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Mr. Kaufman: I was referring to this, Mr. Speaker: the Minister said that if the Bill has to be recommitted and we complete the stages next week, as is scheduled, his belief is that the Bill will not be able to go to the House of Lords for the scheduled Second Reading date of 17 July. Were we to be in that circumstance, it is essential for the House, in making its decisions today, to know whether the Bill would get to the House of Lords for Second Reading in time, if need be, for the one-month requirement relating to the Parliament Act to be fulfilled. Since you, Mr. Speaker, are the custodian of the Parliament Act, it is essential that we have that information as early as possible today.
Alun Michael: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton for his forensic examination of these matters. Although he raised them on a point of order, may I explain that I am trying to make it clear to the House that it is our intention to get through business expeditiously and not to frustrate the House in its business in any way? However, I cannot speak for the House authorities where their decisions are at issue, nor can I speak about programming in another place, although I can do so in respect of 17 July as I understand that that decision is already in the public domain.
As I have made clear, I do not deny that recommital would lead to some delay and that, in particular, the procedures that would have to be undertaken in this place could not be completed in time to allow the other place to give the Bill a Second Reading before the summer recess. That is a matter of fact. In contrast, if new clause 13 and the other Government amendments to strengthen the Bill are agreed, I can give the House a firm assurance that there will be no need for a recommital motion, so we can proceed to give the Bill a Third Reading tonight. In that case, I can also inform the House that I understand that the House of Lords will debate the Bill's Second Reading on Thursday 17 July.
Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West): I understood my right hon. Friend to sayI may have misunderstoodthat the Bill would need to be recommitted to the Standing Committee if new clause 13 were voted down and new clause 11 were accepted because it would otherwise be unworkable. I should be grateful to him if he could explain to the House how it would be unworkable given that part 2, which deals with registration, could still have effect in relation to hunting other wild mammals not specifically mentioned in the Bill, such as wild boar.
Alun Michael: I indicated that I was certain that Mr. Speaker would call me to order if I started to discuss the content of the amendments, but I wanted to make clear the procedure to colleagues. I am sure that we will discuss the issues that my hon. Friend raises during the substantive debate, but I promised to be as brief as I could. I tried to respond to colleagues' interventions.
Mr. Garnier: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way to me a second time. He has told us what paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 of the motion say, but, unless I am much mistaken, he has not told us why paragraphs 2 and 3, in particular, ought to be passed.
Alun Michael: I explained why it would hardly be wise for me to start the substantive debate now, and I do not intend to do so. I have explained the processes to the hon. and learned Gentleman, and I commend the motion to the House.
Mr. Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I should be very grateful to you for your guidance on recommittal to Standing Committee. Am I right in thinkingI may be wrongthat the Standing Committee has been discharged and a new Standing Committee would have to be formed, because that would have implications for the time scale?
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): At the moment, the Chair does not know the form that the recommittal motion would take, so it is impossible to answer that hypothetical question. I am sorry that I cannot be clearer than that to the hon. Gentleman.
Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): The one bright aspect of this patently miserable affair is that it demonstrates beyond all doubt the value of debating programme motions. Apart from anything else, the debate has allowed right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House to seek to clarify exactly what the devil is going on. I shall leave them to conclude whether or not they have succeeded, but it certainly demonstrates that these debates are of value to the House, and I hope that hon. Members will bear that in mind when they consider successive Government proposals to restrict such occasions more and more.
It is also obvious that the Bill is very important. Of course, all Bills are important to the House, but this Bill has particular importance because not only is it highly controversial, but it could affect very many people's livelihoods and lifestyles. As we have already heard in the exchanges on the programme motion, it contains many complex issues, but there has been no consultation. This is another case of Government fiat. It is yet another case of the Government coming to the
Following the question asked by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier), the Minister failed to explain why the Government believe that we can satisfactorily deal with this matter in the time allocatedfive and a half hours in which to consider all the amendments and new clauses. By my reckoning, as we see from the selection list, there are five separate groups of amendments and new clauseseach important in their own rightmore than 50 Government amendments and more than 20 other amendments, all of which, according to the Government, can be satisfactorily dealt with by the House in as little as five and a half hours. That cannot be right. Quite apart from the intrinsic importance of new clause 13, new clause 12 and new clause 10, which lead the first three groups of amendments, it could be argued that each of them could scarcely be dealt with satisfactorily in five and a half hours, never mind the whole in total.
Mr. Garnier: May I tell my right hon. Friend that, in Standing Committee, we probably spent in excess of 100 hours on the Bill, yet I suggest that we did not complete a half of it? We are now being required to spend five and a half hours dealing with it on Report.
Mr. Forth: Indeed. My hon. and learned Friend refers to those who were privileged to serve on the Standing Committee. The point about this part of the proceedings is to give the Members of the House who were not on the Committee an opportunity to contribute. The House, as a whole, will consider the Bill, so my hon. and learned Friend's point is even more relevant for that reason.
There will be free votes on both sides of the House. At least, we will have a free vote; it remains to be seen what the poor, old payroll does when it comes to a vote. However, given that there will be a free vote, we are in the rather unusual position in which a number of different groups and opinions will want, quite properly, to express their views when we debate the new clauses and amendments. There are those who want a total ban, those who want a selective ban, those who think that we can live with a licensing regime and those who prefer the status quo. No doubt, there are many other views as well. How will all the groups be able to express their views in the time allocated? That is the obvious question.
The Government are asking us to accept that groups of amendments made up of many new clauses and amendments can be dealt with properly, comprehensively, in detail and in a way that will satisfy all those outside with a legitimate and direct interest in five and a half hours.
Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): Is the shadow Leader of the House aware that we have spent 120 hours debating the issue over the past few years and that the vast majority of us have discussed it until we are blue in the face? All we want to do now is vote.
Mr. Forth: I do not know why the hon. Gentleman thinks that 120 hours is, in itself, sufficient. It may not be. The very fact that his right hon. and hon. Friends legitimately take a different view suggests that the issue cannot just be voted on. There are matters properly to be discussed.
Dr. Palmer: I am confused. The hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) says that he begrudges one day being given to discuss the Bill. How many days of Government time would the shadow Leader of the House like to us to spend on the matter?
Mr. Forth: I would have thought that it might not even be a matter of days. We are asking why the Government are placing an artificial restriction on the time available today to discuss the Bill. In the good old days, we would have spent enough timeinto the night if necessaryto do justice to the important issues in a Bill of this kind. Why is it that the world and the House have changed so much that, given an issue of this complexity and importance, the Government have come along in their hobnailed boots and said, "You will spend only five and a half hours on the issue regardless of its complexity and importance."