Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 5:04 pm on 8th November 1989.

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Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West 5:04 pm, 8th November 1989

But that was only if it was a deliberate ploy just to drag out the proceedings on the Bill. I said that that was not the case. If the Minister had approached us and said, "Let's finish at 4 o'clock in the morning," I feel sure that he would have had a reasonably sympathetic hearing. That would have provided us with an opportunity to discuss at some length and in some detail 650 amendments. It is very difficult to set them aside, just like that. One has to make an attempt to structure the debate around them so that we can understand what is going on and perhaps, even at this late stage, prevent the Government from committing a gross folly by the passing of ill-drafted legislation. It was not a question of talking through the night just for the sake of talking, but if we had had a few more hours we could have used them constructively.

Ministers, however, did not come forward with that proposal. They decided that things were looking a bit tough and that they were not sure how it was going to go, so they got in very quick last night. Consequently, there is a whole mass of amendments that we shall have to discuss in a miserly two hours. That does not do justice to the terrible housing crisis, nor does it do credit to the way that we conduct our business or to the way in which legislation reaches the statute book. The Minister knows that. I have said before that his is the most acceptable face of extremism that has surfaced in the environment team since 1983. I hope that I have done him no disservice by saying that.

The Minister was reasonably co-operative in the early stages. That is accepted. It is not that we want to connive with the Government. Wherever possible, however, we want to ensure that debates are held at a time when people outside can hear them. In many cases, what we say in this place falls on deaf ears on the Government side and is never heard outside the House. That is a great shame, not because of the value of what we say per se but because of the importance of these decisions to the homeless, to those who are waiting for a house and to those who are living in sub-standard accommodation. That is what this part of the Bill is all about.

It is an awful and apposite comment on the attitudes and standards of today's Tory party that virtually no Conservative Members were here last night. A few of them came into the Chamber when they thought that there was to be a Division. The rest of them kept away. I think that some of them kept away because their consciences were troubling them. They did not want to hear the arguments. The feeling abroad in the Conservative party is that, if Conservative Members do not listen to the arguments and if they try to sweep the evidence under the carpet, the problem will solve itself.