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Mr. Bercow: Does not the fact that, effectively, the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993 is a constitutional measure lend prima facie support to the notion that debate should take place not in Committee but on the Floor of the House?

Mr. Tipping: I do not think that that leads to prima facie support. Some of the hon. Gentleman's colleagues asked whether there had been a request from those on the Opposition Front Bench for the matter to be debated on the Floor of the House. I say directly to him that there has not been such a request. I have no problem with that. There are frequent discussions between the Front-Bench teams about the ordering of business, but, on this occasion, we have not been asked for such a debate. However, other hon. Members have asked for a debate on the Floor of the House.

I was pleased to be able to help the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) earlier. I confirm that when the report is produced--following debate in Committee, I hope--I will arrange for any document that goes to the Commission to be placed, for his perusal and that of other Members, in the Library. He asked me some questions and I must be careful about my answers because I do not want to stray out of order.

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He asked whether we were obliged to submit a report to the Commission. That is the nature of the treaty; that is the agreement; that is our treaty obligation. He asked whether there is any procedure for the Commission to question the Government's report. Yes, I would expect the possibility of the Commission asking questions about it. Thirdly, he asked by what date must we get the report to the Commission. It is our intention to ensure that the report is with the Commission by the end of this calendar year.

Sir Teddy Taylor: What the Minister has said is most helpful, but I have just one tiny further point. If, by chance, the Commission were to say to the Government after they submit their report that it is not happy, that it is doubtful and that it disapproves of the report, would the Government make that public and tell the House of Commons? That is relevant to whether we should consider the matter in Committee or on the Floor of the House, and it is a terribly important constitutional issue.

Mr. Tipping: It is an important issue. If such queries are raised, there will be opportunities for the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members to pursue the matter. Clearly, if there is conflict between the Government and the Commission, one ought to be open about it and give hon. Members, perhaps through the Treasury Select Committee, the opportunity to pursue the matter.

Mr. Hogg: The Minister has been very helpful so far, and explained to the House how he intends that the documents will be sent to the Commission. He will have heard Opposition Members express anxieties about our inability to amend the report. If an early-day motion expressing concern about the accuracy of documents to be remitted to the report were signed by a number of hon. Members, would he be good enough to undertake that the early-day motion would also be remitted to the Commission, so that the Commission would know that this House was not 100 per cent. in support of the report?

Mr. Tipping: One thing that I learned early in my career in the House, which has not been as long as that of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, is not to pay a great deal of attention to early-day motions.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield): Disgraceful.

Mr. Tipping: Let me tell the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) that I shall do a little research tomorrow to see how often his name has appeared on them. I suspect that, to put it charitably, he is not in the leading ranks of the charge. However, an early-day motion is not an expression of the House's opinion, but the expression of an opinion of a group of Members, some of whom have a clear interest in a proposition.

The right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham asked a process question about whether it is appropriate to amend the report. The report is not amendable, whether it is taken on the Floor of the House or in Committee. The matter simply does not arise.

Mr. Bercow: What are the nature, extent, duration and limits of the available sanctions and are they subject to appeal?

Mr. Tipping: I am not certain about the focus and remit of the hon. Gentleman's question. Would he like to have another go and let me try again?

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Mr. Bercow: I am grateful, as a second bite is always welcome and, in consequence, the taste is that much juicier. Is the penalty financial? Can it be multiplied and be imposed more than once? For what period or periods could it apply, and is there a right of appeal? Need I make myself clearer?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. Before the Minister seeks to answer, I do not think that the hon. Gentleman's question is relevant to the order before the House--if that helps him.

Mr. Kevin Hughes (Doncaster, North): The Minister should take the advice of the Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Tipping: I shall take the advice of my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster, North (Mr. Hughes)--I always take the advice of the Whips on the Government Front Bench.

The hon. Member for Aldershot made several points. He asked about the nature of article 103(3). The report that we shall submit to the Commission for its approval gives

Earlier, the hon. Gentleman said that he did not want a precedent to be set. That is a matter for the House and it is why we are having a debate tonight. The hon. Gentleman also asked for extensive debate on the process. We have had the opportunity for that debate, and I am grateful that my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary has joined us. I understand that she will initiate the debate in Committee, and that she intends to reflect on the points

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of substance that hon. Members have helpfully made tonight. I know that she does not intend to speak for too long in Committee.

Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire): Why?

Mr. Tipping: My hon. Friend the Economic Secretary wants to hear the views of hon. Members to ensure that any report that we make to the Commission fulfils our needs and obligations.

Question put:--

MR SPEAKER: I think the Ayes have it.

Hon. Members: No.

Division deferred till Wednesday 13 December, pursuant to Order [7 November 2000].


Broadcasting Licences

11.34 pm

Sandra Gidley (Romsey): I am pleased to present a petition organised by Alan Macleod and signed by more than 500 residents, who seek to end the situation whereby Christian and religious groups are barred from owning certain types of broadcasting licence. It is a happy coincidence that the White Paper on the future of broadcasting was launched today.

The petition states:

To lie upon the Table.

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Waste Disposal (Essex)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.--[Mr. Kevin Hughes.]

11.35 pm

Mr. Alan Hurst (Braintree): I am grateful for the opportunity to bring before the House the important matter of waste disposal in Essex. I am pleased to see in their places my hon. Friends the Members for Castle Point (Mrs. Butler) and for Upminster (Mr. Darvill), and the hon. Members for Colchester (Mr. Russell), for Maldon and East Chelmsford (Mr. Whittingdale) and for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman).

This is the second time that I have brought the subject before the House. The other occasion was in early 1999, soon after the draft Essex and Southend-on-Sea waste plan was published.

In Essex, waste plans are rightly controversial and emotive. The plan was first published in November 1998. It identified a number of sites for large-scale waste management. Warning lights immediately came on because of the possibility that those sites might be earmarked for incineration plants. One of the sites was at Rivenhall airfield in my constituency.

Such a choice was singularly offensive as that site had been the subject of a major public inquiry in 1995, when an enormous project for waste disposal by way of landfill was proposed. The inspector took 17 days of evidence and came to the conclusion that it was not an appropriate site.

I shall quote from the inspector's report on the Rivenhall site, but much of it will apply to other sites across the county in which other hon. Members have an interest. In 1995, the inspector stated with regard to Rivenhall:

At that time, landfill was the danger; now it is incineration. In the hierarchy of waste--that has always interested me as an intellectual notion--incineration languishes near the bottom, among the serfs and villeins of former times, so to speak, together with landfill.

One might say that in many ways incineration is a greater threat to local communities than is landfill. Landfill has a life expectancy. Eventually a hole is no longer a hole because it is filled up. A very expensive capital project such as an incinerator would be expected by its owners to last as long as possible, to maximise profit. A landfill site is an eyesore and a nuisance to the neighbouring occupiers, but because of the height of the structure, an incinerator is a blot on the landscape. That would be particularly so at Rivenhall.

The site may not be at the forefront of the minds of those who do not come from Essex, but a number of hon. Members present do come from Essex. The incinerator would be placed at the top of the hill and would be seen for miles around--almost, one might say, as a monument to the folly of those who decided to locate such an installation there.

Incineration has an insatiable appetite. It needs, by its nature, to draw in an endless supply of waste to a central point.

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