We have evidence of a triple-dip recession and that the eurozone is dragging down the rest of the world economy, including our own. However, we have done better than others because our currency has been able to depreciate substantially since the creation of the euro, and particularly since 2008, which has protected us from the ravages affecting the EU. If our unemployment figures were equivalent to those in Spain, we would have 7.5 million unemployed. Imagine that! I do not understand why Spain has not seen a bigger revolt. Nearly 500,000 people have left Spain to go and work in south America and elsewhere because their own country cannot sustain them. It is even worse in Ireland. It has allegedly recovered—I am pleased about that, for the Irish—but it has overcome its unemployment problem by exporting 300,000 people. The equivalent number in Britain would be 4.5 million. Imagine if our economy had failed so badly that 4.5 million Britons had to go and live abroad to get work. That would be a travesty and utterly

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shameful. I look forward to the time when we establish sensible economics across Europe and that sort of thing does not happen any more.

Most seriously, Germany is now in real trouble. It has long benefited from an open market for its motor cars and other manufactures and from the consequent substantial trade surplus with us and other EU member states. It has squeezed the life out of the economies of other parts of the EU, and now it cannot sell its cars any more, so it is affecting the German economy too. We need a completely different approach to organising the economies of Europe—not the EU, but Europe.

We once had a model that worked. Between 1945 and the 1970s, we had a world, designed at Bretton Woods, that actually worked. Working-class living standards rose at a rate unprecedented in modern history. We saw the creation of welfare states and growing equality. The world I grew up in was wonderful, although it could have been more socialist and more left wing, but we have gone backwards since then across the whole of Europe. It is only because of the vestiges of what was created in the immediate post-war world, sustaining people through welfare states, that the Governments of Europe are getting away with what they are getting away with. We need to see a world in which we start to recreate those things that we have lost. We need to re-establish a more sensible world in which we all have jobs, we create growing equality across Europe and indeed across the world and we have good international relations on bilateral and multilateral arrangements, without being governed by an anti-democratic, non-democratic and bureaucratic organisation called the European Commission, which runs our lives. I support the referendum, and as and when it comes, it is likely that I shall vote no. I will, however, accept the decision of the British people because I am a democrat.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. Before I call the next Member, I would like to remind the House that brevity is the soul of wit.

11.51 am

John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): Article 9 of the Bill of Rights states:

“That the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament.”

Believe it or not, Brussels is a place. If we have a regulation rather than a directive, the regulation automatically overrides domestic law. Because the Bill of Rights was established as part of the Glorious Revolution, which was a popular revolution, certain changes to our constitution should inherently warrant a referendum. Hence I was pleased to support the previous version of this Bill, which is the same as this version, and having a referendum on our continued membership of the EU.

A particular strength is that the Bill puts a timetable on changes. Some changes need to happen. For instance, when this was all initially brought together, nobody would have thought that we would be encouraging people to come here to sell The Big Issue, yet by selling that paper or running a nonsensical or otherwise

17 Oct 2014 : Column 606

unprofitable scrap metal deal, people qualify for tax credits and get a lot more money from them than they do from

The Big Issue

or whatever it may be. People migrate here to be officially poor. Nobody would ever have thought that was sensible, and that sort of thing needs to change.

Having seen the difficulties caused by the previous Labour Government’s not maintaining interim rules on migration from eastern Europe, I doubt whether anyone here would accept that if we added Turkey and Ukraine to the EU, we should add them with the same rules on freedom of movement that apply elsewhere. I do not think anyone argues for that, so changes are obviously needed in the operation of the EU.

My personal view is that if we are going to have a Common Market that is really a common market, we need systems for determining the rules. When Margaret Thatcher introduced a federal Europe by introducing qualified majority voting as a result of the Single European Act, it was in many ways a rational process because we needed a system for working out the rules. I personally support having a more democratic process through the European Parliament, but I do not support an ever-closer union, because I do not believe that is what we want. We do not want to homogenise the European area.

There are debates and problems that arise from the way in which structures have been set up. One relates to human rights, for instance. I am a supporter of civil liberties and human rights, but I think the judicial activism in the Council of Europe—a different body, of course, from the EU—has been quite problematic. The solution, however, is democracy: using the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to control the interpretation of the European Court of Human Rights. It is not just to try to find some way out of a system that, apart from in some limited circumstances—prisoner votes, for instance—worked reasonably well. There are cases where it clearly does not work, but there are ways of dealing with them.

A referendum is definitely a very good way forward because it will enable us to have that debate. UKIP has recommended being in the European economic area, but the difficulty with that is that control on membership of the EU is completely lost because members of the EU have the right to veto additional members, but members of the EEA have to live with whatever comes out of the EU. At the end of the day, if we were not in the EU, we would be part of some other structure. It is unlikely to be invented as a new exercise; it is more likely that it would be based on the EEA. I do not necessarily believe that we always have to remain within the EU, but I am inclined to support the EU and its structures, while wanting definite changes to their operation.

Mr Bone: The hon. Gentleman makes a powerful point, but if the fifth largest economy in the world pulls out of something, surely a different structure would need to be created to accommodate it.

John Hemming: It is a question of buyers and sellers. Normally, selling something is a bit harder than buying it. People will sell things quite happily, but it is one thing to sell to Germans in German and another to buy them in English. There is some difficulty with the idea that our exports would simply be taken as read. I do not accept that people so want to purchase our exports that

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they would do exactly what we wanted. If we look at the EEA, we find that Norway contributes a lot of money to the EU through its EEA membership. The argument that not being in the EU would save us money is not necessarily a valid one. I do not take the view that suddenly everybody would bend over backwards to do exactly what we want, but that does not necessarily mean that we should go into the negotiations saying that we will swallow whatever comes out of this. The Opposition’s view that we should never stand up for anything because we might lose is not mine.

I was very pleased when the Government pulled us out of supporting the eurozone financial arrangements beyond supporting the International Monetary Fund. That was a sensible decision. In the dying days of the last Government, when Labour lost the election, they underwrote things, but doing so is actually taking on a big risk.

Kelvin Hopkins: The hon. Gentleman mentions Norway. People make a lot of the fact that Norway collaborates substantially with the EU, but is it not more that its political classes are trying to get round the fact that they are not members of the EU by going along as far as they can with it? They have three very good reasons for not being in the EU: fishing, because they have their own fishing rights; oil, which they understandably want to keep and sell themselves; and agriculture, which they still protect for their own benefit.

John Hemming: Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland are members of the EEA but not of the EU. If we look at the pattern of different memberships, we find that some countries are members of the Council of Europe, but others are not. It is quite complex. The Vatican, for example, is a member of nothing, yet it can print euros. [Interruption.] Strange, isn’t it? But for whatever reason, Norway happens to be a member of the EEA, and we need to think about what the alternative would be if we had a choice about being or not being in the EU. That would be an important decision, but if we want to remain in it, it does not mean that no changes to how it works should be made.

Perhaps the error among some in my party has been not to drive for change. As I said, we cannot have a situation whereby people are encouraged to migrate here to be poor. That just cannot be rational; we cannot have that. When people started work on the treaty of Rome and other arrangements, nobody thought that that would be a sensible outcome. It involves using taxpayers’ resources to achieve a negative rather than a positive. Rather than rescuing people who have been marginalised, we create more marginalised people.

The Opposition raised concerns about the wording of the question. I am very supportive of it. I campaigned against having a directly elected dictator in Birmingham when such a role was proposed. About 5,000 people found that their votes had been disqualified because they wrote the word “No” on their ballot papers. I think that it is quite a good idea for there to be questions that allow the answers “Yes” and “No”, because these campaigns are always fought on a “yes or no” basis. I have not looked into how many ballot papers were spoiled at the time of the Scottish referendum, but there was a big

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problem in Birmingham. People were writing “No” on their ballot papers because they understood how they wanted to answer the question, but there were two boxes to be ticked, and it was not entirely clear which box they should tick in order to express their view. I think that the Electoral Commission got things wrong in that regard.

We are where we are today. We are exerting some pressure for the adoption of a time scale, and we are moving towards change and towards trusting the British people.

Mr Nuttall: The hon. Gentleman says that we are where we are today. I seem to recall that when, three years ago, standing probably on this very spot, I moved a motion that there be a national referendum on whether we should stay in the European Union, his hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Mr Sanders) voted for the motion, but he voted against it. Perhaps he will enlighten the House on what has caused him to change his mind.

John Hemming: This is my record of voting on the issue of referendums concerning the European Union. I rebelled in the vote on the Lisbon treaty: I voted for a referendum on that. I voted against the hon. Gentleman’s motion. I voted for the amendment to the Queen’s Speech calling for a referendum. I voted for the private Member’s Bill that was presented during the last Session, and I shall be voting for this Bill. That is because I think we need to secure some changes and then vote on them. I do not think that we should just vote today; I think that we should negotiate some changes and see what we can get, because I think that change is needed. If we have a vote today, we shall have to have another vote later, and I do not think that we need to have too many votes.

Mr Nuttall: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if, after we have tried to negotiate, it turns out that no one will agree to any changes, there should still be a referendum?

John Hemming: Yes. That is the whole point. The Bill—which I am going to support, just as I supported the last Bill—says that there should be a referendum by a certain date, which puts pressure on the system to deliver change. The reason I voted against the hon. Gentleman’s motion is that I think we need to negotiate for change, because the system needs to change. I do not take the view of the hon. Member for Clacton (Douglas Carswell), who believes that the structures are so appalling that they could never be modified or improved; I take the view that the structures need modification and improvement, but that we shall then need the authority of the British people. I shall not commit myself as to exactly what my view would be in that process, but I have already explained that I am sympathetic to the adoption of a democratic structure for the handling of trade agreements, which is essentially what we are talking about.

There are questions to be asked about, for instance, how the transatlantic trade and investment partnership should be managed. All trade agreements involve the same difficulties in relation to management. If we are talking about how straight a banana is, that is a trade issue. If we are talking about what names should be used for Cornish pasties, or about how types of food

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can be localised, that is a trade issue as well. There needs to be a democratic structure of some kind, and there must be an accountable system for management purposes, but what we need to do is secure change, and then have a vote.

12.2 pm

Stephen Timms (East Ham) (Lab): I want to set out the settled view of British businesses that we should remain in membership of the European Union. I find it puzzling that so few Conservative Members are willing to set out those arguments today, and why it falls to Labour Members to do so. I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Ashford (Damian Green), who started to set out the case a moment ago, but his is a very rare voice on his side of the House.

Mrs Main: With great respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I think that he is completely missing the point. That is not what the Bill is about. When the Bill is passed and the decision is made to have a referendum, we will listen to the voices of everyone, not just business, and an informed choice will be made. It could be “in” or it could be “out”, but the choice will be with the people. It will not be a case of listening beforehand to businesses which say “Do not give them a choice.”

Stephen Timms: I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention.

“Do I want an in/out referendum? No, I don’t, because I don’t think we should leave.”

That is my position, but, in fact, all that I am doing is quoting to the hon. Lady what the leader of her party said on 5 January 2010, when he was Leader of the Opposition. When he was setting out his case for becoming Prime Minister he rightly identified the question of whether we should remain in membership of the European Union as being central to the determination of whether we should have an in/out referendum. He was speaking at an event called “Cameron Direct” in Hammersmith. Voters were given an opportunity to see what sort of person he was, and to put questions to him. He drew attention to the central connection between question A, “Should we remain in membership of the European Union?” and question B, “Should we have an in/out referendum?” , and he made his view absolutely clear: because he did not think that we should leave the EU, he did not think that we should have an in/out referendum. I am simply setting out the view that he took then. Of course his view has since changed, and we may well want to discuss in this debate why the Prime Minister’s position has changed so radically, as it undoubtedly has. Perhaps the lack of trust among his Back Benchers has led to that change.

Mrs Main: We do not know whether Labour Members are in favour of an in/out referendum, because they are not going to vote on it today—they have said they are not—but those of us on the Government Benches would like to give the people the choice. We do not care if there are different views—and there are different views on the right hon. Gentleman’s side, too—because we all have one vote, and the public will decide.

Stephen Timms: Well, I want to defend the view set out by the leader of the hon. Lady’s party. On 5 January 2010 in Hammersmith, shortly before he became Prime

17 Oct 2014 : Column 610

Minister and when he was leading the efforts of her and her hon. and right hon. Friends to be elected in the general election. He said:

“Do I want an in/out referendum? No, I don’t, because I don’t think we should leave”.

I think he was absolutely right.

Robert Neill: I have not intervened before because I have made my speech and I do not want to take up time, but may I say gently to the right hon. Gentleman that the reason why everything has changed is that his Government welched upon signing up to the Lisbon treaty without having a referendum, and from that point on the bets were off and trust was destroyed? That is why we need the referendum now.

Stephen Timms: The hon. Gentleman may have missed the date of the comment I have just read out. It was 5 January 2010, when he and his hon. and right hon. Friends were campaigning for election. The leader of the Conservative party, at an event that was called “Cameron Direct”, which was an opportunity for voters to find out exactly what sort of person was seeking to be elected Prime Minister and to understand what made him tick, said:

“Do I want an in/out referendum? No, I don’t, because I don’t think we should leave.”

That was in January 2010, long after the debate about the Lisbon treaty, and I happen to agree with the view set out then by the current leader of the Conservative party, and one of the things we should be discussing in this debate is why the leader of the Conservative party has changed his position so dramatically.

The Scottish referendum has been referred to several times in this debate, and that is appropriate because there are some telling lessons for us to learn from it. That also illustrates how dramatically the Conservative party has changed in recent years. It was called the Conservative and Unionist party; I do not know if it is still called that, but that certainly was its name in the past, and it was a defender of the Union. It was absolutely clear in the Scottish referendum debate, however, that the only influence of the Conservative party was on the side of the yes campaign. I spent some time canvassing in Glasgow and a voter said to me, “Who wants to be part of a country where the next Prime Minister might be Boris Johnson?” One can understand that view. The Conservative party is no longer, in effect, a defender of the Union. Only my party is a national party; it is the only party that is able to stand successfully for election in every part of the United Kingdom. The Conservative party is no longer the defender of the Union.

Equally, the Conservative party is no longer the defender of the views of British business, and I personally regret that that is the case. The views of British businesses are extremely important in this debate, and we ignore them at our peril. When the Government were elected they said they would eradicate the deficit in this Parliament, but the Prime Minister acknowledged in the Chamber this week that the deficit has only been reduced by one third. We have seen the fall in markets around the world this week. The Chancellor himself has warned about the prospects for the recovery over the coming months. The chief economist of the Bank of England this morning has been pointing out that people in the UK on moderate incomes are continuing to see their incomes

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fall in real terms. The average wage is down over £1,600 per year in real terms since 2010. Surely that should be the central preoccupation for the Government elected next year. We should not have two years of paralysis, which is what would happen if we were to go down the road envisaged in the Bill. Surely the economic interest of the country should be the focus of our attention, and we need businesses to be successful in order for the deficit to be eradicated. This Government have fallen so far short of the goal they set out for doing that.

The views of British businesses are clear. In response to an intervention from me the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) was unwilling to accept that the view set out by the director-general of the CBI was the view of British businesses. If I heard him correctly, he said that we should be cautious about listening to the big battalions.

Robert Neill: Correct.

Stephen Timms: The hon. Gentleman has confirmed that that is his view and I imagine it is the view of most Government Members in the Chamber today. They feel that we should not be listening to the views of the CBI, but I believe we should. Its director general has said that the EU

“remains fundamental to our economic future”.

He continued:

“Our membership supports jobs, drives growth and boosts our international competitiveness.”

That should be a central concern for this House and for the Government elected next May.

I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Ashford for a number of the points he made, and he drew attention also to the views of the Engineering Employers Federation. Its chief executive said just last month that

“manufacturers remain overwhelmingly of the view that our economic wellbeing is inextricably linked to the EU and we must stay in membership.”

In a poll of its members, it found that 85% of member companies indicated that they would like to stay in, rising to 90% of those with more than 250 employees.

Sheryll Murray: Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that the Bill is not about whether or not we are members of the European Union, but about trusting the British people to make that decision?

Stephen Timms: I say again to the hon. Lady that the question of whether we remain members of the EU is a central one in determining whether we should have a referendum. That was the view set out by the current Prime Minister—the leader of her party—when speaking in Hammersmith on 5 January 2010, while he was campaigning for election and she was supporting him. He said:

“Do I want an in/out referendum? No, I don’t, because I don’t think we should leave.”

That was his view then and I think he is right to link, as he did so explicitly in those remarks, the question of whether or not there should be a referendum with that of whether we should remain a member of the EU. I am saying that instead of two years of political paralysis

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with the kind of navel-gazing debate envisaged and supported by Government Members, we should be focusing on addressing the economic challenges that face the UK, tackling the cost of living crisis that millions of people across the country are suffering. They have seen their wages fall in real terms since 2010. That should be the focus for the Government elected next May.

Mr Bone: The right hon. Gentleman normally makes sensible comments in this Chamber, although I do not agree with the point he is making. Putting party politics to one side, does he not agree that what business wants is certainty and that until a referendum is held there will be a debate about whether we stay in or come out of the EU? Is it not better for business to have that referendum and so have that matter finally decided?

Stephen Timms: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that what business needs is certainty, a point that was made by the Foreign Secretary just a few minutes ago. If we were to embark on a referendum campaign, however, that would unleash two years of total uncertainty. Investment projects would not go forward and economic improvements would not take place. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to highlight the dangers of uncertainty, as his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary did, but this Bill will create more uncertainty than any other measure currently being proposed.

Mr Bone: The right hon. Gentleman makes the fair point that the further away we are from the referendum, the more uncertainty there is. Of course, there has been a lot of misunderstanding in the Chamber today. The Bill says that there will be a referendum by the end of 2017; it does not say that it will not be earlier.

Stephen Timms: The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point. I think that he would probably agree with the views of Sir Martin Sorrell, a supporter, as I understand it, of his party, who said:

“Having a referendum creates more uncertainty and we don’t need that…You added another reason why people will postpone investment decisions.”

Surely what we should be doing in this House is encouraging investment decisions and encouraging people to bring them forward rather than putting them back. I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman that there is an enormous danger in creating unnecessary and unwanted uncertainty, which would lead to serious economic risk for the UK.

Mr Thomas: Further to the intervention made by the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone), in which he suggested that a referendum on this question would somehow deliver certainty, I wonder whether he has seen the remarks made by the Prime Minister at Hammersmith on 5 January 2010. The Prime Minister said:

“I don’t think it would put an end to the argument, I think you would just—you’d have a neverendum not a referendum. You’d just get one answer then you would have another one…The pressure wouldn’t go away.”

The Prime Minister went on to say that, secondly, he did not think we ought to leave the European Union. He thought that it was not a good idea and that it would be bad for Britain.

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Stephen Timms: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that point. The idea of the neverendum that the Prime Minister introduced to the debate is very telling. If a referendum were announced in 2017, that certainly would not end the uncertainty. Quite the reverse. It would unleash at least two years of grave uncertainty with serious risks to the UK economy as a result. In my view, we should not be going down that road as we cannot afford it at a time when the Government, in five years, have reduced the deficit by only one third having promised to eradicate it over the lifetime of the Parliament.

I agree with what was said by Stephen Odell, the European chief executive of Ford:

“don't discuss leaving a trading partner where 50% of your exports go”.

That is what the Conservative party is proposing.

Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry) (Con): I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman has already told us that he rates his constituents less than he rates Scottish constituents and that he would give them fewer powers. Which industries is he trying to pick? He is cherry-picking. Would he have followed the lead of those industries that said in the past that we should join the euro? If it was easier for big business to join the euro, would he go down that route? Surely the biggest threat to business is the uncertainty that any Labour Government would bring; businesses would certainly be leaving in droves if Labour were elected in May.

Stephen Timms: I simply think that the hon. Gentleman should listen to people such as the CBI and the EEF, who are very clear. He wants me to refer to a different industry, so let me quote Willie Walsh, the chief executive of British Airways, who said earlier this month that

“Britain pulling out of the EU would be a blow to business, without question.”

Conservative Members should listen to what businesses say, not insult them, not deprecate them and not ignore the views they express, particularly at a time of such grave difficulty in our economic circumstances, when people’s wages are going down, and millions of people across the country are facing a cost of living crisis.

I wanted to set down in a little more detail the concerns I see, representing as I do a constituency on the east side of London that shares a lot of interests with the constituency of the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst who introduced this Bill. Given the extent of the debate during my speech, I will not be able to do so. I also want to apologise to the House that because of commitments in my constituency later today, I shall have to depart before the winding-up speeches.

I make no apology for setting out in the debate what is the settled view of Britain’s businesses—that we should remain in membership of the European Union. Members on the Government Benches should listen to those views, not ignore them. It is surprising that it is necessary for Opposition Members to present them here because Government Members are so unwilling to do so, but that is where we are. I have taken a consistent view in supporting our membership of the European Union. I have done that in my constituency as well as in the House, and on the basis of the views that I have set out in my constituency I currently have the largest majority in the House. I therefore have great confidence in setting

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out those views again today, and confidence about the view that my constituents will express about my endeavours when the election comes next year.

I want to end on this point: those who support UK business should not be supporting this Bill.

12.20 pm

Fiona Bruce (Congleton) (Con): I shall be brief. The merits of the Bill are so sound that they do not need to be laboured. That the British people deserve a say on our relationship with the EU of today is clear. No one can deny that the EU of 2014 bears no resemblance to the European Economic Community of 1975, and the UK’s position in the EU today clearly lacks democratic legitimacy. As hon. Members have frequently pointed out, no one under 57 had a vote in the 1975 referendum on whether we wanted to be part of the Common Market. No one at all in this country, whether under or over 57 years old, has ever been asked if we want to be part of what is the increasingly federal European Union of today.

A constituent of mine said only the other day, “We were conned in that referendum. We voted for a Common Market and now we have something completely different, which we never voted for.” Irrespective of whether those who put forward those proposals in 1975 foresaw where we would be today in our relationship with the EU, the fact that my constituent feels conned is a very serious aspersion to cast in a democratic country and we must put that right. We must give people in this country a say. It is not just my constituent who feels like that; it is the British people, who have made it clear that they want this referendum. They want a say. In the European elections in May more than half the electorate voted for parties which are committed to a referendum. The Liberal Democrats, who put themselves forward as the “party of in”, received only 7% of the vote.

The British people want their chance to decide and we as Conservatives are the party that will ensure that they have it. That is the simple and straightforward message of the Bill—no more, no less. Despite Labour blocking a referendum last year, I want to thank the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) for her words when she said that

“it is important to recognise that the majority of Labour voters in the country want to see a referendum.”—[Official Report, 5 July 2013; Vol. 565, c. 1175.]

I hope those on the Opposition Benches who stood against a referendum last year will now reconsider and give the Bill their full support, because the will of the British people on the matter has been made clear.

Members who truly believe in Britain’s continuing membership of the EU of today should seek a proper mandate for it by putting that to the people and persuading them that they are right. If they are confident of their stance, they should not fear this Bill; they should welcome it. Primarily, the Bill is not about whether we believe in the European Union. This debate is about whether or not we believe in democracy. Members can be pro-Europe and vote for the Bill, but they cannot be pro-democracy and oppose it.

12.24 pm

Douglas Carswell (Clacton) (UKIP): I applaud my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) for bringing forward the Bill, and I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton

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South (James Wharton), whose first draft of the Bill paved the way. Having spent years calling for a referendum on our EU membership, I have little more to say than what I have already said and what has been said here today. The case in favour of an in/out referendum is overwhelming. The party of Keir Hardie ought to see that. As UKIP’s first elected Member of Parliament I can say that UKIP MPs can always be counted on to support an EU referendum. UKIP MPs are both willing and able to vote for an in/out referendum.

We should also acknowledge the role played in all of this by my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (Mr Nuttall). I note that almost three years ago to the day, 111 MPs on both sides of the House defied their Whips and voted for an in/out referendum. It was a Division that he masterfully oversaw. Those 111 MPs did so in defiance of their own party Whip; in defiance of their Front Benches. They did so despite the advice of the pet pundits. I am delighted to see that the Whips, and even the right hon. Member for Ashford (Damian Green), have changed their tune and now back what my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North pioneered. Those on one Front Bench are now on side.

Julian Smith (Skipton and Ripon) (Con): On the issue of sides and changing them, several months ago the hon. Gentleman said that the only way to secure a referendum was to vote Conservative. Why has he changed his mind? Was he telling an untruth then, or is he telling an untruth now?

Douglas Carswell: The reason I changed my mind was because I came to realise that the promises on Europe of the Administration that the hon. Gentleman defends have all the credibility of a Greek Government bond, and like a Greek Government bond they can be redeemed only on the say so of a German Chancellor. Because I now see that, and many of my former colleagues now see that too, I recognise that the promises are literally incredible. Now that I have realised that, I have done something about it. I leave it to the hon. Gentleman to resolve that dilemma for himself.

Mrs Main: I wonder when the damascene conversion came about, because in The Daily Telegraph in April 2014 the hon. Gentleman said:

“In order to exit the EU, we need David Cameron to be Prime Minister in 2017—the year when we will get the In/Out referendum, our chance to vote to leave the EU.”

So obviously it was between April and sometime recently.

Douglas Carswell: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for once again pointing out that when the facts change, I change my mind. I wonder what she does. When the leader of my party announced at Bloomberg that he was serious and wanted change, no one cheered more loudly or tweeted more joyously than I did. But I came to realise, as many of my former colleagues and those sitting next to the hon. Lady on those Government Benches now realise, it was merely smoke and mirrors. He was not serious about change. The game plan was to secure the illusion of a new deal in the hope that voters would vote to stay in. It is all about not changing. Once I realised that, I did something about it.

Several hon. Members rose

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Douglas Carswell: I would like to make a little progress. I intended making a two-minute speech and I have given way twice.

Parliament needs to assert itself over the Executive and is doing so. The sort of mandarins who advise the Prime Minister on the sofas in Downing street might not fancy an EU referendum. This House must assert itself over and above them. I am delighted to back the Bill.

12.28 pm

Mr David Nuttall (Bury North) (Con): As the hon. Member for Clacton (Douglas Carswell) just said, next Friday it will be three years since I moved a motion in this House to hold a referendum on our membership of the European Union. At that time, there was a three-line Whip from all the major parties against my motion. I am pleased that the Prime Minister has listened to the overwhelming view of the majority of the British people that they want their say on this issue—that it should not be decided by a political elite, but by the hard-working British people.

There are two main reasons why the Bill is necessary and why there should be a referendum. First, as has been mentioned, it is four decades since the British people last had their say on our membership of what was then the European Economic Community, which people referred to at the time as a common market. But the organisation we belong to today is a completely different animal. It is vastly bigger and has vastly more control over the United Kingdom.

Secondly, as has already been evidenced in the debate, this issue crosses party political boundaries. There are supporters of all parties who want us to stay in the European Union, and there are supporters of all parties who want us to leave. In those circumstances, because it cannot be decided at a general election, and because it is a constitutional matter, it is right that it should be determined by the British people.

As chair of the Better Off Out group of MPs and peers, my view is clearly that we would, as a nation, be better off out of the European Union. On far too many issues this Parliament has no choice but to simply carry out the instructions sent to us from the European Union, whether we like it or not. This House of Commons should not simply be the lapdog of Brussels. Why should we have to pay billions of pounds each year just for the privilege of trading with our own European neighbours, even though, as has been pointed out, they would trade with us anyway? It just does not make sense.

Mr Bone: I was delighted to have the opportunity to wind up the debate that my hon. Friend initiated three years ago. Does he agree that this mother of Parliaments should decide today by having a Division? As someone who passionately believes that we should come out of the European Union, I do not think that we should allow this to go through on the nod.

Mr Nuttall: I recall that my hon. Friend summed up that debate eloquently and—this was the crucial point—just in the nick of time. The House divided then, and if we divide today I of course will have no hesitation in supporting the Bill.

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As a nation, we need to export to the whole world. Having to comply with red tape from Brussels makes the job that much harder and more difficult for British companies that are having to compete on the world stage with companies that do not have to comply with such a regulatory burden.

I hope that the Bill will pass through its stages in this House quickly, and if it is held up again in the other place, I hope that the Parliament Act will be used so that my constituents in Bury, Ramsbottom and Tottington, and indeed constituents in the whole country, can have their say. It is long overdue.

12.33 pm

Thomas Docherty (Dunfermline and West Fife) (Lab): I will be suitably brief, because I know that many colleagues wish to speak in this important debate. I congratulate the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) on introducing the Bill. I got to know him quite well when he was a Minister in the Department for Communities and Local Government and always found him to be a thoughtful and considerate fellow. I thought that he set out his arguments extremely well this morning, but I am afraid that I disagree with him on three points. I will touch on them briefly.

First, on the need for the Bill and, more importantly, for the referendum, if we listen carefully to the party on the Government Benches, and it is now a party—I think that all the Lib Dems are in Rochester and Strood trying to hold on to their deposit in the by-election—we hear that it somehow takes no responsibility for the changing nature of the European Union over the past 40 years. Let us be clear that the two Prime Ministers who transferred more powers than any other from the United Kingdom to Brussels were Lady Thatcher and John Major. Government Members act as if they had no role at all in that, and that somehow there is a need today that was not there 20 years ago. I think that with the exception of the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, none of the Conservatives who were Members of Parliament in the early ’90s argued against the Maastricht changes. None of them thinks that Lady Thatcher was wrong to have ceded so much power to our European neighbours.

Kelvin Hopkins: My hon. Friend is reminding the Conservatives that they did indeed commit many sins in relation to our membership of the European Union, not least of which was joining the exchange rate mechanism, which proved to be an economic disaster. Many of them now regret that because it led to Labour’s victory in 1997.

Thomas Docherty: I am most grateful to my hon. Friend. He has reminded us of the key role that the current Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer were playing in the early ’90s in forming the economic policies of John Major and Lord Lamont which led us so disastrously to Black Wednesday. I am not sure that they have had a chance to apologise for the mistakes that they made.

Kelvin Hopkins: I have to remind my hon. Friend that the Labour leadership at that time also supported the ERM strategy, which I did not.

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Thomas Docherty: I am most grateful for my hon. Friend’s incredibly helpful intervention.

As far as I am aware, very few Conservative Members stood on a platform at the last general election calling for an in/out referendum. I suspect that the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) did, and I know that the hon. Member for Clacton (Douglas Carswell) did, but in the Conservative party manifesto the Prime Minister explicitly ruled out having a referendum. So what is the reason for doing this now?

Conor Burns (Bournemouth West) (Con): Twenty-one years ago, I was elected national chairman of the Conservative students. That decision was overruled by central office, and the person who lost was appointed. The reason was that I was leading student opposition to the Maastricht treaty, along with my hon. Friend the Member for Clacton (Douglas Carswell) and Dan Hannan. Some of us have been absolutely consistent on this and predicted at the time that the European Community would change beyond recognition. That is why the British public need to have a say on this totally changed construct from what they were promised and offered in 1975.

Thomas Docherty: I am most grateful to Lady Thatcher’s metatron for joining us today. I was not aware that there were many mature students in the Conservative party 20-odd years ago, but it turns out that there were obviously some.

The reality is that the institution that Conservative Members rail against today was constructed by Conservative Foreign Secretaries and Prime Ministers, yet they take no responsibility and now pretend that it is somebody else’s fault.

There is no mandate from the country for a referendum, because the vast majority of Members of this House were elected in opposition to having a referendum at this time. Many hon. Members have referred to Scotland. The Scottish referendum came about because two parties, the Green party and the Scottish National party, stood on a clear and unambiguous platform in saying, “Vote for us and we will have a referendum.” They won a majority in the Scottish Parliament elections in 2011, and they had a democratic right to call for that referendum. Labour Members did not oppose that because we could see a clear mandate. Despite what some Conservative Members have said, I do not think that many of them came to Scotland, which, to be fair, is probably why we got quite a good result.

Conor Burns: I stayed in your spare room.

Thomas Docherty: I know that one or two of them did come up for a few days to help out.

Scotland went on “pause” for three years. Its economy suffered because we were having a referendum. The poison and the nastiness in that debate was something I had never previously encountered in my 20 years of political activism. Business and industry deferred investment decisions because of the uncertainty that having a referendum was going to create. It is a fantasy to think that if we decide now that we are going to have a referendum in three years’ time, we will not see companies such as Nissan and those cited by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms) putting off

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investment decisions. It will cause nothing but uncertainty, put the fragile recovery at risk and lead to a three-year obsession with the single issue of Europe.

Kelvin Hopkins rose

Thomas Docherty: I have already given way twice to my hon. Friend, who has spoken at some length. I want to make some progress because other Members want to get in.

Another problem with the timetable is that it assumes that the Prime Minister will be able to renegotiate by the end of 2017. My right hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire South (Mr Alexander) spoke eloquently about the Prime Minister’s track record of not being the strongest at winning friends and influencing people, not just in his own party, but in 27 countries. [Interruption.] I appreciate that it is difficult for the hon. Member for Elmet and Rothwell (Alec Shelbrooke) to stand up sometimes, but he should just get up and say it rather than sledge from a sedentary position. He just wants to chunter away and that is fine.

The Prime Minister has failed repeatedly to win in Europe. Do we really think that the other 27 nations are going to allow the United Kingdom unilaterally to have a series of opt-outs from Europe?

Mrs Main: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I do not want to infer anything from what the hon. Gentleman has just said, but would he like to explain why my hon. Friend the Member for Elmet and Rothwell (Alec Shelbrooke) has trouble getting up occasionally? I think that was an unfortunate and ill-judged remark.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): The hon. Lady will appreciate that that is not a point of order. We will not take time in this debate discussing the hon. Gentleman’s athleticism or otherwise.

Thomas Docherty: I am moving towards my conclusion and am conscious that others want to speak.

Let me be absolutely clear: the idea that the Prime Minister can unilaterally secure significant renegotiation is unrealistic, to say the least. The only way we are going to have significant renegotiation is through an intergovernmental conference, which will require Chancellor Merkel, the French President and others to agree to the process. What will happen if we get to the end of 2017 and the Prime Minister of the day has failed to secure those renegotiations? Will we have a referendum or not?

Kate Hoey: Yes.

Thomas Docherty: My hon. Friend says yes, which is a reasonable position if she simply wants out of the European Union. I disagree with her, but it is a legitimate position. What we should not have is the duplicitous behaviour of some Conservative Members. They claim that they want to put this to the will of the people, but the reality is that they just want to leave the European Union. This has nothing to do with trusting the British people; it is all because the Conservative parliamentary party cannot trust its own Prime Minister.

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Finally, there is no clear reason for having a referendum in 2017. It will simply cause economic instability and constitutional chaos, and distract us from the important work that needs to be done on rebuilding our economy. I do not support this Bill and do not wish it a good wind.

12.43 pm

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): I am sorry to hear that your voice is suffering, Madam Deputy Speaker; I hope you did not catch it from the Leader of the Opposition.

The hon. Member for Dunfermline and West Fife (Thomas Docherty) is a really well-liked parliamentarian, but I think he will reflect later that some of his comments were unfortunate. He made clear his position in favour of the European Union, which is a perfectly legitimate view to take. I tried to find something on which I could agree with him. It is possible that he has misunderstood the Bill. It says that there will be a referendum by the end of 2017, so it may well take place earlier, which would remove some of the uncertainty the hon. Gentleman is worried about. Perhaps that is the little bit of common ground I share with him.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) on an absolutely splendid and passionate speech. If the progress of the Bill were based on that, it would be law by next week.

I want to make two points. First, I fear, because of the parliamentary timetable and because Members of both Houses will, quite legitimately, use parliamentary tactics to delay the Bill, we will not get it on to the statute book. I think that the way forward is for the Government to introduce the Bill. The Conservatives dominate the Government and lead the Government, so we should not be scared to put the Bill forward. If the Liberal Democrats want to vote against the Bill, let them vote against it. If they want to leave the Government, let them leave the Government. I do not think that they will. If we were to introduce it as a Government Bill, a Conservative Bill, on the Floor of the House and it was voted down, the public would know that the Conservatives were in favour of a referendum and that the Liberal Democrats and Labour were against it. That is the only way in which we will get a clear-cut vote on this matter. I hope that the House divides today. I hope to add some weight to the attempts to get that Division.

Secondly, I want to raise a much more local matter. The rest of the country will have to wait for an in/out referendum, but north Northamptonshire is already having an in/out referendum. It is being led in Kettering by my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone), in my constituency by myself and in the Corby constituency by Thomas Pursglove, the excellent Conservative candidate, who, I am pleased to tell the Prime Minister, is as Eurosceptic as myself and my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering. We are delivering a quarter of a million ballot papers with the simple question of whether the people of north Northamptonshire want to remain in or come out of the EU. We will finish the referendum by the end of the year and deliver the result to Downing street. I do not think that I am wrong in saying that, at this stage, 85% of the ballots that have been returned are for coming out of the EU.

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Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con): May I draw it to my hon. Friend’s attention that the good people of Cleethorpes are also receiving those in/out referendum leaflets, and that 89% of them have voted for out?

Mr Bone: I am really grateful that that is happening. In north Northamptonshire, this is the biggest test of public opinion on whether we should be in or out of the EU since the Wilson referendum.

Our work in the Corby constituency might be of interest to Opposition Front Benchers. At the moment, it is a Labour seat. As I have gone around the doors delivering the ballot papers, it has been amazing how many people who have voted Labour are very keen to vote in the referendum. As the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) said, they want to come out. That is a warning. I am trying to help the Opposition by saying that if they do not adopt the position that there should be a referendum, a lot of their voters will go off and vote UKIP. I do not think that UKIP will make any gains, but it might let the Conservatives win.

Mr Thomas: I have always had an extremely high opinion of the hon. Gentleman and have long thought that he should be elevated to the Front Bench. I wonder whether he will turn his attention to the question of the date and tell us why it should be 2017. Why should it not be 2018, 2016 or 2019? Why has the arbitrary slot of 2017 been picked?

Mr Bone: I am grateful for that intervention, although it has killed off any chance of my getting into government, and I was looking forward to it happening soon. I will deal with that point, but I first want to go back to the local issue of the ballot in north Northamptonshire.

If anyone in north Northamptonshire wants to vote, they can do so at nneureferendum.com or by postal ballot. The interesting thing is the movement of traditional Labour supporters towards our position as the only party that can deliver a referendum. That is a most interesting change and it has happened over the past few weeks. It is good news for Tom Pursglove, our candidate, and rather bad news for the hon. Member for Corby (Andy Sawford).

The last point—I tried to deal with this at the beginning of my speech—is the date of the referendum. Everyone is making the mistake of saying that it will be at the end of 2017, but the Bill and the Prime Minister’s position are clear that it could be earlier. The end of 2017 is a backstop—that is the end date. I hope that explanation will allow the hon. Member for Harrow West (Mr Thomas) to vote for the Bill today.

12.50 pm

Mike Gapes (Ilford South) (Lab/Co-op): I congratulate the promoter of the Bill, the hon. Member for Bromley, Chislehurst and the Boleyn Ground (Robert Neill)—I think that would be the correct designation. It is a great pleasure for me to speak, given the sense of groundhog day and coming back again a year on, so I decided to dust off my speeches and found them on the shelf, although I then decided not to repeat them because I wanted to say other things.

Today is a good news day in one respect, and it is a shame that the hon. Member for Clacton (Douglas Carswell) is not present to hear this—[Hon. Members: “He was!”] Yes, but where is he now? Perhaps he has

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gone to Rochester. There was an important development in the European Parliament yesterday: the Latvian member of the bizarre grouping that UKIP is part of has walked out. As a result, it is estimated that £1.5 million that was to be paid to UKIP—a party that is against the European Union—by the European Union will no longer be available to UKIP in the European Parliament. That is excellent news. I understand that the Conservatives and the European People’s Party were somehow behind that, and if that is the case I congratulate them on what they have done to reduce the amount of money going to UKIP.

We are debating a Bill that has exactly the same wording as the Bill promoted last year by the hon. Member for Stockton South (James Wharton), whom I am pleased to see is in his place—[Interruption.] Not for long, I guess, but at least he is here now. I want to get back to the point that I made in an intervention. This Bill is not the same as the previous Bill once amended by the other place. The other place amended the hon. Gentleman’s Bill to insert wording that had been determined and recommended by the Electoral Commission, regarding the question to be voted on in any putative referendum.

Conservative Members have decided not to heed that warning, and instead they have resubmitted the Bill as originally presented to the House last year. They are doing that because they hope to invoke the Parliament Act and force through a Bill in the five or six months before the end of this Parliament, without giving us time properly to debate, consider and amend the legislation. They are hoping to get the Bill through today on Second Reading, rush it through Committee and its remaining stages, and then invoke the Parliament Act so that the other place cannot scrutinise it and bring forward sensible proposals for amendment, as it did last year. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart) wishes to intervene, I am happy to give way.

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): I was not meaning to intervene; I was “bobbing”—that is a pun—simply to say that the hon. Member for Stockton South (James Wharton) is not present. I know all Tories look alike, but he is not here.

Mike Gapes: In which case I must get a new pair of glasses. I apologise profusely.

The position put forward in the Bill has a number of serious flaws. There is a problem, which other hon. Members have already commented on, with regard to the date of the referendum. The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) referred to the possibility that the referendum might be held not by the end of 2017 but somehow much earlier. Presumably, that is because he hopes and perhaps even expects the Prime Minister to be unable to have a successful negotiation and make an early decision, having tried his one last chance, to pull out of any negotiation to have an early referendum. If the hon. Member for Wellingborough wishes to intervene to clarify that, I am happy to give way.

Mr Bone: I have great faith in the Prime Minister’s renegotiating skills and I think he will renegotiate very successfully much earlier.

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Mike Gapes: That would be very interesting, when none of the 27 other EU countries seems to be on the same page at the British Conservatives. Nevertheless, we shall wait and see because that is, of course, hypothetical.

The UK presidency begins on 1 July 2017, so Ministers in any British Government in 2017 will have to attend and chair a series of meetings every week on various topics. In addition, there will have to be another Minister present to represent UK interests during the six-month period. Is it really sensible to envisage a referendum during that time when, instead of focusing on reform and progress in the EU, British Ministers, who are also Members of this House, will have to be involved in trying to deal with the politics of the referendum? [Interruption.] Yes, maybe they will not be here. That is an interesting point. It is foolish to consider holding the referendum during the six months of the British presidency of the EU. In those circumstances, it makes no sense whatever to talk about “by the end of 2017”. It would be better, if we are going to have a referendum, to have it in 2016 or before 1 July 2017, so that when British Ministers go to those meetings we can say whether we will be staying or leaving the EU, while we are chairing those meetings.

Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op): That will affect the perception of Britain’s leadership. Having the presidency means that we are supposed to be holding the chair.

Mike Gapes: Absolutely. Can we imagine the circumstances where, in the middle of an important negotiation on proposals for the future, the British Government have to say, “Sorry, we are going to vacate the chair and leave the meeting, because we’ve all got to head back home to take part in the referendum campaign?” That is absolutely absurd. If the outcome, God forbid, was a vote to leave halfway through this process, it would cause enormous damage to our standing and respect among other people in Europe, not least in the form of the uncertainties it could cause for the exchange rate and to business confidence, to which my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms) referred.

Seema Malhotra: I thank my hon. Friend for giving way again; he is being very generous. This afternoon I shall be speaking at the Rastriya Pravasi Bharatiya Divas conference with the Indian diaspora, which looks at how Britain and India support a mutual strategic relationship. A big part of that is investment in both nations. Does my hon. Friend agree that all the uncertainty will also affect the perception of Britain as a place to invest in, when what—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. The hon. Lady’s intervention should be short, especially as she has already made one. I am sure that the hon. Member for Ilford South (Mike Gapes) will not be repetitive in his answer.

Mike Gapes: I shall not be repetitive at all, Madam Deputy Speaker. I agree with my hon. Friend.

Many companies in Korea, China, the United States and elsewhere around the world wish to invest in Europe. They will be looking closely at whether to invest in this

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country when there is uncertainty over our staying in the single market. This is a vital issue, and it is time the Conservatives understood that their proposal poses a threat to inward investment, jobs and prosperity. Millions of people in this country work for foreign companies that have come here to invest and to gain access to the European single market. This country is outward looking and global; it has a stable society and the rule of law. It is also involved in the largest single market in the world, on a continent of 500 million people. Half our trade is with the European Union. The Bill represents a threat to that and to the jobs and prosperity of our people. That is a flaw in the Bill.

I have talked about the proposed date, and I will say more about that another time.

Mrs Main: The hon. Gentleman is making a deeply passionate speech about the flaws in the Bill. I can therefore guarantee that he will vote against it today. Or is he able to tell me otherwise?

Mike Gapes: The hon. Lady will have to wait and see whether there is a vote. I am waiting to see what happens. She will not have long to wait.

There are many flaws in the Bill, and it needs to be significantly improved if it is to be in the interests of our people and our country. I have already mentioned the House of Lords vote earlier this year to change the wording of the question that will be asked in the referendum back to the original wording proposed by the Electoral Commission. I was going to mention the original Government proposal put forward by the Conservative party, but of course it was not a Government proposal; it was a Conservative proposal. I have to keep reminding myself that we are in the bizarre position of having a private Member’s Bill being used as a device for introducing what ought to be a Government Bill. I agree that it should be a Government Bill. We should not be abusing the private Members’ Bill procedure by doing things like this. Many Conservative MPs have been forced to come here today. They have been whipped to come here on a Friday morning and eat bacon butties when they should be out campaigning in Rochester and Strood. Instead, they have to be here because they have been whipped to come and vote on a private Member’s Bill. That is absurd.

Sheryll Murray: The hon. Gentleman might be interested to learn that I am here because I choose to be. I believe in giving my constituents a say, and I trust them to make this decision. Does he not trust his constituents to do that?

Mike Gapes: Yes, and I choose to be here today. I choose to speak in the debate, as I did last year. I am delighted to be speaking up for the European Union and for Britain’s membership of it. My constituents are quite content with the position I am taking on this, and I look forward to being resoundingly re-elected next year. I have to tell the hon. Lady that the Conservative party in my constituency has not even got round to choosing a candidate to stand against me yet. It must be really confident.

I shall return to the Bill. I apologise; I was sidetracked by the hon. Lady’s intervention.

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Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): I do not think the hon. Gentleman will get sidetracked again. I am tempted to believe that he is coming to the end of his speech in order to allow another Member in.

Mike Gapes: I have a few more points to make, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I will be as brief as I can.

Unfortunately, the Bill does not take account of the resounding success in the turnout among young people in the Scottish referendum. It was an opportunity to build on the decision in Scotland to give 16 and 17-year-olds the right to vote. After the Bill gets its Second Reading, as it no doubt will today, I hope there will be the chance to table an amendment giving 16 and 17-year-olds a vote in the referendum, as happened in Scotland.

The Bill has huge implications for the 2 million British people living—working or retired—in other EU countries. If we leave the EU, their livelihoods, and possibly their residence and legal status, will be jeopardised. We might see a huge increase in demand on our NHS from elderly people coming back to this country. Why should they not have the right to vote, as British citizens, on a decision that could greatly affect their position?

Similarly, although Gibraltarians have been given the vote, there are other British citizens affected by the EU’s relationships with member states’ outer and overseas territories. For example, why are the Falkland Islanders not being given a vote? The relationship between the EU and the outlying and overseas territories of member states is important both economically and politically, but the Bill takes no account of that.

We need to consider the arrangements for the conduct of the poll. Should we have voting on more than one day to increase turnout? Should it be possible for people to vote electronically? We examined these kinds of issues in the last Bill, and I hope we can do the same with this Bill.

The local paper in my constituency, the Ilford Recorder, today reports that the Barking, Havering and Redbridge hospital trust has recruited nurses from Portugal to fill the gap in our local NHS and to end our reliance on agency staff. The recruitment is necessary because of the failings of the Government’s health policy, which we can discuss another day, and because EU migration is vital to the provision of health care for my constituents. If the Government get their way and cut off our relationship with the EU, the many immigrants providing vital services in our economy and health service will no longer be able to do that.

The nasty party is back. The Bill is another example of the Conservative party chasing the UKIP vote. UKIP is dragging the party way to the right, and it will cost it at the next election, as it is costing it now in political support. I urge my hon. Friends and others to stand firm against this nasty element coming into our society through the nasty party.

1.8 pm

Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con): I shall be as brief as possible.

As a Member who has consistently supported an early referendum, I am delighted to support the Bill promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill). For 20 years before we joined the then Common Market, we argued but could

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not decide, and in the 40 years since, our EU membership has remained a sore on our body politic. The reason is simple: the people were mis-sold membership; it has turned out to be something other than was promised. We now have more and more integration, with more and more power being passed to an unaccountable Euro-elite. What should have happened, of course, is that we had a series of votes after each of the major treaties. It might well be that we would still be in the same position—that is, a member—but it would have clearly been the settled will of the British people.

In 1975, I was the self-appointed chairman of the Grimsby and Cleethorpes Young Conservatives against the Common Market. The reason I was self-appointed is that I was the only member! The party was going through one of its phases of Euro-enthusiasm at that stage and the Young Conservatives were pounding the streets in favour of a yes vote. I was a lone canvasser for the no campaign.

Referendums are the purest form of democracy: everyone has a vote. There is my vote; the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister vote; it all counts for one. As we have seen with the recent Scottish vote, referendums stimulate interest and enthusiasm for the political process.

Last night, I re-read my speech in the October 2011 debate. I referred then to the previous day when I had attended a civic service in Barton-upon-Humber. On that occasion, everyone I spoke to was in favour of my supporting the referendum vote. As it happens, the same event comes up this Sunday, so I will be able to go back and report that yet again I have supported the will of my constituents to have a referendum.

Finally, Euroscepticism runs deep in my constituency and in neighbouring Grimsby. At the time of the original negotiations, the fishing industry was literally sold out and was wiped out as a result. It is in the local DNA for people to be Eurosceptic. As I mentioned in an intervention, in common with other Members I am conducting a referendum of my own in my constituency. At the moment, 89% are showing a no vote. I am very confident that I am speaking on behalf of my constituents.

We live in a troubled world and I recognise that we need to co-operate with and work in partnership with our neighbours, but we do not need the bureaucratic monolith we have created. I hope that, when the referendum comes, as it surely will, my constituents and the country will vote to withdraw.

1.12 pm

Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab): I have in the past been a great supporter of Friday morning debates on private Members’ business. We often get some very straight talking on a Friday morning, and I gained that impression this morning. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers), who has had a tradition of opposition to the European Union going back many years, as have many Conservative Members. I do think, however, that it would have been better if this motion had been made more clearly one about getting out of Europe, rather than hiding behind the pretence that it was a motion about giving choice to the British people.

We should beware of politicians calling for common sense without telling us what that common sense actually is. What we have not had from the Conservative party

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or the Prime Minister is clarity about what a renegotiated Europe would look like or about the red lines as we go into the negotiations. Neither have we had clarity about a time scale within which to enable the British people to make the informed and common-sense judgments—I certainly trust the British people are able to do so, as many Conservative Members have claimed they do—that are needed. A common-sense judgment demands having some real questions on the table to look at, examine and then to decide on.

Because the Prime Minister has been unwilling to provide clarity over the red lines and because the Conservative party has been unwilling to set out what a revised European Union would look like after a renegotiation, within 19 months of next May, there would have to be clarity on those issues. I do not think that that is a reasonable time scale. The hon. Gentleman who often speaks for his wife and whose constituency I have forgotten—

Mr Bone: Wellingborough.

Barry Gardiner: Wellingborough: of course it is. The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) said that the end of 2017 was a backstop, but, as he knows full well, in the last six months of 2017 Britain will be chairing the European Union, and it is inconceivable that we could hold the referendum within those six months. The hon. Gentleman drew the date forward, saying that there could be a referendum during the first six months of the year, but that would shorten the time that the British people would have in which to look at what was on offer.

I do not think that the Bill is lacking in disingenuity. It is disingenuous because it claims to rely on the good wisdom of the British people to make a judgment without giving them the basis on which to make that judgment, and without giving them a time scale that will allow them to exercise it.

1.15 pm

Robert Jenrick (Newark) (Con): As the only Government Member who had not yet been elected when my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton South (James Wharton) heroically introduced the previous Bill, I can say that the deeply disappointing obstruction of that Bill at least enabled new Members such as me—and from 20 November onwards, I hope, my future Conservative colleague in Rochester and Strood—to give my support to this Bill.

It will come as no surprise to the House that I did not vote in 1975. I was not born in 1975—I was not even a glint in the eyes of my parents, who had not met in 1975—and I am not alone. There is a generation of people out there who need to have their say, and the Bill gives the British public an important opportunity to have their say on how this country has been governed over the past 40 years. It is clear that, during that time, more powers and far too much public money have been surrendered to Brussels. Parliament’s sovereignty has been eroded and degraded by the dogma of ever-closer union. Our families and businesses have been subjected to far too much regulation and red tape. The remote and undemocratic leadership of the EU has contributed

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to the erosion of trust in the House of Commons and in politics, and to the erosion of our national identity and self-confidence.

Successive Governments have contributed to that as well. The Labour Party promised a referendum on the European constitution, won an election on that promise, and then denied us a referendum on the Lisbon treaty. That seems to me to be a scandalous breach of trust, and our inability to correct it thus far has contributed to the culture of mistrust and cynicism that pervades our politics and enables the essentially destructive politics of protest and pessimism to take hold in the country. Now is the time to right that wrong and to use the mechanism of the Bill as an essential guarantor, given that previous promises have been made and then ignored.

I believe that there will be a referendum. I believe that this is an idea whose time has come—whose time, indeed, came a long time ago. The choice for those who have opposed it in the past, and may choose to do so again today, is whether to accept that inevitability with dignity and embrace it for the opportunities that it brings.

We have nothing to fear in this Bill, nothing to fear in trusting the public, and much to gain. As has been said in the past by many Members and today, notably, by the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey), this is not merely a matter of the House trusting the public with a decision on the central question of our national future. It is a matter of our providing the public with a reason to trust the House, and our political process a little more, and using this moment to engage and inspire the public in respect of what we want this country to be and where we want it to go in the future.

This has been the dominant issue of the past 30 or 40 years. It has been the subject of constant debates in the House, the press and the country. It has seized the consciousness of much of the British public. At some stage we must put it to the British public, and at some stage we must answer the questions that lie behind it and get on with the life of this country. Let me point out, with apologies to the Leader of the House, that some of you will not be here in 30 or 40 years’ time—[Laughter]—but for the sake of those who will, I do not want us still to be debating and discussing this issue without resolution, without settlement, and without the voice of the public finally being heard. I want us to settle this matter, and then to turn outward as a nation and look to the future. I want us to devote the energies of the House and our politics to the challenges of the 21st century, securing our prosperity and our place in the world. Now is the time for us to throw this question open to the nation, to spark a debate, and to empower the British people at long last.

1.20 pm

Mrs Anne Main (St Albans) (Con): If every single Opposition Member who spoke about the awfulness of this Bill does not reinforce that with their vote today, the public can conclude that they are prepared to let the unelected House at the other end of this Building do their dirty work for them. I have heard from them today nothing good about this small Bill, which simply reinforces the public’s ability to make up their own mind when they have heard all the arguments, whether from business or politicians. Therefore, if those Opposition Members

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who desperately oppose this Bill do not vote today, they will show the hypocrisy of the Opposition, who prefer to let the other end do their dirty work for them.

Robert Neill: claimed to move the closure (Standing Order No. 36).

Question put forthwith, That the Question be now put.

Question agreed to.

Question put accordingly: That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The House divided: Ayes 283, Noes 0.

Division No. 58]


1.21 pm


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Amess, Mr David

Andrew, Stuart

Arbuthnot, rh Mr James

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Steve

Baldry, rh Sir Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Barker, rh Gregory

Baron, Mr John

Bebb, Guto

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Blunt, Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, James

Bruce, Fiona

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burt, rh Alistair

Byles, Dan

Cairns, Alun

Carmichael, Neil

Carswell, Douglas

Cash, Sir William

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Clappison, Mr James

Clark, rh Greg

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, rh Stephen

Davies, David T. C.


Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

Davis, rh Mr David

de Bois, Nick

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dorries, Nadine

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duncan, rh Sir Alan

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evans, Mr Nigel

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fallon, rh Michael

Field, Mark

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fullbrook, Lorraine

Fuller, Richard

Gale, Sir Roger

Garnier, Sir Edward

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goldsmith, Zac

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, rh Damian

Greening, rh Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Hague, rh Mr William

Halfon, Robert

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, rh Matthew

Hancock, Mr Mike

Hands, rh Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, rh Mr John

Heald, Sir Oliver

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Hendry, Charles

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hoey, Kate

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kelvin

Hopkins, Kris

Howarth, Sir Gerald

Howell, John

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Javid, rh Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Jenrick, Robert

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, rh Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Sir Greg

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Lancaster, Mark

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Latham, Pauline

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Sir Edward

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, Dr Julian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lopresti, Jack

Loughton, Tim

Luff, Sir Peter

Lumley, Karen

Macleod, Mary

Main, Mrs Anne

Maude, rh Mr Francis

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

McVey, rh Esther

Menzies, Mark

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, rh Maria

Mills, Nigel

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, rh Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mundell, rh David

Murray, Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

O'Brien, rh Mr Stephen

Offord, Dr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Opperman, Guy

Osborne, rh Mr George

Ottaway, rh Sir Richard

Paice, rh Sir James

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Paterson, rh Mr Owen

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, rh Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pritchard, Mark

Raab, Mr Dominic

Randall, rh Sir John

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Robathan, rh Mr Andrew

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, Amber

Ruffley, Mr David

Rutley, David

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Simmonds, Mark

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stephenson, Andrew

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Mr Graham

Sturdy, Julian

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Syms, Mr Robert

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Truss, rh Elizabeth

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vaz, rh Keith

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Walter, Mr Robert

Watkinson, Dame Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Willetts, rh Mr David

Williamson, Gavin

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, rh Jeremy

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Ayes:

Gavin Barwell


Anne Milton


Tellers for the Noes:

Mr Ben Wallace


Mr Peter Bone

Question accordingly agreed to.

17 Oct 2014 : Column 630

17 Oct 2014 : Column 631

Bill read a Second time.

17 Oct 2014 : Column 632

Transparency and Accountability Bill

Second Reading

1.35 pm

John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

This is in a sense the Bill’s second outing. I had the impression from its previous outing that it would be allowed to get its Second Reading, but now I know that it will be talked out. That is rather sad, because in the long term the Government will regret not having adopted a number of the measures in the Bill at an earlier stage because of the wider impact throughout the world.

There are greater tensions in today’s society. One of the failures of society rests in the tension between the Executive and the legislature. The issues in the Bill are not party political, but they are political in the sense of the tension between the Executive and the legislature. I find sympathy for my concerns across the House in all parties, but there is a blockage when it comes to the Executive responding. It tends to be very difficult to get anything out of the Executive.

For example, in the Ashya King case, the father talked of himself as being a refugee from the UK because he was threatened with care proceedings, and we know that there was a wardship application against the family. It was clear that the hospital would have had an emergency protection order had they not left the country. When I raised that with the Prime Minister, he did not understand that I was asking Parliament to have a collective investigation into what is going on.

There are many issues in the Bill that I will come to, but the difficulty is that, because of the secrecy surrounding such issues, it is easier for this to be debated in other countries. For instance, English family law has been the subject of television programmes in Brazil and Belgium, and there was a three-hour debate on Slovak television, but there is very little discussion in the UK, mainly as a result of the constraints on debate.

I will look first and foremost at some of the matters that were not in my previous Bill and then deal with the others. I aim to finish by 2.10 or 2.15 pm to allow for two other speeches before the 2.30 deadline. Sadly, when the Procedure Committee on which I sat put forward proposals to make private Members’ Bills more effective and to strengthen the legislature, the Executive decided that they did not like it.

The context of the Bill is to improve transparency and accountability in the public sector, and within that I have included a number of different elements. With regard to the super-complaints proposal from Which?, the idea is basically to give a designated representative body the power to make a super-complaint to regulators of public services to address systemic issues. That sort of thing does go on. There can be difficulties within the health service. It is far better to enable challenge from outside the system. We saw with the Commission for Social Care Inspection and the Care Quality Commission the tendency for even the regulators to cover things up.

We have too many cover-ups in Britain, and the Bill seeks to reduce their number. If we try to challenge the state, we tend to be hit by costs, which is another aspect dealt with in the Bill. Basically, a super-complaint allows the representative body to bring forward evidence that a

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feature of a market is harming the interests of service users and ensures that the relevant regulator considers the response to the issue. Under the Enterprise Act 2002, designated representative bodies can make super-complaints to the Competition and Markets Authority about detrimental features of private markets. This power does not currently extend to markets for public services where detrimental features can also arise. We know all about that.

My Bill would address that gap in the super-complaint regime, and in the protection of consumers, by giving designated bodies the power to make super-complaints to regulators of public services to address systemic issues on behalf of consumers. Public services are vital to millions of people across the UK, but people’s voices are not always heard when they experience a problem.

Also, people do not always speak up when they have a problem. Which? has found that a third of people who have experienced a problem with public services in the past 12 months did not complain. That is potentially a huge number of people whose experience, if shared, could help improve public services for everyone. Which? also found that people would be more likely to complain if they felt that it would make a difference to other people’s experience and result in a change. More needs to be done to ensure that people’s voices are heard in our public services.

Those clauses have obviously been written by Which?, and of course it will be progressing the issue outwith the Bill. I scheduled my Bill for the same day as the European Union (Referendum) Bill because I thought that nobody else would, and I think that my judgment was right—ordinarily, I would not have had an opportunity to say anything, so I am pleased to have such an opportunity today. The advantage of a private Member’s Bill is that we get a response from the Government and the Opposition and the issue gets an outing in front of colleagues. It is a way of progressing an idea. It would be nice if we had greater powers for the legislature, but we do not—that is life.

Another organisation that contributed to aspects of the Bill is the Campaign for Freedom of Information. This relates to closing a loophole in the Freedom of Information Act 2000 that allows contractors providing public services to escape scrutiny. They are not subject to FOI requests in their own right and so provide only the information that they are considered to hold on behalf of the authority.

Mr David Davis (Haltemprice and Howden) (Con): Does the provision also deal with the issue of limited companies being created to provide public services? The most egregious example was the Association of Chief Police Officers, which, as a limited company, could refuse to answer FOI requests, even though it did serious and sensitive public work.

John Hemming: I am not 100% certain that this Bill legally traps it, but that was the intention. I do not think that it is perfectly drafted, so we do not know—that is one of the difficulties with these Bills.

Let us take some examples given by the Campaign for Freedom of Information. The information that the Information Commissioner has said does not have to be made available under FOI includes the number of parking tickets issued, and then cancelled on appeal, by traffic

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wardens employed by a council contractor and who are offered Argos points as an incentive to issue tickets. That example is similar to what the right hon. Gentleman is talking about. We effectively have the exercise of a public power of enforcement but no proper accountability for it. That is a good example.

Other examples include: how often a contractor-managed swimming pool had been needlessly closed to the public because it had been booked by schools that did not use their slots, which again relates to public resources; the arrangements made by a subcontractor to restore the Leyton marsh after its use as a temporary basketball court during the Olympics; the qualifications of assessors used to verify that incapacity benefit claims have been properly dealt with by Atos, the Department for Work and Pensions contractor; and the cost of providing Sky television to prisoners and the number of cells with their own telephones at HM Prison Dovegate, which is privately managed. As the director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information, Maurice Frankel, said,

“each new outsourcing contract reduces the public’s access to information because of a loophole in the FOI Act. Information that is vital to the public may be kept secret simply because the contract doesn’t provide for access. The Bill would restore the public’s right to know.”

That is another point that shows that this is unfinished business. This cannot just be allowed to drift. We need action from the Government, whoever is in government and at whatever stage, to deal with those exemptions, because what are clearly public functions are escaping accountability.

I will come to the family courts and justice matters later, but the Bill also contains provisions that relate to the Criminal Cases Review Commission.. Again, this is a privatisation issue, because the Forensic Science Service is now a private contractor, rather than one controlled by the state. It no longer has access to information to check whether or not somebody has been subject to a miscarriage of justice. When it was in the public sector, it did have that access, but in the private sector it does not. I believe that the equivalent body in Scotland does have that access.

To me, this is a no-brainer. It is a shame that the Bill will not go to Committee, where those relatively straightforward issues could be resolved. Potentially, they could go through the regulatory reform process, because it could be argued that that would reduce a burden on the Criminal Cases Review Commission. I serve on the Regulatory Reform Committee, and, if I may say so, we are not that busy—not that overwhelmed with things going on. It would be good to free up the Criminal Cases Review Commission to monitor and access information and to reduce the number of miscarriages of justice.

The Bill has another aspect to do with miscarriages of justice. There is the difficulty of people who do not admit their guilt being kept in jail beyond their tariff, and the question of whether their numbers should be counted. If people do not accept their guilt and they are guilty, they are potentially unsafe to release because they do not accept that they have done anything wrong. If they are not guilty and do not admit their guilt, they are stuck. My concern is that the Government do not even count these situations, so we have no knowledge of how many of those cases there are.

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Those are the matters that were not covered so much in my previous private Member’s Bill. I will now come to the family court issues and talk more widely about where we stand. I think I mentioned the Brazilian television case. North Tyneside council threatened an injunction against Brazilian television, and there have been attempts to injunct Czech TV as well. The system does not really work. To be fair, I have a lot of time for the current president of the family division, who is making gradual but sustained progress in dealing with the situation. However, there is a long way to go.

Earlier this week, a gentleman from German radio came to see me. He was concerned about the situation in Rotherham, which he had been investigating. Not only did the local authority take children into care, where they were found to be less well protected, but if they became pregnant it put them up for adoption on the basis that there was a future risk of emotional harm. There is always a challenge when medical evidence—medical opinion—is provided as part of judicial processes, and that exists whether it is in the family courts on a balance of probabilities or in the criminal courts on the basis of beyond reasonable doubt. To some extent, when an expert goes around saying that people are guilty, they are treated as guilty. However, a lot of people come to see me saying, “We just took our child to hospital because we thought they were ill and suddenly we find that we are being prosecuted for all sorts of things.”

To be fair, the triad of symptoms of shaken baby syndrome has now been recognised to be flawed. It was always known that this happened spontaneously for cases of butyric aciduria, so we know that in certain circumstances the triad occurs spontaneously. What we do not know is all the circumstances in which that has occurred. However, the symptoms have been used to convict and imprison people and to remove their children and put them up for adoption.

One of the clauses that I am particularly interested in would allow for academic scrutiny of court proceedings. I am talking about academic social workers, medical challenge and psychological challenge. At the moment, in essence, the only really effective audit on family court proceedings, particularly for public family law, is the example of international cases. The advantage of international cases is that two different jurisdictions are looking at the same case. Earlier I cited the King case, where the family went off to Spain and are now in the Czech Republic. Obviously that case was considered by the Spaniards. The family were lucky because they managed to get their story out on YouTube and were not injuncted.

There are similar cases. The Paccheri case is well known—it concerns the lady who was forced to have a caesarean when she visited the UK whose child was then adopted. When we investigate the medical evidence put to the Court of Protection, we find, looking at the considerations by experts on the internet—there are experts on the internet and some people do that work very well, but not everything on the internet is true: do not believe everything you read on the internet—that there was a good, detailed critique of the judgment, but it was published only because we found out about what had gone on; it was not published as part of an ordinary process.

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The judge was in a very difficult situation. The court was presented with one piece of medical evidence by the hospital. The medics from the hospital came and said, “You’ve got to force this lady to have a caesarean.” There was no medical challenge to that. There was somebody representing the hospital trust and somebody representing the official solicitor, who is in theory representing the protected person, although I do not think they had spoken to the protected person. The decision, however, was based on medical evidence, but there was no challenge or second opinion. I have been going on about this issue for some time: there is no right to a second opinion. Had detailed consideration been given to a second opinion in this case, it would have said, “Actually, this isn’t necessary.” The traumatic way in which the lady was treated did not help her in the long term.

Last Monday’s “Inside Out” was about refugees from the UK and the issue was also covered in “Panorama” earlier this year. I understand that there are more than 100 families in Ireland who left the UK to escape the system. That is a lot of people. I have been dealing with cases such as that of Angela Wileman for about seven years, so this has been going on for some time. My own personal recommendation is not to go to Ireland, because its authorities will tend to act on behalf of the English authorities, whereas those in Spain or France will not and will treat the case properly.

There are two types of international cases: those whereby people leave the UK to escape the system, and those whereby a foreign citizen’s case is decided on by the UK jurisdiction. The advantage of the Paccheri case is that the Rome family court gave a judgment that is publicly available and basically says that it does not understand what is going on in England.

Another judgment has been issued this week—I think it was last night—in respect of a Czech case. Under The Hague convention, each country has a central authority that deals with international family law issues, be they public or private. The Czech central authority—which, about two years ago, refused to do anything on any case—said, “We can’t understand this case. There is a Czech family living in the Czech Republic with a baby and you won’t let them have their two-year-old.” How is that in accordance with article 8 of the European convention on human rights? If we are going to talk about critiques of the convention, it has been the dog that has not barked in the night about public family law. Marica Pirosikova, who is one of the Slovak Government’s two representatives at the European Court of Human Rights, has expressed concern about that particular aspect. In fact, she was one of the organisers of a conference in Prague about a week and a half ago on public family law, with a particular focus on the UK.

Interestingly, the Council of Europe carried out an investigation on public family law and it was headed by a Russian politician who came to visit me here. Sadly, because the Russians have withdrawn from the Council of Europe, that particular inquiry has got stuck. My understanding is that it managed to get a lot of useful comparative information from different jurisdictions about how they deal with public family law. The inquiry found it odd that more complaints were made about England and Wales than about other countries combined. There was a real hubbub of complaint with regard to the UK. In fact, petitions were presented to the European

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Parliament either earlier this year or late last year, and a lot of things have been going on at the Council of Europe: this is its second inquiry, but it is much bigger than the first one. When I was asked why the volume was so low, I said it was because people do not do the maths right. My critique has often been that the Government are not adequately scientific.

Mr Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): May I correct the hon. Gentleman on one thing? The Russians have not withdrawn from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Many members of the Parliamentary Assembly wish that they would until they allow Crimea to be part of Ukraine again and take their troops off Ukrainian soil, but they have not withdrawn. There is no reason for there to be any delay at the Council of Europe.

John Hemming: I thank the hon. Gentleman for correcting me. As the previous inquiry’s rapporteur, he will obviously have better knowledge than me. I have been told that there is a problem, so I will need to chase that up. I might visit his office for some assistance. That would be good.

The Government have always got themselves confused on the flows and quantity of children in care. On compulsory care, if we look at emergency protection orders, police decisions, interim care orders and care orders, we will see that about 12,000 children a year are removed from their families compulsorily, leaving about 65,000 in care. When calculating the proportion of children who were adopted, the Government always made the error of comparing it with the total number in care and concluded that 6% or 7% is not very many. However, given that 5,000 children left care in the year to 31 March 2014 and 12,000 a year are going into care, that is quite a high proportion. When one drills into the figures for children under five years old, one sees that the majority of them are in care. One can see where the criticism is coming from. I have always argued that the Department has got the formula wrong.

We know what happens. The managerial priorities of local authorities determine what their staff do. If they do not do those things, we see what happens. There is the case of Joanna Quick, who wanted to recommend the return of a baby to its parents. She would not do what she was told by the management, so they fired her. One cannot blame social workers who are in that environment for doing what their management tell them to do.

The difficulty is that the system makes the assumption that the evidence is independent. That relates to the issue in Lashin v. Russia, which is that if a serious decision is to be made on expert evidence, that evidence should be independent of the bodies that have an interest in the decision. That is obviously the case when it comes to public family law, because the system is being driven to do the wrong thing so much that people do not even notice. Relatively poor people, people with learning difficulties and people who are on the margins of society, such as immigrants, are complaining, but their voice is not heard and they get injuncted.

People are still going to jail for what they put on Facebook. I am tracking the number of people who do not have public judgments in accordance with the practice direction that was issued in May last year. Clause 8

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states that there should always be a published judgment if somebody is imprisoned for contempt of court. One of the good things about the previous version of the Bill is that things are gradually happening, although things are not going as far as the provisions in the Bill. The Government are counting the number of people who are in prison for contempt of court. Six, seven or eight people a month are imprisoned for contempt of court, but there are perhaps one or two published judgments, which means that about five people each month are imprisoned in secret. As the Minister said, I talked to judges in the Court of Appeal about one particular case earlier this week.

Let us look at the effect that the clauses in the Bill would have. There are issues with litigation capacity. I am aware of only one case in which there was an attempt to remove a lady’s litigation capacity and it failed. That was the subject of a parliamentary petition. In that case, it failed because she contacted me and I found a McKenzie friend who could assist her in representing herself against her own solicitor. Someone’s capacity is removed when their solicitor does not think that they have the capacity to make decisions on their own behalf and so asks the court to appoint the Official Solicitor or some other litigation friend, rather than a McKenzie friend, on their behalf. In this case, the lady worked in compliance in financial services, so she was very bright, but she was deemed not to have capacity because she had querulous paranoia as she did not trust the system. If they did the same to me, I would not trust the system, so it is rather a self-fulfilling prophecy.

A couple of the clauses deal with the issues of litigation capacity. It is a difficult position, conceptually, if one’s lawyer says, “Next week, I am going to apply to the court to remove your capacity to instruct me because I do not like your instructions and think that they are stupid.” That is what happened in the situation that I am describing. How can one challenge that? It is difficult to do so. There are issues with legal aid in such circumstances. How can someone fight an overweening state that says, “I’m sorry, but you’re stupid,” when they are not?

I have met a number of people whose litigation capacity has been removed. In some of those cases, it clearly was not valid. There are cases in which the power is needed. If somebody is in a coma, it has to be possible to remove their litigation capacity, because they cannot make decisions. However, there are clearly cases in which people’s litigation capacity has been removed wrongfully. They are then stuck. They are a non-person as far as the system is concerned. If they want to appeal to the court, the application cannot be accepted because they have no capacity. People go down to the courts, but get turned away on that basis.

Clause 7 is about the right to report wrongdoing. Some interesting progress has been made on that. There was a privilege case in Victoria in Australia, in which the owner of a caravan site threatened litigation against a citizen if an MP spoke about the site. That was rightly found to be a breach of privilege. I think that privilege is involved when it people prevent MPs from finding out about things.

The right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) and the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills did some work on ensuring that reports to Members of Parliament are treated as protected

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disclosures for employment purposes. That was excellent work. I asked local schools that were subject to the Trojan horse inquiries—a long saga—to put out copies of the library research document that claimed that talking to an MP about issues is a protected disclosure, to ensure that people had the comfort of knowing that they could come and talk to me about things—and people do, which is important. The issue does not always get into the public domain, of course, but it gives people a way of challenging the system.

I saw one case in which the police would not investigate something because of an injunction, and that is dangerous. The police have the right to ignore somebody—that is fair enough—but an injunction to stop people reporting things to the police is fundamentally wrong yet it still goes on from time to time. If somebody is vexatious, there is an issue about phoning 999 all the time, because people can be obsessive, but they should not receive an injunction to bar them from reporting to the police what they see as wrongdoing. The police should have the option—as they do—to say, “That’s rubbish” and ignore it or potentially prosecute that person for wasting police time, but for the information not to get to the police is fundamentally wrong. This is about the right to report wrongdoing, which has clearly been a particular problem.

As I said, the president of the family division has done a lot of good work and there has been gradual progress in dealing with issues in the family courts. The recent work on expert witnesses is also good—there is no question about that. Clause 2(1) would allow people to have observers with them to provide them with a little support. When I go to the courts, I find that my constituents get treated with a bit more respect than they do if I am not there, and they have told me that when I disappear they get treated completely differently from when I am present, which is wrong. To have other observers is a useful process—I always refer to the social science equivalent of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, which is that the observer interferes with what is observed, and people behave better in circumstances under which they can be observed. Even if people expect somebody to observe them, they behave in a better way than if they know they are not being observed and there is no accountability.

Clause 2(2) is about providing information for academic research. The Department says, “Well, we can instruct people to make inquiries”, but it does not. It does one or two inquiries every so often—the Ireland report found that two thirds of the psychological reports in the family courts were rubbish, or sufficiently bad not be relied on, but that still goes on. The problem is that the system always protects itself, and as we have seen in many circumstances—Hillsborough is a good example, or the Savile case—the system is good at covering up.

Having mechanisms for an external challenge would be better, and the academic challenge is actually the best challenge because we are trying to do what is best for children and families. My view is that what we are doing is awful for children and families and, as time goes on, we are finding out more and more that that is the case. The situation first seen in A and S (Children) v. Lancashire county council showed that an independent reviewing officer challenging the local authority was a

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waste of time, because that officer was an employee of the local authority. We saw the same situation in Rotherham, because children were taken into care and treated worse there, and accountability was all to the same management structure. There was no independence in terms of accountability.

On the maltreatment of grandparents—I went to a Grandparents Plus event, and grandparents are not treated with respect by the system. There is evidence that each change of placement for a child taken into care, including the first change of placement, is psychologically damaging, but obviously at times we need to do that because leaving a child where it is can be worse—although the Rotherham case showed that at times that does more damage than in other circumstances. Going and staying with granny, however, is generally not that much of a problem because it is the sort of thing that has happened and the child is used to it. We should be a little more focused on families and the wider family—aunties, uncles and so on—than the current system, which is very much driven by the system. Contact with grandparents is an issue. There are circumstances where people fall out with each other. The courts cannot solve everything and we cannot make everything perfect in this world, but we can try to do some things to be more supportive of the family.

Children in care is an issue that Ivor Frank, a barrister who was brought up in care, drives quite strongly. A remedy for children in care is crucial. Clause 3 comes down to the issue, as we saw in Rotherham and in the case of A and S v. Lancashire county council, that children can be maltreated in care and have nowhere to go, because at the end of the day it all comes back to the head of children’s services in the local authority. We have checks and balances and we try to maintain a separation of powers, but there is no separation of powers in a local authority. If somebody thinks a child in care is suffering as a result of an authority’s treatment, there is nothing much that can be done, as the system is effectively unaccountable. Clause 3 would deal with this issue.

We are making some progress on the matters raised by clause 4, which seeks to get an explanation of why parental consent needs to be dispensed with. This is where the international dispute rests in particular, although the idea that all the cases where consent is not dispensed with in the statistics are ones where people have not been pressurised is not one that I think is actually true.

The rights of children to have access to their records is important, too. There are a number of other issues in the Bill. For instance, the Official Solicitor deals with protected parties, but he is not accountable to Parliament. If I write to him and say, “What is going on in, say, the Paccheri case?” he can say, “Nothing to do with you, guv. I am not accountable to Parliament; I am accountable to the court.” Well, that is great—it is a secret court. So he pops along to the secret court and, unless there is a published judgment, there is no accountability at all. There needs to be some mechanism of scrutinising how litigation friends are performing. These are not McKenzie friends, and a lot of issues to do with McKenzie friends are not covered in this particular process.

Clause 12 relates to reasonableness in capacity and is based on Canadian principles that if a protected person is deemed not to generally have capacity, one generally does what they want anyway unless it will do them some

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harm. One of the saddest parts of mental capacity issues is that when somebody is deemed to have lost their capacity, they have lost it and they are not allowed to make decisions for themselves. The decisions are all taken for them and, very often, are done for the convenience of the state. Clause 12 is therefore very important and would make a big difference.

To be fair there are people, such as Allan Norman in Birmingham, who is both a solicitor and a social worker, so he has the double training, which is quite helpful. When he deals with people who have lost capacity, he does try to work with them. That is much better than a situation where people say, “Well, basically, you’ve lost your capacity, so you might as well be in a coma, because we’re not going to treat you with respect.” That is how it comes across a lot of the time.

Obviously, the system does not always go wrong and we need a system. But the system in the jurisdiction of England and Wales does go wrong a lot of the time. Scotland has its problems, but they are nothing like as bad as those in England. The number of complaints in Scotland is much less, I think partly because of the system of children’s hearings. The difficulty, particularly with regard to section 38 of the Children Act 1989, which basically requires “reasonable grounds” to get an interim care order, is that one does not really have to prove a case to get a child into care. Although the Human Rights Act 1998 would require, in a sense, a continual review of whether it is in the child’s interests to be in care and of the evidence base for that, that does not really happen. There is a great tendency for a child to be taken into care and held there for ages while the local authority tries to find something to stick.

I am moving towards the end of my speech, so we have enough time for the Opposition to respond and for the Minister to talk the Bill out, as is the case with private Members’ Bills. It would be nice for the legislature to have more ability to challenge the Executive than we do at the moment, so I will continue to work towards that end on the Procedure Committee.

The Government should recognise that considerable concern has been expressed in a number of countries. I shall cite an example relating to Latvia. An excellent piece of work was done by the Latvian embassy and the Latvian central authority to challenge the proposed adoption of a Latvian citizen in London. The case was very well argued, but whether it will get anywhere is another question. That brings us back to this week’s judgment. I hope that my Bill will receive its Second Reading, although I am not under the misapprehension that it will actually do so.

2.10 pm

Stephen Twigg (Liverpool, West Derby) (Lab/Co-op): I congratulate the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (John Hemming) on his wide-ranging Bill, which focuses on the important principles of openness, transparency and freedom of information. I will briefly comment on some aspects of the Bill, starting with part 1, which deals with family justice.

A sensitive balance needs to be struck between the support given to children and families in the courts and the maintenance of confidentiality where that is needed, and preventing any undue influence on proceedings by family members. The Bill makes the sensible proposal

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to establish a norm whereby families are offered family group conferences. It seems only fair and right that when families suffer discord, there should be an attempt to reconcile those differences and to build a family plan, agreed with the family and the Child Support Agency, that will offer a more inclusive service.

I am pleased that the Bill appreciates that child protection conferences might be necessary at times with experts only, and I welcome the requirement that families, in advance of any conferences regarding their circumstances, would be given a publication explaining the system and how it might affect them in the future. There seems to be a strong case for allowing parties to have two “friends” with them for support, advice or even advocacy purposes. Actions in the family courts can be traumatic, and we must do everything possible to ensure that people who go through the experience are given all the necessary support, while at the same time ensuring that the confidentiality of proceedings is maintained.

I particularly welcome the hon. Gentleman’s proposals to give grandparents a greater role in proceedings. He mentioned the fantastic organisation Grandparents Plus. In my constituency, I have a local group of kinship carers, based in Norris Green, which works hard to support family members other than parents who are bringing up children. These are often grandparents, and typically grandmothers. The proposals will help to give more rights and support to caring grandparents, and that is a welcome development. The broad principle that families are not simply nuclear but involve members of the extended family should be reflected in the proceedings of the family justice system, although I of course accept the need for a judge to have discretion to have the final say about a grandparent’s presence.

Let me say something about children in care. It is sensible that when children in the care of their local authority make complaints, those complaints should be considered by an independent body, and also that it should be an offence to discriminate against children in care. We must be careful to avoid unintended consequences, however. For example, in the education system, schools are now obliged to give preference to children in care—that is, to positively discriminate in their favour. That is a change that has been welcomed on both sides of the House, and we would not want to see any unintended consequences as a result of moves to outlaw discrimination against children in care.

I welcome clause 4. Taking a child away from a family for adoption is a serious matter, and it is right that when judges make that judgment—as they will sometimes have to—they set out their considered points as to why they came to such a conclusion.

Part 2 of the Bill deals with wrongdoing in court. This is a controversial and important area, for the reasons the hon. Gentleman set out. There is a case to be made for the proposals to discourage people from intimidating whistleblowers, and to publish the names of people imprisoned for contempt of court. However, the proposals need to be considered in greater detail. They require further consideration and scrutiny.

Parts 3 and 4 are especially welcome, and I shall end my speech with an observation on each. As the hon. Gentleman said, the proposals in part 3 relating to consumer complaints were developed by Which?, and I welcome the proposals giving consumers more powers

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as regards public services. In improving and reforming public services, it is vital that service users are at the heart of the debate.

Finally, on part 4, one of the most significant legal changes pursued by the previous Labour Government was the passage of the Freedom of Information Act, and measures that strengthen FOI legislation are very welcome. In our 2015 manifesto, we have committed ourselves to extending freedom of information to cover the delivery of public services by private companies. If taxpayers’ money is being spent, I see no reason why the same standards should not apply, whether the service is delivered publicly or under contract by the private or voluntary sectors. That is a very important principle of openness and transparency.

I have taken my five minutes so I shall conclude by once again congratulating the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley on his private Member’s Bill and thanking him for the opportunity to consider, albeit briefly, some very important issues.

2.15 pm

Mr Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): I shall be brief, because I do not want to deprive the Minister of the opportunity of talking out his own colleague’s Bill.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (John Hemming) on bringing forward this Christmas tree of a Bill. I liked what he said about the tensions between the Executive and legislature and how unsatisfactory it is that so often we see them writ large on a Friday. By way of illustration, I point out that my Bill, the EU Membership (Audit of Costs and Benefits) Bill, which was next on the list, will be objected to by the Government, notwithstanding the amazing vote earlier. Everyone is clearly in favour of a referendum, but the Government are going to prevent the information necessary to inform the referendum from being made available, despite the fact that when the Conservative party was in opposition, both the Conservative spokesman and the Liberal Democrats supported the Bill. That is just an example of the problem the hon. Gentleman rightly addresses in his Bill.

I support many parts of the Bill, particularly clause 13, which would clarify the position of people deprived of parole because they deny the offence for which they have been convicted. However, I feel that clause 16, on freedom of information, is rather unbalanced. If we are to extend FOI legislation, first we need to ensure that the person seeking the information discloses their identity. At the moment, there is a great imbalance. It is at odds with the principles of English equity in law that somebody who submits an FOI request does not have to disclose their identity, and that problem would be made worse if we extended FOI legislation to private sector contracts with the Government.

In clause 8(4), the hon. Gentleman refers to extradition orders and the need for the children of a person being extradited to be consulted about the impact on them of the extradition. However, the Bill does not deal with the much more fraught issue of the European arrest warrant. I am pleased that from today’s press it looks like the Prime Minister might no longer be insisting that we opt back into the EAW. Let us hope that those reports are

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correct. If there is a problem with extradition proceedings involving children, there is an even greater problem with the EAW and its impact on individuals, because no one has the chance to argue anything. If a warrant is issued, the EU member state is obliged to implement it, irrespective of how unjust it might be and without the courts having the opportunity to examine it.

I hope the Bill gets a Second Reading, but I share the hon. Gentleman’s pessimism. I hope in due course, however, because of his valuable work on the Procedure Committee, that we can give private Members’ Bills more prominence and ensure that the Executive interfere less.

2.19 pm

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Simon Hughes): I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (John Hemming) for putting his name into the ballot, and I congratulate him on doing well in it and on bringing forward a Bill to address many issues that are of considerable importance to our country. I am very grateful for that and for the constructive comments from the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg), speaking from the Opposition Front Bench. I am grateful, too, for the contributions of the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis), to which I shall return, and the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope).

I have only a short time to respond, so I will not be able to do justice to all the issues in the Bill. As I said to my hon. and good Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley, I would be happy to sit down with him to ensure that the issues he raises do not die and are pursued generally in the Department, and I extend the same invitation to the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby, too, if he or his colleagues would like to pursue the matters for which he indicated support.

For the benefit of those who follow our proceedings, and given that everyone agrees that this is something of a portmanteau Bill in five parts, covering family justice, the administration of justice, consumer complaints in markets for public services and freedom of information as well as a general part at the end, it might help our later consideration to point out that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley did not take us through the Bill in the order of the parts. Rather, he started with clause 15, which relates to consumer complaints. He referred to Which?, an organisation that we all greatly respect, to which I shall return. He then dealt with freedom of information in clauses 16 and 17, raising issues that are very much on the Government’s agenda. He then went back to the Criminal Cases Review Commission proposal in clause 14, followed by his views and proposals on clause 13. He then went back to part of clause 2, then clauses 8, 11 and 12. Then he covered the rest of clause 2 along with clauses 3, 4, 6, 9 and 12 in that order. I am not setting this out to be mischievous, but if people are to follow important issues, it is helpful to align what he said with the Bill’s proposals so that we all know where we are.

John Hemming: Anyone reading this debate may wish to refer to the speech I gave when I first put forward most of these proposals. I had more time to speak to them, so I spoke at greater length. I hope that that will inform people better,

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Simon Hughes: As my hon. Friend said, this is the second time that he has had the opportunity to address some of these issues through a private Member’s Bill.

Let me briefly put the Government’s commitment on the record. The coalition agreement drew from the manifestos of both the Liberal Democrat and the Conservative parties and made a commitment to extend the scope of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to provide greater transparency, as well as to reform family law, reduce delays in care proceedings and reinforce the principle that a child benefits from the involvement of both parents provided that is safe and in the best interests of the child. We also made a commitment to make it easier for loving parents to adopt children.

We have made progress on extending the Freedom of Information Act. My right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden gave a specific example of the illogicality of the Association of Chief Police Officers, which had turned itself into a company. Its exemption was corrected in the early part of this Parliament and is now covered by the Freedom of Information Act.

Mr David Davis: There are other examples.

Simon Hughes: There are other examples, but that one has been remedied by this Administration.

Let me summarise what we have done in response to these important issues. About 250,000 people go into our family courts every year in connection with care proceedings, children’s proceedings, adoptions or family divorce and separation. We are not talking about insignificant numbers, and my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley reminded us that this was the context of the Ashya King case, the Rotherham scandal and many other issues. The Ministry of Justice is not the only Department involved; the Department for Education plays a lead role, and I know that my hon. Friend has talked to the Under-Secretary of State for Education, the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mr Timpson), who is responsible for children’s issues.

On family justice, we have introduced wide-ranging reform of the family justice system so that cases do not drag on for long periods. We have thus provided greater certainty for the children and families involved, which is positive and a plus. I pay tribute, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley, to the president of the family division for how he has led on this and other issues. We have also reformed the way in which cases are managed before and during the court process so that children are placed firmly at the heart of the system. This very weekend, we are going to confirm that next week the law comes into operation that will mean that the presumption thereafter will be that children will benefit from both parents continuing to be involved in their lives. That is a hugely important principle. It may not always be possible, but that will be the legal presumption from next week onwards.

We have also taken steps to shine a light on the activities of the family court and the Court of Protection by encouraging the provision of more media access to hearings, and by publishing judgments to show how decisions are reached. That is still work in progress, and I spoke to the president of the family division only this week about the need for us to do better.