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Mr. Speaker: I understand that the Home Office has already answered a parliamentary question on the matter to which the hon. Gentleman refers. No doubt he will be able to find ways in which to follow up that answer to seek further information.

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Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill (Programme)

10.30 pm

Yvette Cooper: I beg to move,

The Bill is important, as the speeches tonight have acknowledged, and we have had a good debate. The motion proposes that the Committee stage should end on 8 February. We think that that gives sufficient time in which to debate a Bill of this length and nature. I am sure that we shall make good progress in Committee and give the Bill proper scrutiny.

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham): Will the Minister explain how many sittings and how many hours of deliberation she envisages will take place during that period, which is ridiculously short given the seriousness of the many issues raised by the Bill?

Yvette Cooper: That will be a matter for the Programming Sub-Committee to decide. That answer has been given many times before and I am slightly surprised that the right hon. Gentleman feels the need to ask the question again.

The Bill delivers the Government's commitment to ban tobacco advertising. Today, we have had the opportunity thoroughly to debate the arguments for and against such a ban, and the Government have consulted twice on the matter.

Mr. Leigh: For what reason has the date 8 February been picked?

Yvette Cooper: That date has been chosen because we think that it allows sufficient time in which to debate a Bill of the length and nature of the one before the House, and we think it important to programme the Committee stage of the Bill's passage.

We remain committed to implementing in the United Kingdom broadly the same policy as was set out in European Union directive 98/43. We have already consulted twice, so there has been extensive public debate on the matters that the Bill covers. We shall, of course, want to ensure that there is sufficient time in which to debate the key areas of interest in Committee.

Mr. Bercow: Does the Minister know what are to be the terms of the draft resolution to be submitted to the Programming Sub-Committee in respect of the Standing Committee? That draft resolution will specify the number of hours intended for consideration of the Bill. Is the hon. Lady aware of that? If she is aware of the proposed number of hours, would she be good enough to share her knowledge with the House?

Yvette Cooper: I am not aware of what the draft resolution will propose. The issue will go to the

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Committee of Selection on Wednesday and further information will be provided in due course about the timetable for the Programming Sub-Committee and the resolution that will be submitted to that Committee.

Today's debate has given us some idea of which issues and aspects of the Bill members of the Committee will want to scrutinise. It is clear that hon. Members will want to return in Committee to matters such as the internet. We have listened to the views that have been carefully expressed today.

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold): How can the Minister have an idea of what date the Committee stage should finish if she has no idea of the total number of hours of debate in Committee?

Yvette Cooper: That is a matter for the Programming Sub-Committee. This is the standard way in which programme motions are discussed--

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I apologise to the Minister for raising a point of order at this stage, but I should like to ask you a question. We are being asked to vote on a programme motion that would deliver up Committee stage on 8 February without knowing how long the Committee is to sit. Would it not be best if the Minister went to get advice and returned to the House to tell us on how many occasions the Committee will sit and for how long; and if, in the interim, we adjourned?

The President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mrs. Margaret Beckett): Sit down and shut up--[Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. I shall try to deal with the matter myself. This is not a matter for the Chair. It must continue to be a matter for debate. We have been debating such programme motions for a few weeks, and the debate must proceed as those have done.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard (South-West Norfolk): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order that the Leader of the House should say from a sedentary position "Shut up" to a member of the Opposition?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: As it happens, I was dealing with the point of order, and I did not hear anything that was said. However, I realised that there was a disturbance that was attracting attention, and I signified to those on the Government Front Bench that I hoped that matters of order could be dealt with solely by the Chair. I call Yvette Cooper.

Yvette Cooper: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Programme motions are a standard procedure and many have been debated. One of the main advantages of timetabling is that the Committee can concentrate on the important issues and the Opposition will have time to make their points. The suggested date, 8 February, will provide enough time in Committee. It goes without saying that the Programming Sub-Committee will consider the detailed timetable and decide how frequently the Committee needs to sit. I commend the motion to the House.

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10.36 pm

Mrs. Spelman: This is the first time that I have attended a debate on a programme motion, and I was rather taken aback by the Minister's long-suffering tone. I am intrigued about why the Government are going about matters in this way. It seems that we are putting the cart before the horse. No formal discussion of the out-date took place, so I am trying to come to terms with 8 February as the proposed date.

I do not think that I am the only hon. Member who is slightly confused by the introduction of the programme motion process. In the first week after the Christmas recess, I met many of the younger Labour Members who were not a little surprised to find that modernisation of the House had led to us sitting later than usual. Things had not quite gone according to plan.

By now, the Government must be aware that the Opposition do not agree with programming or the use of the guillotine in the consideration of Bills. Although I may be comparatively new to politics, there seems to me to be a certain lack of logic on the Government's part. They enjoy the fact that we do not have fixed-term Parliaments in this, the mother of Parliaments, yet they want to fix the timetable for their own legislation. That is illogical.

Many of us who have the honour of speaking from the Dispatch Box have spent an enjoyable period in our respective Whips Offices. My experience of being a Whip was that a deal was struck informally with respect to the time required for a piece of legislation. I was sometimes amazed to find how accurate those informal arrangements turned out to be, especially when, as a Whip confronted by a large Bill, one had to make the best guess about the length of time that would be required.

I discovered that a certain pattern of behaviour ensues. Almost invariably, the Government flap about getting their legislation out by the date informally agreed, while the Opposition, like an elastic band, are capable of stretching here, contracting there, and effectively landing the plane on the stroke of the agreed time. We gave the Government no reason to doubt the honour of our word that the Bill would be properly examined, they would have their legislation within a reasonable period and we would honour the agreement that we had made.

I am therefore nonplussed that we have moved to the new method of imposing timetables. That undermines the House's ability to decide whether time is being used effectively. It simply gives more power to the Executive--yet the Government claimed that things could only get better.

As we get the hang of these 45-minute debates, a certain pattern is emerging. First, the out-date does not provide a key to the time that will be allocated. In effect, what is in the Order Paper is pretty meaningless. No discussion has taken place about how long the sittings should be, how many we should have on a particular day and whether we should continue past 7 o'clock. There is no guidance for my colleagues about the length of time required for the Bill, which renders this exercise somewhat meaningless.

Mr. Redwood: Has my hon. Friend noticed that the Leader of the House has now left discourteously halfway through her remarks? Does she realise that the Leader of the House has comprehensively bungled the

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modernisation of the House? Arrogant insistence on guillotines means that Government Members now go home later than they otherwise probably would do, while we are still frustrated because we do not get the right opportunity to make the right points on the right issues. It is all a plot to upset Government Back Benchers and to try to hog the debate to stop real opposition.

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