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Mr. Hogg: Is that another hint that the closure motion is getting closer? We have been given two days, ending on 13 December at 7 o'clock, and there will be a timetable motion. We know that, because the Parliamentary Secretary has told us. However, we do not know what the parliamentary timetable will be, nor can the Government know, because they do not know what amendments will come from the other place. The Government will impose a timetable regardless of what comes up from the other place. In other words, the timetable will be applied to the business, instead of the business shaping the timetable. On any view, that is a scandal.
Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire): Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the frustration is caused by the Government's attempts to put forward matters of principle as matters of policy, and those matters of
Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills): Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the Bill has to be galloped through the House because it does not bear examination? The more it is examined, the more people realise that this is a farcical procedure and inappropriate in connection with proposals to set aside habeus corpus, and all the rest. The Government need momentum.
Mr. Tyler: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether you can give guidance to the House. Many hon. Members are coming into the Chamber because the debate is so important that they want it to continue. Will you ensure that the House can continue the debate, and that the Chair will allow no early closure motion? I know that two hours is sometimes considered appropriate for unimportant matters, but will you assure the House that a minimum of three hours at least will be made available tonight, as many hon. Members clearly want to participate?
Mr. Hogg: My hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd) is right to say that the Government are trying to thrust the Bill through by momentum. He knows that the hostility to the Bill outside the House is buildingin the legal profession, among those who care about civil liberties, and so forth. The Government want to ram the Bill through before that external opposition begins to seep through to Labour Members.
My point is that without knowing the timetable the House cannot judge whether Thursday 13 December will be an appropriate end date. We do not know what amendments will be tabled, and that also prevents us from forming a view.
Mr. Paul Marsden: Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman think that sufficient time has been devoted to clauses 21 to 23? The explanatory notes to the Bill state that the clauses extend the application of existing detention powers under the Immigration Act 1971. The powers would allow the Secretary of State to remove a suspected international terroristor so-called terroristwhere removal is not currently possible. This is a serious issue, which takes away a basic civil liberty but which we have not had enough time to discuss.
Mr. Hogg: The hon. Gentleman is right. Under the procedure to which the hon. Gentleman refers, a person could be detained indefinitely if the Home Secretary suspected that he was an international terrorist and a threat
Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley): Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman accept that some hon. Members find his protestations, and those of the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer), somewhat synthetic? We remember that they were Ministers for many years and steamrollered through many items of legislationincluding 16 orders to do with poll tax in one night, without any proper debate.
Mr. Hogg: I have three points to make in response. First, no one who has ever known or worked with my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal, or with me, can have any doubt as to our commitment to parliamentary freedoms, and the duties that we owe to our constituents.
Secondly, and more importantly, when in government we did not railroad through legislation in the manner that this Government have adopted. We never automatically timetabled motions, and it was a guiding principle of our Government always to allow up to about 100 hours in Standing Committee before a timetable motion was moved. The approach was fundamentally different.
Mr. Garnier: It occurs to me that the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Pike) makes a better point than he imagines. The poll tax legislation had the majority of the House at the time to get it through but it did not have the consent of the public. If a Bill is passed without the consent of the public[Interruption.] I am agreeing with the hon. Member for Burnley up to this point. If a Bill does not have the consent of the public for whatever reasonbecause it is wrong in principle or it is not properly discussedit will fall into disrepute and lead to the collapse and destruction of the Government. We suffered from thatthey will shortly.
Mr. Hogg: My hon. and learned Friend makes an important point. As I have said before in this kind of debate, there is an implied bargain between us and the electorate to the effect that where Bills are passed that impose obligations, wethe public's representativeswill properly and fully consider the legislation. When we do not do that, the bargain breaks down and one brings into disrepute the legislative functions of the House.
Mr. Gummer: Can my right hon. and learned Friend remember an occasion when a serious Bill was placed before the House with a timetable anything like as tight as this one, late-night votes were put off until the following Wednesday and the Committee stage was practically non-existent?
Mr. Hogg: I can certainly answer in the affirmative so far as the latter point is concerned, because we have not always had the deferred voting procedure. Were it not for the fact that we are no doubt about to have a closure motion, we could be quite sure that Labour Members would not be here at all to listen to the debate. The only good thing about a closure is that some Labour Members
I want to move on, Madam Deputy Speaker, because I do not want to strain your patience unduly. In any case, I want my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge- Brownhills and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Harborough to catch your eye. I have already talked about the problems of the timetable and the fact that we do not know what the amendments will be. The problem is that the amendments will come from the other place at a rate, and at a time, when the external lobbies will not have an opportunity fully to form a view. Perhaps even more importantly, they will not have the opportunity to seek to inform us of their view, which is the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal.
That situation will become compounded if we enter into what is colloquially called the ping-pong session. The other place may have a compromise amendment which might, for aught I know, find favour on the Government Benches. If that happens, a compromise will be put together without external groups ever having the opportunity to express a view to right hon. and hon. Members. That cannot be right.
You will be extremely pleased to know, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I am coming to a conclusion. [Interruption.] I did not expect my observations to be received with such gladness and am almost tempted to extend my remarks.
Matthew Green (Ludlow): Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman expand on what might be a more suitable timetable for the Bill? I have less experience in the House than he has, and would be intrigued to know what he believes to be a more suitable length of time in which to deal with the Bill.
The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point. In the first place, I would not put the Bill through this procedure at all. [Interruption.] That is a sinister sightthe Whips seem to be consulting about the closure motion.
As I was saying, I would not have subjected the Bill to this emergency procedure. If I were to do so, I should strip out those parts that did not truly deal with the emergencyin fact the major part of the Bill. However, to answer the point directly, if we were to strip out the non-emergency parts of the Bill, there would be sufficient time to finish by the time the House rose for the Christmas recess, provided that the timetable during the two weeks was properly discussednot just between Front-Bench Members, but more generally between interested parties. We know who is interested in the Bill, and we can discuss it sensibly.