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HOUSE OF COMMONS
TAKEN BEFORE THE
BACKBENCH BUSINESS COMMITTEE
TUESDAY 1 NOVEMBER 2011
MARTIN VICKERS, ROBERT HALFON AND ANDREW PERCY
MR DOMINIC RAAB, SIR MENZIES CAMPBELL AND DR HYWEL FRANCIS
MR JAMES ARBUTHNOT, MR DAI HAVARD, MR JULIAN BRAZIER, PENNY MORDAUNT AND BOB STEWART
Representations heard in Public
Questions 1 - 28
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
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Taken before the Backbench Business
on Tuesday 1 November 2011
Natascha Engel (Chair)
Mr Peter Bone
Mr George Mudie
Martin Vickers¸ Robert Halfon and Andrew Percy made representations.
Q1 Chair: Hi. We have quite a few people making representations today. Welcome back, Robert Halfon.
Martin Vickers: Changing the order of batting this week, along with Robert, I am another officer of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fair Fuel. Obviously, members of the Committee are familiar with the arguments about our motion for fair fuel duty, and I want to deal with one or two points that have been made during the past week or so. Some concern was expressed about the length of the motion and its wording. We accept that, but it is difficult to encapsulate the whole argument in a motion that is any smaller in size, and we have decided to stick to the wording, as it was last week.
Concern was also expressed that the motion did not follow precisely the e-petition. Our All-Party Group is requesting the debate, and we are bringing forward the e-petition in support of the request that we would have been making in any case. As has been said, the issue affects all constituencies in the country, so it is particularly important that such a debate be held in the main Chamber. Given the limited number of days, we recognise the difficulties of the Committee in allocating time but, because the issue affects the entire country, it is important enough to warrant such a debate.
Q2 Chair: Sorry-we have been through the matter quite often and are aware of the issues involved. For the record, will you read the new motion?
Martin Vickers: Yes. It states: "That this House welcomes the 1p cut in fuel duty at the 2011 Budget, the abolition of the fair fuel escalator, the establishment of the fair fuel stabiliser and the Government’s understanding that high petrol and diesel prices are a serious problem; notes that in the context of the Government’s efforts to tackle the deficit and put the public finances on a sustainable path that ensuring stable tax revenues is vital for sustainable growth, however believes that high fuel prices are causing immense difficulties for small and medium-sized enterprises vital to our economic recovery; notes that some low-paid workers are paying a tenth of their income just to fill up the family car; adds that high-fuel prices are particularly damaging for the road freight industry; asks the Government to comment on whether high rates of duty have actually led to lower tax revenues in recent years; after reports from leading motoring organisations suggesting that revenues were at least £1 billion lower in the first half of the year compared to 2008, finally calls on the Government to consider the effect that increased taxes on fuel will have on the economy to examine ways of working with industry to ensure that falls in oil prices are passed on to consumers; to consider issues around market competitiveness and more widely to consider the feasibility of a price stabilisation mechanism that would work alongside the fair fuel stabiliser to address fluctuations in pump prices."
Robert Halfon: The motion has now been signed by close to 80 Members of Parliament from all parties.
Chair: We will separate the motion from the issue of the debate. The motion is very long and could in itself constitute a debate.
Q3 John Hemming: Obviously, the issue of energy prices is important, but we face the reality that, on 8 November, the Committee has two hours of debate with a resolution that could be tabled during the two hours, which could be squeezed out and reduced depending on the earlier debates. Is that something you would accept?
Robert Halfon: I understand the pressures on the time for Backbench issues and, as long as the main Chamber is considered for the debate, we would accept a shortening of the hours from what we had originally bid, in fairness to other hon. Members who have issues to raise.
Q4 Mr Bone: There has been a lot of media comment about the Committee turning down the e-petition and debate; that was quite incorrect because the Committee has never done such a thing. If we were to put on the debate under such a motion, do those hon. Members presenting it consider that that would enable the people who have signed the petition to feel that their issue has been fully debated?
Robert Halfon: Thank you, Mr Bone. I have made it clear to members of the media who contacted me that the Backbench Business Committee was still considering the issue. I said that I had spoken to the Chair of the Committee. In no way did I give such an impression myself. It was given by others who were understandably disappointed that they were not given an answer straight away. I apologise for any inconvenience to the Committee.
The organisers of the petition are very adamant about the motion. We have offered to change it in line with some suggestions made by the Committee, but both Fair Fuel UK and the Road Haulage Association would like the motion to stand as it is for their particular reasons.
Q5 Chair: Thank you very much for coming back to Committee repeatedly. After we go into a private sitting, we will contact you and let you know the outcome. We have 8 October, a two-hour slot, but we also have a full day in the Chamber on 15 November. We actually have more time to play with this week than we had last week. We shall definitely get in touch with you. Also, the Clerks will work with you on the motion. Thank you for coming.
Robert Halfon: One final thing. Nearly 80 Members from all parties have signed the motion. Although I accept what Mr Hemming said about the cut in time, we obviously want to give as many Members as possible a chance to participate in the debate.
Chair: We totally appreciate that. Thank you for coming.
Mr Dominic Raab, Sir Menzies Campbell and Dr Hywel Francis
Mr Raab: Madam Chair, thank you for the opportunity to address the Committee. I appreciate how pushed for time we are and how much competition there is. You have the application before you. It is about protecting British citizens from rough justice under our current extradition arrangements. It covers the UK-US treaty and the European arrest warrant as well as our domestic legislative arrangements.
I would like to make three brief points in support. First, as you can see-with the exception of myself-we have high-calibre cross-party support for the debate, in addition to the Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the right hon. and learned Member for North East Fife. The Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, who could not be here today and who has written to apologise, fully supports the debate and is one of the sponsors. I have the letter here; if it is of any use, I can give it to the Committee afterwards.
There is a lot of wider interest throughout Parliament. I have lost count, I am afraid, of how many people have come up to me since this has been made known publicly and expressed their support; certainly more than enough to fill a full or half-day debate. In particular, it is worth saying that at least seven constituency MPs representing the victims of rough justice under extradition also support the debate. The early-day motion on Gary McKinnon has 80 supporters, and there is much wider public concern. Liberty and Fair Trials International support the application, and I have had direct contact from Gary McKinnon’s mother and a number of other victims. By way of background, the Babar Ahmad petition on the Government’s website has 70,000 supporters. There is strong parliamentary and public support for this.
My second point is that it is timely. There has been no oral ministerial statement on the independent Baker review of extradition. The Government are currently considering what to do about all the extradition arrangements. This is a window of opportunity for Parliament to debate the matter and have its say. Of course it would be wonderful to get a full day’s debate, but I am sure that we would be amenable to a half day, given how timely this is. We want to get in there and have our say before the Government respond.
Finally-thank you for your patience, Madam Chair-the motion before us is substantive and prescriptive on primary legislation, the European arrest warrant, the Council framework decision and the UK-US treaty. I respectfully submit that Parliament has a real chance to influence Government policy, which is what this Committee is all about.
Q6 John Hemming: Same question as earlier: what about two hours on the 8th? Is that a yes or a no? There is no sense in us considering you for the two hours on the 8th if you don’t want it.
Mr Raab: If I could make my submission for the alternative, we would love a day’s debate-
Q7 John Hemming: You would prefer six hours.
Mr Raab But we would take two hours, I think.
Q8 Chair: If I can help, I think the question is really whether it’s the debate or the vote that’s important in this matter. Do you anticipate from the people you have spoken to that a motion would attract an awful lot of interest, or do you think it’s actually the vote that really counts in this?
Mr Raab: I think it would attract an enormous amount of interest, but I think the vote is probably the critical thing. The key thing, I suppose-this is really where I suspect it is at your discretion-is that we do not know the window of opportunity before the Home Secretary comes back. The key thing is that it will become not redundant, but not as useful to have the debate after that. We want to take opportunities as they arise, but I leave that with you to consider.
Sir Menzies Campbell: I concur.
Dr Francis: I concur as well. It has very strong, broad support inside and outside the House. I think that the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee would also concur.
Q9 Chair: Can you read out the motion for the record?
Mr Raab: The text reads: "This House calls upon the Government to reform the UK’s extradition arrangements to strengthen the protection of British citizens, by introducing a Bill in the next Session of Parliament to enact the safeguards recommended by the Joint Committee on Human Rights in its 15th report of 2010-12, and by pursuing such amendments to the UK/US extradition treaty 2003 and the EU Council framework decision 2002 on the European arrest warrant, as are necessary in order to give effect to such recommendations."
Chair: Thank you. I have seen lots of people nodding. It appears there are others here in support of this motion.
Q10 Mr Bone: Dominic, can I pursue the point that John raised? We are talking about roughly a two-hour debate that might be available, but that might get shortened. I would say that this debate is worth far more than two hours. You are asking the Government to introduce a Bill into Parliament, so I consider there will be quite a lot of debate on this. Are you sure two hours is enough?
Mr Raab: Let me put it this way: if we could get three hours and have the substantive debate and the resolution, that would be the optimum. The worst of all worlds is to lose the opportunity for the House to have any say before the Government response.
Q11 Chair: Thank you for coming.
James Arbuthnot, thank you for your patience.
Mr James Arbuthnot, Mr Dai Havard, Mr Julian Brazier, Penny Mordaunt and Bob Stewart made representations.
Mr Arbuthnot: This is the third request by the Defence Committee for a debate on defence. However, we feel the Defence Committee should not need to come before your Committee to ask for something when, according to your policy documents, we were going to have five defence days a year. I think we have not had one since September last year. There have been the debates on the Armed Forces Bill but they were on the policy of the Bill-which is legislation-rather than the general debates we used to have.
It is also true that, now that the Government has granted the House a debate on 10 November on the armed forces personnel-just before Remembrance day-you might feel that this was not the moment for you to give one of your scarce days to defence. However, I would say in response that this is a year on from the strategic defence and security review. That issue has caused real concern throughout the country and the Defence Committee has produced a great big, thick report on it. It would be right to have a debate on the general issue of the SDSR, where we are, how it has bedded down and where we are going.
We do not suggest that there should be a dividable motion, partly because the Defence Committee and defence in general has been treated on the basis that we try to maintain consensus throughout the House and across the country. Trying to create artificial divisions will not be good for the armed forces when we are fighting wars.
We would like a full day’s debate and think it right to have it on the Floor of the House. Whatever people say about the virtues of Westminster Hall, and it does have great virtues, we think that if the armed forces saw that their issues were being downgraded from the Floor of the House to Westminster Hall they would feel similarly downgraded. Although we do not think it is for the Select Committee to have to ask you for a defence debate, we would recommend that you might think it the right thing to do.
Q12 Chair: Before I bring in the others, we have had a to and fro on this in the past. Since that time, things have become even worse, now that the Government have given us e-petitions to deal with and have not given us any extra time in the Chamber to compensate for that. We are now in a situation where, realistically, there is so little time and even the votable motions that are being brought before the Committee have to get stacked up because time is so scarce in the Chamber. This is no disrespect to the armed forces and no disrespect to your Committee, but that is the reality.
Mr Arbuthnot: That is just about to change, isn’t it? All the legislation has now gone up to the House of Lords end and there will be acres of days with people wondering quite what to with them. I suspect that you will find that you will be able to grant us a defence day.
Chair: If that is the case, the Government have, as you say, granted a general debate on armed forces personnel on 10 November, so there will be at least an armed forces debate. I will bring in some others. Did you want to come in, Peter?
Q13 Mr Bone: I obviously endorse entirely what the Chair says. One of the battles we have been having with the Government is that we would very much like to see days like defence days and the European Union debate-the fisheries days-still provided in Government time. The Government seem to have granted an armed forces debate on a day that was scheduled for Backbench business. They have rather taken that out of our hands. We may well have given you that day, but the Government has given it to you. Our real problem is that in a normal Session of Parliament of one year, we would have 27 days on the Floor of the House. This is a double session of Parliament, but we have no additional days. If, James, you are right, and the Government give us all these extra days, I am sure that you will get defence days. But there is no indication whatever that the Government are minded to give us extra days for Backbench business.
Mr Arbuthnot: I would be surprised if they did not, because in any event this was the Government’s gift, this debate next week.
Mr Bone: They took our day away to give it to you.
Mr Havard: It is not a gift and it is not given to me. It is the Government promoting its own policy in its own time. I am a member of the Select Committee, which is a Committee of the House. What we are saying as a Committee of the House, which is on your behalf, not the Department’s behalf and not the Government’s behalf, is that we are doing work for the House, as properly charged and the House itself is not allowing itself properly to debate the work that we are doing. All these other things are in the control of the Executive. The Executive give me nothing. They give themselves the opportunity on the 10th to have their debate. The Backbench Business Committee has the opportunity to give Backbenchers the opportunity for our own debate.
Mr Brazier: Obviously, a debate on personnel issues is welcome and there are some important personnel issues. But this is a time when we are at war in Afghanistan, when there are huge financial pressures on defence when we have had, first of all, a strategic defence review. We have then had a package of measures which very significantly changes that defence review. It is extraordinary that there has still been no opportunity for colleagues in the House to look at defence in the round and to talk about what defence is all about, what the priorities should be. A limited debate on either personnel or procurement cannot allow that. It has to be a wider defence debate and it needs, as the Chairman said at the beginning, to be one without a controversial motion. It needs just to be an ordinary adjournment debate so that people can put a wide range of views and the House’s thoughts on this can be taken.
Penny Mordaunt: I have appeared before this Committee many times before, supporting other debates. I am very aware of the pressures that you are under. I would say to you that you are more than simply an administration Committee, and certainly during the parliamentary Session I would think it very odd if you had not given weight to a topic such as defence, which has to be one of the most important things and one of the greatest concerns to the people we represent. I also leave you with this. Yesterday we welcomed home 3 Commando Brigade, and one of the Marines said to me that the only time we discuss them on the Floor of the House is when the names of the fallen are read out.
Q14 Jane Ellison: Do you feel very restricted by the debate on the 10th in terms of the scope you have to discuss wider issues? If you are proposing an adjournment-style debate, in Backbench time-and this is a general debate on the 10th-in what sense does that constrain what you can talk about?
Mr Brazier: It is not a general debate on the 10th; it is a debate on personnel issues, which is different. You cannot discuss the big issues of defence, which is where the priorities lie for the future. It is no secret that there are hugely difficult balances to be struck in defence, itself being stuck between operational and financial pressures. This cannot be discussed. Valuable things can be discussed in a personnel debate, but it is only a small part of the defence picture.
Mr Arbuthnot: Let us give an example. There is a theory that the Ministry of Defence is still short, in its procurement processes, of £15 billion. That does not come under the armed services debate, but it will have a huge impact on the entire defence, looking forward, of this country. From about 2020, half of the equipment budget will be taken by the replacement of the nuclear deterrent submarines and the bringing in and the paying for of the joint strike fighters. That will have huge implications for our defence. Whether the defence and security review is therefore able to be implemented at all, in view of those things, will be big news, but it does not come into what we are able to discuss.
Q15 Jane Ellison: May I ask you another question? Why do you think the motion has been framed as it has for the 10th and not in the most general way possible? Has that been done deliberately to restrict debate?
Mr Arbuthnot: No, it is because of Remembrance day. There used to be a regular series of debates-first, a two-day debate on the White Paper, then a debate, possibly, on procurement, followed by one on armed forces personnel and then on defence in the world, to discuss wider alliances. That was when we had five days for debate, but we have not had that.
Q16 Jane Ellison: Just one more follow-up question, and forgive my ignorance because you obviously know a huge amount more than I do. It is pretty much a whole day’s debate, I think, on the 10th. Taking Penny Mordaunt’s point, which I have heard many armed services people say, they do not wish to be just debated in the context of the fallen. What do you envisage will be discussed during that whole day’s debate on the 10th in the context of armed services personnel?
Mr Arbuthnot: In the context of armed services personnel, one thing that might be discussed, for example, is the treatment of military casualties, which we are doing a report on at the moment. The provision of housing for armed forces personnel could be discussed, or the education of armed services children, or whether people should have medals for serving in Malaya-things like that. All sorts of things could be discussed, none of which would necessarily arise under the strategic defence and security review, which is what we did our report on.
Q17 John Hemming: There is the question of Westminster Hall. We make a distinction here between the main Chamber and Westminster Hall almost entirely on whether there is a resolution, and not on status-because it has exactly the same status; it is still covered by the Bill of Rights and everything else like that.
Westminster Hall has the advantage that you can obviously still have a wide-ranging debate on defence issues, which I accept needs to occur. We obviously have to take into account what other debates are going on, because, in essence, if a lot of other issues are going through Parliament-on the economy, for example-we should not do a debate on that issue. Where is the real difficulty with Westminster Hall, because that gives you a chance for a three-hour debate covering anything in the defence arena?
Mr Arbuthnot: You say that there is no distinction in status.
Q18 John Hemming: In law.
Mr Arbuthnot: In law there may not be, but in perception-and the perception of the armed forces is really quite important-there really is.
Q19 Chair: May I add one thing? As a former Chief Whip, you will be aware that when you are scheduling time and have the entire Session in front of you, with lots of little boxes to fill up, it is much easier to slot in five defence days, and even theme those defence days. However, as a Committee we are given ad hoc days to allocate and they come up, literally, just before we meet on a Tuesday. Last week, we were not given any time in the Chamber to allocate and this week we have two hours on 8 November and potentially up to six hours on 15 November. As far as we know, that is it at the moment. It is enormously difficult to schedule in that way, rather than being able to allocate for the entire Session. That, by itself, really ties our hands.
You have been back to the Committee repeatedly and I would very much like to accommodate you, but it is so difficult to find time in the Chamber for something that is a general debate, when there are so many other things that are waiting and have votable motions on them. The conversation that I need to have, as Chair, is to see whether we can do something with the Government to see whether those set-piece debates that happened in the past can be allocated outside our usual allocation. That way we might be able to look at something. At the moment, the only time we have available for general debates is in Westminster Hall. That is no disrespect to you, your Committee, the armed forces or anyone else.
Mr Brazier: Effectively, that starts from the premise, if you will forgive me for saying it, that debatable motions should take priority over Adjournment debates on the Floor of the House. I understand the position that you have taken on that, but the consequence is that defence will always come lower than other priorities, because although very occasionally there is a controversial individual issue, which people may want to discuss-we have not had a debate on the nuclear deterrent for a long time, for example-the vast majority of the time, defence as a whole subject area within the House is best served by adjournment debates, and always has been. If you take the rule all the way through that debatable motions come first, you are effectively cutting defence out of the picture.
Mr Arbuthnot: I agree with what Julian has said, but I also recognise the difficulty. It is a genuine issue that the Chair has just raised. One of your remits as a Committee is to provide for debates that are topical and interesting for the population as a whole and for Members of Parliament. I suspect that you also, as Penny Mordaunt was saying, need to have an overarching view to ensure that you get all the interests of the country debated on a regular basis across the year as well.
I cannot give you advice as a former Chief Whip, because this Committee did not exist when I was a mere Opposition Chief Whip. I would have loved to be in charge of dishing out days, but I was just there to react. You need to have good discussions, I would suggest, with the usual channels to ensure that you have longer notice of the sorts of days that you might receive. Now that the legislation has moved up to the other end of the Palace, those discussions might bear fruit.
Mr Havard: The thing about the debate that will take place on 10 November is that there might well be two statements in front of it. The Government have all sorts of opportunities to curtail and to manage their time as they wish-I have seen that before-so there might not actually be a whole day’s debate on defence, because they have other mechanisms at their disposal and other interests to fulfil.
May I just say that Mr Arbuthnot has talked about the strategic defence and security review, because it tends to encompass all the issues and needs a broad canvas? We have published that report, and we are now beyond the statutory date for a Government reply. There are questions about where Parliament rests in relation to the Executive and whether it is able to hold the Executive to account. That is why it needs a proper status because, without it, we as Backbenchers can work on your behalf-on behalf of Parliament, as properly charged-but Parliament itself will have no opportunity to express its opinion properly about what it sees the Executive doing as a consequence of our work.
Strategically, perhaps you need to block out, although I appreciate the difficulties you have. There are deficiencies in the process now, and maybe that is something that should be looked at in the Liaison Committee and elsewhere. I think there has been a bit of a con by the Executive, in some respects, but nevertheless you are where you are. In each Session, it is important that defence is properly seen to be debated, for the House’s sake, with the Executive. Frankly, at the moment the Executive is winning, and they are quite happy for there not to be debate or for there to be debate that they can heavily constrain and control themselves.
Q20 Mr Mudie: I think that they have made hard weather and hard going of it. I am content, James, that, with your knowledge of the whipping system and of programming in the House, you will get a day easily, because we are getting a few days off in November for that very reason.
One thing that I always thought the infantry, or the Army, taught you was to adapt to changed circumstances. These are changed circumstances. There was a time when it was Government business, and they would slot in a few days for this and that, but it was always on the go. Back Benchers now have some power to have their voices heard, and, like it or not, that is what you are competing with.
What I really want to say is that, when somebody with a motion takes precedence, I am sitting here thinking, "It is surely not beyond the wit of the table there on Army personnel issues to put a motion together. They’ve got a whole list of grievances." It wouldn’t divide the Committee. You could almost take any Select Committee report, produce a motion and get it debated. You would then put yourselves on equal terms with other things. So, hopefully, I am helpfully putting it to you about adapting to the changed circumstances.
Mr Arbuthnot: George, thank you. That is extremely helpful, but we would not wish to do so. If we did that, we would be concerned about having a spat about the armed forces on the Floor of the House when the armed forces want to see the House working together in their interests to produce the best possible defence for the country.
Q21 Mr Mudie: James, I do not think you understand the strength of your own case. It would be political suicide for anyone to get up and have a spat about Army personnel issues on the Floor of the House when our lads are fighting in two countries at least. That is just on that one. I think I would get in the game by meeting the conditions that other people are meeting fairly straightforwardly, but on the other one you just have to adapt to it. I think you have made your case. You have indicated, and I hope you are right-I think you are right-that there are going to be days, so let us relax. I would get in with a very nice motion, on which nobody would fall out, about looking after the people who are fighting for this country.
Mr Arbuthnot: Producing a motion that nobody would fall out with would be precisely what you would not want.
Mr Mudie: No. It gets you a debate. The motion on Hillsborough was not objected to; often motions are not objected to. There you are, James. Think about it.
Chair: I am going to draw things to a close, because I need to see the usual channels, have an arm wrestle and, hopefully, get some more days out of them. That might be the answer. Planning and looking ahead is something that we cannot do. So that is a conversation that I need to have. Thank you very much for coming back again.
Mr Arbuthnot: We have taken enough of your time.
Chair: No, thank you for coming.
Steve McCabe made representations.
Steve McCabe: Thank you, Chair. I am afraid that I am a virgin at these proceedings, so I am delighted to have the opportunity to see how the experts in the fuel lobby and the armed services deal with things. Had I known more, I would have come mob-handed, but I was delegated to come by myself.
Anyway, I have a very simple request. I would like to request a short debate on the future of the Forensic Science Service. As you will probably know, the Government have now made a decision to close the Forensic Science Service, which has been the subject of a report by the Science and Technology Committee. It is an area of some controversy, not least because of the role that forensic science plays in so much police work at the moment. There are question marks about the capacity of private laboratories to take up the work immediately. Gary Pugh, the director of forensic science for the Metropolitan Police, described it as "an operational challenge of unprecedented magnitude". I am concerned that we have not really had any substantive debate that I am aware of in the Commons, and it is important that we do this before events are concluded.
Q22 Chair: Is this something for which you would need a votable motion or could it be debated in a general debate in Westminster Hall?
Steve McCabe: I think it could be debated in Westminster Hall.
Q23 Chair: We have a quite regular allocation of three hours, and that is a protected three hours, so that does not get-
Steve McCabe: I feel that it could almost certainly be debated there.
Q24 Jane Ellison: Could you give a quick sense of how many people you think would come in on it? Do you have any indication of that or of cross-party interest-not necessarily those with the same view, but just how lively a debate it would be? Could it be sustained for three hours?
Steve McCabe: We think it might well involve upwards of 20 people, so it could be sustained for three hours. There is a lot of controversy over it, so I do not think that there would much difficulty in terms of cross-party views.
Q25 John Hemming: I have some concerns about it myself, but there is a process. There is a form you can fill in to put in the details of the Members who support the issue, so we can assess things.
Steve McCabe: If it is acceptable to do that retrospectively, I will be more than happy to do so.
John Hemming: It is worth doing, because it puts it all together. To be fair, it is going to be very difficult, as it currently stands, with so many demands on time. It would be useful to get that in, because it is not an issue that finishes tomorrow.
Chair: Retrospective is absolutely fine. We’ll take anything.
Q26 Jane Ellison: Is there a particular time frame in which you need this debated?
Steve McCabe: The Government has already taken the decision, so we are already in the phase where they are winding up the Forensic Science Service. The problem at the moment is that police forces up and down the country are required to buy untested services and there may be some forces that will not have access to services, so the time frame is quite limited. That is why I have come in this slightly ad hoc fashion today.
Q27 Chair: That is fine. As far as we are aware, our next allocation for Westminster Hall is not until 24 November, which is quite far off, but we will definitely have a look at that. In the meantime, we will send you a pro forma form to fill in. It is very straightforward; it is more to help you than anything else. If you could get back to us with what specifically the debate is about and how many Members you expect-especially cross-party, which we are very keen on-that would be very helpful.
Steve McCabe: Absolutely.