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Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park): Would we not all have more time to debate important amendments to the Bill if we stopped talking about the programme motion and got on with it?

Mr. Thomas: I do not accept that point at all. It is right and proper that we challenge the Government when they table programme motions such as this one. This is only the second time that I have spoken in a debate on a programme motion; I do not make it a habit. I do make it a habit, as I believe that the hon. Lady does, to oppose programme motions, because in drafting those motions the Government never allow sufficient time for debate.

I do not oppose programming on principle. If we allow enough time for Back Benchers to speak and for scrutiny of the different clauses, we should be able to reform the House, and should have a proper amount of time to go through every clause, but that does not mean that we should sit mute when the Government move an inappropriate programme motion. After Report and Third Reading, we shall have an Adjournment debate on matters to be considered before the Easter recess, which is a nice tradition in the House but less important than the vital job of legislation. We have got our priorities slightly wrong, and it is appropriate to take the opportunity to say so.

This is an important Bill, and there are some important issues that need scrutiny, especially in the first group of amendments on the Bill's objectives. For that reason, I did not intend to speak for more than a couple minutes but it was important to make our views known.

12.55 pm

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough): I was surprised by the comment made by the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge), because she seemed to blame those hon. Members who want to make a couple of perfectly serious points on the programme motion. Under this procedure, every minute that we use to debate the programme motion comes out of the total debate, and that is unfair.

My hon. Friend the Member for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter) said that we have about two hours to discuss all 10 amendments; but, of course, we will only have two hours if we have a very short programme motion debate. That puts us under intolerable pressure and is not a fair way to proceed.

The Minister defeated his own argument by saying that the Bill is non-controversial. It is non-controversial, but with such a Bill, it is right and proper for the Government to agree with the Opposition, through the usual channels, exactly how much time is needed. Perhaps two hours may be enough, or perhaps three hours would be right, but narrow time limits have been imposed without explanation. The Minister made no attempt to explain why we must finish this business by 4 o'clock, especially given that all that follows is the Easter Adjournment debate, so there is no rhyme or reason for doing so. The Government are simply determined to table programme motions on everything.

10 Apr 2001 : Column 857

There are 10 amendments in four groups. If we debated each amendment for the same time, we would spend about 10 to 12 minutes on each. The Bill may not be controversial, but while a Bill may be non-controversial in a party political sense, people may still have serious points of view. International development is vital to many people outside the House. They are concerned about poverty in the third world and want Parliament to have a serious debate. They may well look askance at a Parliament that, on average, devotes only 12 minutes to each amendment.

Perhaps some of the amendments need no debate at all, but for the Government arbitrarily to lay down such a time limit on such a Bill damages the political process and the parliamentary process. The programme motion is unfair, and I regret and oppose it.

12.57 pm

Mr. Tom Clarke (Coatbridge and Chryston): I had not planned to take part in this debate, but having been present during the whole debate on Second Reading and having served on the Standing Committee that considered the Bill, I thought that it might be appropriate to say a few words. I might even persuade the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) that he protests too much.

I refer the hon. Member for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter), as well as his colleagues, to the Official Report of the proceedings of the Standing Committee. I genuinely invite them to consider whether the Committee's time, which they protested earlier was not enough, was used in the best interests of the Bill and the procedures of the House. I shall offer them a few examples of the kind of trivia that the Committee had to consider for two days, although I concede that everything that was said must have been in order or the Chairman would have ruled it out of order.

As reported in column 6, the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) thought it right to tell us the story, yet again, of David and Goliath--all very interesting. As reported in column 8, the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) lectured my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty) on his girth. Later, as the discussions continued, the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe), who normally makes constructive contributions, asked the Committee to focus on the need to export abroad, as he put it, Elizabeth Filkin. Those subjects are fascinating, but whether they help the Bill or international development is another matter entirely.

We then moved on to the bizarre events of the afternoon of Thursday 15 March. All the members of the Committee assembled for our fourth sitting at 2.30 pm, but the Chairman, the hon. Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. Butterfill), was not there. He was half an hour late, and without the assistance of one of my hon. Friends, who started the Committee proceedings seven minutes late, we would have been delayed still further. The hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham then took another seven minutes to complain that we did not have enough time.

We are being told by the Opposition today that Parliament is being short-changed. However, if one reads columns 81 to 82 and 88 to 89 of the report of the Committee proceedings, one will find that we had an

10 Apr 2001 : Column 858

exchange on contact lenses, the work of opticians generally and the wonderful merits of hormone replacement therapy. I found that fascinating, but we were supposed to be making progress on the Bill and the important subjects that it covers, so was that a sensible use of our parliamentary time? I can tell the hon. Member for South-West Devon that I certainly did not think so.

At the heart of the Bill lies the need to challenge poverty internationally. The Bill is a move in the right direction, and I would do the House no further service if I did not sit down now and allow it to continue with its important business.

1.2 pm

Mr. Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stortford): The right hon. Member for Coatbridge and Chryston (Mr. Clarke) was making the case of my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter) when he spoke as he did about the Committee stage. It was perfectly possible for the Government and the Opposition to agree between them how much time the Bill needed. As I understand it, no consultation took place, and the result was that because the Opposition rightly oppose the whole concept of programming consideration of Bills, we had the kind of discussion about which the right hon. Gentleman complains. I have only read those exchanges--I did not participate.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh) is right when he complains that we do not have sufficient time this afternoon properly to discuss the important questions on the Bill. It is a disgrace to Parliament; it is the wrong way to proceed, and we should not be in this position. The Bill deals with substantial matters of practical importance, not the party political issues between us. We need to understand and properly debate them. However, we have so organised Parliament that that will not happen. I only hope that in the time now left to us we can have an important, reasonable and sensible debate.

Question put:--

The House divided: Ayes 244, Noes 75.

Division No. 185
[1.4 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Rt Hon Donald
(Swansea E)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary
Ashton, Joe
Atherton, Ms Candy
Austin, John
Bailey, Adrian
Barron, Kevin
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Bennett, Andrew F
Berry, Roger
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Bradley, Rt Hon Keith
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Browne, Desmond
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Cann, Jamie
Caplin, Ivor
Caton, Martin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coffey, Ms Ann
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cooper, Yvette
Corbett, Robin
Cousins, Jim
Cox, Tom
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davis, Rt Hon Terry
(B'ham Hodge H)
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, Rt Hon John
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Brian H
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Mrs Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foulkes, George
Fyfe, Maria
Galloway, George
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godman, Dr Norman A
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Hain, Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Healey, John
Hendrick, Mark
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hood, Jimmy
Hope, Phil
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Joyce, Eric
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kelly, Ms Ruth
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Kingham, Ms Tess
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lammy, David
Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNulty, Tony
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Maxton, John
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Meale, Alan
Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle
(B'ham Yardley)
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Eddie
Olner, Bill
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Pearson, Ian
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Quinn, Lawrie
Rapson, Syd
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Robertson, John
(Glasgow Anniesland)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rowlands, Ted
Roy, Frank
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Sarwar, Mohammad
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Shipley, Ms Debra
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stoate, Dr Howard
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Tynan, Bill
Vis, Dr Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wood, Mike
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Don Touhig and
Mr. David Jamieson.


Allan, Richard
Amess, David
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Bercow, John
Blunt, Crispin
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Brand, Dr Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela
Burnett, John
Burns, Simon
Burstow, Paul
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies
(NE Fife)
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chidgey, David
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cotter, Brian
Day, Stephen
Donaldson, Jeffrey
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Evans, Nigel
Foster, Don (Bath)
Fox, Dr Liam
Gidley, Sandra
Gray, James
Harvey, Nick
Hayes, John
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Jenkin, Bernard
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Kirkwood, Archy
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Livsey, Richard
Luff, Peter
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, Patrick
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
Moore, Michael
Nicholls, Patrick
Oaten, Mark
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paterson, Owen
Rendel, David
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Ruffley, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Sanders, Adrian
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Spicer, Sir Michael
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Streeter, Gary
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Desmond
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Tredinnick, David
Tyler, Paul
Viggers, Peter
Wallace, Rt Hon James
Walter, Robert
Waterson, Nigel
Wells, Bowen
Wilkinson, John
Willis, Phil
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Christopher Chope and
Mr. Edward Leigh.

Question accordingly agreed to.

10 Apr 2001 : Column 860

10 Apr 2001 : Column 861

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