Standing Committee

Orders of the Day — Homes Bill (Programme) – in the House of Commons at 9:45 pm on 8th January 2001.

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1. The Bill shall be committed to a Standing Committee.

2. Proceedings in the Standing Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on Thursday 1st February 2001.

3. The Standing Committee shall have leave to sit twice on the first day on which it shall meet.—[Mr. Raynsford.]

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Conservative, Eastbourne 10:29 pm, 8th January 2001

I am slightly surprised that the Minister feels unable or unwilling to speak to the programme motion, which could better be described as a guillotine motion. Such motions are becoming a regular and sad fact of parliamentary life.

We are currently presented with a set of demands by the Government as to how long should be devoted to the Committee of a Bill and, under that duress, a timetable is hammered out. However, the Government and the usual channels should be in no doubt that there is nothing that could be construed as freely given consent or agreement in these situations. There is genuine anger, frustration and disappointment on the part of many of my right hon. and hon. Friends, some of whom may wish to vent that anger in this short debate.

The Government are in guillotine land; we have had at least 25 guillotine motions in the past three years. Here we have a particularly egregious example of the Government's attitude to the parliamentary process. On any view, this is an important Bill, for reasons that form common ground across the Chamber. We have had a useful, constructive and, at times, amusing debate on some of the broad themes, as befits a Second Reading debate.

The Bill is important for a variety of reasons. The first part of the Bill concerns the single most important transaction that any family will ever enter into; the purchase and possible subsequent sale of the family home. One of the bizarre things about the programme motion—a use of language that I hate: it is a guillotine—is that it was proposed and imposed long before the Second Reading debate. The Bill was published a little before Christmas and, because of the holidays, there has been relatively little time for all the groups who legitimately take a close interest in the Bill to tell elected Members of their concerns.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

Is my hon. Friend aware that most of the environmental groups are deeply disappointed by the proposals for the seller's pack and that none has so far had the opportunity of putting those points to Members? The arrangements that we are discussing will not give us time to discuss the essential issues and why an opportunity to change the situation is being missed.

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Conservative, Eastbourne

My right hon. Friend is right. A range of groups—not just environmental groups—have been taken by surprise. Following the ill-fated Bristol pilot scheme in November, the Government announced that they were to proceed on the current basis. The Bill must have been in preparation, and the Government must have expected the results of the pilot scheme—even though its results are, on any view, equivocal and, on one view, disappointing.

During the Second Reading debate—which was of a high standard—a range of issues were raised. Some, I concede, were eminently foreseeable—I am sure that the Minister will agree that there is always an element of predictability in some of the arguments on any piece of legislation—but new issues and problems have been raised.

Opposition Members certainly did not foresee the potential rebellion of Government Back Benchers over the imposition of seller's packs in low-value, low-demand areas. I taxed the Minister with making a very long speech, but in fairness one of the reasons for its length was the hon. Gentleman's generosity in giving way, and in most cases the interventions were from his own party colleagues, expressing their concerns about the effects in their constituencies.

Photo of John Redwood John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

Does my hon. Friend think that the Opposition will also need time to table an amendment to ensure that when the Government are selling housing land, as in the case of the dome site, for example, their seller's pack should include a clear indication of what they are selling and whether there is planning permission? Would it not be wise to say that the Government as vendor should find out what they are selling and get it properly valued before they rip off the taxpayer and the lottery player?

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Conservative, Eastbourne

I am grateful for that piece of lateral thinking. My right hon. Friend is in danger of undermining my general criticism of the seller's pack system. The problem is that the Government would probably prepare two different seller's packs depending on who the potential purchaser was and how much they had contributed to party funds.

We are not against guillotining in principle, especially on such an important measure, but there is no provision for the fact that new issues have been raised at a very late stage. There is nothing wrong with right hon. and hon. Members coming back from well-deserved Christmas breaks, seeing a Bill n a new light and coming up with a new query about it, bat the details of the guillotine, which have apparently a1ready been hammered out through the usual channels, mewl that we have not only the fait accompli of a 1 February finish date but an allocation of time for each set of clauses—before we even know how many amendments will be tabled to them. I tabled an initial raft of amendments at the end of the earlier debate, and I am sure that others will table more.

Another serious question, to which I genuinely do not know the answer, concerns new clauses. The way in which the cake has been divided up is entirely based on the existing clauses and there is no provision, as far as I can tell, for debate on, any new clauses. There are one or two issues on which I would wish, in the ordinary way, to table new clauses.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Can my hon. Friend confirm that, as is now to be the custom, the proposed order of consideration of the Bill will be subject to determination by a Programming Sub-Committee? Is he aware of the experience that some of us had in such a Sub-Committee earlier this evening, and does he expect the Byzantine consequences of that meeting to be visited on those who are to consider the Homes Bill in Committee?

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Conservative, Eastbourne

Can I phone a friend? Unlike my hon. Friend, who is, as always, ahead of many of us in such matters, I have yet to encounter that fabled mythological beast, the Programming Sub-Committee. I do not even know whether I shall be on it, although I have a nasty feeling that I shall. I do not know where it meets or when, quite what its purpose is, or whether it is a creation of statute, of Standing Order, or merely of parliamentary practice. I look forward with enormous relish and interest to seeing exactly how it conducts its business.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

The evidence so far suggests that it is unclear whether such a Committee is a Select or a Standing Committee. It is also unclear whether any reasonable notice has to be given of the Government motion before the Committee; whether any proper opportunity for amendments to that motion has to be given; and, indeed, whether the Committee will meet in public or in private. So far, it would appear that none of that is known, and that the Government, as usual, are trying to fiddle every aspect of the procedure.

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Conservative, Eastbourne

I am now even more worried about the prospect of the Sub-Committee, but I look forward to it with steely determination. I assume that it will be open to members of the Standing Committee, as well as to other hon. Members—but I know not I assume that its proceedings will not be time-limited in any way, and I also assume that it cannot be regarded as a Select Committee, because Whips will be there—

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Conservative, Eastbourne

And Ministers. We shall have to wait and see.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

Will my hon. Friend accept from me that my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) was doing a disservice to Byzantium in equating the Sub-Committee with Byzantine organisation, which was at least characterised by subtlety? This is mere brute force: the Government are imposing their will on traditional parliamentary democracy, and using their overwhelming majority to steamroller their legislation through without proper debate.

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Conservative, Eastbourne

My hon. Friend is right. The Government are using their large majority to show their contempt for the parliamentary process.

I have already touched on the subject of new clauses. I genuinely do not know the answer to my question, and it would be nice to know it at some point so that I can decide whether to table any new clauses.

There is another aspect that should be aired in this debate. In this Parliament we are getting used to sloppy drafting in Government Bills. A major consequence of that, apart from the wasting of debating time in Committee and elsewhere, is that large rafts of Government amendments are tab led at very late stages.

On behalf of the Opposition, I had the conduct of the Local Government Bill last year, and although I lost count of the exact number, I believe that more than 1,000 Government amendments were tabled to it at different stages.

Where is the provision for that process in the timetable proposal? I suspect that there is none. When the Committee stage, which already has an end date, has started, will we find that a whole series of Government amendments are to be made? Of course, I immediately accept that there will always be a need for some minor tinkering in the form of consequential and minor drafting amendments, but will the Minister give the House an assurance this evening that if that happens on any significant scale, he will reconsider the programme motion?

As I have said, new issues, new problems and new amendments may need to be dealt with, and I do not know how that can happen within the timetable.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I am sorry to trouble my hon. Friend, but it is important to be guided by precedent, even if only by recent precedent. When he talks about Government amendments and the scope for reconsideration of the timetable, will he bear in mind the fact that several hon. Members have today been told that, notwithstanding the number and content of future amendments that may be tabled to a Bill, the end date for consideration of the Bill is determined at the time of the programme motion? In this case that is tonight, and there can be no question of subsequent reconsideration of that end date. That is the dangerous and undemocratic game that the Government are playing.

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Conservative, Eastbourne

Well, I hope that my hon. Friend is wrong, but I have a nasty feeling that he is not and that all the new issues and problems that may be raised reasonably and naturally in Committee will simply eat into the time that the Government and their Whips have already allocated for the existing issues.

It is important to put the Bill in context. In terms of sheer numbers of pages and clauses, the Bill is not enormously long; it is not in the same league as the Local Government Act 2000, but it is desperately important. It will deal with between 1 million and 2 million transactions, affecting many people. Those transactions are fundamentally important to ordinary people, to families and to their well-being and wealth. It is desperately important, therefore, that we get it right.

In winding up the previous debate, the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin), turned the Government's position on gazumping entirely on its head. In their election manifesto and even before that in a document published by the then shadow Environment Secretary, the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), the Labour party promised that it would tackle the problem of gazumping. It clearly thought that the issue would appeal to owner-occupiers, who represent 69 per cent. of the country, yet the Minister had the gall to say that gazumping is not really that important because it affects no more than 2 per cent. of people; because it does not happen in some areas; and so on. But if it is really such a marginal and unimportant issue, why put it in the manifesto?

Photo of Sylvia Heal Sylvia Heal Deputy Speaker

Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that we are debating the programme motion, not the content of the Bill.

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Conservative, Eastbourne

Absolutely, Madam Deputy Speaker. That is why it is important to establish whether the time allocated to the issues is sufficient. I shall try to ensure that my remarks stay within that context. As you know, Madam Deputy Speaker, the Bill has two halves. At the moment, I am dealing with the first half, under which seller's packs will be introduced. However, it is not up to the Government to say that gazumping should not be addressed in the Bill—which it is not—because it is an important issue. Gazumping is one of the issues that we intend to examine in detail in Committee.

The other issue in relation to the first half of the Bill is that these are highly complex legal matters. It is important not just to lawyers but to those who will carry out property transactions in future that we get it right. The Government are effectively standing on its head the long-established English legal principle of caveat emptor. They do not say so, but that theme runs throughout the first 15 or 16 clauses.

The second half of the Bill deals with homelessness. Again, we rehearsed the key issues in the previous debate, so it would not be right to do so now. However, the proposals will affect those who are vulnerable in our society—the categories of people who should be given priority, whether former offenders, those subject to domestic violence or whatever. The proposals will have a thoroughgoing effect on the responsibilities, burdens and duties of local authorities.

Local authorities, the Local Government Association, the Association of London Government and other such bodies all have their own concerns, which need to be addressed in Committee, about the burdens that will be put on local authorities in tackling not only priority homelessness, but other problems, such as longer-term homelessness, and in determining whether they will have the resources and powers to meet those new responsibilities. There is a similar aspect to the first half of the Bill—an enormous burden will be put on local trading standards officers in enforcing the new legislation on seller's packs, which involves fines of up to £5,000 for people who fall foul of the new regulations. These are all matters of enormous importance to local authorities, for all the reasons that I have mentioned. Local authorities, like anyone else who makes representations to us, have a legitimate right to have their concerns aired.

The programme motion is a thoroughly unsatisfactory way to conduct our business. It firmly puts the cart before the horse: the guillotine motion has been decided before we realise what the issues will be in Committee. It decides in advance how long the Committee stage will need; it does not wait to see the number of issues that are raised; and it does not allow for the possible reconsideration of a guillotine motion if the Committee stage appears to be taking too long. The programme motion is the wrong way to proceed. It is thoroughly anti-democratic and it is entirely typical of this Government. I invite the Minister to withdraw the motion.

Photo of Mr Paul Tyler Mr Paul Tyler Liberal Democrat, North Cornwall 10:51 pm, 8th January 2001

I know that the House is agog as it waits for the contribution of the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), so I shall be extremely brief.

I agreed with the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson) on one or two points, but he made one point that was clearly total nonsense. He suggested that lawyers would want to get the Bill right, but that is untrue. Lawyers always want our legislation to be wrong, so that they can challenge it as often as possible in the courts.

The hon. Gentleman made some serious points and other serious issues were raised in the earlier debate. My anxiety about the programme motion formula that now seems to have been adopted by the Government is that it gives them or anyone else in the House no time to take account of what is said on Second Reading. I have taken this matter up on the Floor of the House and through the usual channels, but I have still not received an adequate explanation for this e extraordinary procedure. There is no reason why 24 or 48 hours should not elapse between Second Reading and the debate on the programme motion. It was suggested earlier that such a procedure would hold up the appointment of members of the Committee, but that is untrue. The Committee of Selection could make appointments to the Committee; it does not have to wait for the programme motion.

It is an affront to those Government and Opposition Members who have taken part in Second Reading that no account is taken of issues that are raised in that debate in deciding how long the Committee stage will be. Important issues have been raised in the past few days outside the House and in the House today. The seller's pack will not be introduced for some time. It will be a matter for secondary legislation, but it raises important questions about legal liability and, as the hon. Member for Eastbourne pointed out, the difficult assessment of the categories that should be exempt. Such issues have been raised by people outside the House and by Members from both sides. However the programme motion was drawn up long before those issues were in the public domain.

Human rights, privacy and denying access to those who may be thought by the seller to have no interest are also important issues. Points about the seller's pack that have been raised in the past few days by those outside the House and in the past few hours by hon. Members have not been attended to previously.

Photo of David Maclean David Maclean Conservative, Penrith and The Border

I have listened carefully to the hon. Gentleman. He might attempt to raise these issues in the Programming Sub-Committee if he is appointed to it, but it has emerged today that an attempt will be made to ensure that these Committees meet in private and that no record will be made of the discussions. Therefore, all the points that he has made would not be recorded in Hansard and could be denied by Ministers and Government Whips when the main Standing Committee meets.

Photo of Mr Paul Tyler Mr Paul Tyler Liberal Democrat, North Cornwall

The right hon. Gentleman should know that such procedures were carried out in a much more clandestine fashion in the past. Indeed, Members who have been involved in Committees know that such matters were often discussed just by members of the two Front Benches. Those discussions did not involve any Back Benchers and they certainly did not involve the Liberal Democrats. At least, we have brought the issue out of the closet and into the open. However, Members on both sides should recognise that we have not given an adequate opportunity to people inside and outside the House to take account of the important issues that have been raised on Second Reading and to decide how best they should be tackled in Committee.

This Bill may be more attuned to the procedure than other recent Bills for the simple reason that it sets out, in part I, the strategy for dealing with seller's packs; the detail will be dealt with in secondary legislation. That is a good argument for saying that the Bill will not require much time in Committee, but it does not answer my objection to the way in which the programme motion has been laid.

The same argument applies to part II, which deals with homelessness. The measures are generally welcomed on both sides of the House, and many Members would say that they are overdue, but the matters tackled in the Bill, such as categories of homelessness, are not of dramatic importance. Many of those categories could be extended under existing legislation and will not require a great deal of consideration in Committee. The Government are making a meal of this matter. They could have found a much easier way of dealing with it and, in particular, allowed Members on both sides of the House who took part in the Second Reading debate to feel that their comments and concerns were given adequate expression before the programme motion was laid.

I confess that I am somewhat confused because I do not know, from what the hon. Member for Eastbourne said, whether he intends to divide the House. We all know that the alternative leader of the Conservative party may well decide to divide the House, as he did a few minutes ago.

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Conservative, Eastbourne

Let me assist the hon. Gentleman. I invited the Minister to withdraw the motion for a variety of good reasons, and I still have a rather innocent faith in human nature. However, if the Minister does not withdraw the motion, I will invite my hon. Friends to divide the House.

Photo of Mr Paul Tyler Mr Paul Tyler Liberal Democrat, North Cornwall

Yes, we will, as we always do. We are never prepared to vote for a programme motion when we do not think there has been proper discussion about its contents and timing. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that I will support a decision to vote against the motion.

The Government must learn the lesson of these programme motions or the procedure will be no improvement whatever over the old guillotine motion procedure, except that it is slightly shorter.

Photo of Mr Paul Tyler Mr Paul Tyler Liberal Democrat, North Cornwall

The penny dropped a long time ago. If the right hon. Gentleman had listened on previous occasions instead of listening simply to his own voice, he would have known that we always vote against guillotine motions.

I know that everybody awaits the peroration—I hope that it will be the peroration—of this short debate, so I am pleased to hand over to the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst before he interrupts me yet again.

Photo of Sylvia Heal Sylvia Heal Deputy Speaker

I call the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer).

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal 10:58 pm, 8th January 2001

I rise to oppose the guillotine motion—for that is what it is—on a matter of principle. The House is consistently and continuously bypassed by the Government. They ought to have shown the courtesy that befits a Government with a large majority and used their powers sparingly for the important democratic reason that the public must believe that, even with such a majority, the issues that are brought before Parliament are thoroughly discussed and properly considered. I am therefore sorry that the Minister, who is an honest and honourable man, should be put in this position because I am sure that he recognises that there is a much bigger issue at stake than even the contents of the Bill.

I oppose these motions as a matter of principle, and I will continue to do so, but I have a particular reason for thinking that this motion is serious. Unlike the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler), I think that primary legislation is important because so much is left to secondary legislation. I am surprised that even in the primary legislation the contents of the seller's pack are so sparsely set out. The inelegance of the words does not cover the fact that some of the big issues that ought to have been considered by a Government who a long time ago said that they would put sustainable development at the heart of all their policies have been omitted. They have introduced a Bill on homes, with seller's packs, in which there is no mention of the first thing that ought to be listed—

Photo of Sylvia Heal Sylvia Heal Deputy Speaker

Order. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that we are debating the programme motion rather than the content of the Bill, the debate on which took place earlier.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

It is because the contents of the Bill are so important that the programme motion lacks any time for us to discuss the issues. [Interruption.] One cannot discuss the programme motion without pointing out that this Government do not want debate on the issues and therefore reduce the time available for it. I take your comment, Madam Deputy Speaker, and will obey it, but these issues are not for the hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Mr. Jamieson) to giggle or laugh at. Unless we debate such things in this Chamber and in Committee, in plenty of time, people outside the House will not be satisfied that the secondary legislation to follow, for which the rules are very different and our opportunities far fewer, will have been properly discussed. The Minister must recognise that.

People believe that this House is where their issues are properly raised. A guillotine motion can be acceptable only when, for one reason or another, the Government believe that time to debate a Bill will be misused by an Opposition to the extent that they cannot get their programme through. How on earth has anyone got the idea that Opposition Members will not discuss the matter properly? Why did the Government feel that the motion had to be tabled?

The Government say that the decision will be taken by the House, but with such a majority, it will be the same as the Government's decision. The House could have made such a decision, and that decision could have been properly represented by the Minister if he had said, "I am going to provide a great deal of time so that no one can complain. I ask the Opposition only to use as much as is necessary properly to debate the Bill." Why does he not do that? I suspect that it has something to do with another timetable, to which all these things are bent: a timetable for an election, not for the Bill. That is our problem in dealing with the issue.

I will not trespass on your great patience, Madam Deputy Speaker, by delineating all the other things that ought to be listed under clause 7, although I do not know where else one can discuss those matters except in Committee—the timetable for which the Government determined in advance of Second Reading and without any consideration of the possibility that they may want to table amendments. I suspect that a number of amendments will have to be tabled—not least those that will be necessary to satisfy people outside the House who are pressing the Government for further and better particulars on the supposed meaning of clause 7.

The Minister will be asked by the Energy Action Grants Agency, those concerned with energy efficiency and all the green organisations what is meant by phrases such as those in clause 7 and what will be introduced. The Government will not want to answer those questions with a vague comment on secondary legislation. They will, I am sure, feel the need to ensure that the Bill bears the green imprint that they claim to have so much at heart.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Has not my right hon. Friend's point underlined the intrinsic absurdity of the timetabling of the Bill? Is it not the case—my right hon. Friend is an exceptionally experienced parliamentarian and a former Minister—that it is only when the detail of a Bill is properly considered and examined that we, including Ministers, can know the scope for, and desirability of, amendments for which additional time must be allowed for debate?

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

My hon. Friend is right, and he leads me to my last point.

I shall say something much tougher to the Minister. The House is supposed to make the best law possible. The Government make it more difficult for us to do that by embarking upon a system that curtails debate in Committee and introducing a Bill where far too much is put into the hands of Ministers, who will deal with secondary legislation in an way that is not acceptable. Secondary legislation should not be as widely drawn. We should have a timetable that enables us to tease out of the Government how they would use the powers that they have placed before the House.

This procedure will not itself deprive the Government and Parliament of public support, but it is another step in a long and increasingly rapid journey, in which the Government make Parliament less able to represent people's demands and needs. Increasingly, those people will look outside Parliament if they want to get their demands met. I am sad to say that the Minister will be lending his support to a thoroughly undemocratic process.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst 11:07 pm, 8th January 2001

As I am aware that Front-Bench spokesmen want briefly to respond to the debate, I shall make only one point.

These debates—this is only the second that we have had—rest on the assumption that we are given the offer of an end date to proceedings in Committee. Perhaps we have all assumed that Committee sittings will consist of a full day, with the Committee sitting normally until 10 pm, and on a Thursday until 7 pm. Let us suppose that the Government were to decide, in their control of the Programming Sub-Committee, which decides the detail of Committee proceedings, that Committees were to sit until only 8 pm, for example, and finish at 5 pm on a Thursday. It is a hypothetical case. The assumption that we made in working out the time that would be available in Committee, based on an end date and historical sittings of Committees, would be thrown out. We would all be left short-changed.

As was said in the previous debate, we are expected to rubber stamp the motion, knowing little about what is in the Government's mind when it comes to the detail of consideration in Committee, and to trample over everything that happened on Second Reading.

The process is a dangerous farce for all the reasons that have been given. It is being used in an attempt to short-circuit parliamentary process. It illustrates yet again the Government's arrogance. It presents us with the challenge of trying to make proper decisions with a lack of information. Unless the Minister satisfies us, I hope that we shall vote against the motion. We must watch closely what will happen in Programming Sub-Committees so that we can make judgments about how honest the Government have been with the House. I remain to be convinced.

Photo of Sylvia Heal Sylvia Heal Deputy Speaker

Order. Does the hon. Gentleman have the leave of the House?

Photo of Nigel Waterson Nigel Waterson Conservative, Eastbourne

I am grateful, Madam Deputy Speaker.

With the leave of the House, Madam Deputy Speaker. I speak again with some reluctance. During this short debate we have not heard from the Minister why the so-called programme motion or guillotine motion is a good thing. For all we know, he might think that it is a bad thing. He might agree with the eloquent comments of some Conservative Members, especially those of my right hon. Friends the Members for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) and for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth).

To avoid repetition, I shall say simply that the motion means that the Second Reading debate has no relevance. The hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) made that point rather well. What was said throughout that good debate has had no effect whatever on how the matter is to be dealt with, in particular in Committee. That is disgraceful. I fear that we are setting precedents for the remainder of this Parliament and perhaps for the future.

In a sense, it matters not whether a Government have a large or a small majority because a Government with any kind of majority who carry on in such a fashion are doing a disservice to democracy. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal said, it is particularly important for a Government with a very large majority to tread carefully, for they may one day find themselves in the reverse position. That is why setting precedents is dangerous. We are on a slippery slope, and I invite the Minister to explain why that is a good thing.

Photo of Nick Raynsford Nick Raynsford Minister of State (Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions) (The Regions) 11:11 pm, 8th January 2001

We have heard a great deal of synthetic indignation and an enormous amount of posturing in the past 40 minutes. I put it to the House that the purpose of a programme motion is to ensure a full, thorough and orderly discussion in Committee of the provisions that are subject to scrutiny in that Committee. All Members with reasonably long memories will recall those utterly frustrating and unproductive hours, days, weeks and months spent haggling over the first few clauses of long Bills. That occurred when my party and the Conservative party were in opposition and, at the end of a ritual that often lasted two months, a guillotine eventually had to be imposed. That often happened when only two or three clauses of a huge Bill had been debated. There was no proper scrutiny.

I have to put it to hon. Members that this procedure allows an opportunity to discuss all the provisions and more than adequate time for that. In the past two Sessions, I have taken two of the largest measures through the House: the Greater London Authority Act 1999 and the Transport Act 2000. For both, a timetable for discussion was agreed with the Opposition, which ensured proper consideration of all the provisions.

Photo of Nick Raynsford Nick Raynsford Minister of State (Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions) (The Regions)

I am afraid that I do not have time.

There was proper opportunity for discussion and all sections of both those large Acts were fully considered. We are considering a Bill of only 34 clauses and three schedules. As has rightly been stressed, it covers issues that were fully debated in a six and a half hour Second Reading debate. There is more than adequate time for proper consideration in Committee.

The timetable has been agreed through the usual channels with both main Opposition parties. No objection was raised to the amount of time provided. Suggestions have been made about how the timetable could be changed, and we have accommodated those—

It being forty-five minutes after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER, pursuant to Order [7 November], put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 278, Noes 125.

Division No. 34][11.14 pm
Ainger, NickAtkins, Charlotte
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Austin, John
Allen, GrahamBailey, Adrian
Anderson, Rt Hon Donald (Swansea E)Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)Battle, John
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms HilaryBayley, Hugh
Ashton, JoeBeard, Nigel
Atherton, Ms CandyBegg, Miss Anne
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)Gardiner, Barry
Bennett, Andrew FGeorge, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)
Berry, RogerGerrard, Neil
Blackman, LizGibson, Dr Ian
Blizzard, BobGilroy, Mrs Linda
Boateng, Rt Hon PaulGodsiff, Roger
Borrow, DavidGoggins, Paul
Bradley, Keith (Withington)Golding, Mrs Llin
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Brinton, Mrs HelenGriffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Browne, DesmondGrocott, Bruce
Buck, Ms KarenGrogan, John
Burden, RichardHall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Burgon, ColinHamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Butler, Mrs ChristineHanson, David
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)Healey, John
Campbell-Savours, DaleHenderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Cann, JamieHendrick, Mark
Caplin, IvorHepburn, Stephen
Casale, RogerHeppell, John
Caton, MartinHesford, Stephen
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)Hinchliffe, David
Chaytor, DavidHoey, Kate
Clapham, MichaelHope, Phil
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)Hopkins, Kelvin
Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E)
Howells, Dr Kim
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)Hoyle, Lindsay
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Clelland, DavidHumble, Mrs Joan
Clwyd, AnnHurst, Alan
Coaker, VernonHutton, John
Coffey, Ms AnnIddon, Dr Brian
Cohen, HarryIllsley, Eric
Colman, TonyJackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Connarty, MichaelJamieson, David
Corbyn, JeremyJenkins, Brian
Crausby, DavidJohnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Cummings, JohnJohnson, Miss Melanie (Welwyn Hatfield)
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Dalyell, TamJones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Darvill, KeithJones, Helen (Warrington N)
Davidson, IanJones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Davis, Rt Hon Terry (B'ham Hodge H)Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Dawson, HiltonKeeble, Ms Sally
Dean, Mrs JanetKemp, Fraser
Denham, JohnKennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Dismore, AndrewKidney, David
Dobbin, JimKilfoyle, Peter
Dobson, Rt Hon FrankKing, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Donohoe, Brian HKing, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Doran, FrankLadyman, Dr Stephen
Dowd, JimLawrence, Mrs Jackie
Drew, DavidLaxton, Bob
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)Lepper, David
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)Leslie, Christopher
Edwards, HuwLevitt, Tom
Efford, CliveLewis, Terry (Worsley)
Ennis, JeffLinton, Martin
Field, Rt Hon FrankLloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Fisher, MarkLock, David
Fitzpatrick, JimLove, Andrew
Flint, CarolineMcAvoy, Thomas
Flynn, PaulMcCabe, Steve
Follett, BarbaraMcCafferty, Ms Chris
Foster, Rt Hon DerekMcCartney, Rt Hon Ian (Makerfield)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)McDonagh, Siobhain
Foulkes, GeorgeMacdonald, Calum
Galloway, GeorgeMcDonnell, John
Gapes, MikeMcFall, John
McIsaac, ShonaRussell, Ms Christine (Chester)
McNamara, KevinSalter, Martin
McNulty, TonySavidge, Malcolm
MacShane, DenisSedgemore, Brian
Mactaggart, FionaShaw, Jonathan
McWalter, TonySimpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
McWilliam, JohnSkinner, Dennis
Mallaber, JudySmith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Martlew, EricSmith, John (Glamorgan)
Maxton, JohnSmith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Meacher, Rt Hon MichaelSnape, Peter
Meale, AlanSoley, Clive
Michael, Rt Hon AlunSpellar, John
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)Squire, Ms Rachel
Miller, AndrewStarkey, Dr Phyllis
Moffatt, LauraSteinberg, Gerry
Moonie, Dr LewisStevenson, George
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)Stoate, Dr Howard
Morley, ElliotStraw, Rt Hon Jack
Morris, Rt Hon Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Mudie, GeorgeSutcliffe, Gerry
Mullin, ChrisTaylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Naysmith, Dr DougTaylor, David (NW Leics)
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)Temple-Morris, Peter
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
O'Hara, EddieTimms, Stephen
O'Neill, MartinTipping, Paddy
Osborne, Ms SandraTrickett, Jon
Palmer, Dr NickTruswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Pearson, IanTurner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Perham, Ms LindaTurner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Pickthall, ColinTurner, Neil (Wigan)
Pike, Peter LTynan, Bill
Plaskitt, JamesVis, Dr Rudi
Pollard, KerryWard, Ms Claire
Pond, ChrisWareing, Robert N
Pope, GregWatts, David
Pound, StephenWhitehead, Dr Alan
Powell, Sir RaymondWicks, Malcolm
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prosser, GwynWilliams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Purchase, KenWilliams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Quin, Rt Hon Ms JoyceWinnick, David
Rapson, SydWinterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Raynsford, NickWood, Mike
Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)Woodward, Shaun
Worthington, Tony
Rooker, Rt Hon JeffWray, James
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)Tellers for the Ayes:
Rowlands, TedMrs. Anne McGuire and
Roy, FrankMr. Clive Betts.
Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)Browning, Mrs Angela
Amess, DavidBurns, Simon
Ancram, Rt Hon MichaelBurstow, Paul
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon JamesChapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Chope, Christopher
Bercow, JohnClappison, James
Boswell, TimCollins, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)Cotter, Brian
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs VirginiaCran, James
Brady, GrahamCurry, Rt Hon David
Brazier, JulianDavies, Quentin (Grantham)
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterDay, Stephen
Dorrell, Rt Hon StephenMadel, Sir David
Duncan, AlanMalins, Humfrey
Emery, Rt Hon Sir PeterMaples, John
Fearn, RonnieMaude, Rt Hon Francis
Forth, Rt Hon EricMay, Mrs Theresa
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir NormanNorman, Archie
Fox, Dr LiamO'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Fraser, ChristopherÖpik, Lembit
Gale, RogerPage, Richard
Garnier, EdwardPaice, James
George, Andrew (St Ives)Paterson, Owen
Gibb, NickPickles, Eric
Gidley, SandraPortillo, Rt Hon Michael
Gillan, Mrs CherylPrior, David
Gorman, Mrs TeresaRandall, John
Gray, JamesRedwood, Rt Hon John
Green, DamianRendel, David
Greenway, JohnRobathan, Andrew
Grieve, DominicRobertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Gummer, Rt Hon JohnRoe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir ArchieRuffley, David
Hammond, PhilipSt Aubyn, Nick
Hancock, MikeSanders, Adrian
Hawkins, NickSayeed, Jonathan
Hayes, JohnSimpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Heald, OliverSpelman, Mrs Caroline
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)Spring, Richard
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon DavidStanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Horam, JohnSteen, Anthony
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)Streeter, Gary
Hunter, AndrewSwayne, Desmond
Jack, Rt Hon MichaelSyms, Robert
Jenkin, BernardTaylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Key, RobertTaylor, John M (Solihull)
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Kirkwood, ArchyTaylor, Sir Teddy
Laing, Mrs EleanorThomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Lait, Mrs JacquiTrend, Michael
Lansley, AndrewTyler, Paul
Leigh, EdwardTyrie, Andrew
Letwin, OliverWalter, Robert
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)Waterson, Nigel
Lidington, DavidWhitney, Sir Raymond
Lilley, Rt Hon PeterWigley, Rt Hon Dafydd
Livsey, RichardWilletts, David
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)Wilshire, David
Llwyd, ElfynYeo, Tim
Loughton, TimYoung, Rt Hon Sir George
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
McIntosh, Miss AnneTellers for the Noes:
Maclean, Rt Hon DavidMr. Peter Luff and
McLoughlm, PatrickMr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown.

Question accordingly agreed to.
Resolved,That the following provisions shall apply to the Homes Bill: