruane, Chris
Linton, Martin Russell, Ms Christine(City of Chester)
Love, Andrew
Lucas, Ian(Wrexham) Ryan, Joan(Enfield N)
Luke, lain(Dundee E) Salter, Martin
Lyons, John(Strathkelvin) Sarwar, Mohammad
McAvoy, rh Thomas Savidge, Malcolm
McCabe, Stephen Sawford, Phil
McCafferty, Chris Sedgemore, Brian
McDonagh, Siobhain Shaw, Jonathan
MacDonald, Calum Sheerman, Barry
McDonnell, John Sheridan, Jim
MacDougall, John Short, rh Clare
McFall, John Simon, Siôn(B'ham Erdington)
McGuire, Mrs Anne Simpson, Alan(Nottingham S)
Mclsaac, Shona Singh, Marsha
McKechin, Ann Skinner, Dennis
Mackinlay, Andrew Smith, rh Chris(Islington S & Finsbury)
McNamara, Kevin
McNulty, Tony Smith, Geraldine(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony Smith, Jacqui(Redditch)
McWilliam, John Squire, Rachel
Mahmood, Khalid Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Mahon, Mrs Alice Steinberg, Gerry
Mann, John(Bassetlaw) Stevenson, George
Marris, Rob(Wolverh'ton SW) Stewart, David(Inverness E & Lochaber)
Marsden, Gordon(Blackpool S)
Marshall, David(Glasgow Shettleston) Stewart, Ian(Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Marshall, Jim(Leicester S) Stoate, Dr. Howard
Martlew, Eric Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Merron, Gillian Stringer, Graham
Michael, rh Alun Stuart, Ms Gisela
Milburn, rh Alan Tami, Mark(Alyn)
Miliband, David Taylor, rh Ann(Dewsbury)
Miller, Andrew Taylor, Dari(Stockton S)
Mitchell, Austin(Gt Grimsby) Taylor, David(NW Leics)
Moffatt, Laura Thomas, Gareth(Harrow W)
Mole, Chris Timms, Stephen
Moonie, Dr. Lewis Tipping, Paddy
Munn, Ms Meg Todd. Mark(S Derbyshire)
Murphy, Denis(Wansbeck) Trickett, Jon
Naysmith, Dr. Doug Turner, Dennis(Wolverh'ton SE)
O'Brien, Bill(Normanton) Turner, Dr. Desmond(Brighton Kemptown)
O'Brien, Mike(N Warks)
O'Hara, Edward Turner, Neil(Wigan)
Olner, Bill Twigg, Derek(Halton)
O'Neill, Martin Vis, Dr. Rudi
Organ, Diana Walley, Ms Joan
Owen, Albert Ward, Claire
Palmer, Dr. Nick Wareing, Robert N.
Perham, Linda Watson, Tom(W Bromwich E)
Pickthall, Colin Watts, David
Pike, Peter(Burnley) White, Brian
Plaskitt, James Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Williams, rh Alan(Swansea W) Worthington, Tony
Williams, Betty(Conwy) Wright, Anthony D.(Gt Yarmouth)
Wills, Michael Wright, David(Telford)
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie(Doncaster C) Tellers for the Noes:
Mr. Jim Murphy and
Woodward, Shaun Mr. John Heppell

Question accordingly negatived.

MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKERthen proceeded to put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that hour, pursuant to Order [19 January].

Government amendments Nos. 78 to 99 agreed to.

Mr. Heald

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The result of the guillotine imposed on the Bill has been that six new clauses, one new schedule and 87 amendments—including important Government amendments—have not been reached or debated. You will know that the Opposition voted against the programme motion. Would it be possible for you to report this matter to the Chairman of Ways and Means—who is called upon from time to time to give evidence about the effect of programming to Committees such as the Procedure Committee—to ensure that he is fully apprised of the disaster that has occurred today?

Madam Deputy Speaker

That is not a point of order for the Chair. We are following the provisions of the programme motion to which the House agreed. I have no doubt, however that the Chairman of Ways and Means will read the hon. Gentleman's comments inHansard.

Peter Bottomley

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. At the conclusion of the Report stage, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart), was unable to complete either her sentence or her speech, but it sounded as though she was about to make an important announcement. Although it may not have happened often, I believe that there is a precedent for two Ministers speaking al the beginning of a Third Reading debate. Would it be possible for the Under-Secretary to complete her speech before the Minister for Crime Reduction. Policing and Community Safety moves the Third Reading of the Bill? It really is a sadness—I do not want to use a pejorative word—that the Under-Secretary was unable to complete her speech at the previous stage.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal)

Order. That is not a point of order. The issue is entirely up to the Ministers concerned

Order for Third Reading read.

9.14 pm
Ms Blears

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

I thank hon. Members on both sides of the House for their contribution to the development of the legislation. The principles of the Bi11 command the broad support of all parties, and I am genuinely grateful to hon. Members for the constructive and sensible way in which the Bill has been scrutinised and debated.

As I said at the outset, a joint Committee subjected the Bill to pre-legislative scrutiny, and two public consultations have taken place. When the Bill was introduced on 7 January, the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who is unfortunately not with us this evening, said that it was stronger as a result of the pre-legislative scrutiny, and I am sure that hon. Members share that view.

The Bill's subject matter is not party political, and all hon. Members have been keen to examine possible improvements and to make sure that that process is rigorous and evidence based—we all agree that it is important to get the Bill right. The Bill deals with serious issues, particularly given the heightened threat from terrorism that we all currently face Although we have occasionally disagreed on the detail, I hope that we all support the broad thrust of the Bill

As the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said on Second Reading, the legislation's purpose is clear. The aim of the Bill and its accompanying non-legislative measures is the delivery of a single framework for civil protection in the United Kingdom that will hopefully meet the challenges of the 21st century—in some cases, the legislation that is being replaced dates back 80 years. The Bill establishes a proper framework, which will hopefully last for a similar length of time.

We are all familiar with the challenges. Recent events have shown how emergencies can disrupt our way of life, damaging human welfare, the environment and national security. Even now, the events of 11 September 2001 are still fresh in many people's minds, but so are the fuel crisis, foot and mouth and the floods of 2000. The floods of 2000, which predated 11 September, were the catalyst for the emergency planning review, which was set in train by the Deputy Prime Minister and provided the foundations for the legislation.

The Bill will end our reliance on legislation dating from the first half of the last century, which has stood us in good stead but is increasingly unsuitable in today's world. Modernisation is timely—some hon. Members disagree with some of the modernising measures that the Government have introduced—but I am glad that the Bill has all-party support.

Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire)(LD)

Devolution is one element of modernisation, and I note the marked difference in responsibilities and authority between Scotland and Wales. Does the Minister feel it appropriate that Wales will effectively have less autonomy to make decisions relating to the Bill, after the Bill is enacted? Does she have a view on the need for a little more devolution to Wales on such matters?

Ms Blears

I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman raises devolution. We had an interesting debate on devolution, in which one right hon. Member, who is not in his place, sought to undo the devolution settlement. The provisions relating to Scotland and Wales mirror the devolution settlement, which is why the Scottish provisions discuss action taken by Ministers, who are clearly separate from the legislature in Scotland, whereas the Welsh provisions concern consultation and deliberation with the Assembly, reflecting the different tenor of the devolution settlement in those two countries.

On Report, I pointed out to the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy(Mr. Llwyd) that the relationship with Wales is important. Matters that have been devolved to Wales, such as health and transport, are key to making sure that the response to civil contingencies is accurate, integrated and coherent, and the relationship with Wales will continue to be important.

Mr. Heald

Of course, we did not have a chance to discuss amendments Nos. 93 and 94, which the Government introduced following discussions in Committee on the role that they should play in terms of emergency powers to restore the Government and the declaration on human rights. I hope that the Minister will say a word about each amendment.

Ms Blears

I will certainly do my best to cover all the areas that are dealt with by the Bill, because I recognise that we did not have time to deal with issues that are important to Members.

It is right that the legislation should tackle the local and national levels. Part 1 will ensure that the framework for planning at the local level—already strong in many respects—is brought on to a more consistent basis. It enshrines the concept of integrated emergency management, which is that emergencies should be considered along a spectrum rather than being planned for in isolation. That is a departure from the Civil Defence Act 1939, and the analysis has drawn wide support from civil emergency protection practitioners. The Bill will deliver clear roles and responsibilities for local responders, and local communities across the country will see the benefit.

The renewal of the emergency powers framework in part 2 is equally important. The Emergency Powers Act 1920 has served the UK well in times of national crisis, but it was last used more than 20 years ago and it has reached the end of its natural life. The fundamentals of the legislation remain the same—an ability rapidly to make temporary legislation for the purpose of dealing with the most serious of emergencies—but the Bill offers a more flexible, deployable and resilient model with stronger safeguards and better procedures than the original legislation.

Nevertheless, we are all conscious of the difficult balance to be struck in these matters. I recognise how strongly Members felt about that in Committee and it is perhaps a pity that we have not had chance to debate them, but clearly Members—

Mr. Hogg

Whose fault is that?

Ms Blears

There were no knives in the programme motion, and Members could have sought to prioritise whichever amendments they wanted to. Perhaps we could have had more focused debates on the other amendments. Then we would have had a chance to consider other parts of the Bill.

David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op)

It has been put to me by a constituent who is a member of the human aspects group of the Emergency Planning Society that the definition of "emergency" is not sufficiently broad. Throughout the Bill, "emergency" is an event that presents a serious threat to human welfare and is explained in terms of loss of life, illness or injury. She tells me, and I put it to the Minister, that there needs to be much more of a recognition that human welfare also includes human suffering(social and psychological) both in the short term and longer term. Does the Minister agree that the Bill deals with that adequately, and therefore that the definition of "emergency" is sufficiently broad?

Ms Blears

I understand the point that my hon. Friend makes, but "human welfare" is a broad term that can encompass physical welfare, but which may have an impact on people's emotional, mental and psychological well-being. The definition was subjected to a lot of debate during pre-legislative scrutiny. Indeed, one thing that Members across the House are pleased about is the fact that the reference in the original definition to a threat to economic, administrative and political stability was taken out because people felt it could perhaps be misused under a particularly ill-inclined Government.

David Taylor

Will my hon. Friend write to me on this matter?

Ms Blears

I shall take advice on the breadth of the definition. My instinct is that it could cover the circumstances outlined by my hon. Friend, but I am happy to write to him.

We are conscious of the difficult balance to be struck and we recognise the sincere and heartfelt concerns of many in the House about the need to ensure that robust safeguards are in place to prevent misuse of emergency powers. We have made important changes to the Bill to meet those concerns as a result of pre-legislative scrutiny and during consideration in Committee and on Report, and especially in relation to parliamentary scrutiny and the operation of the Bill alongside the Human Rights Act 1998.

Members were concerned about whether it would be possible to use the Bill to amend the Human Rights Act, but my hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office made his statement of compatibility with that Act when he signed off the Bill and when he referred to this in Committee. I hope that Members will accept that assurance.

Hon. Members have also taken the opportunity to use the debates to air other points of concern, both about the specifics of the Bill and the Government's wider civil contingencies and counter-terrorism work. We have had some useful discussions, and I hope that we have offered full explanations of our position. We tried to provide as much information as possible during the debates, and I hope that hon. Members have found that helpful in informing our deliberations.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con)

But can the hon. Lady assure us that in all the training that will be necessary for the public, institutions and organisations, the resources will not be wanting? I am talking specifically about local authorities, which will want to take lead roles, as they will be required to do under the Bill as enacted. Can she assure the House that they will get the resources necessary to ensure that the training takes place?

Ms Blears

If the hon. Gentleman had been present during the previous consideration—I make no criticism of him for that—he would have heard that we had a robust discussion about the funding position for responders. Clearly, I made the point that in the last seven years, the civil defence grant has increased by 31 per cent., whereas in the last seven years of the previous Administration, it decreased by 42 per cent. I entirely acknowledge that local government has concerns about additional pressures. That is why we are in discussions with it now. I have said clearly that there must be a proper business case, properly set out, for any increase, but clearly, we will try to consider those matters properly within the spending review settlement for 2004. I also ask Members to take into account the fact that local government has received substantial real terms increases over the past few years in its basic revenue support grant settlements. In that overall funding context, I take on board the idea that we need to try to resolve any genuine issues so that people can do the job properly that we ask them to do.

Mr. Heath

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms Blears

Not unless it is on a similar point.

I want to return to the point made by the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) about the Human Rights Act 1998. As I understand it, section 6 clearly states that should Her Majesty or a Minister make regulations that are incompatible with the convention rights, that would be unlawful, so it is not necessary to provide for that in the Bill.

Mr. Heald

I have already quoted from the eighth report of the Joint Committee. The hon. Lady has acknowledged that there is a point in amendment No. 93—which, unfortunately, we did not reach—meaning that the Minister must make a statement before making regulations that they are compatible with section 1 of the Human Rights Act.

Ms Blears

Yes, I suppose that it could be a belt and braces provision. There is merit in requiring the maker of the regulations to give a clear statement that the regulations are compatible, because given the exceptional nature of emergency regulations, it is appropriate to make exceptional provision. The Human Rights Act does not require a statement of compatibility in relation to secondary legislation, but such emergency legislation is likely to include provisions that at non-emergency times would be included in primary rather than secondary legislation.

Mr. Heath

Will the Minister give way?

Ms Blears

I am anxious for other Members to be able to make a contribution to this debate. If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I shall press on. I have given way a great deal.

I hope that we have developed the Bill in an open and consultative way. I want to pay tribute to the organisations that have made that possible by getting involved with the consultation. Practitioners such as chief officers of police, fire and local government, the Emergency Planning Society and pressure groups such as Liberty and Justice have helped us to develop the Bill in a proper fashion. We have benefited from the active engagement of thousands of individual civil protection professionals, and I hope that they have helped us to develop a Bill that is both principled and practicable.

The process of pre-legislative scrutiny helped to ensure that the Bill that was introduced in January was much stronger than it would otherwise have been. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Dr. Moonie) for his work in chairing that committee, and for the contribution from Members of all parties. We have not, I am sure, resolved every issue, but we have a Bill that delivers our aim, and that has stood up to parliamentary scrutiny thus far. We are sending this Bill to the other place in good shape, although their lordships will doubtless wish to review many of the issues that we have discussed. In particular, we can look forward to their experience being brought to bear on some of the technical aspects of the Bill, as well as on fundamental questions about the balance between the rights of the individual and the needs of the community.

This is important legislation. The Acts that we are replacing are, in parts, more than 80 years old, and for us, as legislators and representatives, the safety and well-being of the people of the United Kingdom is the highest priority. I think the Bill is a substantial step towards progress in that direction, and I commend it to the House.

9.30 pm
Mr. Heald

I will not speak for long, because others wish to speak as well.

Let me begin by saying what a disgrace it is that we have lost the chance to debate six new clauses, one new schedule and 87 amendments. That really is not good enough. We voted against the programme motion; as a result of the Government's insistence on their programme, we have been unable to debate some very important matters. We have said from the outset that the Bill is overdue, and that our response to emergencies at local and national level should be provided for in a modern Bill. The measures in part 2 allow Ministers wide discretion to make emergency regulations, but protection for human rights is still inadequate.

I welcome amendment No. 93, which does at least ensure that the Minister must issue a certificate when making regulations stating that they are compatible with section 1 of the Human Rights Act. We argued for that in Committee, and I think we are entitled to take some credit for having moved the Minister on it. I note from its latest report that the Joint Committee on Human Rights welcomes it too, describing it as a step in the right direction.

Mr. Hogg

A step.

Mr. Heald

A step, as my right hon. and learned Friend says. The Committee says: We welcome these moves, which serve significantly to improve the safeguards for Convention rights under the Bill. However, it also says: We remain concerned that clause 21(3) of the Civil Contingencies Bill may be interpreted as allowing regulations to be made which would relieve a public authority of its duty —to which the Minister has just referred— under section 6". It is that concern that we continue to express.

Mr. Hogg

Under the emergency regulations, for example, property can be confiscated without compensation. That flies in the face of the relevant article.

Mr. Heald

My right hon. and learned Friend will have noted that amendments were tabled on compensation and the costs of compliance. I know that he would have wanted to speak if we had reached that group.

Although we welcome the structure of the Bill and the duties placed on local authorities and other responders, we question whether enough has been done to protect human rights, and to make a practical reality of the necessary response to an emergency. We called for a volunteer reserve to deal with emergencies, and we have debated that today. I believe that there is a mood in all parts of the House in favour of a greater role for volunteers, and the Government should have conceded the point.

We called for proper public information and training. The Government seem to be moving on that—all too slowly, but I predict that they will produce a booklet for every household in due course, setting out some of the threats and some of the necessary information.[Interruption.] I am told that they will have to do so, now that I have predicted it. It is a pity that a Minister could not just stand up at the Dispatch Box and say, "Yes, we will be doing that." We would have liked to see a senior Minister in charge of homeland security and the response to terrorism, rather than the current Home Office/Cabinet Office/Ministry of Defence mishmash.

It is true that we have seen some improvements in the Bill as a result of the Committee stage—for instance, the provisions on cross—border issues and on not treating the protection of Government activities as an emergency in itself, the improved drafting in clauses 1, 2 and 18 on the meaning of "emergency"—although there was more to discuss—and of course amendment No. 93, which improves protection for human rights.

At the end of our deliberations in Committee, I said that we had not had a sausage from the Government. Perhaps by now we have had a cocktail chipolata; none the less, there is more work to do in the other place.[Interruption.] I am told that they do not have cocktail chipolatas in Wales, and I believe it; perhaps I should have said "a lamb chop".

On Second Reading, I said that there was much in the Bill to probe, challenge and improve. There is also much in the Bill to welcome, and we have made limited progress in trying to improve it. However, there is a lot still to do and the battle will go on elsewhere. Many of the matters that we have been unable to discuss tonight will be returned to in another place: the issues dealt with in new clauses 4, 6, 7 and 9; the important issues of ministerial responsibility, compensation and what really constitutes an emergency; procedure; human rights; and the question of emergency co-ordinators being competent people for the task.

Peter Bottomley

To those who expected the House to have lengthier debates on these issues, it is worth emphasising the importance of the leaflet to which my hon. Friend referred, and of the Minister's description of the serious issues being considered. In doing so, we should consider the ministerial answer that she gave—my hon. Friend will have seen it—concerning feedback on Home Office guidance on mass fatalities. That is serious information, and in the light of the Government's concern about how people should respond to mass fatalities, in terms of coroners and the disposal of bodies, we begin to understand why this Bill and the debate matters, and why the debate in the other place will matter even more than ours, given that we have been unable to go through everything in detail.

Mr. Heald

I agree with my hon. Friend. These are very serious issues, and it is wrong that the House of Commons should be unable to debate them in the detail that they deserve. For my part, I would nevertheless find it impossible to vote against a measure that establishes for future emergencies a new structure with which I agree. This is the sort of dilemma that one sometimes faces: on the one hand, the Bill does some good things, but on the other, we as an Opposition have not been treated as we should have been.

9.37 pm
Dr. Moonie

I shall be very brief. This important Bill provides for the long overdue updating of two Government functions—the making of emergency legislation, and the planning framework for dealing with disaster—and it will create the conditions for an effective and resilient planning network in dealing with emergencies. As Chairman of the Joint Committee, I examined the Bill before it was introduced, and I congratulate the Government on having listened to the points that we made. The fact that the report was unanimous indicates why the Government felt it necessary to take proper cognisance of it, and they have indeed moved a long way. The Opposition will doubtless stress in the other place their argument that many important matters are still to be decided, but in my view the important matters were decided in the Joint Committee and the Government listened to us. It should be recognised that definitions and safeguards have been strengthened in important areas.

I accept that we are not going to agree on the question of the need for a single Minister to run things. I take the view that when one needs a multi-agency response to disasters, it is a great mistake to concentrate on one area. However, I want to stress the need for a proper audit of the process that we are about to undertake. Such an audit would ensure that the Government's wishes are properly carried out, rather than lip service simply being paid to them, and it would ensure that best practice is disseminated as quickly and effectively as possible once bright ideas had been made. I do not believe that the way to proceed is necessarily to have a separate Ministry or a plethora of national committees, which would actually reduce resilience. What is important is to get the process under way and to look at it carefully. I still believe that an independent inspector would be the best way to achieve proper scrutiny of what the Government are about to do, but perhaps that issue is best dealt with in another place.

It is nearly three years since the dreadful attack on the twin towers. It is high time we got down to proper planning. The Bill makes a sound start, but no more than that. There is still a lot of work to do.

9.39 pm
Mr. Allan

I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Dr. Moonie), who did an excellent job in chairing an effective Joint Committee. One could not tell the party allegiance of the members of the Committee because they engaged with the issues. They were not partisan, which is entirely appropriate for pre-legislative scrutiny. In this forum, we tend to adopt a slightly more partisan approach. I will not engage in too much of a love-in with the Government in view of their changes to the Bill, for fear of upsetting the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), who was upset at the beginning of our proceedings today.

We had different concerns about parts 1 and 2. We are disappointed that we have not discussed the part 2 issues, which are of greater concern to Liberal Democrats than the part 1 issues because they deal with fundamental liberties and the way in which the unwritten constitution of the United Kingdom works.

On part 1, the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) referred to the service as a Cinderella service. The Minister has done an admirable job today in picking up the brief but, in defending the Government's position, she said that they gave lots of extra money for the civil defence grant. She neglected to tell us that they did so only in the face of a legal challenge to the Government by local authorities. It was not a willing move and the trend was clearly of central Government wishing to cut funding.

The Government were forced into offering additional funding. The climate in local authorities and, importantly, in business is all about cutting margins and not doing things that are not strictly necessary. We must be honest. We will face a charge of hypocrisy if we will the ends but not the means. We must be realistic about the difficult climate that we face.

On part 2, our concerns were about the locks and the way in which the definitions work. That is now much clearer, particularly following the work of the Joint Committee and the response to that. We were also concerned about compatibility with the European convention on human rights. Although we did not have a chance to debate it today, I am pleased that the Government tabled amendment No. 93 in response to concerns expressed in Standing Committee to ensure that certification takes place.

Our concern is the risk of abuse of these sweeping powers by a future Government, which should concern all of us as constitutional democratic politicians. It is right that we tried to explore that as best we could.

David Taylor

The hon. Gentleman refers to scrutiny and the comments in relation to audit. Does he believe, as I do, that the sanctions that are available in respect of regions and authorities that are not evidencing a high standard of planning and preparedness are not exactly clear, or indeed very enforceable?

Mr. Allan

Sanctions are set out. There is a monitoring regime in clause 9 and a sanctions regime in clause 10, but the hon. Gentleman is right. Once the regulations have been introduced. that is one of the things that we will have to explore to find out exactly what will happen if a local authority fails to deliver. I think that we will all want to ask that.

It is a shame that we get the framework but not the important detail when we discuss primary legislation. I understand why that is, but there has been a gap in respect of the way in which local government will implement the measure. Sadly, we have been unable to fill that gap. We needed more debating time to go through that.

I am sure that more concerns will be raised in the House of Lords, particularly on issues to do with human rights law. There are far more expert voices than mine there. I know that many of my colleagues will want to engage with that issue and I trust that they will do an excellent job.

As the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire(Mr. Heald) said, the question that faces us is difficult: what do we do with the Bill tonight? We are equally disappointed that we have not had time to debate it further, but I do not think that we would argue that it should not go forward. The question is: is it better than the status quo? Our colleagues in the other place can tighten the legal framework. On the basis that we trust them to do that, we are content that the Bill should go to the House of Lords.

As I say, we are disappointed that we have not been able to manage our time in such a way that we had longer to debate things. We welcomed some of the amendments that were introduced today. We expected to welcome them in short order. We ended up welcoming them over a longer period than we expected, particularly the Scottish amendment that began the proceedings. It is regrettable that we did not get on to the questions about part 2. The long time it took to debate earlier amendments is part of the reason for that.

We will now have to leave it to colleagues in another place to deal with them. Our intention tonight, however, is not to stop the Bill going forward, because it is better than the status quo.

9.44 pm
Mr. Llwyd

It was mentioned earlier that the Bill was improved by proceedings in the pre-legislative Committee. In fact, when the Bill was in that mode, one provision said that Ministers in this place had to liaise over emergencies with those in the National Assembly—except in cases of urgency. I found that quite ridiculous—I do not know of any emergency that has no element of urgency to it—but it was changed. As the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy(Dr. Moonie) said, much more needs to be done. That is a fair summation of where we are now.

We have not had an opportunity to discuss the jurisdiction of the courts. compensation, human rights or, interestingly, the definition of an emergency. The Minister said that Liberty had assisted her and her colleagues during the passage of the Bill. I tabled a string of amendments today, which I had hoped would be dealt with. They were important amendments on the definition of an emergency—the core matter in the Bill.

Many of us spent considerable time in the pre-legislative set-up and subsequently in. Committee debating the Bill, and I honestly feel angry about today's guillotine. I know that the voluntary sector, which gave copious evidence to the pre-legislative Committee, feels that it has been taken for a ride. Hardly any of its recommendations were considered for long and they were certainly not agreed to. For the first time in my 13 years in the House, I believe that I have been taken for a ride as well.

9.46 pm
Mr. Shepherd

My hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hertfordshire(Mr. Heald) said that the fight would go on. The fact is that we have not had a proper discussion of the most important part of the Bill, which affects our civil and political liberties. That is what it is all about. The House has not divided properly over the part 1 contentions of the Bill that there should be proper structures and arrangements for the civil defence of this country.

Intelligent discussion has taken place in Committee and on the Floor of the House, but as a result of the guillotine we have considered only four groups of amendments. We have not touched on part 2 at all, so we have not debated the scope of emergency regulations, the jurisdiction of the courts or the duration of the provisions. Ministerial responsibility, compensation and costs of compliance, the definition of an emergency—none of them has been discussed. All those matters are of great concern to many people outside the House and to many Members within it. Other issues include miscellaneous and consequential amendments, civil protection regulations procedure and what is called "human rights"—though I believe that it should be civil and political rights.

This democratically elected House has debated none of those issues. Because of the guillotine, it cannot debate such fundamental considerations as the scope of emergency regulations. We never touched on that in our debates, but I have profound misgivings about the scope of some of the regulations. Under clause 21(3), Emergency regulations may make provision of any kind that could be made by Act of Parliament or by the exercise of the Royal Prerogative; in particular, regulations may … provide for or enable the requisition of confiscation of property (with or without compensation); … provide for or enable the destruction of property, animal life or plant life (with or without compensation)". That is a fundamental contention affecting human rights. There it is on the face of the Bill, giving powers to a Minister—we shall return to that in a moment—to do away with things without compensation. We did not debate that issue.

Who can make such powers to prescribe emergency regulations? Her Majesty the Queen may do so through an Order in Council if she is satisfied that certain conditions are met.

So may a senior Minister of the Crown. However, that part of the Bill includes in the definition of senior Minister of the Crown, the First Lord of the Treasury (the Prime Minister) … any of Her Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State, and … the Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury. [Interruption.] I hear the Whips cheering their own elevation to the status of senior Minister. We did not discuss that provision, but I would have liked to hear the justifications for why a Whip should become a senior Minister for the purposes of the Bill. If the provision were intended to give the Chancellor of the Exchequer a role, as the Second Lord of the Treasury, I would have gladly supported it. But to suggest that Whips who never speak, have no departmental experience and do not make decisions should be able to sign the order for a regulation is, on the face of it, outrageous. They do not have the experience, the weight or the authority to convey to the British public the fact that the issue is so serious and such a matter of principle that it is necessary to move regulations of great importance to our liberties and freedoms.

As the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Allan) said, the Bill has some good aspects. That is not in dispute. We do need better co-ordinated emergency services, and that is agreed on both sides of the House. The hon. Gentleman suggested that the Bill's deficiencies could be dealt with in the other place, but every Member of Parliament will have to tell their constituents how their property could be confiscated without compensation. We will have to tell our constituents why regulations that touch on our freedom from arbitrary arrest and the right to trial could be suspended by statutory instrument—not even primary legislation—and how that could be done with only 90 minutes of discussion. We tabled an amendment to suspend Standing Order No. 16, which limits debate to 90 minutes, but of course we have not reached it.

For the reasons I have given, I am in the invidious position of having to say that I will vote against this measure. I know that the Government's majority will be marshalled to vote for the Bill, as it is for whatever the Government produce and would be for any regulations made under the Bill. But how can I trust the Government when they have reduced debate to such a trivial function of this House and we cannot discuss the very things that we are sent here to discuss? I will vote against this Bill.

9.53 pm
Mr. Hogg

I support what my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills(Mr. Shepherd) has said. Like him, I wish to focus on part 2 of the Bill. I am prepared to accept that there is much of merit in part 1, but I have focused on part 2 and, indeed, that is what I addressed on Second Reading. It is regrettable that part 2, which concerns most people most, has hardly been touched on at Report stage. The Bill will go to the other place with part 2 largely undiscussed.

The truth is that part 2 strikes at many of the rights that we value. To start with, the definition of emergency is extraordinarily wide. It includes the threat to a single life, interruption to fuel supplies, interruption to the railways and many other factors. They would all trigger the powers in the Bill, and those powers are astonishingly wide. For example, my hon. Friend mentioned the power to confiscate property without any form of compensation. Other powers include the power to impose curfews, to prohibit demonstrations and assemblies, and to prohibit political debate and public meetings.

Those are very widespread and draconian powers.

Oddly enough, the Bill does not contain a power to prohibit industrial action, which might be thought to be a useful power. Ministers may not prohibit industrial action, but they may prohibit political assemblies called to protest against that industrial action. That is a bizarre state of affairs.

My hon. Friend, who is not a former Whip, also complained about the fact that very junior Ministers—Whips—will have the powers to make emergency regulations. I share his concern. I was a Whip, and I know perfectly well that Whips know absolutely nothing about the functions of Departments, so when they state that they are satisfied as to this, that or the other, they are exclusively reliant on the advice of officials about matters of which they themselves are wholly ignorant. I regard that as an extraordinary and undesirable state of affairs.

I also object to the fact that there is no proper attempt to get consensus behind the emergency regulations. My colleague on the Front Bench, my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hertfordshire(Mr. Heald), sensibly tabled new clause 3, the object of which was to try to muster some consensus behind the emergency powers. His concept was a consultative committee, but I want something more than that—a majority within the committee as a necessary precondition to laying the emergency regulations, which by definition have excluded the parliamentary process.

I hope that when the Bill goes to the other place, their lordships' House will consider that issue again. Their lordships also need to focus on the question of human rights. It would be churlish not to recognise that amendment No. 93 seeks to address the human rights question, but I am not at all sure whether that is a judicable issue. The Minister has to issue a certificate to the effect that he or she is satisfied that the convention rights are protected, but it is not clear to me whether the courts can challenge that certificate. That is a matter that the House has a right to address.

In the convention—I believe that it is in the first protocol—we find the right to property. We also find the right to free speech, free assembly and so on. Yet those rights can be directly excluded by the clause 21 powers given, in principle, to Whips. We need to know whether those powers are subject to the courts' jurisdiction.

I share the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills. Perhaps this is a Bill that, at the end of the day, should be supported—but it is clear that the House is not now in a position to make that judgment, because we have not had ample time to debate it. We could have done so. Next week is a light week, and the rest of this week, too, is pretty light. Had the Government wished part 2 to be properly debated, there was ample time. Speaking for myself as an individual, I consider that a sufficient reason to vote against the Bill, so if anybody calls "No" to its Third Reading, I shall be pleased to join them in that protest.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—

The House divided: Ayes 271, Noes 0.

Division No. 186] [9:58 pm
Adams, Irene(Paisley N) Dawson. Hilton
Ainger, Nick Dean, Mrs Janet
Ainsworth, Bob(Cov'try NE) Denham, rh John
Allan, Richard Dhanda, Parmjit
Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary Dobson, rh Frank
Atherton, Ms Candy Donohoe, Brian H.
Atkins, Charlotte Dowd, Jim(Lewisham W)
Austin, John Drew, David(Stroud)
Bailey, Adrian Eagle, Angela(Wallasey)
Barnes, Harry Eagle, Maria(L'pool Garston)
Barrett, John Edwards, Huw
Barron, rh Kevin Efford, Clive
Battle, John Ellman, Mrs Louise
Bayley, Hugh Etherington, Bill
Beard, Nigel Farrelly, Paul
Begg, Miss Anne Fisher, Mark
Bell, Sir Stuart Fitzpatrick, Jim
Betts, Clive Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Blackman, Liz Flint Caroline
Blears, Ms Hazel Flynn, Paul(Newport W)
Bradley, rh Keith(Withington) Foster, Michael(Worcester)
Bradley, Peter(The Wrekin) Foster, Michael Jabez(Hastings & Rye)
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Russell(Dumfries) Francis, Dr. Hywel
Browne, Desmond Gapes, Mike(Ilford S)
Buck, Ms Karen Gerrard, Neil
Burden, Richard Gibson, Dr. Ian
Burgon, Colin Gidley, Sandra
Burnham, Andy Griffiths Jane(Reading E)
Caborn, rh Richard Griffiths Win(Bridgend)
Cairns, David Grogan, John
Campbell, Alan(Tynemouth) Hain, rh Peter
Campbell, Mrs Anne(C'bridge) Hall, Mike(Weaver Vale)
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies(NE Fife Hamilton, David(Midlothian)
Hamilton, Fabian(Leeds NE)
Casale, Roger Hanson, David
Caton, Martin Harvey, Nick
Challen, Colin Havard, Dai(Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney)
Chaytor, David
Clapham, Michael Healey, John
Clark, Dr. Lynda(Edinburgh Pentlands) Heath, David
Hendrick, Mark
Clark, Paul(Gillingham) Hermon, Lady
Clarke, rh Charles(Norwich S) Heyes, David
Clarke, rh Tom(Coatbridge & Chryston) Hill, Keith(Streatham)
Hodge, Margaret
Clelland, David Holmes. Paul
Clwyd, Ann(Cynon V) Hope. Phil(Corby)
Coaker, Vernon Hopkins, Kelvin
Coffey, Ms Ann Howarth, rh Alan(Newport E)
Cohen, Harry Howarth, George(Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael Hughes Kevin(Doncaster N)
Cook, rh Robin(Livingston) Humble, Mrs Joan
Cruddas, Jon Hurst, Alan(Braintree)
Cryer, Ann(Keighley) Iddon, Dr. Brian
Cryer, John(Hornchurch) Illsley, Eric
Cummings, John Irranca-Davies, Huw
Cunningham, Jim(Coventry S) Jackson, Helen(Hillsborough)
Cunningham, Tony(Workington) Johnson, Alan(Hull W)
Dalyell, Tam Johnson, Miss Melanie(Welwyn Hatfield)
Davey, Valerie(Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian Jones, Helen(Warrington N)
Davies, rh Denzil(Llanelli) Jones, Kevan(N Durham)
Jones, Martyn(Clwyd S) Prentice, Ms Bridget(Lewisham E)
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Eric(Falkirk W) Prentice, Gordon(Pendle)
Kaufman, rh Gerald Prescott, rh John
Keeble, Ms Sally Primarolo, rh Dawn
Keen, Alan(Feltham) Prosser, Gwyn
Keen, Ann(Brentford) Purchase, Ken
Kemp, Fraser Purnell, James
Khabra, Piara S. Quin, rh Joyce
Kidney, David Quinn, Lawrie
Kilfoyle, Peter Rapson, Syd(Portsmouth N)
King, Andy(Rugby) Raynsford, rh Nick
King, Ms Oona(Bethnal Green & Bow) Reed, Andy(Loughborough)
Reid, rh Dr. John(Hamilton N & Bellshill)
Knight, Jim(S Dorset)
Kumar, Dr. Ashok Rendel, David
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen Ross, Ernie(Dundee W)
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie Roy, Frank(Motherwell)
Laxton, Bob(Derby N) Ruane, Chris
Lepper, David Russell, Bob(Colchester)
Leslie, Christopher Russell, Ms Christine(City of Chester)
Levitt, Tom(High Peak)
Lewis, Terry(Worsley) Ryan, Joan(Enfield N)
Linton, Martin Salter, Martin
Love, Andrew Sarwar, Mohammad
Lucas, Ian(Wrexham) Savidge, Malcolm
Luke, lain(Dundee E) Sawford, Phil
Lyons, John(Strathkelvin) Shaw, Jonathan
McAvoy, rh Thomas Sheerman, Barry
McCabe, Stephen Sheridan, Jim
McCafferty, Chris Short, rh Clare
McDonagh, Siobhain Simon, Siôn(B'ham Erdington)
MacDonald, Calum Simpson, Alan(Nottingham S)
MacDougall, John Singh, Marsha
McFall, John Skinner, Dennis
McGuire, Mrs Anne Smith, rh Chris(Islington S & Finsbury)
Mclsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann Smith, Geraldine(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNamara, Kevin Smith, Jacqui(Redditch)
McNulty, Tony Smith, Sir Robert(W Ab'd'ns & Kincardine)
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony Squire, Rachel
McWilliam, John Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Mahmood, Khalid Steinberg, Gerry
Mahon, Mrs Alice Stevenson, George
Mann, John(Bassetlaw) Stewart, David(Inverness E & Lochaber)
Marris, Rob(Wolverh'ton SW)
Marsden, Gordon(Blackpool S) Stewart, Ian(Eccles)
Marshall, David(Glasgow Shettleston) Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Martlew, Eric Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Merron, Gillian Stringer, Graham
Michael, rh Alun Stunell, Andrew
Miliband, David Tami, Mark(Alyn)
Miller, Andrew Taylor, rh Ann(Dewsbury)
Moffatt, Laura Taylor, Dari(Stockton S)
Mole, Chris Taylor, David(NW Leics)
Moonie, Dr. Lewis Thomas, Gareth(Harrow W)
Moore, Michael Thurso, John
Munn, Ms Meg Tipping, Paddy
Murphy, Denis(Wansbeck) Todd, Mark(S Derbyshire)
Naysmith, Dr. Doug Tonge, Dr. Jenny
O'Brien, Bill(Normanton) Trickett, Jon
O'Brien, Mike(N Warks) Turner, Dennis(Wolverh'ton SE)
O'Hara, Edward Turner, Dr. Desmond(Brighton Kemptown)
O'Neill, Martin
Organ, Diana Turner, Neil(Wigan)
Owen, Albert Twigg, Derek(Halton)
Palmer, Dr. Nick Tyler, Paul(N Cornwall)
Perham, Linda Vis, Dr. Rudi
Pickthall, Colin Ward, Claire
Pike, Peter(Burnley) Wareing, Robert N.
Plaskitt, James Watson, Tom(W Bromwich E)
Pope, Greg(Hyndburn) Watts, David
Pound, Stephen Webb, Steve(Northavon)
White, Brian Worthington, Tony
Whitehead, Dr. Alan Wright, David(Telford)
Williams, Betty(Conwy)
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie(Doncaster C) Tellers for the Ayes:
Mr. Jim Murphy and
Woodward, Shaun Mr. John Heppell
Tellers for the Noes:
Mr. Richard Shepherd and
Mr. Douglas Hogg

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.