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10.50 pm

Mr. Quentin Davies (Grantham and Stamford): I agree with the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), except for his opening observation. My hon. Friend is extraordinarily sanguine in supposing that if the Government found in Committee that more time were needed to debate a clause or the whole Bill, they would ever have the slightest inclination to return to the House and change their programme motion to allow the Committee more time. I would literally eat my hat if the Government ever did such a thing.

We now come here night after night to debate these programme motions, and it is the most extraordinary state of affairs. It is now considered quite natural that the Government, who after all have a responsibility for drafting legislation and presenting it to Parliament, should systematically feel that they are able to assume in advance how long Parliament will take to do its share of the legislative work in examining a Bill. That is a fundamental contradiction. There should be a balance between the role of the Executive and that of the legislature--the Executive proposing and the legislature deliberating and agreeing or otherwise. The way in which the Government are conducting these matters with their enormous majority makes it obvious that they do not accept that.

The arguments this evening and on other occasions amount simply to the Government saying, "We can predict exactly what will happen in Committee and on Report. You have no surprises for us." There is a logical slippage into the next position, which is to say, "The parliamentary stage is a complete waste of time. It is just a ritual and a nuisance for us and it makes not the slightest difference to the legislation." To act in this way is not only to treat Parliament with contempt"--as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) said in an extremely powerful speech, it is to treat the wider public with contempt, because their one opportunity to influence legislation is through Parliament. We are but the mouthpieces of those who send us here.

Back Benchers on a Committee play an important role in listening to representations from individuals or groups outside the House who may be affected by the legislation in question or who may be taking an entirely disinterested view of its consequences. Having considered the merits of those representations, Members must decide whether to take them up, perhaps in the form of amendments. That process, by definition, cannot be predicted in advance. The Government, by saying high-handedly that they know in advance how long proceedings will take, are essentially saying that no such process exists and that they are not open to representations made by the wider public. The Government are treating the whole country with contempt. This is an extremely worrying process because it is not far to the end of the road, which is saying that legislation is what the Government draft and nothing else. By definition, we will then have legislative despotism. I am not using hyperbole. This is government by fear, by

20 Mar 2001 : Column 300

bureaucracy and by Ministers for the four or five years for which the Government have a majority in the House and can continue to govern the country.

Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Davies: I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I do not because we have little time left for the debate. I hope that he will recognise that that is not my fault, and will make representations to his Front-Bench colleagues.

That is the direction in which the House is moving as the 21st century opens, and it is extremely worrying. At the moment, we speak entirely impotently, and the Government laugh at us and pay no attention at all. The two Ministers here this evening have studiously avoided listening to a single word that has been said on the subject by anybody during the debate. First, they may be personally embarrassed to hear the strictures of Conservative Members. Secondly, they know that those strictures do not matter anyway, because they trust their cannon fodder on the Back Benches to go into the Lobbies after the debate and override all those considerations and ensure that no account is taken of them. That is the situation that we face, and if the public seriously want it to continue, and seriously want to go further down the road that I have just described, they will soon have the opportunity to take that decision. I do not believe that they will take that road.

10.55 pm

Mr. Nick St. Aubyn (Guildford): I have not participated in one of these programme motion debates before. I come to the debate as a member of the all-party Select Committee on Education and Employment, which has reached consensus on the issue of special educational needs. It is a mystery to me that there is a need for any sort of programme motion when, broadly speaking, there is consensus about the need for new legislation and about the direction that policy is taking. Surely--given the enthusiasm and support that the Bill should be generating outside the House--the Government would not need a programme motion if they were confident about the Bill.

The conclusion that we must draw from the fact that we have a programme motion is that the Government are far from confident about the validity and strength of the Bill. They are far from confident that the Bill is free from the kind of flaws from which the Opposition fear it suffers. Indeed, we are not the only ones who fear the effects of the mistakes that the Government have made in the drafting of the Bill. I have received a letter from the National Union of Teachers, stating that the union has "particular concerns" about the Bill. I have also received a letter from the National Association of Head Teachers, stating:

We are worried that we are being led into a headlong rush by Ministers under this procedure.

20 Mar 2001 : Column 301

In our experience, it is a far better approach to give a Bill such as this plenty of time to mature in Committee. I have known cases, on previous education Bills, of unions saying that they had not realised how the Bill would affect their representatives until it was in Committee. We wanted to table amendments but found that, because of the programme motions that were in place, it was too late to do so. Here we have a case of a Bill starting in another place. The Conservative spokesman there, Baroness Blatch, was most prescient in her comments. She said that she feared that the Bill would be

She might well have said "in a day", because we do not even have a day's worth of time in which to debate the Bill in Committee.

Furthermore, in another place, the Committee met in the Moses Room, where procedure dictates that there shall be no Divisions. Anything remotely contentious could not, therefore, be put to a vote in another place, whereas in this House, there will not be time to put such matters to a vote. That is an example of how the Government are grossly distorting the role of the House, and denying us from acting in accordance with the sense of responsibility that we all feel towards our constituents to deliver a decent Bill for those with special educational needs.

That is why we must oppose the programme motion. That is also why those on the other side of the House who really care about special educational needs--

It being forty-five minutes after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, Mr. Deputy Speaker put the Question, pursuant to Order [7 November 2000].

The House divided: Ayes 283, Noes 122.

Division No. 161
[10.59 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Rt Hon Donald
(Swansea E)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary
Ashton, Joe
Bailey, Adrian
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)
Benton, Joe
Bermingham, Gerald
Berry, Roger
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Blunkett, Rt Hon David
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Butler, Mrs Christine
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Cann, Jamie
Caplin, Ivor
Caton, Martin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davis, Rt Hon Terry
(B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, Rt Hon John
Dismore, Andrew
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Foulkes, George
Galloway, George
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Godman, Dr Norman A
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Hain, Peter
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hanson, David
Healey, John
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Hendrick, Mark
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa
Joyce, Eric
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lammy, David
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNamara, Kevin
MacShane, Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Maxton, John
Meale, Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Miller, Andrew
Moffatt, Laura
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle
(B'ham Yardley)
Morris, Rt Hon Sir John (Aberavon)
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
O'Hara, Eddie
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, Dawn
Purchase, Ken
Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Robertson, John
(Glasgow Anniesland)
Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sedgemore, Brian
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Snape, Peter
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Tynan, Bill
Vaz, Keith
Walley, Ms Joan
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Wills, Michael
Wilson, Brian
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Tony McNulty and
Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe.


Amess, David
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baldry, Tony
Beggs, Roy
Bercow, John
Blunt, Crispin
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Brady, Graham
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Burns, Simon
Butterfill, John
Cash, William
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)
Cran, James
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Day, Stephen
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Duncan, Alan
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Evans, Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Flight, Howard
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Fox, Dr Liam
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick
Gill, Christopher
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Gray, James
Green, Damian
Grieve, Dominic
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hammond, Philip
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John
Heald, Oliver
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Lansley, Andrew
Letwin, Oliver
Lidington, David
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Llwyd, Elfyn
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
McCrea, Dr William
McIntosh, Miss Anne
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Madel, Sir David
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Mates, Michael
May, Mrs Theresa
Moss, Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick
Norman, Archie
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Paisley, Rev Ian
Paterson, Owen
Pickles, Eric
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Prior, David
Randall, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Robinson, Peter (Belfast E)
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Ruffley, David
St Aubyn, Nick
Sayeed, Jonathan
Shepherd, Richard
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Richard
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Steen, Anthony
Streeter, Gary
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Tyrie, Andrew
Walter, Robert
Waterson, Nigel
Wells, Bowen
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Keith Simpson and
Mr. Douglas Hogg.

Question accordingly agreed to.

20 Mar 2001 : Column 304


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