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Mr. Brady: I will take the opportunity to condemn unreservedly the arrogant contempt that the Minister and his colleagues show for the House. I shall express the strong views held by Conservative and, I am pleased to say, Liberal Democrat Members. We believe in parliamentary democracy, and the hon. Gentleman, as a Minister of the Crown, ought to have regard for Parliament and some understanding of why we were all sent here.
Mr. Brady: The Minister made a pathetic point the last time he intervened, so I shall not give way again. He and his colleagues must begin to understand that they are not here simply because of one day on which there was a general election--[Laughter.] Labour Members show how little they understand parliamentary democracy; it does not begin and end on the day of a general election.
We are sent here to do a job, not to be ciphers or delegates or to endorse the Labour manifesto, and even Labour Members frequently depart not only from the manifesto but increasingly from their pledge card. The essence of our job entails scrutiny of legislation and requires that all Members, even Labour Members, should devote their minds and their energy to considering the quality of legislation put before them in Committee. I have sat on Standing Committees and seen how rarely Labour Members do that. All Members have that obligation. The Government are prepared to ride roughshod over the rights of Members from all parties to perform that duty. In addition, I suspect that when we vote later this morning, Labour Members will simply accept this neutering of the role of Members of Parliament.
Mr. Brady: My hon. Friend makes his point eloquently, and it will not be lost on members of police forces throughout the country that the Minister responsible for them is not prepared to allow parliamentary debate of matters relating to the police.
Mr. Brady: I am not surprised to hear that. The dismay of the Police Federation is mirrored not just by dismay but by cynicism and scepticism among the public, to which the Prime Minister has alluded. Is it any wonder that the electorate, whom we are meant to serve, hold the House of Commons in such low esteem, when it is clear that the Executive hold us in such low esteem and we are not permitted to do the job that we are sent here to do and raise our constituents' concerns?
Mr. Hogg: The position is even graver than my hon. Friend has said. It is not just that these clauses have not been discussed in Committee. Under the timetable motion that the House has passed, they cannot be discussed on Report or even, by implication, on Third Reading. There will not be enough time at those stages either, so they will never be discussed.
Mr. Brady: My right hon. and learned Friend has many more years' experience in the House than I have, but in my four years here I have seen the destruction of so much of the freedom and the power of the House of Commons that it appals me. It is frightening to contemplate what the Government are seeking to do: trying further to reduce the powers and the rights of the House of Commons to scrutinise legislation. In doing so, Ministers do a disservice not merely to the Opposition but to themselves, the House of Commons and to the office of Government.
Ultimately, the problem is not just that we will not be able to scrutinise the Government's legislation, or that the Police Federation and other interested bodies will not have their views expressed. As the Government have discovered so many times in the past few years, their all-too-shoddy legislation will not have the opportunity of scrutiny and, therefore, will not be improved by the consideration that it should receive in Committee. If Ministers had a little more humility and a little less arrogance, they might accept that Parliament has a genuinely important function in seeking to improve what the Government introduce. If a Government are not too arrogant to see that, they can benefit. An arrogant Government such as this will soon be discovered by the failures of their legislation.
Mr. Lock: The hon. Gentleman and I have been in the House for the same time, and I am trying to following his argument. Is he suggesting that the duty that he owes to people outside this House means that he has the right to override the House's rules and procedures in trying to fulfil that duty?
When the Executive are prepared to force their way in procedural matters and abuse the rights of the House of Commons, the procedure has less validity than when it is agreed properly by all parties. Ministers need to understand that if they are to ride roughshod over the interests of the House of Commons and ignore the rights of Back Benchers, and particularly the Opposition parties, they will lose. I happily give way to the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours). [Interruption.] I could have sworn that he wanted to make another entertaining contribution to the debate. I wish that he had been about to; I would have enjoyed it immensely.
Ministers must understand that if they abuse the rights of the House, seek to suppress debate and to prevent scrutiny of their legislation, overturn and disregard its procedures and instead impose procedures on it rather than gaining agreement for them, the House must fight to retain its independence. It must fight to have the right to scrutinise legislation. It must hold Ministers to account.
I was pleased to be asked to be a member of the Committee that was to scrutinise the Bill. I took my role seriously. We had hour after hour to debate the detail of the Bill. Extra sittings were made available to us to debate--
We had plenty of time to debate the detail of the Bill. Yet the Opposition have said explicitly that they are seeking to delay it. They admit that last week's extraordinary behaviour was deliberate. The message that my constituents will take from this evening's debate will not be about the detail of parliamentary procedure but about the fact that the Opposition want to delay the passage of legislation that they want to see on the statute book.
I remind the Opposition of an occasion in Committee when Conservative Members agreed with me. I pointed out the need to consult local communities when areas were to be designated by local authorities for the purpose of making illegal drinking in public places. The Opposition also agreed with my hon. Friend the Minister of State on other aspects of the Bill. Yet now they are trying deliberately to delay the passage of the Bill.
The message that I will take back to my constituents is that the Opposition do not want to support measures to give the police powers to control drunken behaviour; or measures to allow licensed premises where disorder is
Mr. Heald: As the hon. Lady said, we did agree from time to time in Committee. Does she recall the Huntingdon Life Sciences new clauses, which were to be dealt with at the end of consideration of the Bill in Committee? That would have been the position if I had not moved that they should be brought forward. That was my idea, and it was accepted later by the Minister. Those new clauses would not have been brought forward if the order of consideration had remained the same.