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Derek Conway (Old Bexley and Sidcup) (Con): With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a personal statement to the House. The Committee on Standards and Privileges has today issued its report on the complaint made against me for employing my son as a researcher and parliamentary assistant.
I will not delay the business of the House by going through the contents of that report, as it is publicly available. The Committee was entitled to reach the conclusions that it did and I have accepted its criticisms in full. I unreservedly apologise to the House for my administrative shortcomings and the misjudgments I made. In my submissions to the Committee and the commissioner, I set out my case and I leave it to hon. Members to form their own judgment of my conduct. I should like to make it clear that throughout the investigation the commissioner acted with absolute courtesy and the Committee afforded me every opportunity to explain my position.
In apologising to the House, I would also like to apologise to my constituents and to the Old Bexley and Sidcup Conservative association, which has been so very supportive to me and my family throughout a very difficult period. The House will comprehend the impact that this matter has on me personally and also on my family. I have let them down very badly indeed, and no judgment from any quarter could be more harsh than that which I apply to myself.
Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It saddens me to raise this point of order. Part of your role is to uphold the rights of Back-Bench MPs; part of my role as a Back-Bench MP is to uphold the rights of my constituents and to hold the Executive to account. On 10 September, I wrote to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. Despite seven reminders since then, I have not received a reply as of 10 minutes ago. Will you call the First Lord of the Treasury to come before the House and explain what is happening with Members correspondence?
David Howarth (Cambridge) (LD): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am having some difficulty understanding how motion No. 1 on todays Order Paper can be in order. It appears to have been made under Standing Order 15(2)(b), in so far as it is a motion to be moved by a Minister of the Crown
to the effect that any specified business may be proceeded with at this days sitting...until a specified hour
namely 10 oclock. Since motion No. 1 is such a motion, whether it says so or not, it should be taken not now, but at 10 oclock. However, if it were taken at 10 oclock, it would have no effect, because it would be too late. Therefore, in my view the motion seems to be out of order.
Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Could you tell the House whether the effect of motion No. 1, if passed, would be to make it impossible for more than one amendment to motion No. 2 to be taken? Obviously, motion No. 1 is a timetable motion for today. There are various amendments on the Order Paper, including ones tabled by my right hon. and hon. Friends. I have been led to believe that it might not have been open to you to select them even if you had been so minded, because they would have been precluded by motion
Mr. Speaker: Order. I will stop the hon. Gentleman there. It was indeed open to me to select the amendment that he is questioning, but I did not select it. Therefore, the matter before us is the business of the House and the amendment that I have selected.
That, at this days sitting, the Speaker shall put the Questions necessary to dispose of the Motion in the name of Ms Harriet Harman and Secretary David Miliband relating to the Business of the House (Lisbon Treaty) not later than Ten oclock; proceedings may continue after the moment of interruption; and Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply.
The effect of the motion would be to bring proceedings on the main procedural motion to a conclusion no later than 10 oclock this evening. This is a straightforward motion that is procedural in nature. If the House agrees to it swiftly, we will have around six hours to discuss the Governments proposed approach to the important scrutiny of the European Union (Amendment) Bill. That discussion will give hon. Members the opportunity to debate the substantive business motion in detail. At that time, I will make the case in favour of a structured, themed approach to scrutiny of the Bill. A themed approach will ensure that we can cover the range of issues arising from the Lisbon treaty.
Mr. Murphy: The purpose of the motion is to bring our consideration on the main motion to a conclusion by 10 oclock this evening. Once motion No. 1 has been considered, we will have the opportunity to discuss the structure of the table in motion No. 2 and the themed debates before the House.
The themed debates will ensure that we are able to cover the range of issues that arise from the Lisbon treaty. The issues that we have identified are: justice and home affairs; energy; human rights; the single market; common foreign and security policy; international development; EU institutions and decision making; and climate change. That will allow us to
Mr. Cash: I was going to raise a similar point, and I am grateful to you for having ruled accordingly, Mr. Speaker. Will the Minister be good enough to accept that the effect of this motion is to prevent debate, whereas there used to be a time when such programme motions and guillotines were used to ensure proper, orderly debate? This motion is designed to stop debate.
Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich) (Lab): Is the Minister saying that, if anything that we wish to debate is not on the list of subjects that he has enunciated, it will be excluded from the debate if we accept his timetable? It is a simple point, but it is rather important.
Mr. Murphy: Mr. Speaker, I think that you would discourage me from responding to that point until our second debate this afternoon, at which time I shall be happy to respond to my hon. Friends question.
Mr. Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe) (Con): Will the Minister explain why he seems to be wasting time on a motion on the 10 oclock rule? We always finish at 10 oclock on Mondays unless the business is suspended. If, by chance, we are still talking at 10, it will be up to the Government Chief Whip to rise to his feet and move that the question be now put. I cannot anticipate your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but it is likely that that would be granted. We could have this debate every Monday. Is this an elaborate attempt on the part of the Government to demonstrate how generous they are with their time? In reality, the Minister is simply giving us the usual amount of time for a Monday debate.
Mr. Murphy: The right hon. and learned Gentleman makes a fair point. The important point, however, is that the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) probably would not have given us the opportunity to conclude our proceedings at 10 oclock, and the purpose of the motion is to ensure that we can do so. Based on the encouragement of the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), I urge the House to support the motion.
Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): I just want to make sure that the House understands the point made by the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke). This motion is complete nonsense. It is unnecessary. If it were necessary, it would be serving to reduce the opportunity for amendments. However, Mr. Speaker, you have ruled that that is not the case and that you had full discretion over the amendments. This motion should therefore not be on the Order Paper.
The Government have consulted about the style of dealing with the Bill, but not about the timetable. I am afraid that they have started today badly, because they are not only alienating the people whom they have alienated before by bringing the Bill to the House, but, procedurally, alienating some of their friends who
support the Bill but who cannot support this motion or a timetable that has not been carefully negotiated to accommodate all the interests of the House. We shall oppose the motion when it is put to the vote.
Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con): This motion seeks to limit debate to 10 oclock tonight, which in view of its importance is quite improper. The whole country is interested in our constitutional relationship with the European Union. We are debating the timetable for that debate, so it is important that we do not curtail the debate in any way.
Last night, BBC Radio 4s Westminster Hour at 10 pm covered the Houses upcoming business, yet at no time was the EU debate mentioned. That shows, of course, the lack of publicity given by the BBC, because of its bias and probably as a result of the EUs funding of the BBC. The soft loans and other funding amount to some €256 million over the past five years alone. That shows the importance of our having an unlimited debate in this House, so that people in this country can understand the importance of the question. I am certainly against the motion and I urge the House to vote against it so that Members can debate the matter for as long as it takes and we can get publicity and understanding in the country on its importance.
Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): In response to the hon. Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink), I have to say that my constituents would find it odd if we were to have a long debate about timetabling a debate for a timetable.
Mr. William Hague (Richmond, Yorks) (Con): The Minister might have done better to have moved the motion in 10 or 20 seconds rather than partly to have got on to other things. As the Opposition, we disapprove of all the restrictions proposed so far on debating this particular measure, but we believe that the sooner that we get on to the main motion before the House, the better.
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