Hunting Bill (Programme) (No. 3)
Mr Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst, Conservative)
The one bright aspect of this patently miserable affair is that it demonstrates beyond all doubt the value of debating programme motions. Apart from anything else, the debate has allowed right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House to seek to clarify exactly what the devil is going on. I shall leave them to conclude whether or not they have succeeded, but it certainly demonstrates that these debates are of value to the House, and I hope that hon. Members will bear that in mind when they consider successive Government proposals to restrict such occasions more and more.
It is also obvious that the Bill is very important. Of course, all Bills are important to the House, but this Bill has particular importance because not only is it highly controversial, but it could affect very many people's livelihoods and lifestyles. As we have already heard in the exchanges on the programme motion, it contains many complex issues, but there has been no consultation. This is another case of Government fiat. It is yet another case of the Government coming to the House and saying, "We the Government are telling the House how much time it requires for this important matter. There will be no discussion, no consultation. That is it."
Following the question asked by my hon. and learned Friend Mr. Garnier, the Minister failed to explain why the Government believe that we can satisfactorily deal with this matter in the time allocated—five and a half hours in which to consider all the amendments and new clauses. By my reckoning, as we see from the selection list, there are five separate groups of amendments and new clauses—each important in their own right—more than 50 Government amendments and more than 20 other amendments, all of which, according to the Government, can be satisfactorily dealt with by the House in as little as five and a half hours. That cannot be right. Quite apart from the intrinsic importance of new clause 13, new clause 12 and new clause 10, which lead the first three groups of amendments, it could be argued that each of them could scarcely be dealt with satisfactorily in five and a half hours, never mind the whole in total.