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Mr. Clifton-Brown: Does my hon. Friend agree that Programming Sub-Committees are an affront to democracy? Not only are the transcripts of their proceedings unavailable to the public, but the public are not allowed to attend, and the votes and proceedings are not recorded. Indeed, rulings from the Chair are not recorded. We therefore cannot know what rulings form precedent for future Committees. That is an affront to democracy and the procedures of the House.
Mrs. Spelman: My hon. Friend has summed up probably far better than me the fundamental flaws of programme motions. He has hit the nail on the head: they are undemocratic. The Government are powerful and have a huge majority, but they are using a dramatic tool to force through legislation. That means that the measure is bound to be compromised by the lack of time that the Opposition would otherwise have had to scrutinise the Bill effectively.
We believe that the Government's position is especially flawed on the Bill that we are considering. In trying to tackle tobacco advertising, they have left an open goal for smuggling. The consultants KPMG summed up the problem: a ban on advertising will not work unless it is accompanied by comprehensive legislation to deal with control of tobacco smuggling.
The Bill is flawed and the Opposition's ability to scrutinise the measure effectively will be constrained. That combination means that we shall return to the same problem in two or three years. It will probably be aggravated by an even greater quantity of illegally imported tobacco, which undermines legitimate trade and causes smoking to increase. The Government will have only themselves to blame.
Sir Peter Emery: The motion is an aberration from what the Government originally presented, and is, I believe, entirely incorrect. There has been no consultation between Government and Opposition: indeed, the
The sole reason for establishing Programming Sub-Committees was to ensure that every part of a Bill was debated, but we are being asked to have the Bill out of Standing Committee in just two weeks, when the Committee's members have not yet been appointed. The working of the Committee, following the Sub- Committee's recommendation, was meant to be decided by those who would consider the Bill, but apparently that is not happening.
If the Government still believe that they can make acceptable the concept of a procedural motion setting the date by which a Bill must leave Committee, they must ensure that they have consulted the Opposition about the amount of time that they need. If they do not do that, they will be going back on their undertaking.
Mr. Leigh: Hon. Members, including Government Front Benchers, have heard what my right hon. Friend is saying. Does he now feel betrayed? In the Modernisation Committee he tried to achieve an honourable reform of the House's procedures, but the Government are not interested in giving fair time; they are only interested in arbitrary deadlines. They are making a mockery of what my right hon. Friend was trying to achieve.
Sir Peter Emery: I am, indeed, immensely disappointed by the way in which things are going. If the Opposition decide that we need, say, 32 debates, we shall be sitting on Wednesdays; we shall be sitting until midnight three days a week. Is that what the Government want hon. Members to go through? If so, it is a nonsense.
If we are not to revert to the old procedures whereby half a Bill was never discussed in Committee, which all hon. Members condemn, we should try to ensure that the Opposition's views and the time that the Opposition need are taken into account, and that we reach an understanding that does not lead to a debate such as this. It is a waste of time, but it will go on and on unless we can make the procedure work properly.
Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot): I have no direct interest in the tobacco industry, but I am delighted to say that I have enjoyed some splendid hospitality courtesy of the tobacco industry, particularly when clay-pigeon shooting with right hon. and hon. Friends from both Houses. Modesty prevents me from saying which Member held the Commons trophy for two successive years. [Hon. Members: "Go on. Name him."] No, I am far too modest.
Having said that, let me add that I am not a smoker. Like other hon. Members, I cannot ascertain what Rudyard Kipling would say were he here. However, I suspect that he would believe, as I do, that the Bill is a thoroughly draconian, illiberal and un-British measure.
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman will sit down immediately when the occupant of the Chair rises to intervene. I wish to point out to him that that intervention has nothing to do with the specific motion that we are now considering. It was a Second Reading point.
Mr. Howarth: I entirely agree with you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. That was an inordinately long and irrelevant intervention. If the hon. Gentleman had said that 1984 is coming to pass in 2001, his remarks would have been much more accurate and relevant. It is astonishing that the Government are moving a timetable motion to confine debate on the Bill to four sittings when--as I understand it from my hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman)--the Health and Social Care Bill also is due to be reported from Committee on 8 February.
What is the Government's great rush to get those Bills, particularly the two health Bills, out of Committee on the same day if it is not simply to clear the decks for a general election? Ministers persist in that rush regardless of the impact that the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill will have on businesses and on the enjoyment which the public gain from the many sporting fixtures that are held with the tobacco industry's support.
The Government are able to hurry the Bill--there are no restraints on them--using this timetable motion because Mr. Bernie Ecclestone is no longer a part of the equation. Many business men have given money to political parties to sustain them. Many business men have given money--and continue to give money--to support the Conservative party because it believes in freedom and in enterprise. However, Mr. Bernie Ecclestone is alone in buying a change in policy.
Mr. Howarth: I acknowledge your censure, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The point that I am making is that the Government have had the four years of this Parliament to introduce the Bill. We are now debating a timetable motion to hurry through--at an obscene pace, in only four sittings--an illiberal measure that they could have
The Committee will need more than four sittings to debate the Bill. I do not know whether any of my right hon. or hon. Friends have read clause 20, but if any of them have and can tell me what it means, I would be extremely interested to know. It is a most extraordinary clause. It states:
(2) Different days may be appointed under subsection (1) for different provisions and for different purposes.