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Mr. Kevin McNamara (Hull, North): I support entirely the argument advanced by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. However, is it not a little strange coming from his lips? He was a Member of the Government who did away with the right to silence and sought to gag the BBC without any vote at all, just statements in the House.
Mr. Hogg: Ever since I came to the House in 1979, I have defended the cause of liberty and the law; I stand for freedom, liberty and the law. Because of departmental responsibilities, I have not always been in a position to push that cause forward, but I have always believed in that principle. When I first came to the House in 1979, I was keen to bring about an elected second Chamber, and argued for that within my party as hard as I could. I recognise that the House is becoming an instrument of oppression; what we are doing tonight is part of that process.
Mr. Dalyell: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In no way do I wish to offend my hon. Friend the Minister. However, I was brought up in a world in which business motions, particularly contentious ones, were answered, not by the Minister who had responsibility for the legislation, but by a senior Government business manager. It may be out of fashion, but a Cabinet Minister should have been present to hear what was said on the Floor of the House[Interruption.] Well, I was Parliamentary Private Secretary to Richard Crossman when he was Leader of the House. On several occasions when he heard what was said in the House, he got on to the Prime Minister and business was altered; that is a matter of fact. It may be unfashionable to say so, but that is how it should be. The Leader of the House should respond to our debate.
Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can I just add a matter for consideration by you and Mr. Speaker? On Monday night, we debated the order on derogation from the Human Rights Act 1998. The Home Secretary may have had a personal reason for his behaviour, but I am making political and constitutional point, not a personal one. He left early in our debate and was not present for any of it. For the first time in many years, we decided to put the matter to Parliament which, with Government support, voted to take us out of part of the European convention on human rights and the Human Rights Act. It would be helpful to have an assurance from the Government that Secretaries of State should be present for matters of major constitutional importance, however good their junior Ministers, and that they are present both for the debate and the vote at the end.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. It is not in the interests of the House to develop this point during a debate on what is already a timetabled motion. I am sure that what has been said has been heard. It may be re-attended to on another occasion. For the moment, the Chair is dealing with the Minister who is available.
Beverley Hughes: For those Members who have not noticed, there is a Secretary of State on the Government Front Bench who will have heard what has been said. My right hon. Friend will take part in the debate later this afternoon.
In the interests of trying to move to the substance of the Bill and in the interests of those Members who wish to speak in Committee, I shall try to deal with some of the points that have been raised. The shadow Home Secretary, the hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin), asked why the motion does not refer to events after 11 pm on the second day. That is because we are not debating now the programme motion that allocated time. The programme motion before us is not the motion that is relevant to the points that most Members have made. That motion was put to the House on Monday. If the hon. Gentleman refers to that motion, he will see that it refers to Report and Third Reading taking place from 11 pm to 12 pm. That was the motion that allocated the overall time provision.
Mr. Hogg: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Would you be good enough to tell us whether we are right in thinking that the motion to which the Minister is referringnamely, Monday's motionwas not even debatable?
Beverley Hughes: As for the general point that a number of Members have raised, the overall time allocated to the Bill in the House is the product of a difficult balance. As Members, we must balance what is required in relation to the urgency of the situation. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (David Winnick) for pointing that out. We are in a state of public emergency. We are responding to urgent events, and it is important that we get the Bill on to the statute book as quickly as possible. We must balance that with what is required in terms of public expectations.
How will the public expect us to behave when dealing with a Bill whose contents are a response to the events of 11 September? I think that the public will expect us to suspend our normal expectations and deal with these matters in an appropriate way, but in a way that responds to the urgency of the situation and to their expectations. We must balance these two points with what is required in terms of scrutiny. I accept, and so does my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, that many of the matters that
Sir Brian Mawhinney: Will the Minister explain, as she is speaking for the business managers, how it is that a third day of consideration, tomorrow or on Friday, which would not have extended the overall time during which the Bill is to be considered in the Chamber, proved to be impossible for the Government?
Beverley Hughes: The right hon. Gentleman will know from his experience as well as I that those matters were discussed between the usual channels well in advance of the time scale being agreed. The time that we have allocated is a product of that process, with which he is well familiar.
Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): I wondered when the Under-Secretary would get around to that point. Discussions took place between the usual channels, of which I regrettably find myself part. It was made clear at the timebefore we knew the Bill's detailed contentsthat although we recognised the urgency of key parts of the measure, the addition of many other elements would change the picture. It is inaccurate of the Government to portray the whole Bill as having been agreed.
Beverley Hughes: As far as I can recall, the only addition to the Bill since the Home Secretary's statement on 15 Octoberthe provisions on bribery and corruptionwas included with the consent of all parties. The Home Secretary made a detailed statement about the extent of the Bill, and that formed the basis of our discussions. As soon as we had a draft Bill, we shared it with Opposition spokespeople.
In the interests of hon. Members who want to speak about the substance of the Billthat is why we are hereI shall conclude. I regret that the Opposition will extend the debate on the programme motion by voting. That will take away more time from discussion of the substance of the measure.
Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough): That was the most disappointing ministerial performance that I have witnessed for many years. [Interruption.] It is no good the Home Secretary attending the debate late and chuntering. We are debating the purpose of Parliament. If the Labour party, in the guise of that frightful Government, believes that it can ram stuff through, it is even worse than we thought.
The programme motion is unjustifiable, unnecessary, unbalanced and unwise. It will bring the Bill into disrepute. It is unjustifiable because the Home Secretary has boxed himself into a timetable. He and his ministerial colleagues said that the measure must be on the statute book by Christmas. No one else holds that view on the current Bill. I am sure that all hon. Members support
The Bill is unjustifiable not only on that basis. There are 30 pages of amendments and new clauses. Even the edited versionthe marshalled listcontains plenty of dense and interesting issues for discussion.