Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill (Programme) (No. 4)
Mark Harper (Parliamentary Secretary (Political and Constitutional Reform), Cabinet Office; Forest of Dean, Conservative)
I beg to move,
That the following provisions shall apply to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, in place of paragraph 5 of the Order of
1. Proceedings on consideration shall be taken in the order shown in the first column of the following Table.
2. The proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the times specified in the second column of the Table.
|Proceedings||Time for conclusion of proceedings|
|Amendments relating to Clause 11.||7.30 pm on the first day.|
|Amendments relating to Clauses 12 and 13; Amendments relating to Clause 10; new Clauses and new Schedules relating to Part 2.||The moment of interruption on the first day.|
|Amendments relating to Clause 4; Amendments relating to Schedules 5 to 8; Amendments relating to Clause 8; remaining proceedings on consideration.||8.00 pm on the second day.|
I will be very brief. I am grateful to those hon. Members who took part in our five days of lively and rigorous debate on the Bill in Committee, and I look forward to continuing that debate throughout Report and Third Reading. Some hon. Members have expressed concern that certain parts of the Bill were debated less than others in Committee. The Government still believe that five days was an appropriate length of time, and how some hon. Members chose to use the time is, of course, a matter for them, not the Government.
The Government are, however, keen to ensure that Members have further opportunity to debate all the Bill's provisions on Report, so the programme motion prioritises those provisions on which less time was spent in Committee. The motion provides that today's debate will be on clauses 11 to 13, which relate to the boundary proposals, with a knife after clause 11 to ensure that we do get on to discussing local inquiries and the decoupling clause for the Welsh Assembly. Tomorrow's debate will focus on the rules for combined polls and the issue of referendum thresholds. Third Reading will provide a further opportunity for Members to scrutinise and express their views on the Bill, as amended.
It was right that the Home Secretary came here today to make her very important statement about threats to our national security. That, of course, has necessitated the use of some valuable parliamentary time and I trust that all hon. and right hon. Members will agree that the time we have left is best used scrutinising the Bill and debating the issues of substance. I hope, therefore, that all hon. and right hon. Members will feel able to agree with the programme motion and that we shall move on to debating the Bill.
Chris Bryant (Rhondda, Labour)
No, we disagree with the knives in this motion, and we made that absolutely clear when asked about it last week. We believe that allowing this amount of time today and tomorrow is inappropriate; we believe that it is inappropriate not to allow any specific time for votes, because it is the right of this House not only to debate but to vote on such matters; we believe that it is inappropriate in particular to have so little time tomorrow, when we will be dealing with 28 pages of Government amendments, not a single one of which is the result of discussions in Committee; and we think that it is inappropriate for no further time to be allowed today, particularly as we have had two, albeit important, statements. So we will be opposing the motion.
Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, Plaid Cymru)
As a whole, the Bill is very significant for Wales-holding the alternative vote referendum on the same day as the National Assembly elections next May and introducing an equal electoral roll based on population quota for constituencies are both very damaging measures for Wales and democracy in our country. It is an insult that we were refused a Welsh Grand Committee debate on the Bill. Only one clause relates to Wales-it was clause 11, but it is now clause 13-and it deserves proper time for discussion in this Chamber. Specific time should have been allotted for its discussion-and not as an afterthought-because we probably will not reach it this evening. We should have had a proper debate on the clause for Wales, so we will be voting against the programme motion.
Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West, Labour)
The time that has been given to debate the Bill overall is inadequate, as is the time set out in today's programme motion. Jonathan Edwards was absolutely right to point out the lack of time that has been granted to discuss the Welsh aspects of this Bill and, in particular, the intransigent refusal to grant any time to the Welsh Grand Committee process. That is leading to a "bring back John Redwood" campaign in Wales, because nobody can remember Mr Redwood ever refusing any meeting with Welsh MPs or any meeting of the Welsh Grand Committee; I am sure that he would confirm as much himself.
Finally, this might have been an appropriate allocation of time for the Bill if it were not a Wallace and Gromit Bill, laying the track as we go along with hundreds and hundreds of Government amendments. Instead, the Bill should have been properly scrutinised in advance and should have been through a pre-legislative scrutiny process. For that reason, the time allocated and the knives in the programme motion are wholly inadequate.