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19 Mar 2007 : Column 645

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I entirely accept what you say, as does every hon. Member, but, because the procedures are so unfortunate, will you ask Mr. Speaker to ask the Procedure Committee to examine the manner in which the House deals with such matters in future?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: The hon. Gentleman has great experience in the House. He knows that it is perfectly in order for him to write directly to the Procedure Committee if he wants a generic point to be considered.

Mr. Roger Gale (North Thanet) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As I suspect you know, the matter was raised at business questions on Thursday. A clear request was made to the Leader of the House for the regulations not to go through until the House had had an opportunity to debate the subject, at least on the Easter Adjournment. Given that the regulations will be railroaded through this evening, will you be kind enough to ask Mr. Speaker to ensure that time is made available on the Easter Adjournment to debate the matter, notwithstanding the fact that the regulations will have gone through?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I am sure that Mr. Speaker will have observed the hon. Gentleman’s comments.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If you convey any remarks to the Speaker, perhaps you will also tell him that, in Committee, the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) revealed—I was there—that Government Front Benchers had offered more time but that Tory Front Benchers had refused to take it. The Tory Front-Bench spokesman voted with us and the Tories split two ways. Three voted with us, including the Tory Front Bencher, and two voted against. The idea that the matter has not been dealt with is farcical.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I am sure that the House is interested, but that is not a point of order for the Chair.

Dr. Evan Harris (Oxford, West and Abingdon) (LD): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As a Member who supports the regulations, as do most Liberal Democrats, we nevertheless share the concern about the way in which the matter has been rushed through. Given that the details have never been debated in primary legislation and require discussion by many hon. Members who have different views, can the House decide now—even though I generally disagree with Conservative Members and agree with the Government on the matter—to provide debating time, or is there no way in which we can do that at this late stage?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I have to tell the hon. Gentleman and the House that there is no further scope for debate at this point. The procedures of the House have been followed correctly. Even if some hon. Members are unhappy about what has happened, nothing incorrect has taken place and we should now proceed to deal with the business on the Order Paper.

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

19 Mar 2007 : Column 646

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I hope that it is a new point of order because I have dealt with the previous one.

Mr. Brazier: Yes, it is. My understanding is that motion 10, about which the previous points of order were made, applies to England, Wales and Scotland, but not to Northern Ireland, which has separate regulations. However, it covers some matters—for example, adoption—which are devolved to Scotland. My Adjournment debate on the subject showed that, when the matter was considered in Scotland, the Scottish Government gave assurances that negotiations would be held between the Scottish Executive and the Government here. No report has been given to the House about the outcome of those negotiations, yet we are expected to vote tonight.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: The hon. Gentleman has got it exactly. That is the case.

Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. No Back Bencher has been able to make a speech about motion 10. Is it correct that the Government do not necessarily have to move it tonight?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: That is not a question that the Chair can determine. The motion is on the Order Paper and I must assume that it is likely to be moved.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As one who supports the regulations, I would be delighted if the debate on the matter had taken place on the Floor of the House rather than in Committee, not least because it would help us win the next general election. However, can you confirm that, although Standing Order No. 118 states that it is a for a Minister to decide whether the debate is held on the Floor of the House or in Committee, the practice and convention of the House is that, if Opposition Front Benchers had called for it to be held on the Floor of the House, it would have been?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I have no means of knowing that; it is nothing on which I can rule.

Mr. Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You said that you expected motion 10 to be moved. Is not it the case that a Minister could choose not to move it tonight, but take account of what has been said in the Chamber and make a statement tomorrow, which would enable questions on the matter?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: We shall simply have to wait and see.


Mr. Deputy Speaker: With the leave of the House, I propose to put together the Questions on motions 6, 7, 8 and 9.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(6) (Delegated Legislation Committees),

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Northern Ireland

Question agreed to.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(6) (Delegated Legislation Committees),

Sexual Orientation Discrimination

The House divided: Ayes 310, Noes 100.
Division No. 79]
[7.35 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Austin, Mr. Ian
Austin, John
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Baldry, Tony
Balls, Ed
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barrett, John
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Bayley, Hugh
Begg, Miss Anne
Bercow, John
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, rh Mr. Gordon
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Des
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Byrne, Mr. Liam
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard
Cameron, rh Mr. David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Caton, Mr. Martin
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clelland, Mr. David
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Crausby, Mr. David
Creagh, Mary
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Darling, rh Mr. Alistair
Davey, Mr. Edward
David, Mr. Wayne
Davies, Mr. Dai
Denham, rh Mr. John
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobson, rh Frank
Duddridge, James
Duncan, Alan
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive

Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Farrelly, Paul
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gidley, Sandra
Gilroy, Linda
Goldsworthy, Julia
Goodman, Helen
Gove, Michael
Grayling, Chris
Griffith, Nia
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Dr. Evan
Harris, Mr. Tom
Harvey, Nick
Havard, Mr. Dai
Healey, John
Heath, Mr. David
Hemming, John
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Heppell, Mr. John
Herbert, Nick
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hood, Mr. Jimmy
Hopkins, Kelvin
Horwood, Martin
Hosie, Stewart
Howarth, David
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hughes, rh Beverley
Hughes, Simon
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hunt, Mr. Jeremy
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Ann
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kennedy, rh Mr. Charles
Key, Robert
Khabra, Mr. Piara S.
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Knight, Jim
Kramer, Susan
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Lamb, Norman
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Lazarowicz, Mark
Leech, Mr. John
Lepper, David
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Levitt, Tom
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Mackinlay, Andrew
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahmood, Mr. Khalid
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Martlew, Mr. Eric
Maude, rh Mr. Francis
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McCartney, rh Mr. Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
McNulty, Mr. Tony
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Michael, rh Alun
Miliband, Edward
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Mr. Andrew
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Moore, Mr. Michael
Morley, rh Mr. Elliot
Mountford, Kali
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Norris, Dan
O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Oaten, Mr. Mark
Olner, Mr. Bill
Osborne, Mr. George
Osborne, Sandra

Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Price, Adam
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, James
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reid, Mr. Alan
Reid, rh John
Rennie, Willie
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Christine
Ryan, Joan
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Seabeck, Alison
Shaw, Jonathan
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andy
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, rh Jacqui
Smith, John
Smith, Sir Robert
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Stunell, Andrew
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swinson, Jo
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari
Teather, Sarah
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Ussher, Kitty
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walley, Joan
Waltho, Lynda
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Wiggin, Bill
Willetts, Mr. David
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Williams, Hywel
Williams, Stephen
Willott, Jenny
Wills, Mr. Michael
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Woodward, Mr. Shaun
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Frank Roy and
Mr. Dave Watts

Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Beith, rh Mr. Alan
Benton, Mr. Joe
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Beresford, Sir Paul

Binley, Mr. Brian
Bone, Mr. Peter
Bottomley, Peter
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Breed, Mr. Colin
Brokenshire, James
Burrowes, Mr. David
Burt, Alistair
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Conway, Derek
Cook, Frank
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Davies, Mr. Dai
Davies, Philip
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Dobbin, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Farron, Tim
Field, Mr. Mark
Francois, Mr. Mark
Fraser, Mr. Christopher
Gale, Mr. Roger
Gauke, Mr. David
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gray, Mr. James
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Hands, Mr. Greg
Hayes, Mr. John
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hogg, rh Mr. Douglas
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Horam, Mr. John
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Kawczynski, Daniel
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Loughton, Tim
MacNeil, Mr. Angus
Main, Anne
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Mates, rh Mr. Michael
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McIntosh, Miss Anne
Meale, Mr. Alan
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Neill, Robert
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
Ottaway, Richard
Paice, Mr. James
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Penning, Mike
Pickles, Mr. Eric
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Rosindell, Andrew
Russell, Bob
Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Smith, Geraldine
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Spring, Mr. Richard
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Syms, Mr. Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, David
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Viggers, Peter
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Walter, Mr. Robert
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Wilshire, Mr. David
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Young, rh Sir George
Tellers for the Noes:

Miss Ann Widdecombe and
Peter Luff
Question accordingly agreed to.
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19 Mar 2007 : Column 651

Private Equity Funds

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn. —[Kevin Brennan.]

7.48 pm

Mr. Michael Meacher (Oldham, West and Royton) (Lab): There has been a good deal of adverse publicity in the last few weeks about the operation of private equity firms, and not without good reason— [ Interruption. ]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but there should not be conversations going on in the Chamber when he is seeking to address the House.

Mr. Meacher: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Venture capital involving investment in small start-up businesses has always played a significant role in improving performance and paving the way for expansion, but the credit-fuelled bubble that is now driving private equity deals is something quite different. That is what I want to address tonight. Private equity firms are going after healthy, well-managed firms, looting them—I do not think that that is an unfair word to use—in the interest of huge personal gains for themselves and often at the expense of substantial job losses for employees, and often crippling the companies with debt.

Examples of that abound. They certainly include the Automobile Association: within months of buying it, the private equity owners Permira and CVC Capital had cut 3,400 jobs, reduced front-line services for motorists drastically, and forced employees to work, if necessary, for longer than allowed by European Union regulations on pain of losing their jobs. If they were stopped by the police and found to be in contravention of the regulations, they would be sacked anyway.

Another example is Birds Eye. Permira pledged to keep workers’ employment terms for at least three years, but within five months it had closed a plant in Hull at the cost of 600 jobs. In the case of Debenhams, the private equity partners increased the firm’s debt from £100 million to £1.9 billion, paid themselves a dividend of £1.2 billion, sold the freehold of the stores for £500 million and leased them back, then floated the business and took another £600 million—thus making three and a half times their investment in a little over two years. Debenhams was left with huge interest payments, while having to pay rent on stores that it had previously owned. I need hardly add—for Members will be well aware of the fact—that private equity now appears to be lining up Sainsbury’s and Boots for the same kind of treatment.

Roberto Italia, then of Warburg Pincus and now of Cinven private equity—one of the doyens of private equity—said, on a public platform,

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