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Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion): On a different point of order, Mr. Speaker. Foot and mouth disease has been confirmed on the Isle of Anglesey, and there are suspected cases in my constituency and in that of the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. Öpik). Thousands of visitors from Ireland on their way to Cardiff for Saturday's rugby union international are expected to travel through Anglesey and by routes to the south of my constituency. Have the Government given you any indication that they will give a further statement to the House to give leadership and guidance to agencies, Government Departments and quangos as to how problems arising from the foot and mouth outbreak should be dealt with? My constituency office is being inundated by questions from members of the public seeking guidance.

Mr. Speaker: Once again, I must say that this is not a matter for me. However, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's concerns will be noted.

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Hunting Bill (Programme)

3.42 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Mike O'Brien): I beg to move,

I can be brief, as the motion before us is simple enough and I am keen to get on with the substantive debates on this Bill. Essentially, the motion provides that Report stage should run until 10 pm tonight and be followed immediately by Third Reading. That is by no means an odd or unusual way to proceed. I reject the suggestion, implicit in the amendments tabled by the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg), that insufficient time is being allowed to consider the Bill.

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The Bill is not long. It does not fill even seven pages. The hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Mr. Maples) said in Committee that it was

Not only that but, unusually, the whole House has had two opportunities to debate the issues--on Second Reading and in Committee of the whole House.

The Bill was extensively debated in Standing Committee. Indeed, the Committee sat on 15 occasions and the Government even extended its proceedings at the request of the official Opposition. The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington) led for the Opposition in Committee, and he took a very constructive view of the length of time allowed for debate. In the initial debate in the Programming Sub-Committee, the hon. Gentleman accepted the Government motion without seeking to amend it. In return, the Government did not think unreasonable his request for an extra day in Committee, and we agreed to it. I understand that no other request was made for a substantial amount of extra time in Committee.

We had some good debates in Committee. Although some speeches were a little on the long side I thought that, on balance, the debate was very constructive and enormously well informed as a result of the Burns report. I regret, however, that despite the extension of time that we provided, we were not able to deal with all the amendments that had been tabled.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed): I am grateful to the Minister for giving way and also for making provision in the voting procedure tonight for us to deal with amendments in response to points that I made about deer stalking and about rabbits and rats. However, the programme motion does not allow for the new Government amendments to be the subject of debate in any protected way. We might reach 10 o'clock and have to vote on the amendments without having the opportunity of assessing whether they meet the case that was put in Committee, as the Minister has tried to do.

Mr. O'Brien: I certainly hope that the House will be able to manage its affairs. I have no wish to impose unreasonable deadlines or time scales on the House. In my view, our proposals are entirely reasonable. The programme motion allows the House some leeway in terms of the time that it allows to discuss the various issues.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): Will the Minister give way?

Mr. O'Brien: I should like to finish answering the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) first.

I think that the programme motion is reasonable. I do not want to have specific times allocated for debate on amendments. It is the Government's view that we have identified some of the key issues that were raised in Committee and in respect of which I felt that it was important for the House as a whole to take a view. May I make it very clear that that does not mean that the Government are asking the House to vote on all the amendments? It is the Government's view that our amendments cover the key issues arising out of the

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debates in Committee that need to be debated by the House as a whole. Therefore, although they are Government amendments, they have been tabled to facilitate debate. The Government's position is not to support or oppose any of these amendments. I have a view on them, and will no doubt be able to express my views on some. The right hon. Member for Berwick- upon-Tweed may find that my position is not too far from his on some points.

Sir Peter Emery (East Devon): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Mike O'Brien: I will give way first to the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg), as I promised.

Mr. Hogg: The hon. Gentleman suggests that we are to have a fairly free debate and that the Government do not have a distinct view. That being so, is it not yet more important that the House should have an opportunity to vote? Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that if we were to vote on but three or four groups of amendments, which is not unreasonable, the time taken for that would come out of the substantive time available? That will make it even less likely that we get to the important groups of amendments towards the end of the selection list.

Mr. O'Brien: I want to ensure that we have sufficient time to have reasonable debates on these issues, and I think that the programme motion allows precisely that. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his colleagues, who take a particular view on these matters, had managed the time in Committee a little better, we might have been able to ensure that we got through issues in a more expeditious but sensible way.

Let me offer some observations: during the Committee's deliberations, the Chairman had to call representatives of the official Opposition to order on no fewer than 52 occasions because they were straying beyond the terms of an amendment under discussion. I do not accuse them of filibustering, because the Chairman would have brought them to order very quickly if they had been. I accuse them simply of being not quite on the point on many occasions. Indeed, on one occasion, the Chairman was moved to state:

Right hon. and hon. Members can draw their own conclusions from that. I hope that we will not have excessive and repetitious dilation this afternoon--then we can reach the issues that the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his colleagues wish to ensure we debate.

Finally, let me deal with the ridiculous suggestion from the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham that only those of us who represent English or Welsh constituencies should be allowed to participate in Divisions on the Bill--[Interruption.] That seems to be his view. I understand the attractiveness of that suggestion for a member of a political party that was so decisively rejected by the voters of Scotland at the general election, but I remind the House of the points that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made when dealing with this issue on Second Reading.

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The powers of the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly derive from this Parliament. Those Parliaments are palpably subordinate to this one and their powers can be rescinded at any stage by this Parliament--although I am not advocating any such course. This is a sovereign Parliament and it is the right of every Member of it to participate in its proceedings, subject to earlier legislation. The arguments of the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham would have carried slightly more conviction if the Conservative party had ever objected in the past to the fact that hon. Members representing Northern Ireland constituencies regularly went into the Lobby with them despite the existence of the Stormont Parliament.

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