3.—(l) For the purpose of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph 1 or 2, the Chairman or Speaker shall forthwith put the following Questions (but no others)—
the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings at that sitting in accordance with paragraph 1 or 2 shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on that Motion; and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 15 (Exempted business) shall apply to remaining proceedings that day on the Bill then being considered.
(2) If at the sitting this day or tomorrow the House is adjourned, or the sitting is suspended, before the time at which any proceedings are to be brought to a conclusion under paragraph 1 or 2, no notice shall be required of a Motion made at the next sitting by a Minister of the Crown for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Today's Question Time has confirmed our worst fears that the decision to merge the Departments of the Environment and of Transport has led to a significant reduction in Back Benchers' opportunities to question Ministers on matters of crucial importance to our constituents. In a rural constituency such as mine, environment and transport issues matter. My constituents are more concerned with the funding of local authority and rural schools than they are, with the best will in the world, with international development. As usual, the decision was taken without consulting the House. Ministers took the decision no doubt to solve a diplomatic problem concerning the Deputy Prime Minister. May I urge you, Madam Speaker, to use the influence that you have in this area to reverse the decision?
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You will recall points of order being raised about reading during Question Time. I believe that you indicated that it was acceptable if someone referred to notes. I noticed today that, once again, when an hon. Member referred to notes, a few hon. Members called out, "Reading." Will you protect Back Benchers and allow them to refer to notes during Question Time if they feel it necessary?
I have already given a ruling that it is of course occasionally possible to glance at notes. I am particularly tolerant with new hon. Members and I hope that other long-standing hon. Members will be a little tolerant about such matters, too.
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I hope that you will be able to help the House. My point concerns the change in time allowed for Question Time. About 18 months ago, an hour was allocated to Environment questions and the then Opposition asked whether that could be changed to 40 minutes, because it would help them. We agreed, on the basis that it is normally felt that Question Time should be particularly affected by the needs of the Opposition. That has been historically so.
No such discussions have taken place recently, and that is a pity. Could you find some way of trying to ensure that once again hon. Members on both sides of the House feel that the allocation of time for questions is not a matter of a diktat? I should have liked to retain an hour for Environment questions, but because the then Opposition wanted a change, we accepted it. Could you use your good offices in this area?
I dislike repeating myself. The right hon. Gentleman is aware that I am not consulted about a change in time. I take his point and repeat that the President of the Council will be answering such questions soon. I appeal to him to use his good offices, too, through the usual channels. I shall do what I can myself.
Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. An extremely important new clause has been tabled, dealing with the threshold for majorities that would be taken into account in deciding whether a referendum was to be effective. A similar amendment was ultimately defeated under the previous Labour Government and led to that Government's fall. Do you accept that it is outrageous that under the present arrangements for the allocation of time, that new clause will effectively fall and there will be no vote on those important matters?
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Last night, when a statement was made about the business of the House for today, I asked whether you had any role in safeguarding the position of Back Benchers. Clearly, my question was addressed through you to the Leader of the House; I now address it directly to you. Bearing in mind the fact that a unique situation on a constitutional Bill has resulted from the Government's decision, do you have any role in safeguarding the ability of Back Benchers to speak on a Bill which, although it is only a referendum Bill, clearly has vital implications for subsequent legislation?
I have always attempted to safeguard the interests of Back Benchers. Guillotines are carried out under our Standing Orders, and I repeat that the longer hon. Members raise points of order and do not debate the issues on the Floor of the House, the worse the position is for them. I hope that we can now get on with the guillotine motion and move on to amendments. If we do not take up all the three hours on the guillotine, we can move on to the amendments.
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am sorry to try your patience, but my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack) asked you earlier about the ability of the House to put to the vote individual amendments within the selected groups, and it is my understanding, from a reading of the motion before us, that only the first amendment in any group can be voted on, unless proposed by a Minister of the Crown. That is clearly unacceptable: it means that four of my amendments will not only be inadequately debated, but cannot be voted on.
That normally happens when we discuss legislation that is under guillotine. That has happened over many years. The hon. Gentleman has been in the House when we have dealt with legislation under guillotine. It is a normal practice and how it works out depends on who is in the Chair at the time and on whether hon. Members wish to use up time by dividing the House.
I thank you, Madam Speaker.
I am very conscious of the fact that the clock ticks and that someone moving a motion of this kind should do so, I hope, with conviction and with persuasion, but certainly quickly. The quickly part is not necessarily built into my natural mode, but I intend to be up and down reasonably sharply on this occasion.
I am also very conscious of the fact that guillotine motions are never popular. This is the first one that I have ever had to move, although I have been on the receiving end on many occasions, as Conservative Members will know.
No, I think that we should make a little progress.
I listened with particular care to the exchanges when the business statement was made last night. I am not totally persuaded that precedent is the only way in which to proceed. If we relied entirely on precedent, we would live in a very ossified society, because we could never do anything that had not been done before, and I am not sure that that would be a recipe for a live and lively democracy. Therefore, I am not entirely persuaded that we should rely on precedent in the matter.
However, I am entitled to draw the attention of the House to the fact that our action is not unprecedented, and that this is not a case of pushing something through in a way never thought, dreamt of or dared before, nor of the bulldozing of Parliament by a bullying Executive. What we are doing does not fall into any of those categories. It seems to me that the whiff of constitutional outrage that was allowed to drift round the Chamber yesterday can quickly be dispersed when one begins to look at the facts.
Opposition Members, including those who have been involved in Conservative Administrations, will know that they have often used guillotine motions as a way of managing the business of the House. I make no complaint about that; no doubt on occasion the present Government will feel it necessary to do the same. That is part of our constitutional machinery.
As I understand it, the particular complaint here is that a guillotine to govern a Committee stage has never been tabled before the start of that Committee stage.
Now we are beginning to change the script. The former Home Secretary may have saved me some time, because I was about to read out an enormous list of occasions when, under the Conservative Government, a timetable motion to guarantee progress during Committee stage was tabled before that Committee stage started.
I am thinking, for example, of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, the Local Government Finance Bill, the Further and Higher Education Bill—[Interruption.] Let me draw attention—
I shall let the hon. Gentleman intervene in a little while, but the Statutory Sick Pay Bill and the Social Security (Contributions) Bill are burnt into my memory. I happened to be the Opposition spokesman on both—they were both important Bills that shifted a substantial financial burden on to industry. With both, a timetable not only governed the Committee stage, but took them through all their stages from Second Reading to Third Reading in one day. On successive days, both went through.
I do not know the reason for that, but it puts into perspective some of the remarks made during our exchanges last night that on occasion, although not universally, struck me as having a touch of humbug—
I shall make one final point before I take a couple of points of information. In order to avoid the catalogue of examples, the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), who will open for the Opposition, said very precisely, "Not on a constitutional Bill." He said that there was no precedent on a constitutional Bill.
We can argue about the status of the Referendums (Scotland and Wales) Bill, but there can be no doubt that in 1978 the House, rightly or wrongly, passed two enormously important constitutional Acts—the Scotland Act 1978 and the Wales Act 1978—most of the proceedings on which took place under timetable motions regulating the Committee stage. Those motions were debated and agreed before the Committee stages started.
We cannot allow the myth to be perpetrated that what we are doing has never been done before, and that we are plunging into some sort of new jungle territory where democracy will die among the snakes. Things are not like that at all, and hon. Members should recognise the fact.
In an attempt to penetrate the Scotch mist, may I invite the right hon. Gentleman to answer the question that I asked the Leader of the House yesterday, which she persistently refused to answer? Does he accept that the Bill is what is known in "Erskine May" and in our precedents as a first-class constitutional Bill, because it affects the integrity of the United Kingdom Parliament in its sovereign functions? If so, does he therefore accept that it is a Bill that should be treated in a proper manner, and not, as the Government are treating it, in the manner of a Stalinist dictatorship, because they are determined to have their own way at all costs? Is it not a disgrace that the Bill should be the subject of a guillotine before we have even had a chance to examine its merits?
For one hopeful happy moment, I thought that I was about to be compared with the late J. Stalin. As a former Chief Whip, I might have thought that a compliment.
May I say to the hon. Gentleman—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer the question.] I will answer the question, which takes me nicely on from the precedent argument to the status of the Bill. We could dance on the head of a pin about whether this is a constitutional Bill, but one thing cannot be denied: it is not a Bill that seeks to alter the constitution. That is the key point.
In a particularly pained contribution last night, the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd), whose sincerity about these matters I have genuinely admired for many years, talked about this Bill in terms that made it clear that he was classing it with the devolution Bill that may follow if the referendums approve the Government's proposals. If we were talking about that Bill, we should be in a very different situation, but this is a paving measure which deals with organising the ballot and putting in place the machinery for counting votes. It is a simple Bill that follows almost exactly the precedents of the 1975 European referendum and the 1978–79 devolution referendums. Other than paving the way for an expression of opinion by the people of Scotland and Wales, it does not in any way alter this country's constitution. The comparison with the devolution Bill itself is false and mistaken.
If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that this is only a minor paving measure, why did he bother to have the Committee stage on the Floor at all? Will he undertake that the main measures will be taken on the Floor with a timetable agreed with Her Majesty's Opposition, to ensure that the whole Bill gets proper scrutiny?
We are damned if we do, damned if we do not with the hon. Gentleman. He is a most contrary man, although often entertaining. We decided to take the matter on the Floor. We thought that it would please Conservative Members and ensure that we made proper progress to allowing the Bill to move on to another place. I hope that we can advance to the sort of test of consent that I thought that the Opposition approved of, and which they certainly called for often enough in the pre-general election period. We should not be open to criticism because we are allowing—(Interruption.] Perhaps the hon. Gentleman is turning modest. I do not think it a criticism that we are taking the Bill on the Floor, where he, too, can take part without any inhibitions. I am sure that he will.
Does the right hon. Gentleman remember that the Jopling Committee, on which there was a substantial Conservative majority, considered not only the precedents, but how the House could more expeditiously deal with such business? Its report stated:
The evidence given to us on timetabling of bills was almost without exception in favour of its more general use.
More importantly, it stated:
The arguments in favour of the proper scrutiny of all parts of a bill are compelling; and timetables applied from an early stage after second reading are probably the best way".
I note that the former Conservative Leader of the House strongly favoured that recommendation.
I am well aware of the Jopling report and that we have moved some way to meeting some of its recommendations. It suggested that the timetabling of all Committee stages would be a sensible approach to the business of the House, which would allow good order and better government, and which would let people know exactly where they were and when matters of interest were likely to arise. That is a matter for further consideration. It would not be fair for me to pray it in aid, except spiritually, on this occasion. I am sure that the matter will be discussed by the Select Committee on parliamentary procedure, which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House hopes to have operating shortly. The recommendation points the way forward and is interesting in the context of this argument.
I must move on. I promised to be quick, but I have taken many interventions.
My first point was simple. This is a paving Bill for the purpose that I described. The second is that in discussing our way forward, we relied on the realities and the common sense of the situation. We have a Bill, which no doubt hon. Members who have the staying power to have stayed for so long will have looked at carefully. They will have seen that it is a modest measure dealing with the mechanics of the referendum. It runs to six clauses and two schedules. It has attracted 250 amendments plus 25 new clauses and 12 new schedules. I congratulate the Opposition. They are obviously in a rather machismo stage of their political development on the Opposition Benches. In all fairness to them, they have got organised. It is clear that there was an agreement that they would attempt to dig in and obstruct this measure.
I make no complaint about that. I have been involved in that sort of exercise in my time. I do not live in the unreal world of imagining that that is beyond the competence or wit of even this Opposition. I am sure that it is not, and we shall probably see plenty of evidence of their ability to engage in such an exercise in future.
I do complain, however, that the Opposition should try to pretend that it is terrible when the Government, recognising what is happening, take steps to deal with what is afoot and to preserve proper progress for their business. That seems to be common sense and something that should cause no surprise to anyone who is being frank about his expectations on the Conservative Benches.
The right hon. Gentleman has made much of the fact that the proposed legislation and the devolution legislation to follow it will follow closely the precedent established in 1977 and 1978. Is he able to confirm that the motion before us allows no time for debating the thresholds for the necessary majority, which ended up as such an important part of the future of the earlier legislation to which I have referred?
I suspect that what we manage to debate will depend entirely on how much time we spend on these matters. The sooner we get on with the real debates, the better I shall be pleased.
We were faced with an organised move to block and obstruct. We decided that it was better to go for a timetable motion. We thought that there was an additional advantage in taking that course, in that rather than having a chaotic passage of arms over an indefinite period, we would try to arrange the motion in a way that at least allowed for a number of the important issues related specifically to the referendum to be properly ventilated. That is what we have tried to do.
I do not think that anyone will be over-anxious to discover that a number of the more esoteric amendments have fallen by the wayside. We have tried to ensure that the matters that are relevant to the referendum are debated and that there is not simply a reprise of what will be extensive debate if and when we reach the devolution Bill. That is exactly what we have tried to do, and it is what a responsible Opposition would do.
It is significant—I do not want to put too much of a burden on the Opposition's shoulders—that often when there is talk about bulldozing democracy and oppressing minorities, the smaller parties understandably find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place. It is significant also that at least in broad terms, the Scottish National party, the Liberal Democrats and so on have indicated—
I say to the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) that I have a broad embrace and take in all the parties. I am happy that we have the broad support of the smaller parties on this matter.
Will the Minister confirm that no more than half of the amendments tabled have been selected? Is he not now enunciating a rather dangerous doctrine that it is the job of the Leader of the House or himself, rather than that of the Chairman of Ways and Means, to decide which amendments should be accepted and included in debate, or squeezed out by the terms of a timetable motion?
I suppose that that is an argument, but one that I doubt whether the hon. Gentleman would want to endorse, for banning any form of timetable motion. The selection of amendments is not a matter for me and certainly not a matter for me to comment on. I should be in hot water very quickly if I presumed so to comment and I have no intention of running that self-evident risk.
I accept, of course, that a framework restricts. If we want to avoid that, we should avoid the exercise that has clearly been mounted against this small, technical Bill. It is an exercise in obstruction.
Let me finish, because I promised to be brief. I have argued that there are precedents in plenty. The Bill would not alter the constitution: it is not a constitutional measure, which is how it has been represented. I point to the overwhelming evidence that an organised attempt has, perfectly legitimately, been made—and equally legitimately met—to obstruct the Bill as distinct from properly debating it.
I should remind the House, even if I do not receive a sympathetic hearing, that our manifesto pledge is important to us. When challenged by Michael Forsyth and by opponents of constitutional change in Scotland who said that we should not shelter behind a general election result, given the multiplicity of reasons for the way in which people vote, we said that we would deal with the matter head on and would run the risk of putting it to the people. We are confident of the outcome, but we may be wrong, so let the people decide. We made it clear that that test of opinion would be an advisory note to Parliament when it came to consider the main questions, and we want to hold to that.
I am sorry to tell the House that I came to the conclusion, in conjunction with my colleagues, that if we did not move down this road, the timetable would slip and we would not have the test of public opinion that I think is in everyone's interest and in the interests of direct democracy. On that basis and for that combination of reasons, I do not believe that the motion is unreasonable. It is in the interests of direct democracy and good government.
The first duty of the House is to debate legislation. It is by discharging that duty that we hold Government to account and serve our constituents. A delicate system of checks and balances has grown up in Parliament over centuries. [Interruption.] The need for strong government is balanced against the importance of effective opposition; the right of the majority against that of minorities; the call of party discipline against the conscience of individual Members.
Those arrangements rest, to a large extent, on convention, compromise and fair play. Observers from abroad, where government depends on codified constitutional arrangements, are often astounded by the spirit of fair-mindedness that permeates our parliamentary procedure. [Interruption.] In stifling discussion on the Bill—
In stifling discussion on the Bill, the Government display their contempt for decency, for convention and for Parliament itself. The guillotine motion is the most drastic way of silencing debate known to Parliament. On allocation of time orders, "Erskine May" says:
They may be regarded as the extreme limit to which procedure goes in affirming the rights of the majority at the expense of the minorities of the House, and it cannot be denied that they are capable of being used in such a way as to upset the balance, generally so carefully preserved, between the claims of business and the rights of debate.
There can be few clearer examples of the guillotine being abused than the motion now before the House.
The Bill is of major constitutional significance, and the Committee stage has not even begun. To quote "Erskine May" again:
An allocation of time order is not usually moved … until the rate of progress in committee has provided an argument for its necessity.
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman accept that what staggers Labour Members is that hardly any Conservative Front-Bench Members spoke on Second Reading? The Opposition were short of Front-Bench and Back-Bench Members: there was a sea of green on the Conservative Benches. However, when the time came to table amendments, there was an organised filibuster. A vast number of amendments have been tabled, some of which are clearly frivolous. The Conservative party's inability to find Back-Bench Members or Front-Bench spokesmen—I have never experienced a debate on a major Bill for which the Opposition have not put up a Front-Bench spokesman—makes it difficult for us to take the right hon. and learned Gentleman's argument seriously.
The hon. Gentleman is entirely wrong. Of course we dealt with Second Reading from the Front Bench. I know of no convention in the House that suggests that those who do not take part in a Second Reading debate are in some way barred from taking part in debates in Committee; that has never been the way in which we have proceeded.
The Government Front Bench and, indeed, the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan), claim that the Bill would be delayed, but there is no evidence whatever of such delay. Indeed, by killing discussion before the Committee stage has even started, the Government have not allowed the question whether there would have been a delay to be tested. The Secretary of State for Scotland pointed out that there was one precedent for constitutional Bills to be subject to allocations of time: the guillotine motions on the Scotland and Wales Bills in 1977. We should remember, however, that when the then Leader of the House, Mr. Michael Foot, proposed the guillotine motion for the Scotland Bill, in a manner that could be described only as apologetic in the extreme—a far cry from the manner in which the Secretary of State introduced the motion this afternoon—he used the occasion to remind the House that there had already been 30 days of debate on the legislation. The House should compare that with the arrogant and dismissive way in which the Government have tabled this motion.
My hon. and learned Friend is right.
We make such points only because that was the precedent relied on by the Secretary of State. It is no use Labour Members saying that there were differences. That is the precedent on which the right hon. Gentleman relies—the only precedent for the guillotining of a Bill of constitutional significance before the Committee stage.
After just a month in office, the Government have already demonstrated their contempt for Parliament. Disregard for the House runs like a thread through their actions. We have seen the cutting of Prime Minister's questions to one session a week, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer's failure to announce his changes to the Bank of England in the House. As for the Government's legislative programme, the proposals in the Queen's Speech amount to a massive transfer of powers from the House to bankers, judges, devolved assemblies and Brussels bureaucrats. Never has there been such a comprehensive assault on the sovereignty of the House—and, more important, on the sovereignty of those who send us to this place.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman talks of the concern of those who send us here. Has he received any representations from his constituents in Folkestone and Hythe about the Bill, and has he consulted Conservatives in Scotland and Wales? Of course, he could not do so in the House, but has he done so anywhere else?
Certainly I have consulted Conservatives in both Scotland and Wales about the legislation. As for my constituents in Folkestone and Hythe, they know how much importance I attach to the legislation—as they do—because it featured prominently in my election campaign.
By asking the people of Wales and Scotland to vote before seeing the devolution legislation, the Government are in any case resorting to an anti-parliamentary device. The pre-legislative plebiscite, which is wholly alien to our British traditions, is intended to curtail parliamentary debate and to silence parliamentary criticism. We now learn, however, that we are to be denied a full debate even on the mechanism by which the referendums are to be organised. The Government's distrust of Parliament extends to both the end and the means.
The Prime Minister is not the first politician to speak warmly of constitutional change, while distrusting parliamentary accountability. That path was first trodden by that great reforming socialist Robespierre, who, like the Prime Minister, had a substantial fondness for the guillotine.
As a result of the guillotine motion, we are to be denied a debate on the amendments relating to the publication and form of the ballot papers, on the procedures for the conduct of the referendums, on the financing and organisation of the referendums, and even on the vital question of the necessary majorities and whether there should be thresholds. Those questions cannot be debated at all under the motion. Apparently, they are regarded by the Secretary of State for Scotland as being in the category of esoteric amendments. That was how he described the amendments for which the motion makes no provision for debate, but they are at the heart of the Bill, which we shall debate in such curtailed form.
It has long been the custom and practice of the House for Front-Bench spokesmen to speak on Back-Bench amendments. I am astonished by the hon. Gentleman's intervention. I should have thought that he would be the first to rise to protest against any invasion of the liberties of Back Benchers. It is of great importance that Back-Bench amendments cannot be debated under the motion.
Not at the moment.
Of all the questions that I have identified, the last is perhaps the most scandalous effect of the motion.
When it was put to me this morning on the "Today" programme, on which I preceded the Secretary of State for Scotland, that the guillotine motion would allow time for debate on questions such as the voting threshold and similar issues, I said that I simply did not know, because the timetable motion had not yet been published. Mr. James Naughtie was incredulous. "Surely," he said, "the motion might limit the time for debate, but it would not deny the possibility of debate altogether." How wrong he was. Fundamental questions at the heart of the Bill, at the heart of what ought to be the debate on the measure, cannot be discussed at all under the terms of the motion.
Much has been made of the importance of establishing
the settled will of the Scottish people",
to use the late John Smith's famous phrase. Is a bare majority on a low turnout to be described as
the settled will of the Scottish people"?
On that, the Government are not prepared to allow debate at all.
I should have rather more sympathy for the right hon. and learned Gentleman's argument if he suggested that the referendum would be binding on Parliament rather than advisory. As he does not seem to be saying that, his argument is greatly undermined.
As the right hon. Gentleman knows, our argument is that the referendum should take place after the legislation, that it should take full account of it and be based on a specific question relating to it. The choice that the right hon. Gentleman puts to me is not one that I acknowledge at all. We think that it is fundamentally wrong for the referendum to take place before the legislation.
The question remains: what are the Government frightened of? Why, with a majority of 179, are they determined to suppress any criticism? Could they be worried that, during a debate, the absurdity of expecting people to vote without seeing the legislation would be exposed? Might there have been some concern about the threat that the proposals pose to the long-term unity of our country? I should like to use another quotation:
The timetable motion is an abuse of power. No one can deny the wish of a Government to secure progress for their business, but that must be balanced against the need for adequate debate and discussion of a measure … Guillotines can be justified only where an Opposition have filibustered a Bill, where they have refused all reasonable suggestions to agree a timetable, or where there is no possibility of the Government getting their business through at reasonable speed without a guillotine."—[Official Report, 1 February 1988; Vol. 126, c. 757.]
Those are not my words. They are the words of the present Home Secretary.
The Bill touches on the affairs of every person in the United Kingdom. If implemented, it and the devolution legislation to which it is the precursor will bring about a tectonic change in how this island is governed. It contains all the elements necessary for an acrimonious breakdown among the nations of the United Kingdom, yet the Government are determined to choke off discussion. If the referendums were carried, that would be their excuse to still further debate in the House, and any attempt to raise those matters now is to be cut off by the guillotine.
Does my right hon. and learned Friend concede that, in response to a Liberal Democrat intervention, the Secretary of State for Scotland used the Jopling proposals to justify what he has done? Does my right hon. and learned Friend accept from me, a perennial Back Bencher, that the Government of the day always want to get their business through as easily and as quickly as possible, that the House should pay more attention to the genuine interests of Back Benchers and that the Jopling proposals were in fact a weapon of the Government and disadvantageous to Back Benchers' interests?
There is much force in the point made by my hon. Friend, and of course it is not simply a question of protecting the role of Back Benchers, important though that is. At the heart of the question that we are debating is the responsibility of Parliament and the fact that we are sent here by our constituents to expose legislation to proper scrutiny. It is that opportunity which we are being denied by the motion.
When they were in opposition, Labour Members spoke of the need for more open government. The British constitution, they complained, concentrated power in the hands of the Executive. Ministers, they said, had been made arrogant by their tenure of office. What then do they suppose the motion constitutes? Its every provision bears witness to a contemptuous, imperious attitude to Parliament, and this is a Government at the beginning of their term, dewy-eyed with reformist fervour.
This shabby measure reflects very badly on the Government and it reflects worst of all on the Leader of the House. She has a special responsibility to the House. It is a responsibility which she has woefully failed to discharge. In the annals of the House, there can be few, if any, holders of her office who have so conspicuously fallen short of what is expected of them so early in their term of office.
We are determined to resist the Government's devolution proposals, not only as the party of the nation, but as the party of the constitution and of Parliament. Our resistance to the Government's plan rests on our conviction that it runs contrary to the genius of this country and breaks every constitutional principle and precedent. By their action today, the Government have confirmed us in that conviction. It is the action of an arrogant Government who hold Parliament in contempt and that is why we shall oppose them with all the energy at our command.
For 18 years, some of us sat on the Bench behind where the former Home Secretary spoke from, so perhaps he will have some inkling of our feelings about the introduction of the guillotine. It is perhaps a bit salutary for some right hon. Gentlemen, who were very happy to see guillotines used on other occasions, to endure, if I may put it that way, some of the medicine that they dished out.
I have no qualms about supporting the Government on this occasion, because in my view the amendment paper of the House of Commons has been cheapened by a flood of frivolous amendments. Some of the amendments are undoubtedly extremely important, but some of them do the reputation of Parliament no good whatever. This matter is far too important to be the subject of frivolous, wrecking amendments. What concerns us is the need to have serious discussion.
Short speeches have been requested, but I must make one point. I hope that attention will be given to what we might call the Gary McAllister problem—the problem of the Scottish football captain—who is earning his living in England and cannot take part in a referendum. Like thousands of others working in England, however, he has a moral right at least to be considered. I say that not in a wrecking sense but because I think that there is a proposal for consideration. Consideration should be given to allowing those Scots in England who apply, bona fide, to take part in the referendum to do so.
Another problem is what might be called the Paul Lambert question. A number of Scots are working in the European Community, often for the Government or for the great firms of this country. It is indisputable that they feel that they should take part in a referendum, regardless of how they may vote. I want Ministers to give serious consideration to what can be called the Gary McAllister or Paul Lambert problem because there are thousands of people in their position.
On several occasions during her response to questions last night the Leader of the House referred to the small number of Members present on Second Reading—the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) made a similar point—as if that justified her action. That is a novel doctrine and it does not stand up, particularly as the guillotine is being introduced before the Committee stage has even started.
During my time as a Minister, I introduced a range of Bills and on some occasions the Opposition Benches were not full. I did not think that the Opposition's view was that in those circumstances a guillotine could be introduced automatically after Second Reading.
There is great irony in the Leader of the House referring to the Second Reading debate because, immediately following it, the Government had arranged a debate on the modernisation of procedures in the House of Commons. The right hon. Lady said:
I hope that by holding this debate so early in the Parliament, we have proved our serious intent in terms of facilitating improvements in the workings of Parliament."—[Official Report, 22 May 1997; Vol. 294, c. 901.]
There is no point talking about the Government's serious intent to modernise Parliament to enable more scrutiny of legislation and to set up pre-legislation Committees, only for her to show their true intent by guillotining a constitutional Bill before its Committee stage begins. The only precedent that is claimed for this occurred under the previous Labour Government.
Conservative Members know that if my right hon. Friend the former Member for Braintree had been Leader of the House at this time, there is no way that he would have given way to the pressure that is being put on the Leader of the House by Ministers.
The Leader of the House is not even proposing the motion on the guillotine; I cannot remember a time when the Leader of the House did not propose such a motion. As the Secretary of State for Scotland said, this has been decided not by her, but by the Ministers responsible for the legislation.
I will not give way.
The Leader of the House is wrong for several reasons. First, there is no doubt that this is a constitutional Bill—one has only to read the explanatory memorandum to understand that. It is absurd for the right hon. Lady to argue, as she did last night, that it is a Bill of no great consequence. She described it as a simple, straightforward Bill of only six clauses. Surely we all accept that it is substantially more important than that. The Liberal Democrats' going along with her argument is a sign of what we had already guessed—that they will be as ineffective in opposition in this Parliament as they were in the last.
The second reason why the guillotine is wrong is that what the Leader of the House calls a simple, straightforward Bill contains important issues of principle—for example, who is enfranchised and what information is issued at the time of the referendum. It might be inconvenient for the Government, it might even take a few hours of debate, but surely no one can argue that the Bill is not important.
Thirdly, the right hon. Lady should stand up against her colleagues because it is clear that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) said, Ministers sitting at the Cabinet table have only one interest—getting their legislation through. They do not give a fig about the rights of Parliament, and, quite frankly, Government Departments care and understand even less. That is why to have a strong Leader of the House, able and willing to stand up for the rights of Parliament, is so important.
As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) said, what is of great concern—this is a Commons matter—is that, step by step, power is being taken away from this House. There was no consultation on the change to Prime Minister's Questions. It was pushed through for one reason alone—not for the benefit of the House, but to make the Prime Minister's life easier and to save him facing the scrutiny that he would otherwise have faced twice a week. Policy announcements have been made outside the Chamber—
I asked the hon. Gentleman a straight question, to which he has given me a typical Liberal answer.
The guillotine motion is a further step in the Government's attempt to make the House of Commons a rubber stamp. That should offend not only Conservative Members, but anyone who regards the Chamber as important. One of the most revealing features of last night's statement was the reaction of Ministers. I speak not of the Leader of the House, but of her colleagues, who gave a sniggering response to questions. There was palpable self-satisfaction in a group who clearly felt, "We are the masters now." Well, they are the masters now and they will get their guillotine; there is no question about that. However, their triumphalism and arrogance are already sowing the seeds of their destruction.
I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for giving me an opportunity to make my maiden speech so early in this Parliament, especially in a debate on a matter very close to my heart and the hearts of many of my colleagues. I am privileged and truly honoured to be the first woman to represent the most beautiful constituency of Conwy in north Wales. For almost 27 years, it was represented by Sir Wyn Roberts, who retired at the general election. I am aware that he is held in very high regard by hon. Members on both sides of the House, and I should very much like to be associated with that view.
To describe my constituency requires superlatives that I may not have mastered in the English language. I would feel more at home in my native tongue of Welsh, memorably described as "iaith y nefoedd" by Gruffydd Robert Milan over 400 years ago in 1567, I believe. For those not versed in the Welsh tongue, "iaith y nefoedd" means "the language of heaven".
The Conwy constituency includes not only the beautiful town of that name but several other major centres. Tourism is a major industry. Exemplified by that queen of resorts, Llandudno, tourism encompasses the whole of the constituency, providing natural attractions of mountain and sea as well as historic buildings.
Industry and commerce are less well represented in my constituency than I would wish, and it will be my hope that this Parliament will be able to provide encouragement to their development. Indeed, I welcome the comments made last week by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales when he said that he wants a new focus for the Welsh Development Agency and to see more jobs created in the valleys and in western and north-western Wales. Such development is vital if we are to reduce the scourge of unemployment. In my constituency, youth unemployment is unacceptably high, and our young people will most certainly find encouragement in the Gracious Speech.
The old slate quarrying town of Bethesda has a special place in the hearts of trade unionists and of members of my party. It is not quite 100 years since the workers of Penrhyn quarry stood up to the might of their employer for three long years. Bloodied but unbowed by that struggle, they would welcome the Gracious Speech, as do their descendants today, for what it offers for a fairer society.
The majority of those quarry men and their families were members of Welsh chapels. Our chapels and eisteddfodau were crucial in the religious, political and cultural development of the Welsh nation. It was by pennies collected through the chapels and from house to house that Bangor gained its "Coleg ar y Bryn"—"the college on the hill". Now it is a constituent college of the university of Wales and enjoys worldwide fame for its academic excellence. I should perhaps declare an interest in my affection for Bangor. I was born there, and it is where—two years ago, as a mature student—I obtained my degree.
The tradition of local collection continues to the present day. So when the need was identified for a new cancer treatment unit at the Ysbyty Gwynedd hospital in Bangor, it was local people who dug deep into their pockets to finance the building of it. I hasten to add that contributions were made not only by the people of my constituency but by those of surrounding constituencies, represented by hon. Members on both sides of the House. The magnificent sum of £1.25 million was collected through the dedicated efforts of many volunteers, spearheaded by Dr. Jim Davies. I applaud their efforts, and am confident it will not be long before building begins.
The academic standards of our university, excellent as they are, will be greatly improved by raising standards in primary and secondary education. A reduction in primary school class sizes and the improvement in training for head teachers are important steps in that direction. It will, I believe, be a great encouragement to all those in education, from primary through to university level, to know that the Government's No.1 priority is education.
In such a diverse constituency, it has been particularly gratifying to me to appreciate how much the Gracious Speech reflects the wishes of so many for devolution. It is significant to note that, on the occasion of my predecessor's maiden speech, in 1970, he looked forward to
a general devolution of power from central Government",
and said that the people of Wales would then feel that they would
have a greater voice in the conduct of their affairs."—[Official Report, 9 July 1970; Vol. 803, c. 893.]
I hope that I am not being too controversial for this occasion to express the view that since 1970, over a period of 27 years, his wishes have not been achieved. During the past few weeks, however, Sir Wyn Roberts, having retired from this House, has once again expressed his support for devolution. I welcome his comments.
Of course, the Labour Government of 1974–79 offered devolution to the people of Wales. I supported those proposals and campaigned for them. I am delighted that, as a Member of Parliament, I shall have a further opportunity—a real opportunity—to campaign for devolution. I am particularly pleased that the Government have moved so quickly to fulfil the election commitment to establish a Welsh Assembly. It is the best possible demonstration of our will to ensure that the people of Wales are democratically governed with proper accountability. As that is perhaps a new concept for many people, it will be for those of us in this House who respect and believe in the democratic system to campaign with vigour to ensure that the people of Wales understand the opportunity and, more important, that they grasp it.
I am sure that many hon. Members have, like me, spent many years in local politics at community, district and county levels, dealing at first hand with local problems and issues. So often, those problems were my problems and we worked with the local authorities to solve them. It was called partnership. Government should be as close to the people as possible; it should be a partnership. This will be an historic decision, and it is vital that local people take up the opportunity to establish a Welsh Assembly. It will bring decisions closer to the people in Wales and end rule by unaccountable quangos. Power will be decentralised as much as possible, which can only be good for jobs, good for health and social services, good for education, good for other public services and good for the people of Conwy and the people of Wales.
We are on the threshold of history. That is why, in the coming months, I shall campaign hard for a large yes vote in the devolution referendum. Diolch yn fawr iawn—thank you very much.
It is my pleasure and privilege to congratulate the hon. Member for Conwy (Mrs. Williams) on a very eloquent maiden speech. I am sure that all hon. Members who listened to her gained not only an insight into an attractive and diverse constituency but a feel for the spirit of the constituency and its people. I congratulate the hon. Lady and look forward to hearing the many contributions that she will no doubt make to debates on devolution.
It was also refreshing to be reminded of the commitment of Sir Wyn Roberts to the decentralisation of power in 1970. The House will recognise and acknowledge the hon. Lady's tribute to him. It is refreshing that the issues on which Sir Wyn, and probably many other Conservatives, campaigned in 1970 will be brought to fruition.
I shall try to be brief because the less time spent debating the timetable motion, the more time there will be to deal with the first batch of amendments, and perhaps even to have more than one vote, although that is probably a triumph of hope over experience.
I do not accept that we are debating what the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) described as a first-class constitutional Bill. As the Secretary of State for Scotland reminded us, we are debating an advisory referendum; there is nothing in it that will affect in any way the sovereignty of Parliament—if, indeed, we accept that Westminster is sovereign. That is a point of difference between us and the Labour party. Those of us who signed the Claim of Right in Scotland do not necessarily accept that principle.
It is also right for the Secretary of State to point to the precedents. My hon. Friend the Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) has reminded me of the guillotining of two Bills in one debate in December 1993—the Statutory Sick Pay Bill and the Social Security (Contributions) Bill. That move provoked such antagonism that the official Opposition broke off pairing arrangements. On that occasion, there was a guillotine before the Second Reading of both Bills and a special motion to allow Committee amendments to be tabled before Second Reading. Although we think that the referendum for Scotland is unnecessary, at least it will give a say to the people. Those Bills gave Ministers considerable power to introduce secondary legislation that would have a pecuniary impact on many businesses, particularly small ones.
As my hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) said earlier, the timetabling of proceedings on Bills was recommended by Jopling. I think that it is better to timetable before the start of Committee proceedings than to do so part way through, after drawn-out debates on a limited number of clauses and amendments, which often results in the clauses and amendments in the second half—or not even the second half, but the remaining two thirds or five sixths—of the Bill being given very cursory consideration. Parliament has often not done its job properly because it has not had adequate opportunity to scrutinise the latter stages of a Bill.
My party's publication, "A Parliament for the People—Proposals to Reform the House of Commons", suggested an all-party legislative steering committee to consider the programming of Bills to ensure that all parts are properly scrutinised. I hope that the Leader of the House will consider the proper timetabling of Bills during her inquiry into the reform of the procedures of the House. We can do much more on that.
Does my hon. Friend recognise that that argument is not peculiar to the Liberal Democrats? It was advanced by the legislative committee of the Hansard Society for Parliamentary Government, chaired by the distinguished Conservative Lord Rippon of Hexham.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that information. The Jopling recommendations commanded broad support on both sides of the House. The hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) earlier repeated the frequently made argument that guillotines are the enemy of Back Benchers. I am not sure that that is right. There will be an opportunity for proper debate of the amendments tabled by those of us who are not in the official Opposition and those tabled by the official Opposition. That would not necessarily have been the case otherwise.
The point that I had just finished making was that the timetable allows for debate of the minority parties' arguments. We have tabled amendments to consolidate the two questions in Scotland into one. The Government do not agree, but we have a legitimate argument and there will be time for that debate. The Scottish National party wants a third question in a multi-option referendum. I do not agree with that, but I accept that it is a legitimate issue for the House to debate and is relevant to the referendum. There will be time to debate that.
The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) asked the shadow Home Secretary why the official Opposition had not got round to tabling amendments about the threshold. For once, the hon. Gentleman was not accurate. New clauses 22 to 25 provide for a threshold by requiring a 65 per cent. turnout. However, those new clauses are all starred. The Conservatives did not get round to tabling them until yesterday, suggesting that the leadership collective could not make up their minds on the issue.
The timetable motion was tabled because of the host of frivolous amendments on the amendment paper. I use the word "frivolous" advisedly. I have just appeared on "Westminster Live" with the right hon. Member for Richmond, Yorks (Mr. Hague), who admitted that some of the amendments were frivolous.
If the right hon. Gentleman gets a transcript of the programme, he will find that he did
describe some of the amendments as frivolous. One example is amendment No. 240, in the name of the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin), which says of Scotland:
No referendum shall be held on any day other than St. Andrew's Day.
This year, St. Andrew's day is on a Sunday, but that does not matter because we also have amendment No. 184, which says:
No referendum shall be held on any day other than a Sunday.
The hon. Gentleman says that the amendment was not selected. My point is that those amendments are an insight into the mindset of those who tabled them. The amendments are on the amendment paper and the hon. Members concerned cannot run away from the kind of amendments—
I think that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, show much more good sense in the selection of the amendments than do those who tabled them.
My point concerns the kind of amendments that were tabled. Amendment No. 186 says:
No referendum shall be held for a period of less than two days.
That amendment was tabled by the same person, the hon. Member for North Essex, who said that the referendum should not be held on any day other than a Sunday. We would need to have a month of Sundays, or perhaps the suggestion is that the referendum should be held on two consecutive Sundays, like the French elections.
Does the hon. Gentleman anticipate that the Tory Members who tabled the frivolous amendments will take an active part in the referendum campaign in Scotland or in Wales, or will they leave the active campaigning to their hon. Friends in Scotland and in Wales?
The words used were "hon. Friends". The right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) said that the Conservatives were the party of the nation. One nation Conservatism is now England, and only part of that. No longer does the Conservative party speak for the nation in Parliament, which is an important point to remember.
Last night, I referred to amendment No. 189, which says:
Voting in the referendum shall only take place during daylight hours.
That is a travesty. What about the men and women of the night who would not be allowed an opportunity to vote if such an amendment were accepted?
The timetable motion allows for debate on some important issues. It would be better to go on from here and to have proper programming of legislation. I hope that we shall achieve that in this Parliament. That is the way to achieve the proper scrutiny of Bills rather than leaving it to chance—
I have no doubt that there will be a debate on the White Paper. More importantly, we would certainly expect proper scrutiny of legislation flowing from that White Paper. I do not see how, except in a one-day debate, we could have scrutiny of a White Paper. The House would, however, expect proper scrutiny of any legislation that followed. I believe that the House will get proper scrutiny.
I add my congratulations to the hon. Member for Conwy (Mrs. Williams). All Conservative Members will have appreciated her kind remarks about our old friend and colleague, Sir Wyn Roberts. The only advice he would have added to what she said was that if she addresses the House in a prolonged way in the native language of which both he and she are rightly proud, she may not always be addressing a Chamber quite as well filled as this. I congratulate her, however, on a speech that was well delivered with a nice light note and we look forward to much more from her.
I have been out of the House for five years—what is delicately known as broken service. I hope, therefore, that I may be indulged if I make one or two remarks about my predecessor, Sir Peter Hordern, who represented Horsham with great dedication for more than 32 years. He did great service to his constituency where he is still very much loved and I know that he attracted a lot of affection and admiration in the House.
Sir Peter never sought high office; he believed that representing his constituents in the United Kingdom Parliament was high enough privilege in itself, as I do. He believed that it was the function of this House to scrutinise legislation and to act as a proper check on what the Government did. He always did that, whether he sat on the Government Benches or on the Opposition Benches. That is what is important in this debate.
When I first came into the House 14 years ago, I, too, was part of a landslide. I came in when the Conservative party had a majority of 144, yet we did not believe then that we owned the House of Commons because we had had a big election victory. We believed that the House of Commons had its rights and that those rights had been fought for for centuries and were to be preserved, even at the Government's inconvenience.
The Government have become a little confused on some specific points. There seems to be some confusion about whether they consider the Bill to be a constitutional Bill. The Prime Minister does—or did. In his speech during the debate on the Gracious Speech on 14 May, when my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack) asked him to give an undertaking that
any constitutional measures"—
my hon. Friend was not referring specifically to this Bill—
will be taken in Committee on the Floor of the House",
the Prime Minister replied:
As I have said before to the hon. Gentleman, the referendum Bill will of course be taken on the Floor of the House."—[Official Report, 14 May 1997; Vol. 294, c. 67.]
The Prime Minister clearly thought that the Bill was a constitutional measure.
The Minister for Home Affairs and Devolution, Scottish Office also thought that the Bill was a constitutional Bill. When he wound up the debate on Second Reading, he specifically referred to it as being a constitutional measure. He said:
The Government want to ensure that debates are properly scrutinised and have the maximum participation"—
words that must be sticking in his craw at the moment—
of every part of the House.
The hon. Gentleman was not talking about general constitutional measures; he was talking about this Bill. He said:
That should be the case when we are dealing with serious constitutional issues."—[Official Report, 21 May 1997; Vol. 294, c. 804.]
We need to know whether the Government believe this to be a constitutional Bill. If it is a constitutional Bill, how can it be right, before we have even embarked on the Committee stage, for the Government to act in this way to gag debate? If it is not a constitutional Bill, but it is, as the Leader of the House said last night and as the Secretary of State for Scotland said today, merely a technical or paving Bill, why is it being taken on the Floor of the House at all? The House is entitled to have answers to those questions.
Whatever the answer, the House is being denied the opportunity for proper scrutiny. It is being denied the opportunity for detailed consideration of amendments and clauses, sometimes at inconvenient length, in Standing Committee because the Bill is being considered here, where there is more pressure on time. Having discussed the Bill here on the basis of its being a constitutional Bill—or not, we do not know because no light has been shed on the matter—the opportunity for maximum debate in all parts of the House, as the Minister of State promised, has been removed.
It would be helpful if the Minister who is to wind up the debate could shed some light on another matter. Will the full, substantive devolution Bill be published before the referendums take place? Again, we have had conflicting messages on that. On 14 May, the Prime Minister was challenged on the subject by the leader of the Scottish National party. The Prime Minister said:
Of course the Bill will be published in time for the referendum, because the referendum will take place on those proposals.
That is the last we have heard of that suggestion. Since then, all the talk has been merely that the White Paper will be published before the referendum. The question is not just dancing on the head of a pin, because the sequence matters.
The sequence that is now proposed is the Referendums (Scotland and Wales) Bill; followed by a White Paper; followed by the referendum; followed by the devolution Bill if the referendum is favourable; followed by implementation. We all know—the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) has made it clear, and the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) has also made the point—that there can be great differences between the aims and aspirations of policy set out in a White Paper and how they are translated into practice and into hard statutory fact when a Bill comes before Parliament. That fact makes a difference to the Bill we are considering today, because of the effect of the referendums. A referendum that has been held on a published Bill, albeit not yet enacted by Parliament, will have a different effect from one that has been held on a mere set of policies set out in a White Paper.
May I clarify the right hon. Gentleman's reference to me? Whatever happens, it is my personal view, for what it is worth, that a final referendum should be held on the one meaningful question that can be asked, which is "Do you approve of the Scotland Act 1997—or 1998—as passed by Parliament?" That would mean another referendum.
The hon. Gentleman puts it very well and I do not want to add to or subtract from that point. A final referendum is desirable. It is what he has argued for and the way that it was done last time. It may be that that unhappy experience is carved deep on the minds of Ministers and led them to come up with this procedure. The dynamic of the procedure matters a great deal.
I do not wish the right hon. Gentleman to labour mightily under a misapprehension. It is clear from the passage that he quoted, if one reads the whole passage, that it was a reference to the White Paper, and everybody understood that. To avoid all doubt, we propose that the White Paper should be published before the House rises—
Someone is showing his grasp of parliamentary procedure. I wish to make it clear that a White Paper will be published before the House rises. It will set out the scheme in some detail and the referendum will be held on the basis of the proposals in the White Paper. We will go on from there, as the right hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude) would expect.
The right hon. Gentleman says that I am under a misapprehension, but if so it is a widespread one. What the Prime Minister said was very clear. He was asked in terms by the leader of the Scottish National party:
Can he tell the House exactly when he expects to publish the Scottish devolution Bill?
The answer was:
Of course the Bill"—
not the White Paper—
will be published in time for the referendum".
That was not just a casual remark, because the Prime Minister went on to say:
because the referendum will take place on those proposals."—[Official Report, 14 May 1997; Vol. 294. c. 64.]
He did not say it will take place on the White Paper. That matters because all the unanswered questions that lie in the morass that the Government are in must be resolved. They cannot be resolved only in the White Paper: they must be resolved in hard statutory fact by a Bill.
The hon. Gentleman may think that: I could not possibly comment. The Prime Minister must answer for himself. If he got it wrong, he should come to the House and say so. The Secretary of State for Scotland says that that is a pompous suggestion, but the Prime Minister made that apparently considered remark to the House of Commons. I happen to think that the House of Commons matters and that the Prime Minister should consider what he says to us to be important.
The right hon. Gentleman may criticise and make his point, but I do not want him to be under a misapprehension. If he has been following the debate with care, including speeches made on several occasions and other statements by the Government, he will understand that the situation is straightforward and well understood, certainly by most of my hon. Friends. He is in danger of making myths.
I do not think so. I cannot say whether the Prime Minister was not in command of his brief or whether the policy has been changed and made on the hoof, as has happened so often in this tawdry saga. If the Prime Minister made an honest mistake, as the Secretary of State suggests, let him come here and tell us. The House of Commons deserves no less.
The point matters because of the dynamic of the sequence of events. The Government propose to publish some proposals in a White Paper that may—or may not, we do not know—deal with the great unanswered questions that the hon. Member for Linlithgow and others have raised, including the West Lothian question, and others about scrutiny of the spending of money raised by this House but disbursed by the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament. How will that money be controlled and what will happen to the funding formula? Those are substantial and important matters, and they must be resolved. Will they be dealt with satisfactorily in the White Paper? I do not think so.
Those matters must be set forth in a draft Bill so that the people of Scotland and Wales can make a mature and considered judgment about whether they like the look of the creature that is offered to them. If they do not, as I suspect they may not, that should be tested fully. Otherwise, to use the phrase of the hon. Member for Linlithgow, the people will be offered a pig in a poke. It may be accepted because the details will be unclear, but the questions will remain unanswered.
If the proposals are accepted, the Government will claim that they have a mandate. They will claim that they have not only the endorsement of their fabled manifesto in the general election, but the endorsement given by the referendum. They will say that they do not need to bother with any more tiresome business in the House of Commons and they will just bang the proposals through. If the Secretary of State for Scotland thinks that that is scaremongering, he should remember what the Prime Minister said on the issue, in his first debate as Prime Minister, in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire:
There will be ample time for debate"—
on the substantive devolution Bill—
but I have to say to the hon. Gentleman and other Opposition Members that if the firmly established will of the Scottish and Welsh people is demonstrated in the referendums, the people will not expect us to be game-playing here—they will expect us to legislate."—[Official Report, 14 May 1997; Vol. 294, c. 67.]
That is a chilling indication of what is to come. The Government will bang through this wretched Bill without proper debate, seek a popular mandate in the referendums, then come back here and say, "Tough luck House of Commons, we have got our mandate. You can go hang." That will not do.
I said at the outset that I first entered the House as part of a landslide victory. I remember the feeling that that induced. We had a majority—not quite on the grandiose scale of the Government's, but not far off—but we did not believe that a big election victory translated into the Government owning the House of Commons. Indeed, rather than blasting through measures that reduced the House of Commons' power, one of the first things we did after winning in 1979, was to enhance it and make life more difficult for the Executive. We introduced Select Committees, which have been an adornment to the House—not always convenient to those of us who have been Ministers, and often a nuisance—and have enhanced its ability to hold Ministers to account.
The Government are only a month old, yet a pattern is developing—a pattern of thinking that they can take the House of Commons for granted, feeling that, because they have most of the seats in the House, they own it. Well, they do not. This House has been here for much longer than this Parliament or this Government and it will be here for a long time afterwards. Its powers may be reduced as a result of this legislation and what the Prime Minister decides to hand over in Amsterdam in a few weeks' time, but it will continue to take seriously its historic task of holding the Government to account.
I hope that the Government will at least do the House the courtesy of answering some of the questions that have been asked. Will the devolution Bill—if we get to that stage—be debated on the Floor of the House in Committee? Unquestionably, it is a major constitutional measure, yet all we have heard so far has been waffle and prevarication: "Well, it will all have to be looked at; it is all very difficult. Who can tell?" If it comes about, it will be one of the most important constitutional measures this century. If it is not to be taken step by step, clause by painful clause and amendment by amendment on the Floor of the House, it is difficult to envisage what should be.
The second question to which we need an answer today is: when it is debated on the Floor of the House—I do not believe that even this Government, with their breathtaking arrogance, will refuse to allow that—will a guarantee be given that no more timetable motions will be tabled and that, unlike today, proper time to debate will be provided? If, at the end of this debate, Ministers fail to answer those questions, they will have damaged their reputation even more.
The point made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), the shadow Home Secretary, at the outset of the debate is worth repeating. He quoted from "Erskine May". Describing guillotine motions, it says:
They may be regarded as the extreme limit to which procedure goes in affirming the rights of the majority at the expense of the minorities of the House, and it cannot be denied that they are capable of being used in such a way as to upset the balance, generally so carefully preserved, between the claims of business and the rights of debate.
The guillotine is not lightly used and not applied without reason. The usual reason is to counter delaying tactics, actual or threatened, amounting in the Government's view to obstruction.
If I have to take responsibility at all as an Opposition Back Bencher, I must accept the general rebuke of the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell)—it is not worth pretending otherwise. Some silly amendments have been tabled in the sense that they would not lead to much light being thrown on the Bill.
I do not want to confuse the right hon. Gentleman; he is not a man of great thought. Nor do I want to delay the debate.
As the Secretary of State for Scotland admitted, on occasion, Opposition Back Benchers table amendments which they know are unlikely to draw favour from the Chairman of Ways and Means. The important point, however, is that, among the amendments tabled, plenty of subjects that deserve sensible debate are raised. As a consequence of the timetable motion, a raft of those important issues will not be debated. They include the publication and form of the Government's proposals, procedures for the conduct of the referendums, the name and tax-raising powers of any Welsh Assembly, the financing and organisation of the referendum campaign and, perhaps most important, the required majorities—the threshold question. None of those is to be debated. Whether the Government like it or not, those issues are entitled to be debated, yet by virtue of the timetable motion, they are unable to be debated, let alone voted on.
The Secretary of State for Scotland, in partly pooh-poohing the subject of precedent—which was interesting for a lawyer—attempted to draw comfort from the proceedings on the Wales Bill and the Scotland Bill in 1977. He said that, under a Labour Government—some precedent that—guillotine motions were moved before the Bills went into Committee. What he failed to say was that the timetable motions permitted, under the Scotland Bill, 17 further days of debate, and, under the Wales Bill, 11 further days of debate—not the two very limited days with which we are presented today.
As an Opposition Member of a party that has been badly defeated, I must accept that the arithmetic of the House means that the timetable motion and the Referendums (Scotland and Wales) Bill will go ramming through and that we will have what I gather is now called an advisory referendum in due course, whatever that may be. That is a fact of life with which I must come to terms. Nonetheless, the Government are seeking to stifle arguments that ought to be deployed and arguments that my constituents want to be deployed.
The attitude to opposition and argument is informed by comments made by those who now sit on the Treasury Bench. It is instructive to read an article that appeared in The Western Mail on 23 April—during the election campaign. The new Secretary of State for Wales was asked about the devolution Bill. After making some rude remarks about the then Lord Chancellor, my right hon. and noble Friend Lord MacKay, pooh-poohing his ability and right to hold views on matters of political interest, the right hon. Gentleman said:
The Labour party will have a very clear mandate, and it's offensive to any democrat to countenance the unelected House of Lords interfering in the democratic process.
It just so happens that, under our constitution, the House of Lords is very much part of our democratic process and constitutional arrangements. How one gets there is another matter and, perhaps, for debate another day. Huge chunks of debates that we may or may not be having over the next few days will lead to the Bill going to another place without many of the issues being considered.
The Secretary of State for Wales went on to say in The Western Mail article:
The process by which the devolution legislation that will be passed through the House of Commons will be a matter for the House of Commons …The next House of Commons will decide its own procedure. The Labour Party has included in its manifesto very precise details of our intention of a referendum. If we have a Labour Party elected on its manifesto, it will have a very clear and precise mandate and, in compliance with the Salisbury convention, the next Labour government will brook no interference from people who speak for no one but themselves and their own vested interests.
The House should notice the language. It is the language of the Lord Protector, the control freak. [Interruption.] Notice how Labour Members smirk and snigger when they are brought to understand. Not everybody agrees with them. Of course the Government have a majority. Let them smile and smirk at it. On behalf of our constituents, we as Opposition Back Benchers are entitled to expect to be listened to with some respect in the House.
Ministers may disagree with us and think that we are out of date and wrong and have nothing to say. They may sit there smirking, as the Secretary of State for Wales is doing; last night, all around him, sat his little friends, the Stepford wives, who have been told not to say anything for fear that they might offend him or the Chief Whip or the Minister without Portfolio—let alone the Excalibur information system that we now have to contend with. Ministers sit there smirking, saying, "We are the masters now." Has not the language become totally Orwellian? Servants now equals masters.
Who else can we turn to for instruction about the way in which the Government now operate? The Secretary of State for Scotland, as Opposition Chief Whip, was on the BBC programme, "Analysis", on 24 April
It does indeed, and it is worth repeating. I know that the right hon. Gentleman does not like it, but I intend to say it several times so that people outside know what sort of Government we have to cope with
The then Opposition Chief Whip said that we would have "adequate scrutiny and debate". If he thinks that this timetable motion leads to adequate scrutiny and debate, when in fact it denies the opportunity to debate a series of most important issues, he has a most interesting idea about the English language. He went on:
We want to talk with other parties about the best way of achieving this".
Did Ministers talk through the usual channels to the Opposition? I do not know about the other parties, but I doubt whether they bothered to listen to the official Opposition.
When pressed on the point, the right hon. Gentleman continued:
if you look at, for example, enormously important constitutional bills recently, the biggest single transfer of sovereignty to the European Union was the Single European Act. That was put through by this Conservative government, and they did it with a timetable motion in double quick time.
Let us examine the facts. There had been three days' debate on one clause of the Single European Act in a Committee of the whole House before the guillotine was introduced. That guillotine debate was not confined to the usual three hours but was given additional time. A good deal more time was allowed following the guillotine motion for debate on that issue.
The Secretary of State said:
I don't want to abuse the House. I certainly don't want to abuse people's right to scrutiny and debate and we will make very sure that this is done adequately and this is done properly.
Is that what he has done on this occasion? Is that what this timetable motion allows for? I do not think so.
I shall finish this quotation and then I shall certainly give way. The Secretary of State said:
If we have a bill that has been endorsed at a General Election and in this case, the double lock of being very very specifically endorsed in a referendum in both Scotland and Wales, then clearly
it would be very silly for a government to say that a minority which is honourably but in our view mistakenly opposed to it, should be allowed to hold it up interminably.
Nobody is suggesting that the Opposition intend to hold up the Bill interminably, but there are some important issues that are being denied debate and a vote. That is why it is not far-fetched to suggest that the language used by the then Opposition, the new Government, is the language of Orwell and the Star Chamber.
The moment has almost passed, but I wanted to ask the hon. and learned Gentleman whether he really thought that an advisory referendum such as we are considering in this debate has any resemblance whatever to the transfer of powers under the Single European Act which the Conservative Government countenanced and indeed forced through with a rather tight guillotine.
The hon. Gentleman sadly misses my point, which is that the way in which the then Opposition Chief Whip and the then shadow Secretary of State for Wales were speaking informed the way in which they have approached this timetable motion. They do not seem to care about what Opposition parties have to say. They do not want a debate; they find it inconvenient. They have 200 Back Benchers who are getting fidgety, and whose time they would prefer to be spent elsewhere, rather than getting cross with their Whips.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude) made a powerful speech and spoke most kindly about his predecessor, who served the House extremely well for many years. During that speech, he quoted my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack) and the Prime Minister's reply. The second part of that reply is yet further evidence that the Government have no idea about the rights of Parliament and the need to debate fully. They sit there smirking and turning round to their hon. Friends, nudging and winking and saying, "We are the servants—which really means the masters—now."
The Prime Minister said:
There will be ample time for debate, but I have to say to the hon. Gentleman and other Opposition Members that if the firmly established will of the Scottish and Welsh people is demonstrated in referendums, the people will not expect us to be game-playing here—they will expect us to legislate."—[Official Report, 14 May 1997; Vol. 294, c. 67.]
Quite frankly, he is saying, "Stuff Parliament; what we say goes, and we will ram it home." It is a case not only of game-playing but of the Prime Minister and the Government taking the whole deck of cards off the table and sweeping the stake money away with it.
I do not believe that the House has ever seen a more disreputable motion. Regardless of whether one agrees with the Bill, after today's and last night's performances, the Government should be ashamed of themselves.
I listened with great care and interest to the Secretary of State for Scotland. Before any comments are made, a la Leader of the House last night, let me say that I sat through one and a half days trying and failing to get into the debate on Second Reading, so I feel it fully legitimate that I should speak on the motion.
Normally, one enjoys crossing swords with the Secretary of State for Scotland, as Conservative Members in particular have great respect for his skills and intellect and, not least, for his sincerity. Knowing that he was previously Opposition Chief Whip, I do not want to ruin any prospects of promotion, so I shall say that his sincerity is a deep-rooted veneer. I suspect that that will help him more than anything else.
Last week, the Secretary of State said that the measure was "of great importance". The fact that it is being debated on the Floor of the House shows that it is a constitutional measure. We can debate all day about whether it is a constitutional measure of the first importance; but the fact remains that it is a constitutional measure.
I urge the Government to think carefully about that, because the reason for so many amendments being tabled is the obscurity of what will follow. What follows is an open book: we have no idea what the detail of the devolution legislation will entail.
What we are being asked to enact is not a simple advisory measure, as we are told. The Secretary of State for Scotland made great play of the advisory point, saying that we would merely be asking the people for their opinion. What we are in fact asking the people in Scotland and Wales for is a blank cheque; we are asking them to say that the Government may do anything that they wish and that they have their approval.
Such a device has been used many times. It is alien to this country, but in other places, where people want absolute authority, it is used as a rubber stamp for what they may do subsequently. It is alien to the House and the country simply because we have always relied on the scrutiny of Parliament to get into the details.
I make no bones about this, because, although I have heard many comments from my hon. Friends about what should or should not happen on guillotines, I sat on the Government Benches throughout the Maastricht debates, believing quite legitimately that that legislation was wrong, and went through the line-by-line detail many times; I attended all the debates, which is something that many Labour Members did not do.
One or two of the minority parties may recall that, when we got into the detail of the Maastricht treaty, we found how deeply flawed the legislation before us was. Had we guillotined that legislation—as, sadly, I accept was done with the Single European Act—and forced it through the House, many of the things that we warned about would not have been spotted and could not have been rectified. Indeed, many cannot be rectified. None the less, they were spotted. I warned about the social chapter opt-out and was told, "You don't know what you are talking about. We will deal with it. It works." It did not work. The 48-hour working week was brought straight in.
I said all that at the time—but as a new Back Bencher, I would never have managed to speak if there had been a guillotine. I sat for hours waiting to contribute to many of those debates, and on clause after clause I failed to do so. Had there been a guillotine, I would never have made it.
The House is about the awkward squad, because it is the awkward squad that goes into the detail of legislation. I have heard Members from the minority parties talk about how good it is to timetable legislation. I am amazed and horrified by the idea that they, of all people, think that we should let any Government—it does not matter of which party; I opposed my own Government on detailed constitutional legislation—have their way on such a matter without debate.
The reason why so many amendments were tabled to the Bill is that we know not what will follow. The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) has made that point many times. For example, among the amendments that I have tabled is No. 142, which would add to the back of the Bill a little device allowing the Scottish and Welsh people to say whether they thought that there should be a second referendum after the detailed devolution legislation had been enacted.
My amendment has not even been selected, so it will not be debated, and such a device is unlikely to be used. Yet surely only when the detailed legislation has been passed by the House can we go to the people and say to them, "Is this what you said you wanted? Because it does not work—or at least, some of us think that it does not—and here are the reasons why." That must be the right device. The reason why there was so much outrage—it was not synthetic outrage—about what happened last night was because, behind closed doors there was a debate in Cabinet. [Interruption.] Oh yes, we know that there was a debate, and we probably know that the Leader of the House said, "This is not the way to go."
However, the others must have replied, "Don't worry. We have a big majority and we can do anything we like. The House of Commons doesn't matter. What the heck does it matter? We can shut it up any time we like. Let's do it now, before that lot are organised, before they can get themselves sorted out. Ram it through, no problems. When it comes to the vote, they won't know what they are voting on, and will probably say, 'Yes, yes, let them have it. We don't have to worry about the devolution debate. Don't worry, just pass it. Then, we can say that the devolution legislation doesn't have to be taken on the Floor of the House, because the people have said, basically, that they want it. Furthermore, for that same reason—because the people have said that they want it—the legislation should go through at great speed." That would be the beginning of a serious abuse of authority, which I predict will happen as a result of the measures that we shall pass in the next few weeks.
There are many unanswered questions about thresholds, and about the disfranchisement of people such as my parents. Until five years ago, they lived in Scotland, and they voted in the previous devolution referendum. For reasons of ill health, they had to move to another part of England, but their hearts still lie in that country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Another part of England?"] Yes, they moved to another part of England.
No, I did not refer to that. I said that my parents moved to another part of England, having previously at one stage also been there. The hon. Gentleman must be careful about how he interprets words.
The reality is that those who have their hearts in a particular country, and have a view and a reason to vote, will have no say. We can argue not one jot on that, or on the levels that will be taken during the course of the devolution debate.
We are seeing an arrogance, not because what is being done has not been done before, but because of the way in which the Government are driving the legislation through Parliament. I say to the Back Benchers who sit on the Government side, silent as the grave, nodding quietly in acquiescence with their Government, that in due course they will find that their Government will act against their interests.
Every day that those Back Benchers watch their Government wind this place up, they watch them wind away their chance to debate or to change things on behalf of their constituents. I say good luck to them, but I add, "Don't come back to us and apologise in a year's time."
With all due respect to the hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith), I think that most hon. Members know that the reason why there was no guillotine on the Maastricht legislation was simply that the Government could not carry a guillotine motion on the Floor of the House. It was not because of any principle on their part.
The right hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) said that, when he was in a position to manage such matters, he would never have countenanced such an action. However, when the right hon. Gentleman was chairman of the Conservative party and the Maastricht legislation was running into trouble in the House, there was no guillotine simply because such a motion would not have been carried.
Once we remove the whiff of humbug that the Secretary of State for Scotland described earlier—large lumps of House of Commons humbug would be a better description—the truth is that if Members of Parliament are in favour of particular legislation they support guillotines, but if they are against the legislation, they are fiercely against the guillotine.
I make an honourable exception for the Liberal party, because I understand that although, it is against the legislation—if I interpret Liberal Members' statements correctly they intend to vote against the referendum legislation—they are still sympathetic to the guillotine.
In 10 years in the House, I have voted for only one guillotine motion, so I suspect that I have voted for fewer guillotines than almost any other Member now in opposition. My experience is that people's support or otherwise for guillotines is basically determined by their support or otherwise for the legislation concerned.
The humbug arises because of the identity of the Members making the charges of arrogance and insensitivity. The Government have been guilty of arrogance in their short period in office; there is no doubt about that. However, the charge comes from the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), who, during his time as Home Secretary, was not noted for his humility in his approach to a whole variety of public business.
There are some colourful characters in my constituency who occupy the sheriff courts day in and day out, but I do not know any one of them who has had as many court judgments against him as the right hon. and learned Gentleman did during his term of office as Home Secretary. For such a charge to come from the Conservative Front Bench takes some stomaching for the rest of us, who over the past few years have been subjected to guillotine after guillotine by those self same people.
I think that the Government should have waited until the debate had started. They should have let the filibuster become clear before they introduced the guillotine. The guillotine motion should have been looser, too. They have over-restricted debate, especially at the end of the debates on some of the amendments.
However, in response to the sort of amendments that have been tabled over the past 10 days, let me say that, basically, I support the timetabling of the Bill. Some of the amendments have been called frivolous. They are more than frivolous, they are insulting. Do Conservative Members not realise that it is insulting to the people of Scotland and Wales to table St. Andrew's day amendments and daylight hours amendments?
No, but they were tabled by the hon. Gentleman's colleagues. Surely the nature of those amendments tells us something about the nature of many Conservative Back Benchers' approach to the legislation.
Serious issues arise on the Bill, such as whether it is needed at all. In my view, it is at best an unnecessary delay, and at worst a dangerous gamble. Another serious issue is the number of questions that should be asked. The Liberal Democrats' amendment, which we may debate later, is perfectly valid.
In Scotland and in Wales, the idea of a multi-option referendum is a big issue, and there is massive support for one, with a majority in every party supporting the concept. I noted that one of the contenders for the Conservative leadership is also on the record as supporting a multi-option referendum. He is in opposition now, of course. The present Secretary of State for Scotland, too, supported such a referendum when he was in opposition, but the concept seems to grow somewhat distant when people are in government.
Those issues will be debated and voted on. I do not think that sufficient time has been allowed, but none the less, they will be debated and voted upon.
The shadow Home Secretary chose to highlight as one of his major objections the issue of thresholds. He told the House that that was a key issue, and therefore the guillotine motion was not appropriate. Rightly, in view of the likely timetable, he said that that issue would not force a debate or a vote.
At an earlier stage in our proceedings, I challenged the right hon. and learned Gentleman on that precise question, and asked him whether the Conservative Front-Bench spokesmen would table blocking devices, involving 40 per cent. rules—or even 50 per cent. rules, which another of the contenders for the Tory crown has been talking about recently.
The shadow Home Secretary replied:
The hon. Gentleman will have to restrain himself. In due course, he will see exactly what amendments the Opposition table".—[Official Report, 21 May 1997; Vol. 294, c. 735.]
As the Liberal Democrats have pointed out, as of yesterday, Opposition Front-Bench, as opposed to the Back-Bench, Members had tabled no amendments whatsoever on the matter. From Tory Back Benchers we have had 33, 40 and even 50 per cent. rules, but, until the amendments tabled yesterday and the starred amendments that appear on the Order Paper today, we had had nothing from Opposition Front Benchers. Even when new clauses 23, 24 and 25 were tabled yesterday, they were not about 40 or 50 per cent. rules but referred to the percentage of people voting—the turn-out in the referendum. I am glad that those amendments are not going to be treated seriously by the House. The reintroduction of that concept into politics disfigures democratic debate.
The Minister for Education and Industry, Scottish Office is sitting on the Government Front Bench. He will remember from the previous referendum that the 40 per cent. rule was eventually attacked by both sides in the debate because it disfigured the way in which the debate was conducted. The idea that people could stay at home and influence the result of a democratic ballot was deeply disabling to democracy.
As the hon. Gentleman says, people who died at an inconvenient time would have been counted as against in the 1979 referendum in Scotland. In 1979, I was registered twice, once as a student and once at my home address. Because the registers of postal ballots were not published, I was not able to vote by post in St. Andrews. One of my potential votes was therefore counted against in the 1979 referendum. I legitimately appeared twice on the electoral roll but was entitled to vote only once. All those complexities were introduced by manipulation of the ballot and the 40 per cent. rule.
Internationally, if there had been a 40 per cent. rule in the Maastricht referendum in France, it would never have passed. Greenland would still be in the European Union. Perhaps we can understand now the objectives behind the Tory Back-Bench attempts to secure 33, 40 and 50 per cent. rules. More appropriately for the Conservative party, if we convert the Tory vote in Scotland to a percentage of the total electorate, the figure does not even reach the dizzy heights of 17 per cent.; it is 12.5 per cent.
It does not. Firstly, we got more votes, but, more importantly, I am not arguing from the dizzy heights of a mandate of 12.5 per cent. of the total electorate that there should be a 33, 40 or 50 per cent. stipulation in a referendum Bill. If there had been a 40 per cent. rule in general elections, no UK Government would have been elected since the second world war—and a good thing too, many of my constituents might say.
I appreciate that the hon. Gentleman wants to do everything to assist the break-up of the United Kingdom, which is why he supports the guillotine. I accept that he has views on the amendments, but who is he—who is anyone—to say that we should not even debate new clause 19, which deals with thresholds? I would be prepared to withdraw all my other amendments to get a proper debate on that measure.
If that offer had been communicated to the Government earlier, perhaps we would not be having this debate. I have already said, if the hon. Gentleman was listening, that the guillotine should have been looser and that the debate should have started before the guillotine was introduced. However, no intelligent layman looking at the nature of the amendments could come to a conclusion other than that Conservative Members were involved in a deliberate wrecking mechanism aimed at immersing the Bill in parliamentary procedure for a long time.
The hon. Gentleman underrates his wrecking powers. He was parliamentary private secretary to the previous Secretary of State for Scotland, who argued for such a referendum. It seems strange that those of us who did not want a referendum want the Bill to go through or, at least, not to be bogged down in parliamentary procedure, while he now declares that he is fiercely opposed to the whole process.
Humbug is on display from both Labour and Opposition Members. The House has come to adopt arguments for convenience. Members who favour legislation are, by and large, sympathetic to guillotines. If Members are against a Bill, they invoke all sorts of constitutional arguments as to why the Government should not do something that they would have most certainly have done in government if the position had been reversed. I suggest that we will reach a position where we can make progress for Scotland and Wales, and do so in reasonable time.
The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) made a good attempt at debating new clause 19, which he deplored and said should never have been tabled. A great deal of humbug, to use his term, has been talked about the frivolity of the amendments. It is important to nail this one. No Committee Chairman—the Secretary of State for Scotland can smile as much as he likes—chooses wrecking or frivolous amendments. If he sought to do so, he would be dissuaded by the excellent advice of his Clerks. The fact that there are amendments on the amendment paper that may be described as frivolous is neither here nor there. They have not been selected, so they will not be debated. The argument is totally false.
I have voted against guillotines proposed by my party when in government. I deplore the foreclosure of legitimate debate by whomsoever it is proposed. I remember once saying in a guillotine debate when we were in government that we should never do things that we would not wish to be done to us. That has always been my maxim in this place.
Sensible timetabling is one thing, but a draconian timetable is very different. I have always favoured sensible timetabling of debates. I remember once leaving the Chamber in disgust when an important Bill was being discussed and it was not possible to debate many of its key aspects. That is always deplorable. The Government are doing that to the House, and doing it quite needlessly. They could have entered into an agreement for sensible timetabling through the usual channels. The shadow Leader of the House made that plain in his first comment last night. We would then have had adequate debate on all the Bill's essential aspects.
I lay aside for the moment the question whether the threshold should be debated. Personally, I think that it should be. In any case, no one could deny that, central to the Bill, is the additional question on the ballot paper. I have tabled an amendment on that. The leader of the Scottish National party and I agree about the importance of that, although we come at it from different angles. I am a passionate believer in preserving the integrity of the United Kingdom; he takes a different line. I respect his view, although I profoundly disagree with it. Most profoundly of all, I disagree with the fact that the House will have only an hour and a half, including probably little more than an hour of Back-Bench speeches, to discuss that vital matter. That is to treat the House with disdain approaching contempt.
In a moment. On Second Reading a fortnight ago, I said that I felt that the seeds of our troubles were sown when we got a very large majority in 1983. I quoted with some approbation the remarks of the much-castigated Lord Pym. I told Labour Members that, having understandably indulged in some euphoria, there was a danger that they would allow that euphoria to lapse into arrogance. We are already seeing that.
The House should not be treated with contempt by any Government, and especially by a Government who have many Back-Bench Members who will not, during the course of this Parliament, have any other opportunity to develop or deploy their talents than in the Chamber. Many of them will not be able to aspire to ministerial office; many of them will not become members of Select Committees; many of them will have only one place in which to exercise their talents, and that is the Chamber. That is no bad thing, in a way, because the Chamber should be the cockpit of the nation. It should be the place where we truly, properly and thoroughly discuss issues of great moment.
If, however, the Government are to pursue the course on which they have embarked this afternoon, they are delivering a blow that will lead to a cancerous frustration among their own Back-Bench Members. They are not allowing adequate and proper debate. If we had had four days to consider the Bill rather than two, I would have considered that a reasonable allocation of time. There would then have been a proper opportunity for reasonable debate on all the outstanding issues that are before us.
The Government would have suffered not at all. They would not have lost their legislation. We must be realistic enough to accept that the Government will get their legislation. At least their legislation would have been subject to some proper debate and more real scrutiny if we had been given four days rather than two. Those responsible for that legislation would have had to answer detailed and critical questions arising from the amendments at the Dispatch Box. What is more, there would have been a proper chance to vote on a number of amendments. That is a chance that we are being denied by an extremely ungenerous timetable.
Surely the parallel with the remark made or warning given by Lord Pym about the abuse of power by a party with a huge majority is entirely inappropriate to the Bill that is before us. Indeed, there is no parallel. Lord Pym was warning us about a Government bent on centralising power, who had a very large majority to enable them to do just that. The Bill before us is about decentralising power. The hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways and accuse the Government of being arrogant about giving away some of their powers to the people of Scotland and Wales and subsequently, subject to referendums, to Assemblies and Parliaments in Scotland and Wales.
The hon. Gentleman misses the point completely. I am warning about the arrogance of a Government, bolstered by an enormous majority, who feel that they can act as a juggernaut or steamroller and push everything through this place without adequate debate. It is—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman can sit in his place and shout as much as he likes. He can blow his top as often as he wants.
Whatever the hon. Gentleman may say, these are issues that arouse passion and real differences of opinion in this country. When I say "this country", I mean the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. That is "this country" as far as I am concerned.
I have referred to the honourable difference of opinion that I have with the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan, the leader of the Scottish National party. He passionately wants to see a fully independent Scotland. That is a legitimate aspiration and a reasonable ambition for him to hold. I have always respected the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, as the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) knows. The hon. Lady and I debated against each other during the devolution debates in the 1970s. I respect their position, but I profoundly disagree with it.
The motion before us annoys me because we are not being given an adequate opportunity to debate important issues in the Chamber. We know that the Government will not withdraw their allocation of time motion, but I beg them to be more sensible and sensitive when it comes to the substantive devolution legislation, which will come before us later this year. It is crucial that it is taken properly on the Floor of the House.
It follows from what I have already said that I do not object to a sensible and structured timetabling arrangement, but it must be one that does not prevent or stifle debate. It must provide adequate opportunity for us to test the various issues. To my mind, it is an insult to Parliament that we are not debating that legislation before we have the referendum. I entirely agree with what the very hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) said about the need for a further referendum after we have passed, assuming we do, devolution legislation.
Indeed, that is Michael Forsyth's position. Sadly he is not here to argue it—would that he were.
I am aware that there are other hon. Members who wish to take part in the debate. That being so, I shall conclude my remarks by reiterating what I consider to be the most important point that I have sought to make this afternoon, which is that the Government are treating the House with disdain approaching contempt. If they continue so to do, they will be sowing the seeds of their own destruction.
The Government should remember that on their Benches are serried ranks of new Members. They are glad that they are here and understandably rejoicing in the often unexpected triumphs that brought them to this place. They are men and women who will want to play a proper and structured part in debates on legislation that is put before us. If the Government deny them that opportunity, they will breed a resentment from which they will rightly suffer.
I am glad that I was returned to this place in the recent general election, if only because I have heard for the first time—I knew that it would happen—a Conservative Front Bench spokesman speak against the guillotine. I have lived within these premises for nearly 18 years, and I have watched the Conservative Front Bench turn the guillotine into a constitutional device for destroying debate and the free expression of the people of this country.
We reached the position where we devised even more ways in which we could screw down public debate. We anticipated even Second Readings by insisting on a guillotine before they took place. We guillotined a new constitutional innovation. We guillotined Lords amendments before they had even come before us. That was the effect of our guillotine legislation. To hear my Front-Bench colleagues say that the guillotine is inappropriate cheers me and a wider circle of people who believe in Conservative trust, worthwhile government and honest principle.
As I said that, the then Opposition Members rose, as indignantly as I have heard Opposition Members today, to oppose every measure that came before us, including what became the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and the anticipatory legislation that was introduced before the 1992 general election. Legislation was taken on a shovel. That is what we reduced the House to.
The danger of that approach is that it creates cynicism. By moving from one side of the Chamber to the other, we have the same rubbish thrown back at us. Let us not be in any doubt that the Bill is a major constitutional issue. It is inappropriate to introduce a guillotine because the Bill touches on the most delicate and important of all flowers in this nation of ours—and that is our Union. We have the absurd position of the Scottish National party, which, on the one hand, wants full integration with the union of Europe, but, on the other, wishes to smash the only Union that is of importance to many many of us.
What do I mean by "many many of us"? The 1991 census told us that 680,000 or 690,000 Scots-born people over the age of 18 were living in England. Similarly, about 500,000 Welsh-born people are living in England. Are they to be casually disfranchised? It is difficult to express the passion that brings together nearly 290 years, as it will be this year, of consanguinity and common language
If we hear rage and concern, it is because there is extremely deep concern that in the turning of this particular key and the opening of this door we walk through to something that is of profound importance and will be to the disadvantage of the Union.
As the hon. Gentleman knows, many of us on the opposite side of the Chamber have respected him greatly in these debates. But what rights does he think that the Scots in Aldridge-Brownhills have to participate in the proposed referendum? I should be extremely interested in his answer.
I was trying to explain, and I am sorry that I did not inform the House well enough. I am saying that we, each one of us, as part of a Union have a right to express our view on the nature and shape of that Union.
I wanted to move on to the second proposition. If we are to nationalise parts of the Union and bring back the feeling of Scottishness, Welshness and Englishness, how can we leave out of the equation, in the great affirmation of Scotland, the reason why I, who was born in Scotland, should be denied a vote on the future of the country for which I have sentiment and feeling, and which I believe should be part of an integral United Kingdom?
The hon. Gentleman may remember that a few years ago members of the Politburo in the old Soviet Union believed that referendums such as those in the Baltic states should have been conducted across the whole of the Soviet Union. Did the hon. Gentleman support that view at that time?
I have not often come into contact with the honourable leader of the Scottish National party, but it is absurd if Scotland is reduced to such trivia when dealing with these important matters. I am talking about consanguinity: no one has suggested that the Soviet Union was an area of consanguinity. We have been united by marriage and blood over several centuries.
No, I said no. The hon. Gentleman has spoken. I want to explain why I oppose this measure.
Almost half a million Welsh men and women live in England. Very few hon. Members could not trace a line to some part of the United Kingdom, which gives us a locus in equality on this matter. But that has been cast aside and we shall not even be able to discuss these issues.
I want to refer to the reputations of Governments. There were three guillotine motions during the Attlee Government and another three up to 1971, while in the 1980s under Mrs. Thatcher there were almost 60. Until circumstances reduced him, my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major) instituted the course that was taken by the previous Government, to which I referred in my opening remarks. Such practice slowly changes the nation's mind. People perceive Governments as arrogant or not sensitive enough to the basic political questions of the age. The Labour party is the great beneficiary of that.
The Government should not knock the genuinely expressed anxieties about the future of the Union. The simplicity of some of our amendments may not be to the satisfaction of some hon. Members, and they may have been excluded by the Chairman of Ways and Means, but they are not criticisms of substance; they are anxieties that have been raised. The House should be able to discuss familiar and important matters: that is the purpose of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. We should consider the sensitivities and difficulties of English representatives who are trying to ensure that the referendum consolidates and does not break the Union. Many hon. Members want to preserve the Union. If that is the Government's ambition, I share it.
My fear is that we will not have sufficient time to reflect on people's niggles and anxieties. My mother lived in this country for 50 years. The Scottish nationalists may ask, "What does she know about Scotland?" It is a fact that, because of our language, we are informed about each area of the Union.
I ask the Government to reflect on this small measure, as they put it, because however persuasive the Secretary of State for Scotland may be, we fear that it is perhaps the beginning of the unravelling of what I call the most important Union for everyone in the House. Please listen to what we are saying, and reflect on the fact that the process by which the measure is achieved is important to the standing of the new Government and to the regard in which they are held.
I have listened to the debate, and I am astounded and stunned by the thoughts expressed by Conservative Members. We have had 18 years of Tory rule, and we have fought the general election. I have been in the House for 10 years, and I can safely say that during that time hardly a week or a month went by without the people of Scotland saying, "When will we get rid of the Tories? When will we have a Scottish Parliament of our own? When will our destinies be in our own hands?" The Tories have not learnt that lesson, and they have been wiped out in Scotland.
I have great respect for the hon. Members for AldridgeBrownhills (Mr. Shepherd) and for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack): they are men of integrity and have made many speeches in the House. I do not like the guillotine any more than they do. However, the people of Scotland are sick and tired of waiting. They have been waiting for a devolved Parliament for more than 20 years. They are desperate, and they think that there has been enough talk. They want to see the establishment of that Parliament in Scotland; they want to participate and they want the services that a Scottish Parliament will decide on and deliver. It is not for us to continue the never ending story. If we talk, talk, talk, the people of Scotland will go for another 50 years without a proper Parliament.
I should have liked to debate the issues, but 240 nonsensical, wrecking amendments were tabled. Conservative Members could have tabled 20 amendments and spoken for an hour on each. Hon. Members should remember that this debate is being watched by the people of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. People in other countries are also watching it, and they will not see us fail to deliver what we promised to the people in Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom.
I will let the hon. Gentleman intervene in a minute.
Do hon. Members seriously think that the people of Scotland are half daft, and that we are still living in the days of the Picts and go about painted? We are not. We are educated people, and we can see quite clearly when the Opposition are out to wreck a measure for which the people of Scotland have spoken. There is not one Labour Member who did not put into his election address that he wanted a Scottish Parliament. We did not kid anyone in Scotland: we told them clearly that we want a Scottish Parliament.
We also came up with a referendum. The Labour party argued about whether it was for or against a referendum: yes, yes, no, yes, no. The Tories had a meeting in Scotland in a big tent. They had a pow-wow in a wigwam, but they could not smoke the peace pipe because they had broken it. They do not have a clue. They still do not understand that in a democracy we must listen to the people. The people of Scotland have put their cross on the ballot paper: they want a Labour Government and they want the House to deliver a Scottish Parliament.
Surely the point is that the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends stood in the general election on their belief in devolution. Does he not agree that the problem is that we are putting the cart before the horse? If the Government put the devolution argument and then asked the people of Scotland to decide, we would not have this problem. The question could be put through the House quickly and then the people of Scotland could be asked. Why not have it that way?
The hon. Gentleman would make a fortune in the Glasgow Playhouse. That was comedy at its worst. The people of Scotland have said clearly that they want a Parliament. If the hon. Gentleman wants to intervene again, I will be happy to listen to him.
My point is that the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends stood on a platform of devolution and a Scottish Parliament. Why do the Government not debate the devolution legislation on the Floor of the House? With their majority, it would no doubt be passed. They could then ask the people of Scotland whether that is what they want.
How long has the hon. Gentleman been in the House? I have been here 10 years. The Tory Government never listened to us. We asked them to come up with a devolved Parliament and an Assembly: we pleaded with them, and we tried to do deals to ensure that it would happen. So did the Scottish National party, which has wanted their question on independence. I would not deny them. When the Tories had the opportunity, they did nothing for the people of Scotland.
The people of Scotland have done the business, so the House should also do the business. We have binned the Tories, and the only way back for them is to start listening to the people of Scotland and to take steps to come into line and ensure that we have a meaningful Scottish Parliament.
I am sitting here listening tonight, but Conservative Members do not listen to the message that is coming from Tories in Scotland. They are dumb, and when they are dumb they cannot think. Certainly, they are not speaking on behalf of Scottish Tories. They have given that up. The hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills has integrity; if we do not have such integrity in Scotland, the United Kingdom will be split asunder. The Tories should not run away from the argument. They should say that, if the people of Scotland want a Parliament, we should all work together to deliver the goods.
May I make a simple point? We are expressing outrage about a guillotine motion. I think that we all want to engage in the subsequent development of the argument; it is the guillotine on discussion that we oppose. I accept the hon. Gentleman's point that there may be a settled will in Scotland.
I understand where the hon. Gentleman is coming from and I understand where some other Opposition Members are coming from, but I know that the rest, deep down, want a mechanism to stop the process in its tracks because their view about Scottish devolution is so deeply entrenched. I have read some of the nonsense that has come from those who used to be Ministers.
I could be here all night, but I shall not be. I believe that the people of Scotland want devolution now, and I believe that the guillotine motion is appropriate. There has been enough talking. We want a Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, serving the needs of the people of Scotland. It is time that the Tory party realised that; otherwise, it will never again play a part in global politics in Scotland.
I regret the terms of the motion, but I deplore even more the arguments that have been assembled in favour of it.
First, we were told that this was somehow not a constitutional Bill. My right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude) blew that argument right out of the water. The Prime Minister thought that this was a constitutional Bill. Replying to me earlier, the Secretary of State described it as a small technical measure; yet on Second Reading his own Minister of State said that these were "not technical measures", and that after the referendum the Government would act in accordance with the results. I urge Government Front Benchers, if they want to retain any credibility in the matter, to say once and for all today whether or not this is a constitutional measure.
Secondly, the Government tried to justify the guillotine motion in a way in which I have never heard any timetable motion justified, speaking of the need to eliminate amendments that were either frivolous or esoteric. My amendment No. 121, which will be eliminated by the timetable motion, proposes arrangements for service men serving overseas to vote in the referendum. The amendment is not phrased in my own words, but precisely reflects the wording of an amendment making special arrangements for service men that the then Labour Government tabled to the last referendum Bill back in 1975. There are many Scottish service men serving in Scottish regiments overseas who will not be able to vote in the referendum because my amendment will now not even be debated, let alone voted on.
The suggestion that the timetable motion is needed to eliminate amendments that are frivolous or esoteric goes further: it usurps the function of the Chairman of Ways and Means and the Clerks who advise him. The whole point of selecting amendments is that those that they regard as frivolous are not selected for debate. Furthermore, the timetable motion itself is unnecessary, because of the selection that the Chairman has made. Because of the way in which he has grouped amendments—in large groups, by large subjects—it would have been perfectly possible for the Government to secure their business by, if necessary, moving closure motions after two or three hours of debate on each group.
Finally, the Government have argued that there is a need for speed, not because of some legislative log jam, not because this is the last Session of a Parliament, not because of any special legislative requirements in terms of Scottish legislation—oh no. In the heat of the moment, the Leader of the House gave the game away last night, justifying the need for speed in the following terms:
If we did not take steps to ensure that there was a referendum in Scotland and one in Wales in the autumn we would be breaking a manifesto commitment."—[Official Report, 2 June 1997; Vol. 295, c. 132.]
That is the start of a slide towards an elective dictatorship, putting the doctrine of the mandate ahead of the authority of the House. We should reject the motion today, and we should reject even more firmly the arguments advanced to sustain it.
I follow what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Fallon) by asking, why the rush? When we wonder why the Government will not answer that question, we need to consider what is the source of the referendum in the first place. All those Members on the Government side now arguing in favour of a referendum originally never had the idea of a referendum in their heads. The referendum policy was thought up to serve as a sticking plaster to cover the splits in the Labour party over devolution, which were emerging when it was still in opposition.
What we want now is a referendum—that is the Opposition's policy, if these proposals are to be put to the Scottish people—but after the legislation has been passed. We want a referendum that will really establish what is the settled will of the Scottish people. The Government want this rush because the last thing that they want the Scottish people to do is seriously to consider the content and meaning of the referendum proposals. Let me tell the hon. Member for West Renfrewshire (Mr. Graham) that that is what happened last time: they thought about it. The hon. Gentleman was elected on a mandate for a referendum, not a mandate for a Scottish Parliament. Whatever he personally may believe, there is no mandate for a Scottish Parliament—only a mandate for a referendum.
The referendum should consider all the issues, and all the details of the legislation. It should not be a referendum on a general question that will be thrown at the Scottish people while the Government are still enjoying their honeymoon, and what the Under-Secretary of State for Wales, the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain), described as a loyalty vote in the new Labour Government.
I agree entirely with what my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack) said earlier. Frustration will be stored up among Labour Members who really want to speak out on the issue. I remember the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment, the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Dr. Howells), describing the programme for devolution as the Balkanisation of Britain. It is no surprise that the Scottish nationalists are supporting the proposal: they know that a headlong rush to settle the question as quickly as possible, before people have proper time to consider it, is the best way to separate Scotland from the rest of the United Kingdom. That is why we are so angry about the way in which the guillotine motion has been tabled. We need to debate the issues seriously, and to debate all the issues that arise in the amendments.
I think that the hon. Gentleman has been in the House long enough to know the nature of the probing amendment. Moreover, he well knows that the process of submitting amendments can be something of a lottery, because hon. Members never know which will be selected. We tabled many respectable amendments and some of them have been selected for debate. The hon. Gentleman does not dare to discuss them because he knows that the longer the Scottish people have to think about the proposals, the less enamoured of them they will be. He is involved in stifling the debate and he hopes to rush the measure through without proper thought because that is the only basis on which the referendum was acceptable to him.
The decision to have a referendum was taken not in Edinburgh or Glasgow but by the Islington branch of the new Labour party, much to the consternation of many Labour Members. It is about the management of the Labour party. The new Labour Government are desperately trying to contain their massive majority before their Back Benchers become restless and unhelpful. The Government know that the devolution measures could turn out to be their Maastricht if they allow them the consideration that they deserve.
No doubt the hon. Gentleman's remarks are highly coloured by his probing adventure into Scottish politics. He will recall the number of votes that he received on that occasion. He talks about respectable amendments. Is the amendment calling for the referendum to be held on a Sunday respectable?
It is certainly reasonable to discuss the day on which a referendum might be held. I am surprised that the hon. Lady should remember my modest foray into Scottish politics. I am glad that I left such a good impression.
The debate was graced by the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Conwy (Mrs. Williams), who spoke well of he fascinating constituency. I came to know it quite well and I share her admiration for it. She said that she would have been more comfortable speaking in the language of heaven, which is her native tongue. She spoke well in her second language and we all welcome her to the House. The hon. Lady's speech was a good advertisement for Parliament, and it was a relief to hear such a speech from a Labour Member.
The House heard the first speech following his return to the House of my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude). We welcome him back. He reminded us that hon. Members have roles and rights and that the House has rights. He said that democracy involves not only the majority having its way, but the minority having its say. He told the House that Ministers have said that constitutional issues would get maximum debate and that there would be maximum participation. There has been no sign of the Government honouring that commitment.
Another colleague who has returned to the House, my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Fallon), said that his amendment was about the voting rights of service men. He dispelled the excuse for the guillotine that has been peddled by the Government, that the amendments are frivolous trivia. That argument is indefensible in the light of my hon. Friend's speech.
The Secretary of State for Scotland was reduced to saying that the Bill will not alter the constitution, but will simply try to pave the way for doing that. Is not the way in which we conduct referendums part of our constitution? Are the rules, procedures and arrangements for them not an important part of our constitutional arrangements? Precedents from 1977 and 1978 were quoted. Do not they remind us that every referendum shapes our unwritten constitution? Labour Members propose endless referendums without any thought for their consequences on the constitution. The holding of a referendum in advance of legislation is in itself a regrettable change in constitutional practice.
The Secretary of State for Scotland said that the Bill was a modest measure which could easily be guillotined. I think that it was my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith) who reminded us that two weeks ago the right hon. Gentleman said that the measure was of great importance. Now it has become modest, and we are told that we need not worry too much about debate on it being curtailed. If the measure is so modest, why will the Committee stage be taken in the Chamber? The Government cannot have it both ways, but the right hon. Gentleman spoke about a modest measure as if the Government were asking for permission to hold an opinion poll. He said that it was modest because it was short, but not everything that is short is modest, otherwise there would be much more modesty in the Chamber.
The Bill raises fundamental questions about our constitution and about the use of referendums. It also raises important questions about whether people should be presented with proposals that have not been subjected to detailed scrutiny; about what happens when Parliament is told that such scrutiny is unnecessary because a referendum has been carried; about who should vote in referendums; and about whether the question in a referendum should be specific or the kind of vague generality that the Government want to put to the people.
No, because I shall come to the hon. Gentleman in a moment.
The Bill raises important questions about whether there should be agreed procedures for the conduct and financing of referendums. However, there are to be short debates or no debates at all on all those issues.
In opening the debate for the Opposition, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) said that the first duty of Parliament was to debate legislation. He reminded us that when Michael Foot guillotined devolution Bills in the 1970s, he did it after 30 days of debate. His complaint was that hon. Members had already spoken too much. One of the complaints of Labour Members now is that not enough Opposition Members have spoken in the debates so far on these matters.
There is no precedent that Labour Members would like to look at in detail for the action that they propose. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe showed that the guillotine is not simply about limiting debate, but about denying it. The effect of the motion will be that the referendum procedures, the possibility of asking the people of Wales about tax-raising powers, the financing of the campaigns and the issue of a majority threshold cannot be debated. Are those trivial and esoteric questions which can easily be cast aside? Are they not worthy of being debated for at least an hour or of a single comment by the Government? Do they not deserve cursory examination by the mother of Parliaments?
The hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) raised the Gary McAllister question. I suspect that that will join the West Lothian and Bury North questions and become part of our political language. The hon. Gentleman asked questions that Ministers have not answered and propose to skate over.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) took issue with the assertion that the merits of a guillotine could be determined by the number of hon. Members who were present on Second Reading. At the end of Second Reading there were still some hon. Members waiting to take part, and among them was my hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green. He reminded us that if the Government were truly intent on modernising our procedures, they would do it with the interests of hon. Members in mind rather than solely the interests of the Government. He said that it is the duty of the Leader of the House to stand up for its rights and to strike a balance between the Government's wish to get its business through and the need for Parliament to give that business proper scrutiny.
The behaviour of the Leader of the House on this matter has been a disgrace. After she had made her statement yesterday evening, she scuttled out of the House while points of order about it were still being raised. She has not managed to scuttle back in to hear the winding-up speeches. Within a month of taking on her responsibilities, she has been bullied into surrendering rights of the House by the Secretaries of State for Scotland and for Wales. I have never seen the Secretary of State for Scotland as a bully and I am disappointed in him. However, we all know that the Secretary of State for Wales is a bully and the right hon. Lady should have seen him coming. She should have known that she would have to resist such attacks when she took on her responsibilities.
If the Leader of the House believes in a timetable, why was one not offered to the Opposition? If she desires the orderly passage of business with adequate debate, why did she not discuss the terms of the timetable with the Opposition? The excuses that the right hon. Lady gave last night were pathetic. She said:
It is a simple, straightforward Bill with only six clauses.
If it is so simple and straightforward, how come Ministers have not yet managed to answer most of the simple, straightforward questions about it? [Interruption.] Here she is; now she can deal with some of these herself. She said about the Bill:
The Government also have a clear mandate for it."—[Official Report, 2 June 1997; Vol. 295, c. 123.]
However, what she forgot and what she is paid to remember is that hon. Members all have a mandate to scrutinise legislation and to ensure that it receives proper debate. Does she not realise that the confidence of the House in a Minister, above all the Leader of the House, is not automatic but has to be earned? She has done nothing to earn it in the way in which she has abdicated her responsibilities in this matter.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier) pointed to some of the dangerous language used by Ministers on this subject: the Secretary of State for Wales had said that he would brook no interference in dealing with these matters; and the Prime Minister had said that it would be game playing not to legislate with all possible speed on the matter. The language that the Government have used is deeply unappealing to people who believe in open debate.
My hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack) reminded us that sensible timetabling is one thing, but draconian timetabling is another. My hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills(Mr. Shepherd) spoke powerfully of the inappropriateness of guillotining a Bill that may have lasting consequences for the Union of the United Kingdom. My hon. Friend the Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) reminded us that the only reason why the Government are in a rush to hold referendums and to secure the Bill is that they fear the consequences of sustained debate about the detailed proposals that they have yet to produce for the benefit of this Parliament and of the people of this country.
What that adds up to is a growing streak of arrogance in the Government's behaviour. What seemed like carelessness in the first few days they were in office has turned into a habit of overweening arrogance. We saw it with the decision about the Bank of England, which was made without even consulting the Cabinet, in the changes to Prime Minister's Question Time to try to turn it into a weekly yawn, in the changes to questions to other Departments, as was raised at points of order earlier today, and in the huge increase in political and personal appointments by Ministers. Now we see it in the cavalier use of the power to guillotine. It adds up to the arrogant abuse of power. The Government may enjoy it for the moment, but they will certainly regret it in the end.
That arrogance is all the more disturbing when accompanied by Ministers being unable or unwilling to answer clear questions about the implications of the legislation that they have brought to the House. How many of the questions that we asked on Second Reading are still unanswered? A great many. How many will still be unanswered when we finish these curtailed debates in Committee? A great many. The Government have not begun to answer the questions about how devolved systems of government would work. They cannot even answer satisfactorily how the voters in a referendum can assess their answers.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham reminded us, the Prime Minister said that the Bill would be published for people to examine before the referendums were held. Now it has been turned into the White Paper. Are we not to believe what the Prime Minister says in the House? The Government are not able to say how extensive, informative or conclusive that information will be. They are not able to answer the most basic and fundamental questions about their proposal.
We believe that it is right to hold referendums on these proposals, but we believe that the Bill entails holding referendums at the wrong time and in the wrong way, and that it asks voters to approve proposals that are unclear or may be changed afterwards, with the House of Commons being told that it must pass the measure without a fuss because a referendum has approved it.
The use of a referendum to gain a general mandate rather than approval for specific proposals is the use of a referendum as an anti-parliamentary device. Our protest is that the Government are coupling the misuse of one constitutional innovation with the abuse of another. They are bringing about one procedure unsuited to parliamentary democracy by employing another. No wonder so few Government Back Benchers have had either the courage to oppose nor the confidence to voice support for the measure. In the end, they will be the losers, but it is a pity for all concerned that the functioning of the House is the loser in the meantime.
Despite the last comments of the shadow Secretary of State for Wales, I am sure that there is a general understanding in the House that the Government are proceeding in the correct way. [Interruption.] I think that there is. I thank the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) for the support that the Liberal Democrats have given to the Government on this matter, and the Scottish National party for its somewhat qualified support for the proposition. I also know that the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley), who represents Plaid Cymru, is well disposed to the motion.
It is a sad reflection on the state of the Conservative party that it has learned nothing in the past month. It was comprehensively defeated at the general election a month ago and was wiped out in Scotland and Wales. All it is doing is resolutely refusing to recognise that, on the central issue of the way in which Scotland and Wales are governed, it was wrong and is wrong. The Conservative party resolutely clings to the status quo when that status quo is totally discredited.
I remind the shadow Secretary of State of the time when he was Secretary of State for Wales. There are powerful currents running towards democratic government in both Scotland and Wales. The people of Scotland and Wales want to give expression to their national aspirations and to decide their own local priorities in public services. People in Scotland and Wales, and no doubt in the regions of England, wish to find out how best they can develop their own regional economies.
I remind the shadow Secretary of State that there are some Conservatives, certainly some in Wales—the more progressive of them—who do understand the need to modernise our constitution. Let me draw his attention to the remarks of his colleague, the former right hon. Member for Conwy, Sir Wyn Roberts. I take this opportunity to pay my personal tribute to him. He was a witty, dedicated and patriotic Welshman who served his constituency with great distinction. He is the longest-serving Welsh Office Minister we have ever had and, within weeks of leaving that office and leaving government, he recognised that it was time, and that there was a need, to rethink policy on devolution.
That brings me to Sir Wyn's successor, my hon. Friend the Member for Conwy (Mrs. Williams), whom I particularly welcome. She treated us to a marvellous maiden speech. It was passionate and articulate. I know of her love for her new constituency and share her admiration for the beauty of her part of Wales. She spoke eloquently of her native language and our shared culture, and I welcome her determination to democratise our government in Wales. She will be a staunch ally in the referendum campaign that will shortly come.
I agree with the shadow Secretary of State that there need not necessarily have been a guillotine motion before the House this evening. The Bill that is the subject of the guillotine is, of course, a short Bill. It contains six straightforward clauses and two schedules, but, somehow or other, within the space of a few days, that short Bill has attracted 250 amendments, 21 new clauses and 12 new schedules.
Those amendments, new clauses and new schedules were designed not to improve the Bill, but to wreck any chances of an orderly and considered debate. I think that the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland was absolutely right when he accused Opposition Members of overkill. Let me refer the House to new clause 8, which I am sure was not tabled to improve debate. It says:
Nothing in this Act shall derogate from—
I am sorry, but time does not allow.
I must ask the House what the Government are supposed to do under those circumstances. The Government are doing precisely what the shadow Secretary of State for Wales and his party would do were they still in government. The choice is quite simple and there should be no misunderstanding. Either the Government would have had to allow a completely uncontrolled filibuster, which would have implications for not only this piece of legislation but all the Government's legislative programme, or they had to act now to ensure a proper timetable for a rational debate and time for all the key issues to be debated.
No, unfortunately there is not, but we do have a guillotine motion before us.
The Opposition know that their indignation on this matter is entirely synthetic. I shall remind them of the views of Michael Portillo when he was speaking from the Dispatch Box:
It is known in the House that the reality is a choice between many hours in Committee characterised by filibuster and slow progress, and a number of hours in Committee in which we make reasonable progress."— [Official Report, 12 November 1991; Vol. 198, c. 1046.]
The timetable motion will allow the House to have an ordered, rational and sensible debate. It will provide for four key debates. I know that many hon. Members have raised the issue of the franchise. When the timetable motion is accepted, there will be an opportunity for a calm, rational and brief debate on the franchise.
Of course the debate will be brief. The Government accept that the alternative is to allow the Conservative party to reduce the proceedings in the House to a degenerate rabble. That is the Conservative party's intention, but the Government will not allow that to happen.
There will be a further opportunity for a debate on the second Scottish question. I understand the position of many of those in the Scottish Liberal Democrat party and the Scottish National party who do not share the Government's view that there should be a second question dealing with tax-raising powers. When the timetable motion is accepted, there will be an opportunity for that debate, so that hon. Members can put their case and a Division can take place.
If and when—[Interruption.] The issue of thresholds has been raised from a sedentary position. That issue has been raised in various amendments and Madam Speaker has been responsible for the selection. If the debates on the franchise are brief and the House reaches an early conclusion, there will be an opportunity for a further debate on those matters. It is entirely in the hands of Opposition Members. If they wish to use the time available to debate the franchise at length, there will not be time for a debate on thresholds.
I have only a few minutes left and I must finish this point.
The Government's view is clear. We believe that there is no room in the referendum for the artificial introduction of the sort of thresholds that have been mentioned.
The right hon. Gentleman said that there will be plenty of time to debate the franchise and the second Scottish question and that there will also be time to debate lots of other things. He cannot hold both those views simultaneously. The guillotine means that there cannot be a debate on the procedures of the referendum, on the arguments about thresholds or on whether the people of Wales should be asked about tax-raising powers. Does he think that that is right?
The right hon. Gentleman is wrong. The amendment tabled by Plaid Cymru will allow for a referendum with a range of options. It will provide the multi-choice option. If that amendment is successful, that multi-choice option will be put before the people of Wales. It will presumably include the sort of Parliament that they wish to see, with a range of legislative powers and, presumably, with tax-raising powers. It is precisely so that we can move to a rational debate on those issues that the Government have tabled the timetable motion.
The motion will allow four main debates. There will be one on the franchise, one on the second Scottish question, one on the multi-choice option for Wales and one on the multi-choice option for Scotland.
I want to reply to the hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack), which is why I did not give way to him. He suggested that there was a choice and that, had there been an offer from the Opposition's business managers, the Government should have accepted it, to ensure that there was no need for a guillotine. The Government would have co-operated with the Opposition if there had been a reasonable prospect of coming to an agreement. It was made clear by the Conservative party's representatives that no guarantees could be given.
The Government have been quite reasonable in allowing two days on the Floor of the House for a debate in Committee on this brief Bill. If the Opposition are not prepared to guarantee that the business will be concluded within those two days, the Government have no option but to proceed with the motion.
The Government have to accept their responsibility to the House of Commons to ensure an orderly debate. During its time in office from 1979, the Conservative party introduced 61 guillotines. There are many precedents for this pre-Committee stage guillotine. This is the first big test of the Conservative party in opposition and it has failed. It has failed to come to terms with its election defeat and failed to understand the consequences of being wiped out in Scotland and Wales.
The Government are determined to modernise the British constitution, and devolution is part of that process. This timetable motion will ensure that the people of Scotland and Wales are given a chance to have their say in that modernisation process. I commend the motion to the House.
|Division No. 8]||[6.36 pm|
|Abbott, Ms Diane||Casale, Roger|
|Ainger, Nick||Cawsey, Ian|
|Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)||Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)|
|Allan, Richard (Shef'ld Hallam)||Chaytor, David|
|Allen, Graham (Nottingham N)||Chidgey, David|
|Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)||Chisholm, Malcolm|
|Anderson, Janet (Ros'dale)||Church, Ms Judith|
|Armstrong, Ms Hilary||Clapham, Michael|
|Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy||Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)|
|Ashton, Joe||Clark, Dr Lynda|
|Atherton, Ms Candy||(Edinburgh Pentlands)|
|Atkins, Ms Charlotte||Clark, Paul (Gillingham)|
|Austin, John||Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)|
|Baker, Norman||Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)|
|Ballard, Mrs Jackie||Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)|
|Barnes, Harry||Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)|
|Barron, Kevin||Clelland, David|
|Bayley, Hugh||Clwyd, Mrs Ann|
|Beard, Nigel||Coaker, Vernon|
|Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret||Coffey, Ms Ann|
|Begg, Miss Anne (Aberd'n S)||Cohen, Harry|
|Beith, Rt Hon A J||Coleman, Iain|
|Benn, Rt Hon Tony||(Hammersmith & Fulham)|
|Bennett, Andrew F||Colman, Anthony (Putney)|
|Benton, Joe||Connarty, Michael|
|Berry, Roger||Cook, Frank (Stockton N)|
|Best, Harold||Cooper, Ms Yvette|
|Betts, Clive||Corbett, Robin|
|Blackman, Mrs Liz||Corbyn, Jeremy|
|Blears, Ms Hazel||Corston, Ms Jean|
|Blizzard, Robert||Cotter, Brian|
|Blunkett, Rt Hon David||Cousins, Jim|
|Boateng, Paul||Cranston, Ross|
|Borrow, David||Crausby, David|
|Bradley, Keith (Withington)||Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)|
|Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)||Cryer, John (Hornchurch)|
|Bradshaw, Ben||Cummings, John|
|Brake, Thomas||Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)|
|Brand, Dr Peter||Cunningham, Ms Roseanna|
|Brinton, Mrs Helen||Curtis-Thomas, Ms Clare|
|Brown, Rt Hon Nick||Dafis, Cynog|
|(Newcastle E & Wallsend)||Dalyell, Tam|
|Brown, Russell (Dumfries)||Darling, Rt Hon Alistair|
|Browne, Desmond (Kilmarnock)||Darvill, Keith|
|Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)||Davey, Edward (Kingston)|
|Buck, Ms Karen||Davidson, Ian|
|Burden, Richard||Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)|
|Burgon, Colin||Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)|
|Burnett, John||Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)|
|Burstow, Paul||Dawson, Hilton|
|Butler, Christine||Dean, Ms Janet|
|Byers, Stephen||Denham, John|
|Cable, Dr Vincent||Dewar, Rt Hon Donald|
|Caborn, Richard||Dismore, Andrew|
|Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)||Dobbin, Jim|
|Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)||Dobson, Rt Hon Frank|
|Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)||Donohoe, Brian H|
|Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)||Doran, Frank|
|Campbell—Savours, Dale||Dowd, Jim|
|Canavan, Dennis||Drew, David|
|Cann, Jamie||Drown, Ms Julia|
|Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)|
|Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)||Humble, Mrs Joan|
|Eagle, Ms Maria (L'pool Garston)||Hurst, Alan|
|Edwards, Huw||Hutton, John|
|Efford, Clive||Iddon, Brian|
|Ellman, Ms Louise||Illsley, Eric|
|Ennis, Jeff||Ingram, Adam|
|Ewing, Mrs Margaret||Jackson, Mrs Helen (Hillsborough)|
|Fatchett, Derek||Jamieson, David|
|Fearn, Ronnie||Jenkins, Brian (Tamworth)|
|Field, Rt Hon Frank||Johnson, Alan (Hull W)|
|Fisher, Mark||Johnson, Ms Melanie|
|Fitzpatrick, Jim||(Welwyn Hatfield)|
|Fitzsimons, Ms Lorna||Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)|
|Flint, Ms Caroline||Jones, Ms Fiona (Newark)|
|Flynn, Paul||Jones, Helen (Warrington N)|
|Follett, Ms Barbara||Jones, leuan Wyn (Ynys Môn)|
|Foster, Rt Hon Derek||Jones, Ms Jenny|
|Foster, Don (Bath)||(Wolverh'ton SW)|
|Foster, Michael John (Worcester)||Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)|
|Foulkes, George||Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)|
|Galbraith, Sam||Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)|
|Galloway, George||Keeble, Ms Sally|
|Gapes, Mike||Keen, Alan (Feltham)|
|Gardiner, Barry||Keen, Mrs Ann (Brentford)|
|George, Andrew (St Ives)||Keetch, Paul|
|George, Bruce (Walsall S)||Kemp, Fraser|
|Gerrard, Neil||Kennedy, Charles|
|Gibson, Dr Ian||(Ross Skye & Inverness W)|
|Gilroy, Mrs Linda||Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)|
|Godman, Dr Norman A||Khabra, Piara S|
|Godsiff, Roger||Kidney, David|
|Goggins, Paul||Kilfoyle, Peter|
|Golding, Mrs Llin||King, Miss Oona (Bethnal Green)|
|Gordon, Mrs Eileen||Kingham, Tessa|
|Gorrie, Donald||Ladyman, Dr Stephen|
|Graham, Thomas||Lawrence, Ms Jackie|
|Grant, Bernie||Laxton, Bob|
|Griffiths, Ms Jane (Reading E)||Lepper, David|
|Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)||Leslie, Christopher|
|Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)||Levitt, Tom|
|Grocott, Bruce||Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)|
|Grogan, John||Lewis, Terry (Worsley)|
|Gunnell, John||Liddell, Mrs Helen|
|Hain, Peter||Linton, Martin|
|Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)||Livingstone, Ken|
|Hall, Patrick (Bedford)||Livsey, Richard|
|Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)||Uoyd, Tony (Manchester C)|
|Hancock, Mike||Uwyd, Elfyn|
|Hanson, David||Lock, David|
|Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet||Love, Andy|
|Harris, Dr Evan||McAllion, John|
|Harvey, Nick||McAvoy, Thomas|
|Heal, Mrs Sylvia||McCabe, Stephen|
|Healey, John||McCafferty, Ms Chris|
|Heath, David (Somerton)||McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)|
|Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)||McDonagh, Ms Siobhain|
|Hepburn, Stephen||Macdonald, Calum|
|Heppell, John||McDonnell, John|
|Hesford, Stephen||McFall, John|
|Hewitt, Ms Patricia||McGuire, Mrs Anne|
|Hill, Keith||McIsaac, Ms Shona|
|Hinchliffe, David||McKenna, Ms Rosemary|
|Hodge, Ms Margaret||Mackinlay, Andrew|
|Hoey, Kate||McLeish, Henry|
|Home Robertson, John||Maclennan, Robert|
|Hood, Jimmy||McMaster, Gordon|
|Hoon, Geoffrey||McNulty, Tony|
|Hope, Philip||MacShane, Denis|
|Hopkins, Kelvin||Mactaggart, Fiona|
|Howarth, Alan (Newport E)||McWalter, Tony|
|Howells, Dr Kim||McWilliam, John|
|Hoyle, Lindsay||Mahon, Mrs Alice|
|Hughes, Ms Beverley||Mallaber, Ms Judy|
|(Stretford & Urmston)||Mandelson, Peter|
|Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)||Marek, Dr John|
|Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)||Shipley, Ms Debra|
|Marshall, David (Shettteston)||Short, Rt Hon Clare|
|Marshall-Andrews, Robert||Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)|
|Martlew, Eric||Singh, Marsha|
|Maxton, John||Skinner, Dennis|
|Meacher, Rt Hon Michael||Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)|
|Meale, Alan||Smith, Ms Angela (Basildon)|
|Michael, Alun||Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)|
|Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)||Smith, Miss Geraldine|
|Milburn, Alan||(Morecambe & Lunesdale)|
|Miller, Andrew||Smith, Ms Jacqui (Redditch)|
|Mitchell, Austin||Smith, John (Glamorgan)|
|Moffatt, Laura||Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)|
|Moonie, Dr Lewis||Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)|
|Moore, Michael||Snape, Peter|
|Moran, Ms Margaret||Soley, Clive|
|Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)||Southworth, Ms Helen|
|Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)||Spellar, John|
|Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)||Squire, Ms Rachel|
|Moriey, Elliot||Starkey, Dr Phyllis|
|Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)||Steinberg, Gerry|
|Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)||Stevenson, George|
|Mountford, Ms Kali||Stewart, David (Inverness E)|
|Mudie, George||Stewart, Ian (Eccles)|
|Mullin, Chris||Stinchcombe, Paul|
|Murphy, Dennis (Wansbeck)||Stoate, Dr Howard|
|Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)||Stott, Roger|
|Naysmith, Dr Doug||Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin|
|Norris, Dan||Straw, Rt Hon Jack|
|O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)||Stringer, Graham|
|O'Brien, William (Normanton)||Stuart, Mrs Gisela (Edgbaston)|
|Olner, Bill||Stunell, Andrew|
|O'Neill, Martin||Sutcliffe, Gerry|
|Opik, Lembit||Swinney, John|
|Organ, Mrs Diana||Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann|
|Osborne, Mrs Sandra||(Dewsbury)|
|Palmer, Dr Nick||Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)|
|Pendry, Tom||Taylor, David (NW Leics)|
|Perham, Ms Linda||Taylor, Matthew|
|Pickthall, Colin||(Truro & St Austell)|
|Pike, Peter L||Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)|
|Plaskitt, James||Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)|
|Pollard, Kerry||Timms, Stephen|
|Pond, Chris||Tipping, Paddy|
|Pound, Stephen||Todd, Mark|
|Powell, Sir Raymond||Tonge, Dr Jenny|
|Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)||Touhig, Don|
|Primarolo, Dawn||Truswell, Paul|
|Prosser, Gwyn||Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)|
|Purchase, Ken||Turner, Desmond (Kemptown)|
|Quin, Ms Joyce||Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)|
|Quinn, Lawrie||Twigg, Derek (Halton)|
|Radice, Giles||Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)|
|Rammell, Bill||Tyler, Paul|
|Rapson, Syd||Vaz, Keith|
|Raynsford, Nick||Vis, Dr Rudi|
|Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)||Wallace, James|
|Rogers, Allan||Walley, Ms Joan|
|Rooker, Jeff||Ward, Ms Claire|
|Rooney, Terry||Wareing, Robert N|
|Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)||Watts, David|
|Rowlands, Ted||Webb, Steven|
|Roy, Frank||Welsh, Andrew|
|Ruane, Chris||White, Brian|
|Ruddock, Ms Joan||Wicks, Malcolm|
|Russell, Bob (Colchester)||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)||Williams, Rt Hon Alan|
|Ryan, Ms Joan||(Swansea W)|
|Salmond, Alex||Williams, Dr Alan W|
|Sanders, Adrian||(E Carmarthen)|
|Savidge, Malcolm||Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)|
|Sawford, Phil||Willis, Phil|
|Sedgemore, Brian||Wills, Michael|
|Shaw, Jonathan||Wilson, Brian|
|Sheerman, Barry||Winnick, David|
|Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert||Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)|
|Wood, Mike||Wyatt, Derek|
|Woolas, Phil||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)||Ms Bridget Prentice and Mr. Greg Pope.|
|Wright, Tony (Gt Yarmouth)|
|Amess, David||Howard, Rt Hon Michael|
|Ancram, Rt Hon Michael||Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)|
|Arbuthnot, James||Hunter, Andrew|
|Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)||Jack, Rt Hon Michael|
|Baldry, Tony||Jackson, Robert (Wantage)|
|Bercow, John||Jenkin, Bernard (N Essex)|
|Beresford, Sir Paul||Key, Robert|
|Blunt, Crispin||King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Boswell, Tim||Kirkbride, Miss Julie|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia||Laing, Mrs Eleanor|
|Brady, Graham||Lansley, Andrew|
|Brazier, Julian||Leigh, Edward|
|Browning, Mrs Angela||Letwin, Oliver|
|Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)||Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)|
|Burns, Simon||Lidington, David|
|Butterfill, John||Lilley, Rt Hon Peter|
|Cash, William||Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)|
|Chope, Christopher||Loughton, Tim|
|Clappison, James||Luff, Peter|
|Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington)||Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas|
|Clark, Dr Michael (Rayleigh)||MacGregor, Rt Hon John|
|Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth||McIntosh, Miss Anne|
|Clifton—Brown, Geoffrey||Maclean, Rt Hon David|
|Collins, Tim||McLoughlin, Patrick|
|Colvin, Michael||Madel, Sir David|
|Cormack, Sir Patrick||Major, Rt Hon John|
|Cran, James||Malins, Humfrey|
|Curry, Rt Hon David||Maples, John|
|Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)||Mates, Michael|
|Davies, Quentin||Maude, Rt Hon Francis|
|(Grantham & Stamford)||Mawhinney, Rt Hon Dr Brian|
|Day, Stephen||May, Mrs Theresa|
|Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen||Merchant, Piers|
|Duncan, Alan||Moss, Malcolm|
|Duncan Smith, Iain||Nicholls, Patrick|
|Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Ottaway, Richard|
|Evans, Nigel||Page, Richard|
|Faber, David||Paice, James|
|Fabricant, Michael||Paterson, Owen|
|Fallon, Michael||Pickles, Eric|
|Flight, Howard||Prior, David|
|Forth, Eric||Redwood, Rt Hon John|
|Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman||Robathan, Andrew|
|Fox, Dr Liam||Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)|
|Fraser, Christopher||Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)|
|Gale, Roger||Ross, William (E Lond'y)|
|Garnier, Edward||Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)|
|Gibb, Nick||Ruffley, David|
|Gill, Christopher||St Aubyn, Nick|
|Gillan, Mrs Cheryl||Sayeed, Jonathan|
|Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair||Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian|
|Gorman, Mrs Teresa||Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)|
|Gray, James||Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)|
|Green, Damian||Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)|
|Grieve, Dominic||Soames, Nicholas|
|Gummer, Rt Hon John||Spelman, Mrs Caroline|
|Hague, Rt Hon William||Spicer, Sir Michael|
|Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie||Spring, Richard|
|Hammond, Philip||Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John|
|Hawkins, Nick||Steen, Anthony|
|Hayes, John||Streeter, Gary|
|Heald, Oliver||Swayne, Desmond|
|Heath, Rt Hon Sir Edward||Syms, Robert|
|(Old Bexley & Sidcup)||Tapsell, Sir Peter|
|Heathcoat—Amory, Rt Hon David||Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)|
|Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael||Taylor, John M (Solihull)|
|Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas||Taylor, Sir Teddy|
|Horam, John||Temple—Morris, Peter|
|Thompson, William||Wilkinson, John|
|Tredinnick, David||Willetts, David|
|Trend, Michael||Wilshire, David|
|Tyrie, Andrew||Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)|
|Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)|
|Viggers, Peter||Woodward, Shaun|
|Walter, Robert||Yeo, Tim|
|Wardle, Charles||Young, Rt Hon Sir George|
|Whitney, Sir Raymond||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Whittingdale, John||Mr. Peter Ainsworth and|
|Wddecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann||Mr. Bowen Wells.|
3.—(1) For the purpose of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph 1 or 2, the Chairman or Speaker shall forthwith put the following Questions (but no others)—
the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings at that sitting in accordance with paragraph 1 or 2 shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on that Motion; and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 15 (Exempted business) shall apply to remaining proceedings that day on the Bill then being considered.
(2) If at the sitting this day or tomorrow the House is adjourned, or the sitting is suspended, before the time at which any proceedings are to be brought to a conclusion under paragraph 1 or 2, no notice shall be required of a Motion made at the next sitting by a Minister of the Crown for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.