Criminal Justice and Police Bill

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Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey): My hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Jackie Ballard) and I will oppose the motion. We made our opposition to the timetable apparent at the beginning, and things have got worse rather than better. First, by virtue of the fact that we now have sittings on Thursday mornings that stop before the House sits, we effectively get only one and a half hours. In the old days, morning sittings were normally two and a half hours, so on each of those three occasions, we lose one hour, making three in total. We sat late for half an hour on one occasion and for an hour and ten minutes on the other. Therefore, we have hardly made up the lost time that has not been allocated by late sittings.

Secondly, there is now a proposal before the Committee that we make up for the lost time in an additional sitting. In itself, that is welcome, but it is scheduled for Wednesday morning. The business in Westminster Hall at that time is a debate on the United Nations convention on human rights, in which some of us have an interest that falls directly within our responsibilities. It is hardly convenient or sensible for a Committee on home affairs business to be sitting when there is a direct relationship with other business that we may want to attend.

We are perfectly happy that the new clauses come at the end of the section that we are dealing with in schedule 1—that is entirely proper. However, I have just observed that we now have a guillotine that requires us, by the end of next Tuesday, to deal with underage drinking, travel restrictions, intimidation of witnesses, other witness matters, the curfew issue—which is extremely controversial—and disclosure of material. The Government have already tabled seven new clauses and 43 amendments to be debated by the end of that time.

A proper Committee structure does not allow time to debate such a proposal. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Clark). If our constituents realised how intent our Government so often are in so many ways on pushing through legislation, when most Labour Back Benchers say nothing most of the time and the only chance to scrutinise is given to Opposition Members who are willing to speak up and time is so limited, they would find our democracy increasingly unrepresentative. That will discredit the hon. Gentleman's party in government as well as Parliament as a whole.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath): I was the Member who sat through the entire Programming Sub-Committee, although I am not a member of it, to observe its proceedings. In his personally directed remarks about my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Bedfordshire, a distinguished former Attorney-General, the Minister once again lived down to my expectations. You, Mr. Gale, have pointed out that it is only a parliamentary convention that hon. Members should be warned in advance if another Member wants to make remarks about them. The Minister said that he has not done so on this occasion. For Ministers of State deliberately to ignore a parliamentary convention that has been observed down the years is appalling. As my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hertfordshire says, the Minister should be ashamed of himself. However, I do not expect the Minister to be ashamed of himself.

Listening to the Minister for the first time, some people might believe that he sometimes gives the impression of being reasonable. Those of us who have got to know him during consideration of previous Bills know that whenever the Minister has an opportunity to make an attack he does so below the belt in precisely the way that he did about my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Bedfordshire this morning. I believe that he will come to regret that. It was, as my hon. Friend the Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray) says, disgraceful.

I am present, and I—

It being 30 minutes after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, The Chairman put the Question, pursuant to Order [7 November 2000.]

Mr. Blunt: On a point of order, Mr. Gale.

The Chairman: I am not taking a point of order during a Division.

Question put:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 10, Noes 6.

Division No. 18]

AYES
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Brinton, Mrs. Helen
Clark, Mr. Paul
Clarke, Mr. Charles
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lock, Mr. David
Smith, Miss Geraldine
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Thomas, Mr. Gareth R.

NOES
Ballard, Jackie
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Gray, Mr. James
Hawkins, Mr. Nick
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Hughes, Mr. Simon

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved,

    That the Programming Order of the Committee of 6th February be amended—

    (1) in paragraph (1), by inserting at the end the words ``and on Wednesday 7th March at half-past Ten o'clock''.

    (2) in paragraph (3), by substituting ``15'' for ``14''

    (3) in paragraph (4)—

    (a) by inserting the words ``New Clauses'' after the words ``Schedule 1''; and

    (b) by omitting the words ``New Clauses'' where they appear after the words ``Clause 132'';

    (4) by substituting the following for paragraph (5)—

    ``(5) the proceedings at the 9th to 15th sittings shall be as shown in the second column of the Table below and (so far as not previously concluded) shall be brought to a conclusion at the times specified in the third column of that Table.

TABLE

SittingProceedingsTime for conclusion of proceedings
9thClauses 27 to 45 (so far as not previously concluded), Schedule 1, New Clauses, Clauses 46 to 49, Schedule 2, Clauses 50 to 69, Schedule 3        —
10thClauses 27 to 45 (so far as not previously concluded), Schedule 1, New Clauses, Clauses 46 to 49, Schedule 2, Clauses 50 to 69, Schedule 3       —
11thClauses 27 to 45 (so far as not previously concluded), Schedule 1, New Clauses, Clauses 46 to 49, Schedule 2, Clauses 50 to 69, Schedule 3       —
12thClauses 27 to 45 (so far as not previously concluded), Schedule 1, New Clauses, Clauses 46 to 49, Schedule 2, Clauses 50 to 69, Schedule 3       10.00 pm
13thClauses 70 to 85       1.00 pm
14thClause 86, Schedule 4, Clauses 87 to 101, Schedule 5, Clauses 102 to 106, Schedule 6, Clauses 107 to 127, Schedule 7, Clauses 128 to 131, Schedule 8, Clause 132, new Schedules       —
15thClause 86, Schedule 4, Clauses 87 to 101, Schedule 5, Clauses 102 to 106, Schedule 6, Clauses 107 to 127, Schedule 7, Clauses 128 to 131, Schedule 8, Clause 132, new Schedules       5.00 pm

Mr. Blunt: On a point of order, Mr. Gale. You will have seen that I tried to rise during the debate that we have just had on the programme motion. The Minister took up 14 minutes of a 30-minute debate on the matter, which relates to the highly controversial issue of programming. I wonder whether you might be able to take back to the Speaker, through whatever channels are available, the message that 30 minutes for such a debate is plainly inadequate, as is the entire business of programming, which does not enable someone like myself, who has, as the Minister said, been tentative and constructive in handling the Bill, even to make my views known on the programming. I have extreme views about the way in which the Government have behaved.

Mr. Gray: Further to that point of order, Mr. Gale. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. The Minister referred to the usual channels. I was keen to place on the record precisely what discussions we had had through the usual channels—I know that that is a breach of convention, but as the Minister raised the matter, it was important that I should have an opportunity to do so. I regret the curtailment of democracy this morning, and that discussion of that curtailment has itself been curtailed to only half an hour. Would it be possible to ask for an extension of such debates in future?

The Chairman: Although those are points of interest to the Chair, they are certainly not points of order for the Chair. I have made my view known, and will make my views further known to the Chairmen's Panel, which in turn will express a view to the Modernisation Committee. It is of course open to any hon. Member to make representations to that Committee. Whether members of the Committee like it or not—and whether the Chairman likes it or not—we must operate under the rules and regulations of the House as they stand.

10.30 am

Mr. Hawkins: On a point of order, Mr. Gale.

The Chairman: I am not prepared to allow points of order to prolong the debate that we have just had. I call Mr. Hawkins, on an entirely separate issue, I trust.

Mr. Hawkins: It is a separate issue, Mr. Gale. When you make your representations to the Modernisation Committee, would you be prepared to consider whether those who are not members of Programming Sub-Committees, but who are able to attend, should be able to speak but not vote, rather than simply attending, neither speaking nor voting?

The Chairman: That is a perfectly valid point, and is well made; yes, I will.

Mr. Simon Hughes: On a point of order, Mr. Gale. My hon. Friend the Member for Taunton, who is a member of the Programming Sub-Committee, could not attend yesterday because she was in her constituency—the date of the meeting having been fixed only after it became impossible to alter her arrangements. Given that one provision of the resolution that we have just passed is that we sit next Wednesday when the House is sitting, albeit in Westminster Hall, may I ask whether, if a preferable time for the additional sitting were discovered in informal conversation, you would be willing—because I believe that it is in your discretion—to call a meeting of the Programming Sub-Committee to agree an alteration? I have objections about other matters, but that is one issue on which it may be possible to reach an accommodation across the Committee. If that were the case, would you be willing to preside over a meeting to deal with that?

 
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