Programming of Bills

– in the House of Commons at 2:13 pm on 28th June 2001.

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Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means 2:13 pm, 28th June 2001

We now come to the main motions. It may be for the convenience of the House if I say that the motion on deferred Divisions may be debated together with the motion on programming of Bills although, of course, there will be scope for separate Divisions. I must also announce to the House that the Speaker has been unable to accept the amendment tabled to the motion on programming.

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Lord Privy Seal 2:26 pm, 28th June 2001

I beg to move,

That in the current Session of Parliament Orders A to I below shall have effect:

A. Programme Motions

(1) If, before second reading of a bill, notice of a motion providing--

(a) for committal of the bill, and

(b) for any proceedings on the bill to be programmed, is given by a Minister of the Crown, the motion may be made immediately after second reading, and Standing Order No. 63 shall not apply to the Bill.

(2) Such a motion is to be called a programme motion.

(3) An order made by the House as a result of a programme motion is to be called a programme order.

(4) A motion to vary or supplement a programme order is also to be called a programme motion.

(5) A programme motion may provide for the allocation of time for any proceedings on a bill.

(6) Except in the following three cases, or where paragraph (8) of Programme Order B (Programming Committees) applies, the question on a programme motion is to be put forthwith.

(7) The first exception is where--

(a) a Standing Committee has reported a resolution under paragraph (11) of Sessional Order C (Programming Sub-Committees) proposing an alteration of the date by which the bill is to be reported to the House, and

(b) the motion made under paragraph (12) of Sessional Order C (Programming Sub-Committees) does not give effect to the Standing Committee's proposal.

(8) The second exception is where the motion makes further provision for proceedings on consideration and third reading of the bill otherwise than in accordance with a resolution of a Programming Committee under paragraph (5) of Sessional Order B (Programming Committees) or a resolution of a Standing Committee under paragraph (13) of Sessional Order C (Programming Sub-Committees).

(9) The third exception is where the motion reduces the amount of time allocated under a programme order for any proceedings on the bill (whether or not it also increases the amount of time allocated for other proceedings on the bill).

(10) In an excepted case, any question necessary to dispose of proceedings on a programme motion is to be put not later than three-quarters of an hour after the commencement of proceedings on the motion.

(11) Standing Order No. 15(1) (Exempted Business) applies to proceedings on a programme motion.

(12) Standing Order No. 83 (Allocation of Time) does not apply to a programme motion.

(13) If a programme order applies to a bill, neither Standing Order No. 82 (Business Committee) nor Standing Order No. 120 (Business Sub-Committee) applies to the bill.

B. Programming Committees

(1) This order applies if proceedings in committee of the whole House or on consideration and third reading are subject to a programme order.

(2) There is to be a committee for the bill consisting of--

(a) the Chairman of Ways and Means (who is to be chairman of the committee); and

(b) not more than eight other Members, nominated by the Speaker.

(3) The committee is to be called the Programming Committee.

(4) The quorum of the Programming Committee is four.

(5) The Programming Committee shall consider the allocation of time to proceedings in committee of the whole House or on consideration and third reading and report any resolution which it makes to the House.

(6) Proceedings in the Programming Committee shall be brought to a conclusion not later than two hours after their commencement.

(7) For the purposes of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph (6), the chairman shall--

(a) first put forthwith any question which has been proposed from the chair and not yet decided; and

(b) then put successively questions on any motions made by a Minister of the Crown.

(8) On a motion being made in the House relating to a resolution of the Programming Committee, any question necessary to dispose of proceedings on the motion shall be put not later than three-quarters of an hour after the commencement of those proceedings.

(9) If such a motion is agreed to, its provisions shall have effect as if they were included in the programme order for the bill.

(10) Proceedings on a motion made under paragraph (8) may be entered upon and decided, though opposed, at any hour.

(11) Resolutions of the Programming Committee--

(a) may be reported from time to time; and

(b) subject to the powers of the Speaker or Chairman to select the amendments, new clauses and new schedules to be proposed, may include alterations in the order in which specified proceedings on the bill are to be taken.

C. Programming Sub-Committees(1) If a bill is subject to a programme order which commits it to a standing committee, the order stands referred to the committee and shall be considered by a sub-committee of the committee.

(2) The sub-committee is to be called the Programming Sub-Committee.

(3) The Programming Sub-Committee shall consist of--

(a) the chairman or one of the chairmen of the committee (who is to be chairman of the sub-committee); and

(b) seven members of the committee, nominated by the Speaker.

(4) The quorum of the Programming Sub-Committee is four.

(5) The Programming Sub-Committee shall report to the committee any resolution which it makes about--

(a) the number of sittings to be allotted to the consideration of the bill in the committee;

(b) the allocation of the proceedings to each sitting;

(c) the time at which any proceedings, if not previously concluded, are to be brought to a conclusion;

(d) the date by which the bill is to be reported to the House;

(e) the programming of consideration and third reading.

(6) Proceedings in the Programming Sub-Committee shall be brought to a conclusion not later than two hours after their commencement.

(7) For the purposes of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph (6), the chairman shall--

(a) first put forthwith any question which has been proposed from the chair and not yet been decided; and

(b) then put forthwith successively questions on any motions made by a Minister of the Crown.

(8) Resolutions of the Programming Sub-Committee--

(a) may be reported from time to time; and

(b) subject to the powers of the chairman to select the amendments, new Clauses and new Schedules to be proposed, may include alterations in the order in which specified proceedings are to be taken.

(9) On a motion in the terms of a resolution of the Programming Sub-Committee being made in the committee, any question necessary to dispose of proceedings on the motion is to be put not later than half an hour after the commencement of those proceedings.

(10) If the provisions of a resolution of the Programming Sub-Committee under sub-paragraphs (a), (b) or (c) of paragraph (5) are agreed to (with or without modification) by the committee, the provisions (or the provisions as modified) are to have effect as if they were included in the programme order for the bill.

(11) Any resolution of the committee--

(a) proposing an alteration to the date by which the Bill is to be reported to the House; or

(b) making a recommendation about the programming of the Bill on consideration and third reading; shall be reported to the House.

(12) If a resolution is reported proposing an alteration to the date by which the Bill is to be reported to the House, a supplemental programme motion shall be set down for a day not later than the fifth sitting day after the day when the report was made which may--

(a) give effect to the Committee's proposal;

(b) otherwise alter or supplement the provisions of the original programme of the bill; or

(c) confirm the date set in the original programme order for the bill.

(13) If a resolution is reported making a recommendation about the programming of the Bill on consideration and third reading, a supplemental programme motion shall be set down before the consideration of the bill on report which may--

(a) give effect to the Committee's recommendations;

(b) otherwise alter or supplement the provisions of the original programme of the bill; or

(c) confirm the original programme order for the bill.

D. Programme orders: conclusion of proceedings in Standing Committee or in Committee of the whole House

(1) This order applies for the purpose of bringing proceedings in standing committee or in committee of the whole House to a conclusion in accordance with a programme order.

(2) The chairman shall put forthwith the following questions (but no others)--

(a) any question already proposed from the chair;

(b) any question necessary to bring to a decision a question so proposed;

(c) the question on any amendment, new clause or new schedule selected by the chairman for separate division;

(d) the question on any amendment moved or motion made by a Minister of the Crown;

(e) any other question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded.

(3) On a motion made for a new clause or a new schedule, the chairman shall put only the question that the clause or schedule be added to the bill.

(4) If two or more questions would fall to be put under paragraph (2)(d) on successive amendments moved or motions made by a Minister of the Crown, the chairman shall instead put a single question in relation to those amendments or motions.

(5) If two or more questions would fall to be put under paragraph (2)(e) in relation to successive provisions of the bill, the chairman shall instead put a single question in relation to those provisions.

(6) On conclusion of the proceedings in a committee, the chairman shall report the bill (or such of the bill's provisions as were committed to it) to the House without putting any question.

E. Programme orders: conclusion of proceedings on consideration or third reading

(1) This order applies for the purpose of bringing proceedings on consideration and third reading to a conclusion in accordance with a programme order.

(2) The Speaker shall put forthwith the following questions (but no others)--

(a) any question already proposed from the chair;

(b) any question necessary to bring to a decision a question so proposed;

(c) the question on any amendment, new clause or new schedule selected by the Speaker for separate division;

(d) the question on any amendment moved or motion made by a Minister of the Crown;

(e) any other question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded.

(3) On a motion made for a new clause or a new schedule, the Speaker shall put only the question that the clause or schedule be added to the bill.

(4) If two or more questions would fall to be put under paragraph (2)(d) on successive amendments moved or motions made by a Minister of the Crown, the Speaker shall instead put a single question in relation to those amendments or motions.

F. Programme orders: conclusion of proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments

(1) This order applies for the purpose of bringing proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments to a conclusion in accordance with a programme order.

(2) The Speaker shall first put forthwith any question which has been proposed from the chair and not yet decided.

(3) If that question is for the amendment of a Lords Amendment, the Speaker shall then put forthwith--

(a) a single question on any further amendments of the Lords Amendment moved by a Minister of the Crown; and

(b) the question on any motion made by a Minister of the Crown that this House agrees or disagrees with the Lords in their Amendment or (as the case may be) in their Amendment as amended.

(4) The Speaker shall then put forthwith--

(a) a single question on any amendments moved by a Minister of the Crown to a Lords Amendment; and

(b) the question on any motion made by a Minister of the Crown that this House agrees or disagrees with the Lords in their Amendment or (as the case may be) in their Amendment as amended.

(5) The Speaker shall then put forthwith the question on any motion made by a Minister of the Crown that this House disagrees with the Lords in a Lords Amendment.

(6) The Speaker shall then put forthwith the question that this House agrees with the Lords in all the remaining Lords Amendments.

(7) As soon as the House has--

(a) agreed or disagreed with the Lords in any of their Amendments; or

(b) disposed of an amendment relevant to a Lords Amendment which has been disagreed to, the Speaker shall put forthwith a single question on any amendments moved by a Minister of the Crown relevant to the Lords Amendment.

G. Programme orders: conclusion of proceedings on further messages from the Lords

(1) This order applies for the purpose of bringing proceedings on any further message from the Lords to a conclusion in accordance with a programme order.

(2) The Speaker shall first put forthwith any question which has been proposed from the chair and not yet decided.

(3) The Speaker shall then put forthwith the question on any motion made by a Minister of the Crown which is related to the question already proposed from the chair.

(4) The Speaker shall then put forthwith the question on any motion made by a Minister on or relevant to any of the remaining items in the Lords message.

(5) The Speaker shall then put forthwith the question that this House agrees with the Lords in all of the remaining Lords proposals.

H. Programme orders: Reasons Committee

(1) This order applies in relation to any Committee to be appointed to draw up Reasons after proceedings have been brought to a conclusion in accordance with a programme order.

(2) The Speaker shall put forthwith the question on any motion made by a Minister of the Crown for the appointment, nomination and quorum of a Committee to draw up Reasons and the appointment of its chairman.

(3) The Committee shall report before the conclusion of the sitting at which it is appointed.

(4) Proceedings in the Committee shall be brought to a conclusion not later than half an hour after their commencement.

(5) For the purpose of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph (4), the chairman shall--

(a) first put forthwith any question which has been proposed from the chair and not yet decided; and

(b) then put forthwith successively questions on motions which may be made by a Minister of the Crown for assigning a Reason for disagreeing with the Lords in any of their Amendments.

(6) The proceedings of the Committee shall be reported without any further question being put.

I. Programme orders: supplementary provisions

(1) The provisions of this order apply to proceedings in the House or in Committee of the whole House on a bill which is subject to a programme order.

(2) Standing Order No. 15(1) (Exempted business) applies to the proceedings for any period after ten o'clock (or on Thursday, seven o'clock) allocated to them in accordance with the programme order.

(3) The proceedings may not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.

(4) If, on a day on which the bill has been set down to be taken as an order of the day, a motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No.24 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) would, apart from this order, stand over to Seven o'clock--

(a) that motion stands over until the conclusion of any proceedings on the bill which, in accordance with the programme order, are to be brought to conclusion at or before that time; and

(b) the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings on the bill which, in accordance with the programme order, are to be brought to a conclusion after that time is postponed for a period of time equal to the duration of the proceedings on that motion.

(5) If a day on which the bill has been set down to be taken as an order of the day is one to which a motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No.24 stands over from an earlier day, the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings on the bill which, in accordance with the programme order, are to be brought to a conclusion on that day is postponed for a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on that motion.

(6) No dilatory motion may be made in relation to the proceedings except by a Minister of the Crown; and the question on any such motion is to be put forthwith.

(7) If at any sitting the House is adjourned, or the sitting is suspended, before the expiry of the period at the end of which proceedings are to be brought to a conclusion under a programme order, no notice is required of a motion made at the next sitting by a Minister of the Crown for varying or supplementing the provisions of the programme order.

It might help the House if, before I turn to the substance of the motion before us, I respond to some of the comments that have just been made.

First, my hon. Friend Mrs. Dunwoody asked whether the motion had been before any Committee of the House. Motions that are before the House this afternoon flow from the recommendations of the Modernisation Committee in two successive reports, and fairly faithfully carry through the recommendations of both those reports.

Secondly, the terms of the motions before us are very close to those of the motions that the House has debated previously. The first, on programming, is similar to the one carried in the last Session; the second, on deferred Divisions, is identical. The only difference between the debates on the motions that we have debated in the past and tonight's debate is that the time for tonight's debate is longer than the time for debate when the House last passed these motions. When it last debated them, it did so on a half day, starting at 7 pm. On this occasion, because of the importance of these issues and because hon. Members would wish to express themselves, we have allowed a full day for debate.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

But the right hon. Gentleman will observe that the programming motion now before the House provides that programme motions will be put to the vote immediately, and we shall not be able to debate them for 45 minutes as we were able to do in the last Parliament. Moreover, there is no point in saying that there was all-party agreement to the report because, had the right hon. Gentleman been in the House, attending the debates in the last Parliament, he would have known full well that programming motions were resisted on every occasion. I made more than 12 speeches opposing them.

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Lord Privy Seal

I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman can take some credit for having been one of the reasons that persuaded the great majority of the members of the Modernisation Committee, in their last report, to propose that those programming motions should be taken forthwith. I did say--

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Lord Privy Seal

I will turn to the issue of substance later, but I said at the start of my comments that the motions before the House faithfully include the recommendations of the Modernisation Committee, of which--the right hon. and learned Gentleman is right--that was one.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman raised, in the course of the previous discussion, the proposal that, when there is before the House a motion that is necessarily technical and legalistic, it should be accompanied by an explanatory memorandum, setting out the purpose of the motion. That is a worthwhile proposal. In future, I shall endeavour to ensure that that is met on the Order Paper, although on this occasion I shall have to attempt to explain it in my speech.

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

The right hon. Gentleman told my right hon. and learned Friend Mr. Hogg that it was his participation in 12 debates that led the Modernisation Committee to its conclusions, but that is not the case. One of my objections to the way in which that Committee dealt with the matter is that it made no analysis of the way in which programming motions were debated in the previous Session.

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Lord Privy Seal

Other members of the Modernisation Committee will be able to respond to the hon. Lady's comments on the way in which it reached its conclusions. I am sorry if she is going to deny Mr. Hogg the benefit of being able to claim the credit for the change.

Photo of Lynne Jones Lynne Jones Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

My right hon. Friend mentioned previous reports of the Select Committee on Modernisation. I have only had a chance to look at the report on the programming of legislation. It does not seem to include all the items that are before us today. For example, has the proposal that Lords amendments and Government motions to disagree with them should be taken forthwith without any debate been considered previously?

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Lord Privy Seal

It is fair to say that the Modernisation Committee's report is brief and does not go into the full detail necessary for the resolution that is put before the House. That proposal is entirely consistent with the policy proposal of the Committee.

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Lord Privy Seal

I will give way to the hon. Gentleman on this occasion; I never wish to disappoint him. However, I must then make some progress.

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

I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his gracious protection of my interests, but I am sorry to have to say that his flippant response to my right hon. and learned Friend Mr. Hogg betrays an ignorance of the history of the dispute on this matter, that is to his enduring discredit. Is he not aware that in the previous Parliament there was continuous dispute about the operations of the Programming Sub-Committees and programming motions on the Floor of the House, and that his hon. Friend Paddy Tipping--an assiduous performer at the Dispatch Box, who is sadly no longer a member of the Government--undertook, with the support of his boss, the then Leader of the House, Margaret Beckett, on a number of occasions to review the operation of those matters. Has the Leader of the House forgotten, or did he not know?

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Lord Privy Seal

Of course, these will never be matters on which it is easy to form a consensus. I wish it were otherwise. Different views will be taken on a programming motion. However, it is hard to see why on every occasion in the previous Parliament--despite the fact that the Programming Sub-Committee may sometimes have reached a conclusion that was acceptable to many of its members--the motion was contentious.

Perhaps I may try to restore a sense of perspective to the debate.

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Lord Privy Seal

I wish to make some progress, but I will happily give way when I have made this point.

The motions put before the House give effect to proposals of the Modernisation Committee that remain experimental. That is why they were temporary in the previous Session and why they must both be renewed. Both will be reviewed at the end of this Session. I invite hon. Members, therefore, to recognise that this is not the seismic debate that some people attempted to describe in which we are setting aside centuries of tradition and of the rights of Members. This is an experiment to make the proceedings of the House more effective, which the House itself will have ample opportunity to review and reconsider on a future occasion.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack Conservative, South Staffordshire

The right hon. Gentleman is beginning what I hope will be a long and illustrious tenure of an important office. Does he accept that the Modernisation Committee is discredited in the eyes of many Members of Parliament because it is chaired by the Leader of the House? If it were chaired by Mrs. Dunwoody, by my hon. Friend Mr. Shepherd, or even--dare I say it?--by me, it would command much greater cross-party support for its proposals. I urge the right hon. Gentleman seriously to consider his position with regard to that Committee. If it produced proposals that were truly cross-party, there would not be much objection from most Conservative Members.

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Lord Privy Seal

The hon. Gentleman has made one of the most gracious pleas for a post that I have heard. I shall bear his volunteering in mind. As I told the House, it is important that as the Leader of the House I should take a close, personal interest in the Modernisation Committee and be involved in its decisions. Also, the hon. Gentleman's characterisation of how the Committee arrives at its recommendations is not borne out by the nature of the conclusions of the report. There is no evidence that--

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Lord Privy Seal

I will not give way. I am still responding to the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friend on the Back Benches. I have to defend the rights of Back Benchers in the House, too. There is no evidence in the report that my predecessor manipulated the Modernisation Committee or imposed a conclusion on it. Indeed, the initial recommendation for programme motions was unanimous on the part of the Committee--including all the then Conservative members of the Committee.

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

Can I confirm, as a member of the Committee, that although the details of the motion have obviously come from the right hon. Gentleman's office, the father of the idea behind it was certainly the former Member for East Devon, Sir Peter Emery, who was a distinguished Member and who chaired the Procedure Committee for some time? In due modesty, it is also fair to say that I share some responsibility as a godparent with Mr. Caplin. So the proposals were the result of an all-party approach. That does not mean that I take responsibility for the motion, but it would be a gross calumny to suggest that somehow the proposals have simply emanated from the Government.

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Lord Privy Seal

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for pointing out that the parentage of this project is shared by many hon. Members of all parties. I had it in mind to pay tribute to Sir Peter Emery and am pleased to echo what the hon. Gentleman said--that after many years of distinguished service in and experience of the House, he was able to participate fully in some of the radical proposals for modernising our procedures.

The motion on deferred Divisions, which is the second on the Order Paper, is identical to the motion that the House considered in the previous Session. It flows from the proposal of the Modernisation Committee, which reasonably justified it on the basis that it would

"allow Members to debate business after 10 pm without requiring other Members who did not wish to take part in the debate to remain in the building late at night waiting for a division which might in the event not take place."

The experiment on deferred Divisions has already shown one clear result: many more Members are able to vote--[Interruption.] I honestly do not know why Conservative Members, who were complaining earlier about low turnout, should find it hilarious that the procedure allows more Members to participate in decision making. The more Members participate, the more we can be confident that the decision represents the considered judgment of the House.

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

The reference is presumably to Members for whom it is convenient to attend only on a Wednesday afternoon. How has the Prime Minister's voting record improved since deferred voting?

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Lord Privy Seal

The hon. Lady can certainly pursue that matter with me and I will happily write and advise her. I must confess--this may be a failing on my part--that I cannot share with her the voting record of every one of the 659 Members of this House, including the Prime Minister.

I draw the hon. Lady's attention, however, to the vote on 19 December on child support. In the deferred Division on that vote, 522 Members voted aye and only five voted no. If we had not had the deferred Division arrangement on that occasion those five Members would have kept more than 500 here until midnight to record their view. As a result of the deferred Division, those five Members were able to express their view and the Members who opposed them could also all take part in the vote, when many of them would not have been able to do so had it not been for that arrangement.

It is very difficult not to reach an interim conclusion that deferred Divisions have suited the interests of hon. Members and enabled many more of them to take part. [Interruption.] I remind the Opposition Members who are speaking from sedentary positions that not all 522 Members took the Labour Whip, so plainly the arrangement was of benefit to many Members other than those on the Government Benches.

The other motion provides for the continuation of the experiment with programme motions. The Modernisation Committee twice recommended doing so in the previous Session. On the first occasion, it did so by consensus, but I fully concede that it did so on the second occasion without the support of Mrs. Browning and another Conservative Member. It is worth recalling that when the Modernisation Committee first, by consensus, recommended programming motions, it explicitly did so because it believed that they would improve the House's capacity to scrutinise legislation.

Let us be honest and realistic. Before programming, Governments of both colours--certainly including the Government who preceded us in office for 18 years--got their legislation by guillotine: a crude device, by which the first half dozen clauses in a Bill might be debated at great length and, frankly, with a lot of time wasting in the process, with the result that there was enforced silence on subsequent clauses. That does not tend towards the effective scrutiny of the whole Bill and of Government legislation. That is why the Modernisation Committee recommended programming and said in its report that it was doing so because it would benefit Opposition parties and Back Benchers, who would have a greater opportunity to debate and vote on the issues of most concern to them.

Photo of Mr Kevin Hughes Mr Kevin Hughes Labour, Doncaster North

I should like to try to solicit an assurance from my right hon. Friend. As he knows, until a few weeks ago, I was part of the usual channels. I guess that I am now part of the unusual channels. I had the privilege of whipping five major Bills through the House for the Government. On each occasion, I managed to reach an agreement with the Opposition Whips on timetabling in Committee and on Report and Third Reading, and I think that that worked very successfully. Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the Government attach timetable motions to Bills only when they cannot secure an agreement with the Opposition?

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Lord Privy Seal

My hon. Friend asks a question that I was asked at business questions last week by the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young), who invited me to show good will by not programming every Bill. As I told him at the time, good will has to be a two-way street, and it is sometimes not easy to find that good will or common sense. Indeed, there was a classic case in the previous Parliament, when the Sea Fishing Grants (Charges) Act 2000--an unobjectionable, even tedious measure--took longer to be considered on the Floor of the House during its remaining stages than was taken in Committee, thus prompting a guillotine.

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Lord Privy Seal

Let me finish the point. [Interruption.] We had several hours' debate on the Sea Fishing Grants (Charges) Act 2000 and I do not propose to reopen the matter. Although I would not necessarily expect to carry the hon. Gentleman with me in a spirit of consensus, I understand that this is a new Parliament and that hon. Members have a new spirit, so I am willing to attempt an experiment in finding out whether such good will can be reciprocated.

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Lord Privy Seal

No, I will not. The Homelessness Bill will be the first Bill to receive its Second Reading next week. May I tell my hon. Friend Mr. Hughes and the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire that it is not our intention to move a programme motion on the Second Reading of that Bill? It is a short Bill and similar clauses were debated in full in the previous Parliament. It is not particularly contentious. Indeed, it has support in all parties. That will be a fair opportunity to test whether the good will exists to enable serious scrutiny of Bills without programme motions, rather than frivolous time wasting. I assure my hon. Friend that if the good will exists to proceed by agreement and consensus, without a programme motion, we can renew that experiment on a future occasion.

Several hon. Members:

rose--

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Lord Privy Seal

I give way to Mr. Swayne, in the interests of his own health.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Shadow Spokesperson (Defence)

Will the right hon. Gentleman abandon the practice, which was common when the experiment began in the previous Parliament, of publishing the programme motion before the Government have even heard the Second Reading debate? It was absurd and insulting that the Government could decide what the outcome of the programme motion should be without actually having tested the opinion of the House or found out what issues would be raised on Second Reading. Good will would be generated if the right hon. Gentleman were to abandon that practice.

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Lord Privy Seal

I am very glad to hear the hon. Gentleman's last sentence, because I think that I can help him. The effect of our motion on programming would indeed be to introduce a programme motion on Second Reading--I shall explain why in a moment--but it also introduces an innovation: in response to the Modernisation Committee recommendation, the Standing Committee considering a Bill may recommend a later out date than that set at the time of Second Reading.

Under the motion on programming that the House is invited to consider, if the Standing Committee makes a recommendation, the Government will be obliged to table that recommendation, which will be taken forthwith. However, if the Government reject the Standing Committee recommendation and table a different out date, it will be debatable. That would give Mr. Forth an opportunity to address the House at length, which is a strong incentive to the Government to accept the Standing Committee recommendation and deal with it forthwith.

I can respond to the concern expressed by the hon. Member for New Forest, West by saying that if those dealing with the Bill conclude that the out date set at Second Reading is unreasonable, it can be changed by a resolution of the House. The Government will be obliged to table the necessary motion, but the House will take a decision on it.

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Lord Privy Seal

The right hon. and learned Gentleman appears to challenge the fact that the Standing Committee will have a Government majority. I can do nothing about the fact that the Government have a majority. Indeed, if I were to do so, it would be an affront to parliamentary democracy because it would not only deny the Government their policy, but deny the will of the majority of the House of Commons.

Several hon. Members:

rose--

Photo of Mr Peter Pike Mr Peter Pike Labour, Burnley

I understand why my right hon. Friend refers to good will and moving in that direction. I have considered such matters seriously for several years and have been involved in the modernisation process since it began. Despite what the official Opposition or any other party may say, they can destroy good will at the drop of a hat. We must ensure that legislation makes sensible progress and that all the clauses of a Bill are scrutinised. From day one, the Modernisation Committee's objective has been to introduce sensible programme motions that allow debates on all the clauses that need to be debated and opposition from either side of the House to be considered properly.

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Lord Privy Seal

My hon. Friend expresses the view, which is held by several hon. Members, not just those on the Government Benches, that every Bill should be programmed. I am willing to attempt the experiment to discover what happens when we do not programme a Bill, but I agree with him that not only good will but discipline and self-restraint are required from all hon. Members if the House is to carry out its task of scrutiny.

Photo of Mrs Anne Campbell Mrs Anne Campbell Labour, Cambridge

I urge some caution in the course of action that my right hon. Friend proposes. I can recall several occasions in the previous Parliament when agreement on an unofficial timetable for a Bill was reached through the usual channels. However, it seems that Opposition Whips were not able to control Opposition Back Benchers--[Interruption.] and that often led to time-wasting and very late nights for all of us.

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Lord Privy Seal

My hon. Friend will welcome the fact that her proposition that the Opposition Whips were unable to control members of their party was heartily endorsed by the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst. Voluntary agreements are meaningful only if all members of the parties that reach them abide by them and support their Front-Bench spokesmen in such agreements.

Several hon. Members:

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Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Lord Privy Seal

I will give way to Mr. Winterton, but then I must make some progress because I have not even finished answering the question put by the hon. Member for New Forest, West.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

I am a member of the Modernisation Committee which produced the report on which the Standing Orders that we are considering today are based. Will the Leader of the House confirm that paragraphs 4 and 5 of the report are fully taken into account in the Standing Order changes that we are discussing? Is he prepared to highlight the importance of the position of the Chairmen of Standing Committees, who could come from any of the parties in the House? They chair the Programming Sub-Committees. As they are pledged to impartiality, the Chairmen will take into account the interests of the House as a whole in the scrutiny of the legislation.

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Lord Privy Seal

The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point, on which I am happy to reassure him. The motion endeavours to give effect to paragraphs 4 and 5 of the report. I apologise to the House for the fact that giving effect to the dozen lines of those paragraphs requires so much legal jargon.

I explained to the hon. Member for New Forest, West that the motion contains a provision for the Standing Committee to recommend a different out date, and that under the terms of the motion the Government must table that proposal within five sitting days. The motion contains a further provision; the Standing Committee will propose the length of the remaining stages and the allocation of time within that.

The hon. Member for Macclesfield is right to say that the Programming Sub-Committee that makes the recommendation to the Standing Committee will be chaired by the Chair of the Standing Committee. That will bring an impartial and independent element to the discussion and he or she will be responsible for safeguarding the interests of the Opposition and Back Benchers. I know that the Chairman of Ways and Means takes a particular interest in the important role of the Chairmen of Standing Committees in chairing the Programming Sub-Committees.

Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Mr. Hughes was an excellent member of the usual channels when he and I piloted the Countryside and Rights of Way Bill through Committee. We agreed at the start, with no timetable, that the Bill should come out of Committee six weeks later. It came out exactly on the dot. It would be a more sensible procedure not to timetable debates on Second Reading or in Committee. It is in Committee that omissions and lacunae in Bills are often exposed. It could then be decided whether it was necessary or desirable from the Government's point of view to timetable the remaining stages.

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Lord Privy Seal

In fairness to the House, it is helpful to the House if the Government are transparent and open about their target date for concluding the Committee proceedings. Let us get real. Every Government have always had a target date for the conclusion of Committee stages. I suspect that my right hon. Friend Mr. Foster will be able to confirm that. The programme motion on Second Reading makes transparent the target date so that every hon. Member--not only the Official Opposition, but Back Benchers and members of the other parties--knows it.

The motion before us today contains an innovation and improvement on last year's practice. If the Standing Committee becomes persuaded that the out date is unrealistic and that other matters need to be examined, it will be within its power to recommend a later out date. The Government must then put that before the House.

Photo of Mr Derek Foster Mr Derek Foster Labour, Bishop Auckland

I commend the spirit in which my right hon. Friend is dealing with the points raised by hon. Members on both sides of the House. It augurs well for what might occur during the rest of the Parliament.

As one who had a PhD in opposition and used to orchestrate during 10 years as Opposition Chief Whip the sort of things that Mr. Forth gets up to, I must advise my right hon. Friend that we must not be too sanctimonious. Indeed, I know that my right hon. Friend is the last one to be sanctimonious. There were many times when I did not have complete control over my Back Benchers. There were even more times when I pretended not to have control over them and colluded with them in frustrating the Government of the day. Such were the things that went on in this place.

Is not our dilemma that every act of modernisation--I am broadly in favour of what has been done and what is proposed--tends to increase the power of the Executive vis-a-vis Parliament? It is all too easy for Labour Members to want to steamroller all opposition, but we ought to have some consideration because one of these days, not I but some of my colleagues might be in opposition again.

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Lord Privy Seal

I would have appreciated it if sometimes during the 18 years my right hon. Friend had made it clear that he was happy for us to rebel against his instructions. It might have made us easier in our consciences, if not in what we did, if we had been aware of that at the time. I disagree with the conclusion that he draws about the effect of programme motions. They can assist the House in its scrutiny. They enable the House to focus on issues of concern to Back Benchers and Opposition Members, in the full knowledge of what the timetable allows. Members can then resolve to participate in debates on the issues on which they wish to express their views.

Several hon. Members:

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Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Lord Privy Seal

I think that I have already given way to the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham. I will make a special exception and give way for a second time in a moment.

At present, under the threat of guillotine or even in the absence of a guillotine, all Government Back Benchers have to be quiet because there is no time for them to speak. The majority of hon. Members are Labour Members. Under a programme motion, when the timetable and the out date are clear, all hon. Members are free to speak on issues of concern to them.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

The right hon. Gentleman will remember from his previous experience in the House that interventions are not confined to one. Will he come back to the point that he made earlier that the purpose of timetabling is to enable Back Benchers to identify the main issues? Surely that is not the case. In the first place, the Programming Sub-Committee has a quorum of four so it almost certainly will not involve ordinary Back Benchers. In the second place, the motion before the House does not provide for debate on the timetable motion. It provides for the motion to be taken immediately. In other words, Back Benchers are precluded from expressing their view on those parts of the Bill on which they wish to focus or on the length of time to be taken in Committee.

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Lord Privy Seal

The right hon. and learned Gentleman deludes himself if he imagines that many Back Benchers both in the Chamber just now and outside it would not welcome the provision that programme motions be taken forthwith.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Minister (Scotland)

The Leader of the House touched on the fact that one of the areas that will be covered by programme motions is the procedure when Bills come back from the House of Lords. How will the system work and be an improvement on the previous system of crude guillotining? For example, the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Bill enjoyed cross-party support, but we had 666 amendments from the Lords, of which 665 were Government amendments. There was no filibustering, but we had the chance to consider only 80 amendments in the time allocated under the Government's guillotine. One of the direct results was that we had to introduce subsequent legislation to correct the howler in relation to the imprint at the bottom of election literature.

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Lord Privy Seal

A programming motion must reflect the volume of amendments from another place. It can always be updated to take account of that. The Opposition should not pretend that there was a more generous allocation of time for scrutiny when they were in government. In the 1991-92 Session, in their last year in office before the 1992 election, they passed 33 Acts and spent 95 hours on Second Reading, 72 hours for all remaining stages and 696 hours in Standing Committee. In our last year before the 2001 election, we passed 21 Acts. Although that is a much smaller number, they were debated on Second Reading for 110 hours--15 more hours for a fewer number of Acts. The remaining stages took 72 hours--precisely the same as when the Conservatives were in office, although for fewer Bills. The legislation spent 690 hours in Standing Committee, which is less than 1 per cent. less than the time taken in the 1991-92 Session.

By the benchmark that the Conservatives established in office, it is false to say that programming motions result in less time for scrutiny by the House. On the contrary, more time was available, proportionate to the number of Bills considered.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone

Much of the discussion is about how much time is taken up, which raises the use of filibustering and the extent to which a particular Chairman construes whether that has occurred. I have grave reservations about whether the use of time is the best weapon for the Opposition, because it is better to use argument. However, it is true that the distortions to which the right hon. Gentleman refers are often a reflection of people misusing time and the Chairman not enforcing the rule on filibuster.

Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Lord Privy Seal

I do not wish to assent to criticism of the Chair, but I agree that scrutiny can be effectively carried out by telling argument, not by the length of time that a speech takes. I speak with experience because I spent longer in opposition than any Conservative Member in the Chamber. It is possible for the Opposition to change legislation. The ingredients for successful scrutiny to challenge and change legislation are persuasive argument, mobilisation of the public to express their view and the formation of alliances across the Floor of the House with other Members who can be persuaded to share the same opinion. On that basis, we were sometimes successful in changing legislation while in opposition. I remember forming an alliance, which I can now admit to my hon. Friends, with Miss Widdecombe to amend the Community Care Bill. We did that with the substantial support of the country.

In my long years in opposition, I rarely saw policy or legislation seriously challenged by the wasting of the House's time. The general effect of such activity united those on the Government Benches in their determination to see a measure through. That is the result of much of what the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst does, which is why I tabled a motion today to enable the House to accept the programming motions forthwith as recommended by the Modernisation Committee.

There are no medals for spending long hours in the Chamber; nor does our legislation necessarily benefit from long hours. We sit for longer than most democratic Parliaments and it is not self-evident that the quality of our law making is any better. There is nothing to be proud of in a culture of long hours. In my time, I have put in as many hours as any other hon. Member. Indeed, I was locked in the Library twice when I was shadow health spokesman because the custodian took the reasonable view that, as the House had risen and everyone else had gone home, no one would be in there. I have no objection to Opposition Members staying in the House or Library until they are locked in--indeed, I can arrange that for anyone who volunteers--but there is no reason why those who want to work all hours of the night should be allowed to force the rest of the House to keep them company.

I commend the motion to the House as a valuable foundation for the efficient use of our time and effective scrutiny of Government legislation.

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 3:05 pm, 28th June 2001

This subject is truly a House of Commons matter. It affects the rights of all Members of Parliament to fulfil the important function of scrutinising legislation and of tabling and debating amendments to ensure that the Executive is held to account.

Mr. Foster made his point well. Although the term "modernisation" is frequently used, what is done in its name does not strengthen Parliament, the Chamber or the rights of hon. Members on both sides of the House to hold the Executive to account. Instead, it strengthens the Executive. Since I became shadow Leader of the House, I have objected strongly, and shall continue to do so until I leave this post, on a point of principle that the so-called Modernisation Committee should be chaired by a Minister--specifically, the Leader of the House, who has a responsibility to protect the rights and duties of Members of Parliament.

The Modernisation Committee under this Government and formed by this Government is no less than a tool of this Government. It is outrageous that it should be used in such a way by them, and by the Leader of the House in particular, to introduce changes that affect the Standing Orders and the rights of the House so that we depart from the tradition of seeking consensus across the House. Consensus should not be sought in just one Committee, because that goes against the grain of what we have always understood to be the rights of hon. Members.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the Liberal Democrats--who now make the ludicrous claim that they are some sort of opposition--have done nothing but work hand in glove with the Government on the Modernisation Committee to contrive to reduce the opportunities available for opposition and have acted as their tool?

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

As always, my right hon. Friend is right. However, I add a caveat. The new Liberal Democrat Chief Whip for the Modernisation Committee expressed concern about the way in which legislation passed through the House, especially in the previous Parliament. I hope that my right hon. Friend is as hopeful as I am about that development. That Chief Whip was worried, as many of us were, about the guillotining of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Bill and the fact that more than 600 Lords amendments were not scrutinised by the Chamber. Much of the Bill will need to be tidied up and put right by us because problems were not properly addressed at the time. Indeed, just before the House rose for the general election, the imprints--an important aspect of the Bill--had to be reconsidered.

It is to no one's advantage if legislation is not properly scrutinised and challenged before it becomes an Act. I suspect that much of the legislation that was passed in the previous Parliament will cause great problems, not least because people ask about our intention behind the laws that we enact. If it has not even been scrutinised or debated, if there is no official record of the intent of the House at the time, how can we say that we are the legislators? Once it is seen that Parliament did not address matters, people outside will second-guess its intent. That is not the way in which any legislature should behave.

I say to Mr. Cook in all sincerity that it is the job of the Leader of the House to ensure that there are procedures that respect the right of all of us--in government or in opposition or on the Front or Back Benches--not only to challenge the Executive but to do our job in scrutinising and amending legislation.

Photo of Richard Shepherd Richard Shepherd Conservative, Aldridge-Brownhills

Is not there a curiosity in all this? Although the Liberals have indicated their great support for these measures, as they have throughout, when it has come to implementing them, they have voted against every guillotine motion. That is contradictory. That did not enable the Leader of the House to reflect on what was happening in practice and on the fact that our opposition is based on experience, not theory.

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

That is exactly right. I must at this stage put on record my grateful thanks to my hon. Friend, who has stood shoulder to shoulder with me in the Modernisation Committee to try to ensure that those of us who have grave concerns have them put on the record of the Committee's proceedings.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone

Does my hon. Friend agree that there is another substantive point about the chairmanship of the Modernisation Committee? As I said in yesterday's debate on the constitution, and certainly according to past conventions of the House, all Select Committees that are scrutiny Committees should automatically be chaired by an Opposition Member. The Public Accounts Committee is so chaired, although we face a disgraceful situation concerning the European Scrutiny Committee. I have great respect for its Chairman; this is not a personal objection. Am I right that there will not be the independence in Parliament for which people are calling if the naked exercise of power through the Whips and the appointment of Chairmen of those Committees is not sorted out? That is a fundamental question on which the debate should turn.

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

I totally agree with my hon. Friend. Since becoming shadow Leader of the House, I have made that point myself. Indeed, the point is not just that a Select Committee is chaired by a member of the Government--the Leader of the House--but that, interestingly, the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Leader of the House took a place on that Committee. I do not know whether that will be so in future. The Committee is a tool of the Government. It was intended to be so by this Government. This Government intended to ensure that, under the guise of a Select Committee, they could change the Standing Orders. As my hon. Friend has pointed out, given tradition and what we know and understand of Select Committees, it is of course nothing of the sort.

I would not necessarily press for such a Committee to be chaired by a member of the Opposition. I would happily accept a Back-Bench Chairman of any party in the House. The Committee deals with matters to do with the House. It is therefore not just entirely inappropriate but obscene that it is chaired by a member of the Government.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Labour, Lewisham, Deptford

The hon. Lady is making a great deal of bluster about the Committee and its formulation. Let us consider the points under debate. She is suggesting that the programming of business is worse than the guillotining that her Government undertook. I remember very well from the decade that I spent in opposition the very problems to which she has alluded about tabling many amendments at the last minute and the difficulty of interpreting legislation in the country. We ought to get to the heart of the matter, which is the value of programming business.

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

I shall come to that in a moment when I will be happy to quote--I am sure that the hon. Lady will be interested to hear it--the letter that I received at the beginning of the year from the then Leader of the House acknowledging that the motions on programming before the House in November, for which, as I recall, the hon. Lady voted enthusiastically, had not worked and that there were great problems. It is only because that went on record that the Modernisation Committee addressed those great problems.

If the hon. Lady really wants to get to the heart of the matter, let us do so. This is not about the rights of Members of Parliament and scrutiny of legislation. We know the Government's view on scrutinising legislation. Owing to their majority, they are prepared to allow Back Benchers constituency weeks away from this place. It is clear that, according to the Government's philosophy, an MP's role is not, as we have always understood it to be, two-fold--to represent one's constituents and ensure that constituency issues are dealt with, and to scrutinise legislation and hold the Executive to account. The Government are enthusiastically changing that role. They did so in the previous Parliament and they are clearly encouraging it in this one. They want to turn everybody into glorified social workers while they dictate how the country will be run.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick Labour, Walsall North

In response to what the hon. Lady said about Chairs of Select Committees, does she recall Mr. Winterton being Chairman of the Health Committee? To his credit, the Government of the day considered him unreliable and he was replaced by another Conservative Member, Sir John Wheeler, who was considered totally safe.

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. In the past few minutes, we have been moving away from the substance of the motion to historical tales. I realise that there are connected matters, but we must try to concentrate on the motion before the House.

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

I shall of course be happy to respond to that intervention in next week's debate, when it would be more appropriate to do so. The hon. Gentleman will not be disappointed by my reply.

Without going through everything that I said when we dealt with deferred Divisions and programme motions in November, as that is on the record, I shall reiterate my key objections to them. First, deferred Divisions divorce the debate from the vote. It is critical that the vote follows the debate. The ballot paper that can be handed in between 3.30 pm and 5 pm could be filled in by any third party anywhere. [Hon. Members: "No."] The fact that Labour Members do not think that that is a matter of concern shows clearly that they do not understand the way in which the procedures of the House have developed over many years. They may think that the procedures are old-fashioned and anachronistic, but Members have always been able to go through the Lobby following the debate unencumbered by the influence of any external third party.

I am talking about the sort of third-party influence that was seen in the 19th century--that is going back a bit--which affected the way in which Members voted. [Interruption.] We have procedures in this House as a result of which Members are unencumbered when they vote at the sound of the Division Bell immediately following the debate.

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Lady is clearly one of those who thinks that it does not matter if a third party has access to a Member when voting. Ballot papers that are available in the morning could be filled in by anybody. Coercion could be used. A third party could stand over a Member of Parliament while they filled in that ballot paper. Government Members shake their heads, but the freedom and the right of a Member of Parliament to proceed unaccosted to the Lobby following a debate to make sure that when their vote is cast they are not subject to third-party influence is rooted in history.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

My hon. Friend comes to an issue that has done more than any other to lower the House in the country's esteem--the fact that Members of Parliament no longer speak their mind or vote according to their opinion. What she is really saying is that we should diminish the control of party over this place--we should try to diminish the control of the Whips over the party. Does my hon. Friend not agree that we should assert the independence of Back Benchers and the freedom from party control?

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

Never mind Back Benchers--we should also assert the rights of Front Benchers.

Let me share with the House the results of an experiment that I carried out a little while ago with one of the deferred Divisions. I simply looked at the questions on the paper, filled it in as I thought fit and waited to see what would happen. I am pleased to say that nothing did. The point is that it represents a departure from an important principle--although it might not be important to Mrs. Campbell, who is trying to intervene--which is that we discharge our duties in the Division following a debate.

Photo of Mrs Anne Campbell Mrs Anne Campbell Labour, Cambridge

The hon. Lady is making a wholly spurious point. Every Member of Parliament who goes into the Lobby with a piece of paper is responsible for what is written on that paper. She is trying to pretend otherwise, but her argument has no basis in reality.

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

There is a distinction to be drawn. Members of Parliament can be faced with multiple votes on a piece of paper, some of which deal with highly emotive issues that attract especially active lobby groups or constituency activists who want to influence the way in which that Member of Parliament votes. It is quite possible that the day will dawn when the public, having finally realised the way in which our voting system has been changed, will demand to see the hon. Lady fill in her ballot paper, and might even stand over while she does it. [Hon. Members: "No!"] Government Members dismiss that scenario, but if they are never subject to third-party influence when they vote, we must all assume that the little notes that they read out so politely during Prime Ministers questions and on every other occasion are not, in fact, written for them by people at Millbank tower. Perhaps the Minister who winds up the debate will tell us whether Millbank tower or the Whips ever issue any direction on how ballot papers are to be filled in.

In some ways, programme motions cause me greater concern. When they were introduced, it was suggested that they would benefit the Opposition--that, provided that a final date was agreed for the Bill to complete its passage, the Opposition and any Labour Back Bencher who was sufficiently strong minded to challenge the Government would have the opportunity in the preceding stages to ensure that proper scrutiny and time were given to challenge the detail of the Bill. However, that is not what happened after the change was made to our Sessional Orders in November last year. The change was not made to assist either the Opposition or Back Benchers; it was made purely to ensure not only that the Government got their business but that they did so with important parts of legislation being allowed to proceed through both Houses of Parliament without having been properly scrutinised and without the Opposition having been able to challenge the detail or speak to amendments.

I mentioned a letter from the previous Leader of the House, who wrote to me on 30 January:

"You will recall I undertook at business questions . . . in response to Sir Peter Emery, to remind all my Ministerial colleagues of the purpose of the new procedures on programming, given the expressed view from your benches that the Government is not paying sufficient attention to the interests of Opposition parties when establishing programmes for legislation.

I have now done so. In particular, I have stressed that . . . it was agreed that in return for the Government securing each Bill by a particular date, the Opposition parties and other non-Government interests would have the major say in how"-- that word was underlined--

"the available time is used."

Would that that were so. Despite that letter, as legislation proceeded through the House, as Minister after Minister came to the Dispatch Box on Second Reading, and as other Members presided over the Programming Sub- Committees and deliberations in Standing Committee, matters went from bad to worse, culminating in the travesty of proceedings on the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001.

As a result of that, the Modernisation Committee met to recommend further changes. One might have thought that the changes would be designed to make procedures more flexible and to give the House, Back Benchers and the Opposition greater opportunity to challenge and scrutinise. Instead, the Modernisation Committee, chaired by the Leader of the House, produced its first report. As the House will be aware, it contained a memorandum submitted by my hon. Friend Mr. Shepherd and myself, because neither of us were content with the so-called "repairing" job that that Committee had attempted in order to correct the clear deficiencies in the Orders to which the House agreed in November last year.

I shall not read out the whole memorandum, but I shall repeat some of the points made therein. I should point out that the reason why it was a memorandum and not a minority report was that such are the procedures of the Modernisation Committee that I was prevented from tabling such a report. Because of the shambles resulting from the fact that the rules of that Committee appear to be made up as they go along, I, a member of the official Opposition, was not permitted to table a minority report as I had asked to be allowed to do. Only after my hon. Friend and I insisted were we able to get even a memorandum appended to the report of the Committee. The House will not be surprised to hear me repeat that the Modernisation Committee is a tool of government: it has no interest at all in dissenting views or the views of the official Opposition.

On Second Reading of the Criminal Justice and Police Bill, the Minister had stated how many sittings of the Standing Committee he thought would be required, but he reneged on that promise when the Programming Sub-Committee met to discuss the matter. The Standing Committee ran out of time to such an extent that, as it reached its final sitting, it had dealt with only 90 of the Bill's 132 clauses. That made it necessary for my right hon. Friend Miss Widdecombe and three other Opposition Members to sit in that Committee and demonstrate their grave concern that its proceedings were to be guillotined and that it was being forced to complete its business without having scrutinised important parts of the Bill.

Photo of Mr Kevin Hughes Mr Kevin Hughes Labour, Doncaster North

Does the hon. Lady agree that we are debating these motions, which I think are unnecessary and inappropriate, not for the sake of proper scrutiny, but because of the time-wasting tactics used by the provisional wing of the Tory party, led by Mr. Forth and others?

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for Mr. Hughes to claim that there was time wasting in the Committee that considered the Criminal Justice and Police Bill, given that the Chairman of that Committee made a specific ruling to the effect that there had been no time wasting? In fact, that is the scandal of what occurred.

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

That is a point of argument, not a point of order.

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

I am happy to say that the Hansard Committee record shows that both Chairmen confirmed that there was not time wasting. Simon Hughes agreed with that. That is mentioned in the memorandum that is attached to the first report of the Modernisation Committee.

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

My hon. Friend's recollection is a precise and damning indictment of the Government's handling of this sorry saga. Does she recall that the Leader of the House, in one of his attempted purple passages, sought to justify programme motions on the grounds of candour, openness and transparency? Will she confirm that that claim is flatly contradicted by the practice of the Programming Sub-Committees, which do not meet in public, which do not provide a verbatim transcript of their proceedings, and which do not even have the courtesy to provide Members with a minute of their deliberations?

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

That is right. It is one of my on-going complaints, which I shall reiterate. Such Committees, especially as they have voting rights, should record their deliberations, including voting records.

Mr. Hughes suggested that it was the time wasting of some Conservative Back Benchers that caused the Modernisation Committee to recommend, and the new Leader of the House to agree, as on the Order Paper, that no longer should the House discuss a programme motion for 45 minutes before it goes to the Programming Sub-Committee. That is a serious misjudgment, for two reasons.

During a Second Reading debate, some of the issues about which there is concern--for example, what might be in the Bill or how it will be taken forward--emerge only during Back Benchers' representations and contributions. All too often it falls to the Minister who responds to the debate to answer the specific questions that have been raised. It is not until the conclusion of Second Reading that many Back Benchers--it is to be assumed that those who speak on Second Reading often have a particular interest in the subject, and perhaps wish to serve on the Standing Committee--have their specific questions answered.

If Back Benchers hear the answers to their questions in the Minister's response, they will have signs of the sort of issues that will be raised in Committee and the time that will be needed, especially in terms of apportionment between certain parts of the Bill. Some parts will be long in print, but they will not take up too much time in Committee. It is often as a result of detail coming forward from Ministers that many amendments need to be tabled. If the House is to be denied the opportunity of a 45-minute debate--a member of the Committee will not necessarily be a member of the Programming Sub-Committee--Back Benchers on both sides of the House will be denied the opportunity to make their contribution to an important part of the deliberations in Committee.

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Labour, Nottingham North

I thank the hon. Lady for her characteristic generosity in giving way to me and apologise to her for missing the centre portion of her speech.

I feel that someone must come to the defence of Mr. Forth. Does the hon. Lady agree that it is true that he, by his antics over the past year or so, has done far more for the modernisation of this place than serious-minded reformers like myself managed in 14 years or more?

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

We have a dichotomy. What do we mean by modernisation? We know what the Leader of the House--along with many Labour Back Benchers, I suspect--means by it. He means getting away from here at 10 o'clock. I remind the hon. Gentleman that there is a balance to be struck between getting away from here at a reasonable time and discharging our duties as Members. That is why I referred to the dual role of a Member. It suits the Government increasingly to regard the role of Members on both sides of the House as being confined to looking after their constituency interests. Important as that is, the role of a Member is that of scrutiny and challenge. We must have ample opportunity, for example, to table amendments at the various stages of a Bill's consideration, and to speak to them if Mr. Speaker has been gracious enough to select them for debate. I am worried that so-called modernisation does not enhance that process. It does not strengthen the ability of Back Benchers to participate. Instead, it restricts it.

We are getting rid of the 45-minute debate following Second Reading, and there is concern about the way in which the guillotine will fall, when only outstanding Government amendments will be dealt with. Where does a Back Bencher on either side of the House go to express what may be a deeply held belief about important issues within the context of a Bill?

I return to what I have euphemistically described as the actions of the Maidstone Four. They felt obliged to attend a sitting of a Standing Committee in its concluding minutes when the guillotine fell and large and important parts of the Bill concerning the police force had not been dealt with by the Committee.

Unless Back Benchers can see in our procedures a reasonable opportunity to table and speak to amendments on matters of importance and often of principle to them, the only alternative will be for more Members to take action such as that taken by my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald or--I hope that this does not happen--action similar to that taken in earlier Parliaments by hon. Members on both sides of the House, who felt that the only way to demonstrate their frustration was to wave the Mace about. Let us not go down that route. That is not modernisation. Such action reflects the sheer frustration of Members at the fact that their will is being subsumed by a Government who are unwilling and ungenerous enough not to strengthen the rights of Back Benchers and instead curtail and usurp them through the deliberations of a Committee that is in the palm of government.

The Leader of the House ain't seen nothing yet if he thinks that what he saw in the previous Parliament will be acceptable in this Parliament, with badly drafted legislation being guillotined at every stage of its consideration as it passes through the House, and possibly in the upper Chamber, if that is what the Government plan to do. That is not modernisation by anybody's definition.

The motion is not about proper scrutiny. It is about getting away from the House by 10 o'clock. That is the benchmark that has been set. The Leader of the House touched on the matter briefly in his remarks last night, when he said:

"it does not seem entirely unreasonable that we should allow colleagues to go home at 10 o'clock at night. Members of any other profession would regard that as a very minimum working condition."--[Hansard, 27 June 2001; Vol. 370, c. 739.]

I remind the right hon. Gentleman of the very definition of "profession". People who regard their work in life as professional do not set deadlines for when they clock off. The definition of professional is seeing the job through until it is completed, and doing so in such a way that standards are upheld so as to ensure that the job is well done.

If the House and its proceedings are not to be professional in the definition to which I have referred and if we are to clock off before the job is finished or before it has been properly done, it is not only hon. Members but the country who will be the poorer. There are many hon. Members, including myself, who did not come to this place just to clock off. If that is what the Leader of the House means by modernisation, he should be only too well aware that future generations will spend a great deal of time trying to put right the legislation that the Labour Government, both in the previous Parliament and in this one, bequeathed to the nation, because it will be bad legislation. That will be the hallmark of what the right hon. Gentleman and the Labour Government pass on to future generations.

Photo of Mark Fisher Mark Fisher Labour, Stoke-on-Trent Central 3:40 pm, 28th June 2001

The danger of our debate is that it provides a false choice for the House between programme motions--which undoubtedly will restrict time, one of the weapons of Parliament and the Opposition--and the status quo prior to their introduction. The idea that earlier arrangements were a desirable or effective way of conducting business in the House is a dangerous fallacy to which those of us who are extremely worried about aspects of programme motions can easily fall prey.

As Sir Edward Heath, the former Prime Minister and Conservative leader, said in his final speech to the House before the election, Parliament's ability to hold the Government to account and scrutinise them has been getting weaker for a long time--about 50 years, he estimated. Unlike one of his predecessors, Winston Churchill, Sir Edward was never a great historian; in fact that weakness goes back to the Reform Act 1884 and the Parnell debates. Parnell obstructed the work of the House so much that both Front Benches got together and augmented the four Standing Orders that the House had with a great raft of further orders, on which every Government since have built. As has been said by many speakers in our preliminary debate on the business of the House and in this debate, all those changes to scrutiny in the House have had the effect of strengthening the Government and weakening Parliament's ability to hold them to account.

In seeking, quite properly and sensibly, more orderly debate, programme motions are strangling time--the one weapon left to the House. However, it is the weakest, crudest and least interesting weapon that we could possibly have, and my hon. Friends are right to say that the abuse of time does not help anybody at all; it does not help scrutiny or debate, does not help us to achieve better conclusions and is the most idiotic of weapons. However, it is the only one that Parliament has left. After 150 years, there are far too few weapons in the armoury of Parliament or the Opposition.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone

The hon. Gentleman made an interesting reference to a late 19th-century Session. He will of course recall that the former distinguished Clerk of the House, Sir Edward Fellowes, made the point that that autumn Session was devoted exclusively to transferring the rules and powers of the Speaker to the Executive--in effect, the Whips. In 1969, or whenever Sir Edward wrote his book, he said that, at that moment, the power of Back Benchers and Parliament was reduced. Parliament has not regained its strength since.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, in the past 25 or 30 years, the situation has got progressively worse and that this is the time for Parliament to get it right? It would be a disorganised hypocrisy for the Leader of the House not to do so.

Photo of Mark Fisher Mark Fisher Labour, Stoke-on-Trent Central

I have considerable sympathy with the hon. Gentleman, who is right to link the problem to that period and to the essays and contributions to the history of the House of the former Clerk of the House, Sir Edward Fellowes.

We have got to find a third and better way--[Hon. Members: "Ah!"] I agree that programme motions could easily be abused by this Government or a future Government and could severely restrict the ability of the House to hold any Government to account. However, arrangements that we had in the recent past were no good either, and there will be no chance to improve scrutiny in the House unless we compensate Parliament and the Opposition for taking away time--which is used to hold to account and scrutinise the Government--and put other weapons in the armoury of Parliament.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Shadow Spokesperson (Defence)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that not only are we taking time from the Opposition via such motions but we are giving the Government a powerful time-management tool, which will be used most brutally when there is dissent from Labour Members? Debate is arranged so that a Government trustee will take up the available time to agree at length with the Government, to the exclusion of the dissenting voices of the hon. Gentleman's own colleagues?

Photo of Mark Fisher Mark Fisher Labour, Stoke-on-Trent Central

It is not yet clear whether the motions will improve the scrutiny that Parliament can apply to legislation. Nobody participating in our debate has addressed the valid point made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House--that the crucial weapon is not time but the quality of argument. How do we provide Parliament and the Opposition--indeed, all Members of Parliament--with the opportunity to focus on the quality of argument before legislation is introduced, while it is being introduced and when it has been properly considered? We should consider how to get that quality instead of being seduced by the idea that spending a lot of time on legislation improves scrutiny, because it does not.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

It is difficult to give any credence to the hon. Gentleman's case about the quality of argument when members of his Government, including those on the Front Bench and in the Modernisation Committee, introduced the device of deferred Divisions which, as my hon. Friend Mrs. Browning pointed out, has divided and separated argument from voting. How can we give any credence to the assertion that the quality of argument will change hearts and minds and, perhaps, votes in the House, if someone who has never had a chance to hear the argument or--who knows?--even read it is expected to cast a vote in one of those peculiar deferred Divisions?

Photo of Mark Fisher Mark Fisher Labour, Stoke-on-Trent Central

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman on many aspects of this matter, but his obsessive, conspiratorial arguments against deferred Divisions rather miss the point. I take the point of Mrs. Browning that, in an ideal world, the vote follows the debate in quick succession, but the worry about deferred Divisions is much less significant than the one about a new set of programme motions that are not compensated for by other methods of improving the quality of scrutiny in the House.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

The hon. Gentleman is making a serious contribution, which the House appreciates.

I shall make three quick suggestions. First, the Government should always introduce Bills a long time before Second Reading so that there is ample time for discussion by interested groups. Secondly, we should look again at the Special Standing Committee procedure, so that such Committees can take evidence from interested groups before a Bill goes into Committee. Thirdly, we should have much less legislation in every Session so that there is not so much time pressure.

Photo of Mark Fisher Mark Fisher Labour, Stoke-on-Trent Central

I am grateful for the right hon. and learned Gentleman's intervention, which is of the quality that ought to be brought to this debate. The weakness of the case of the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton and, indeed, of her memorandum--with whose spirit and critique I sympathise--is that they provide no alternative ways of improving the quality of scrutiny in the House. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has done the House a great service by suggesting some clear and simple ways in which scrutiny could be improved. We simply do not make enough of pre-legislative scrutiny; we do not engage in advance the skills and expertise of people who will be subject to our scrutiny. We ought always to have a standard for all important Bills and have a scrutiny stage prior to a Bill's Committee stage; those who understand the implications of the legislation should have an opportunity to engage with Members and say, "Look, the Bill will not work like that. It is well intentioned and we can see the thrust, but it will not work like that." As the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, better pre-legislative scrutiny has a role to play, but we also need to strengthen the structure of scrutiny, especially in Select Committees. That matter has been discussed already, and will be discussed again.

Photo of Richard Shepherd Richard Shepherd Conservative, Aldridge-Brownhills

Quality of argument is related to time, and the amount of time available for debate is entirely in the hands of the Government. The Opposition's objections result from experience. The Bill that became the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 has been mentioned. Liberal Democrat Members opposed every guillotine imposed on that Bill.

Mr. Fisher spoke about rational alternative schemes. I would love to engage in a debate on such possibilities, but we have to address and vote on the motion before the House.

Photo of Mark Fisher Mark Fisher Labour, Stoke-on-Trent Central

I seldom disagree with the hon. Gentleman on matters to do with the House or the constitution, but I do not agree with what he has just said. I shall try to demonstrate that a useful contribution can be made in a short time. I shall sit down forthwith when I have made the points that I want to make.

I do not agree with Mr. Shepherd that the quality of an argument or debate depends on the time that is available for it. All hon. Members can speak much more concisely, briefly and in a way that holds the House's attention so that points can be made more quickly. I do not think that the quality of debate or scrutiny is reduced when contributions from Back-Bench Members are restricted to 10 minutes. On the contrary: such a time limit focuses minds.

Photo of Mark Fisher Mark Fisher Labour, Stoke-on-Trent Central

Very briefly, as I wish to live by my own precepts.

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

I understand the vantage point from which the hon. Gentleman approaches the matter, and his general principle is that the maximisation of time is not necessary for the effective scrutiny of legislation. However, does he accept that it is at least reasonable to observe that, when the Government insist on a programme motion that represents something of a truncation of debate, it is not reasonable for them also to demonstrate that they have an insatiable appetite for amendments? It is common for several hundred Government amendments to be tabled towards the end of proceedings on a Bill, when less than a couple of minutes can be allowed for debate on each. Is that not wrong?

Photo of Mark Fisher Mark Fisher Labour, Stoke-on-Trent Central

I agree. Any legislation that goes through the House without debate or scrutiny is an insult to the public. It is extremely dangerous to pass ill-considered legislation.

However, Oppositions have often been guilty of hindering that scrutiny. The first Standing Committee to which I belonged was the one considering the Bill to privatise British Telecom. My colleague and friend Mr. John Golding told me how to operate in Standing Committee. We kept that Committee going for more than three months, thinking that we were doing a brave, noble and determined thing. It was an example of machismo politics, and it was quite understandable when the then Government guillotined the Bill after three months, saying, "This is ridiculous; enough is enough."

As a result of our tactics, most of the Bill was never discussed in the Standing Committee. With the benefit of 18 years of hindsight, I now think that our opposition--in which I believed totally at the time--was thoroughly misguided. British Telecom has probably performed better than when it was in public hands. However, parts of the Bill were never scrutinised. It is an insult to the public and the House when such important legislation can go through in that way.

Photo of Gwyneth Dunwoody Gwyneth Dunwoody Labour, Crewe and Nantwich

I have one simple question for my hon. Friend. Had that Bill been guillotined in the way proposed today, is he certain that the elements that were not scrutinised would have been looked at? Would all the drafting have been improved? Would all the clauses have been debated? I have considerable reservations about that.

Photo of Mark Fisher Mark Fisher Labour, Stoke-on-Trent Central

I wonder whether my hon. Friend meant to say, "Had that Bill not been guillotined," because it was in fact guillotined. However, even if it had not been so guillotined, it is possible that we would not have made progress. We had got hardly one third of the way through what was a long and complicated Bill.

Photo of Gwyneth Dunwoody Gwyneth Dunwoody Labour, Crewe and Nantwich

My question was based on that Bill being guillotined in the way that is proposed today.

Photo of Mark Fisher Mark Fisher Labour, Stoke-on-Trent Central

The Bill was not guillotined in the manner set out in the proposals before the House today, but it was ruthlessly guillotined. As I said, I now sympathise with that guillotine, and believe that the then Government were right to be impatient with the rather crude tactics employed by the then Opposition. We did not do justice to the Bill, and we did not allow the Standing Committee to do justice to an important piece of legislation. My point is that Oppositions can constrict debate as much as Governments.

The job of hon. Members of all parties is to improve the scrutiny of legislation and to hold the Government to account.

Photo of Lynne Jones Lynne Jones Labour, Birmingham, Selly Oak

It has become clear to me in the time that I have been a Member of the House that the key to better scrutiny of legislation is a more effective Committee stage. If the Government want to reduce the power of Back-Bench Members to waste time--and I agree with that aim--they should also be more willing to enhance scrutiny at the Committee stage. That might be achieved by appointing more independent people to the Committees. My own offers to serve in that way have often been turned down.

I agree that Special Standing Committees should be used more often, but only if they are allowed to come to some conclusion. They should be required to produce a report to the Government, containing recommendations about whether proposals in legislation will achieve what they are intended to achieve.

Photo of Mark Fisher Mark Fisher Labour, Stoke-on-Trent Central

My hon. Friend knows that I have much sympathy with what she has said, and that I acknowledge the independence with which she always speaks in the House.

I have detained the House long enough. The thrust of my remarks is clear, and it is that we are getting the balance wrong. I do not see how the motions before us will improve scrutiny, although they will make business and the House more orderly.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Minister (Scotland)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Government cannot impose orderliness on the programming of Lords amendments? There will be no Programming Committee to deal with Lords amendments, for which the mechanism will be exactly the same as the old guillotine. Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that that must be the interpretation at which one arrives after a detailed reading of the motions' texts?

Photo of Mark Fisher Mark Fisher Labour, Stoke-on-Trent Central

I share the hon. Gentleman's worries in that regard, and I hope that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will clarify how Lords amendments will be handled. What is the point in having a second Chamber if we cannot consider the amendments that it sends to us?

However, the crucial question is whether the programme motions will improve scrutiny of legislation and Government business. I do not think that they will. There is nothing wrong with greater orderliness, but we are not getting right the balance between the responsibility of hon. Members of all parties to scrutinise legislation and the Government's absolute right to introduce the legislation that they want and to have it introduced according to the proper cycle.

I do not believe that the Government's right not to have their legislation obstructed means that the same legislation cannot be amended, but there is always a tension between those two possibilities. I do not think that the motions before us today improve the balance. I hope that we will return to these matters during this Parliament, as they lie at the heart of why hon. Members are here, and of what we do here.

Photo of Mr Paul Tyler Mr Paul Tyler Liberal Democrat, North Cornwall 3:58 pm, 28th June 2001

I am delighted to follow Mr. Fisher, whose contribution lasted only 18 minutes yet was more thoughtful and provoked more sensible exchanges than what went before. I am grateful to him.

However, I draw the House's attention to the Modernisation Committee's first report of the 1997-98 Session. It contains an excellent chart that shows how the scrutiny of legislation can, under the existing Standing Orders, be undertaken in a number of different ways. If those options were taken up, there is no doubt that the legislation emerging from the House would be improved. The report contains some other suggestions for enhancing those different options.

The House faces some very important matters. The motions before us do not offer a panacea. The proposals do not amount to a magic wand that will do everything necessary to improve the way in which the House does its job. However, in a modest way and with good will, which has already been mentioned, they can make improvements.

Let us consider the context of the proposals and much of the discussion in the Chamber since the general election. Mr. Salter said earlier that the fall in turnout should worry every Member of Parliament. I read an excellent Library briefing on turnout, and discovered that, when I was first elected in February 1974, the national turnout was 78.8 per cent. In my constituency, which was then called Bodmin, it was 83.3 per cent. This year, the national figure has dropped to 59.4 per cent., and even in the great constituency of North Cornwall, where we take politics seriously, it was down to 63.8 per cent. That is a 20 per cent. difference in a relatively short political lifetime. If the trend continues, it will be disastrous. In that context, this afternoon's debate is very important.

How do we rediscover Parliament's ability to demonstrate to the nation that it is the place where we conduct our business in an orderly manner? Scrutiny of Executive action is as important as that of legislation. In that respect, the Modernisation Committee's proposals have been successfully realised in Westminster Hall. A Minister has to attend proceedings and explain a specific part of the appropriate Department's responsibility. That is an important demonstration to the country of the way in which we do our job properly. The media have not picked that up, but that is another story for another occasion.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that we are held in such low esteem partly because individual Members are not seen to be expressing their views, and are perceived as creatures of a party? That, perhaps more than any other factor, has done most to lower the House's standing.

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

I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman. He may recall that I once proposed a motion, which stated that the power of the party had increased, was increasing and should be diminished. It reflected the famous Dunning motion of the 1780s. However, I recall that the right hon. and learned Gentleman went into the opposing Lobby. All sinners repent eventually.

All parties have an important job to do in demonstrating that we approach the business of Parliament freely. That business has three purposes, and comprises scrutinising legislation, scrutinising Executive activity and representing our constituents. All three aspects are important. We are dealing with only one this afternoon, and I must not be diverted into considering the others.

Photo of Martin Salter Martin Salter Labour, Reading West

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that hon. Members who can scarcely be described as lickspittles have been present throughout the debate? They have occasionally expressed their views in defiance of their party. However, many choose not to do so at 2 am. What is wrong with that?

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

I shall deal with that point later. The debate is the first opportunity for me to declare that I am no longer a member of the usual channels; I am no longer my party's Chief Whip. Our new Chief Whip has decreed that we have a free vote this afternoon. I am expressing my personal view as Liberal Democrat shadow Leader of the House, but I hope that my colleagues will follow my good example.

The new Leader of the House has had rave reviews in the media because it is clearly anticipated that he will be the House's man. I welcome that. However, I hope that the first, limited step that we are discussing will not also be the final step towards improving the conduct of the House's business. As other hon. Members have said, we look to the Leader of the House genuinely to lead us in trying to re-establish parliamentary control, not least over scrutiny and holding Ministers to account.

The Modernisation Committee, on which I was proud to serve, has produced several reports that are relevant to the motion. It is important to say up front that there is a genuine difference between quantity and quality. The quality of our work is not measured by the quantity of time that we spend on it. We must try to identify ways of improving the product without simply extending the hours. As the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central said, use of time is only one weapon. The weapons of effective argument and effective use of time should be our major consideration.

I plead with hon. Members who participate in the debate to read what must be the shortest report from any Select Committee. The report that the Modernisation Committee produced earlier this year is only one page, but it appears that not all hon. Members have read it. Again, I put it on record that the report's parentage is cross party, whatever Mrs. Browning says. She may want to airbrush Sir Peter Emery, her former parliamentary neighbour, out of history, but he wrote the draft report. Neither the former Leader of the House nor I but Sir Peter Emery wrote it, and it was then discussed in the Committee.

I am sorry that Mr. Winterton, who voted for the report, is not present. I am also disappointed that the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young) is absent because he took an active and positive role in the earlier stages of the Modernisation Committee. None of those hon. Members complained about its chairmanship or said that the Leader of the House should not have chaired it. That spurious argument arrived on the scene with the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton at a late stage in the proceedings.

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Gentleman mentioned my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young). I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not omit to mention that my right hon. Friend prepared a minority report on the Modernisation Committee's previous report, which originally introduced programming and deferred Divisions.

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

That is true. However, it is also true that, in the report that we are currently considering, which has given rise to the motions--their details are the responsibility of the Leader of the House; they are nothing to do with the Committee or me--we took up the right hon. Gentleman's point. It states that the terms of trade between the Government and the Opposition need to be re-evaluated.

The Government of the day have an opportunity, a responsibility and a right to introduce legislation. If they have a mandate and retain a majority in the House, they have the opportunity to do that in reasonable time. Are the Conservative Opposition saying that the electoral system has gone wrong, and that because only some 40 per cent. of voters supported the new Government with their large majority, their legislative opportunities should be circumscribed? Are they saying that the fact that less than a quarter of the electorate voted for the Government means that they should be more humble? If so, that is new, and if they want to support us in introducing a fair voting system, we welcome all allies, even at this stage.

Let us assume for the moment that all hon. Members agree that a Government elected under our democratic, parliamentary system are entitled to introduce legislation while they command a majority in the House. The report also said that, within the time allocated for the legislation, it should be up to Opposition parties to make the running. They and Government Back-Bench Members should stipulate the priorities for consideration and votes. That will not happen if we revert to the blunt instrument of a guillotine, if that is not a contradiction. If there is a guillotine, the Government organise their business to prevent the Opposition and dissenting voices on the Government side from having their say and getting their vote.

The Transport Bill was a classic example. We had a programme motion, but, by agreement between the three main parties, and the full involvement of Government Back-Bench Members, we enabled the people who had genuine anxieties about the privatisation of National Air Traffic Services to have their say and their vote. If there had been a guillotine, the Government would have made sure that that did not occur. We therefore believe that, on an experimental basis--we always work on that basis--programme motions are more helpful to the conduct of good business in the House than guillotine motions. I know that in the past the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton has voted for a great many guillotine motions. She might be embarrassed by that. So far as I can recall, I have never voted for a guillotine motion, and neither have most of my colleagues. That is because we think that they just do not work. We vote for programme motions.

Mr. Shepherd is not here at the moment, but he made a rather misleading statement earlier about the Liberal Democrats which I must correct. We have voted against programme motions when they have immediately followed a Second Reading debate, because we felt that that was not the right context in which to discuss the matter. The right context in which to discuss the way in which business is to be handled is a debate in Committee involving the people who are going to handle that business.

That is why the Select Committee proposals said, "Take it away from the Floor of the House, because it will not be discussed by the people who will then be responsible for the way in which the Bill is considered. Take it into Committee." In Committee, those who are going participate in the discussion will have an input into the way in which the programme is designed, and the Chairman of the Standing Committee will seek to ensure fair play and that a balance is maintained between the different interests, including those of the Back Benchers--an important point made earlier by the hon. Member for Macclesfield.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

The hon. Gentleman is making a perfectly sensible suggestion, but it would be even more sensible if we could devise a way of ensuring that the membership of the Standing Committee--which, under the hon. Gentleman's scheme, would be devising the timetable--were not so controlled by those on the Front Benches. The danger is that the Standing Committee will contain people who are broadly speaking, the creatures of those on the Front Benches.

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

I very much agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman. It is extremely important that those who have experience on the Front Benches get on to the Back Benches as fast as possible. The right hon. and learned Gentleman's redemption since he left the Government Front Bench is remarkable. I do not recall him raising these points at any stage when his Government were packing Committees on Bills and Select Committees in the 1992 to 1997 Parliament. However, he makes a perfectly valid point, which I endorse. Although it is not appropriate for this debate, the process by which people are put on to Committees--be they scrutiny Committees for Bills or other Committees--is an important issue to which I know the Leader of the House will want to return on a different occasion.

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

Will the hon. Gentleman accept, on the strength of the operation thus far of Programming Sub-Committees, that one of their enduring problems is that they seem to suffer from an identity crisis? They are what might politely--or less politely--be described as political cross-dressers or transvestites. On the one hand it is mooted that they are really a variation on the theme of a Standing Committee. If that is the case, why is there no verbatim transcript of the proceedings? Alternatively, it is suggested that they are Select Committees. In that case, what on earth is the business of the Government Whip in sitting on them?

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

I bow to the hon. Gentleman's superior judgment. He obviously has direct experience of political cross-dressers whereas I have never encountered one, so I cannot speak on that with authority. However, he makes a serious point, which I take. I am sure that the Leader of the House and his deputy are listening carefully. There is mixed experience--let us put it no more strongly than that--of the operation of the Programming Sub-Committees. Some of my colleagues came back saying that they had worked remarkably well; some said that they had been led well by the Chair of the Committee; and some came back and said that, frankly, it was all sewn up in advance.

I say with great care as I look round the House, and now that I am no longer part of the usual channels, that I am amazed by the contributions of some previous members of the Government Whips Office--I am not looking at anyone in particular--earlier this afternoon. My experience of carve-ups between those on the two Front Benches was that they deliberately excluded the third party, and other minor parties, in the House, and often also excluded very carefully any consideration of the views of Government Back Benchers. That was true under successive Governments. If, by means of the proposals, programme motions will enable a less formal but more open dialogue to take place with those on the Back Benches in the Committees, that must be good for Parliament. I hope that that would restore some of the reputation to which other hon. Members have referred.

I am a great believer in evolution in this place. Having been in and out of it for some time, I am conscious that people outside think that we are far too staid in the way in which we conduct our business. They think that we get stuck in a rut and that we do not know what is going on in the world outside. The proposals that the Leader of the House has put before us represent a modest step, based on the solid support of a broad cross-section of members--not everyone; I accept the point made by the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton--in the Modernisation Committee. The principle is right that those who are going to do the detailed scrutiny are the best people to decide how that scrutiny should be punctuated.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Minister (Scotland)

I return to the point that I made earlier on Lords amendments, and I would be grateful for the hon. Gentleman's comments on that. Nobody will determine the programming in that regard apart from the Leader of the House or the Minister in charge of the Bill in question. Does not that fly in the face of the intention that the hon. Gentleman says the Modernisation Committee had in coming up with these proposals?

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

It is perfectly true that I do not recall a detailed discussion about Lords amendments. I shall look to the Minister to respond to that question when he replies. That is a perfectly fair point.

The choice before the House is this: do we want to revert to a situation in which an imposed guillotine is going to be used after appropriate amounts of waffle and hours of filibustering? It would not technically be filibustering, but we all know a near-filibuster when we see one. Is that the right way forward for the House? Alternatively, are we prepared, on some Bills at least--not on all of them; the Leader of the House has already given that assurance--to try to seek agreement in the Committee on the best way to programme the debate? I think that that is the better route.

I am extremely disappointed that the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills is not still here. Having said how important this debate was, it is disappointing that he has not stayed for it. Yet even he abstained on guillotine motions. I have here the proceedings of the Finance Bill from February 1994. The hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton voted for the guillotine on that occasion, but even the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills, who makes such a fetish of saying that we must never be forced to do anything we do not want to do, recognised that there was some merit in trying to make progress with the business of the House. It is better to have agreement across the Floor, and to have Back-Bench contributions, than to have everlasting guillotines.

I confess that I cannot get wildly excited either way on the subject of deferred Divisions, and I do not believe that the great British public can either. However, it is nonsense to say that this is breaking some terrible precedent or some great tradition. After all, we sometimes have a two-day debate on the remaining stages of a Bill or a delayed vote because amendments are grouped together. That can happen all too often.

However, what I really object to is the humbug of suggesting that 659 Members--or however many are permitted to vote--sit here throughout every debate and listen to every argument before they come to a conclusion. That day has long since gone, if it ever existed. Looking round the House now, I do not know how many Members are going to vote at 6.30 pm, but no one could say that they have all been sitting here listening to my words of wisdom and therefore know precisely what the issues are all about--and that that is why it is so critical that we have to ensure that they are all here. I am sorry to pick on the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills, but he made this point very strongly on an earlier occasion. He is not here to listen to my arguments, so how can I persuade him? I fear he may go into the Opposition Lobby as well.

The proposals are not breaking precedents and I regard that as a dubious argument. They represent only a tiny step, and I hope that it is in the right direction.

I also hope that the House will be prepared at least to experiment, because that will mean that we can demonstrate to the world at large that we are taking our business more seriously. We are seeking to work in a more businesslike way and perhaps, in a small way, we might be able to reverse that disastrous turnout to which I referred earlier.

Photo of Mrs Anne Campbell Mrs Anne Campbell Labour, Cambridge 4:19 pm, 28th June 2001

I welcome the Parliamentary Secretary, Privy Council Office to the Front Bench. I believe that this is his first debate. He has considerable expertise on constitutional issues and I am sure that he will be a valuable addition to our Front-Bench team.

I have to start by being slightly critical of the Modernisation Committee's report. I would have liked to see the kind of analysis of programme motions to which hon. Members referred earlier. Analysis of the arguments made in programme motion debates would have been valuable because it would have shown that no new arguments were made after the debate on the first such motion.

Every programme motion debate that I heard was remarkably similar. On several occasions, I made a point of coming to the Chamber to listen after 10 pm, and when I did not come to the Chamber, I often listened to the monitor in my room. The debates were remarkably unoriginal in content, so I am sorry that the Modernisation Committee did not think that it could undertake an analysis. I did the next best thing. I could not undertake one myself, but I thought that reading the contributions of individual Members would be worth while.

A nice search facility is offered by Hansard online, so I typed in the name of a Member and the words that I was looking for. Instantly, and with little work, I found the number of references by a Member to a particular subject. I typed in "programme motion" and "Forth". I am sorry that Mr. Forth is not in his place, as the total was 4,353. When I typed in "Hogg" and "programme motion", the total was 3,558, while "Bercow" gave a total of 3,401.

I was expecting to be asked how many references I had made. I typed in "Campbell" and must confess that the total was 5,833. However, I should point out that four other Members of the previous Parliament shared my name. I am afraid that Hansard online is not sufficiently discriminating to distinguish between Anne Campbell, Ronnie Campbell, Menzies Campbell and so on. My point is that programme motion debates were the sole preserve of a few Members who made the same points over and over and over again.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

The hon. Lady is right that we were repetitious, but the problem is that once one accepts the precedent, it is difficult to protest. She is therefore correct that my right hon. Friend Mr. Forth and I took advantage of every debate to protest about what was going on so as not to let go and allow a precedent to be established for a procedure that we thought profoundly wrong.

Photo of Mrs Anne Campbell Mrs Anne Campbell Labour, Cambridge

I admire the right hon. and learned Gentleman's persistence. However, there comes a point in all democratic debate when one has to admit that the argument is lost. This is one such occasion. The point was made several times and the right hon. Gentleman lost in democratic votes, for good reasons.

I remind the House of the situation that persisted before the introduction of the programming and deferred votes experiment. Bills that were thought to be uncontentious sailed through Second Reading and Committee only to be subjected to the tabling of huge numbers of amendments on Report and Third Reading. Those amendments often lacked substance, and were frequently trivial and obviously time-wasting, although they were, of course, in order. Many Opposition Members made essentially the same point.

Photo of Gerald Howarth Gerald Howarth Conservative, Aldershot

Does not the hon. Lady detect in her tone some arrogance in her treatment of the House? She dismisses the opposition afforded from this side of the Chamber, but I put it to her that when she finds herself on these Benches, as she will one day, we shall throw those arguments back at her.

Photo of Mrs Anne Campbell Mrs Anne Campbell Labour, Cambridge

I have had the benefit of experience of the Opposition Benches, and I did not like it. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not like it either. It is uncomfortable to feel that one is continually losing the argument, and I remember my delight when we won a vote in opposition. That was a remarkable feeling, although it becomes commonplace in government.

I do not believe that I am being arrogant, as many amendments were tabled for one purpose and one purpose only: to waste the House's time and to keep Labour Members up until all hours of the day and night. We were frequently subjected to sitting until 2 or 3 am. Next day, Ministers and Members together felt deprived of sleep for no good purpose, as the debates changed nothing. After hours and hours of discussion, the Government did the obvious and imposed a guillotine, which was equally futile.

If Conservative Members think that the public admire or approve of such actions, I am afraid they are sadly mistaken. The general public do not approve; they think that we are all mad to sit here until 2 am or 3 am discussing arcane points about a comma in the middle of a clause. That is not a sensible way to use the time of busy people who have serious work to do, and it is one reason why many of the public, who are so disenchanted with the whole process, decided not to turn out to vote at the general election. The public find such activity totally abhorrent.

Photo of Gerald Howarth Gerald Howarth Conservative, Aldershot

There were infinitely more all-night sittings when I was elected to the House in 1983--night after night after night. My noble Friend Baroness Thatcher never complained, unlike the Prime Minister, who treats the House with complete contempt and comes here only once a week. My noble Friend would come to the House at 4.30 am completely unfazed, hair impeccably in place and handbag at the ready. She gave inspirational leadership to us all and never made any complaint.

I accept that there is no sense in time wasting and keeping Members up indefinitely for no good purpose, but I remind the hon. Lady that, when we were in government, there were no complaints from Ministers at the antics of the present Leader of the House and his colleagues.

Photo of Mrs Anne Campbell Mrs Anne Campbell Labour, Cambridge

The fact that the House sat later more frequently is no reason to say that it was better. When I sat on the Opposition Benches, I was aware that such activities were perpetrated by my party, although I never participated. I never even thought about whether I approved, although now that I sit on these Benches, I know that I definitely disapprove and that I would not like them to be pursued, even if I finish up on the Opposition Benches again.

Photo of Joan Ruddock Joan Ruddock Labour, Lewisham, Deptford

Can my hon. Friend clarify a point on which I hope she agrees with me? Those of us who are modernisers and who have campaigned for these changes are not trying to work fewer hours. We are trying to achieve circumstances in which we can work more effectively. We are all prepared to work horrendous hours, as we do now, but there must be a balance between the constituency, family life and our life in the House. As so many hon. Members have said, effective scrutiny can be achieved if we make changes and rearrange our hours and voting patterns.

Photo of Mrs Anne Campbell Mrs Anne Campbell Labour, Cambridge

My hon. Friend has hit the nail on the head. All of us, as Members of Parliament, want more effective scrutiny in this place. My hon. Friend Mr. Fisher made a similar point when he said that time was not in fact a very good weapon: we need to improve the quality and succinctness of our arguments, and make our points more briefly and sharply and in a more focused way. Speeches that are to the point are much more likely to be noticed, and to engender interest outside.

Photo of Mrs Anne Campbell Mrs Anne Campbell Labour, Cambridge

I have given way a number of times, but I will do so once more.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Minister (Scotland)

I am grateful to the hon. Lady. I am sure that she speaks with great sincerity, and I accept her critique of some of our practices, but she will appreciate that--especially when measures are being introduced by a Government after a period during which that Government used the very tactics that she now deplores--the Opposition are bound to greet such measures with a certain suspicion. That is all the more inevitable given that on all the real measures that could be taken to modernise procedure in the House, we have heard nothing from the Leader of the House. The Conservative party has contributed by publishing a major document with proposals on the subject.

Photo of Mrs Anne Campbell Mrs Anne Campbell Labour, Cambridge

I am surprised that it has taken so long for an Opposition Member to refer to Lord Norton's report on modernisation, which was a welcome contribution to the debate. I am trying to set up an all-party modernisation group. I hope that Opposition Members will feel able to participate, and will use the opportunity to put Lord Norton's views to the group more cogently so that we can have a sensible discussion.

Debates could be much briefer and less repetitive than they are now. I am reminded of the famous writer--I think that it was Oscar Wilde, but I may be wrong--who said, "I am writing a long letter, as I do not have time to write a short one." That is the problem: because we do not prepare very well, we often have to go the long way round to say things that we could have said much more succinctly.

Photo of Mrs Anne Campbell Mrs Anne Campbell Labour, Cambridge

I want to make some progress.

Photo of Mrs Anne Campbell Mrs Anne Campbell Labour, Cambridge

If it is a correction, I will give way.

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

In fact, the quotation comes from Dr. Johnson rather than Oscar Wilde. That may appeal rather more to the Conservative ranks.

Photo of Mrs Anne Campbell Mrs Anne Campbell Labour, Cambridge

I thank the hon. Gentleman.

I also feel that debates held at a more reasonable time of day would attract more press interest. We have often engaged in debates at midnight or in the early hours of the morning, and it is unreasonable to expect any member of the press to be up at that time of night listening to what we say. I do not think that debates held after 10 pm are the most widely watched or noted.

I ask myself whether the general public admire parliamentarians who stay up late night after night, and I have to conclude that they do not: they just think we are stupid to allow it to happen. Time and again, when I have raised the issue in the national media, constituents have asked me, "Why do you put up with it? We find it incredible that you are expected to be there night after night, for no good purpose."

It is important that we allow adequate time for debate. I do not approve of the practice of pushing clauses and Bills through this place when they have not been debated or scrutinised. But adequate time does not mean unlimited time because unlimited time has shown itself to invite abuse of the system.

Opposition Members mentioned the role of Members of Parliament. We must continually and carefully rethink that role. I regard myself as a representative of my constituency, and I think it important for me, in that role, to listen closely to what my constituents say to me. I read their letters and e-mails, talk to them whenever I can, and engage in dialogue, and I am frequently influenced by their remarks. I come back here, mention my experiences in debates, talk to Ministers and if I am persuaded myself, try to persuade other people.

It is important to the whole process of democracy for us all to give ourselves opportunities to be influenced by what constituents say. The problem is that some of us have the impression that a parliamentarian has a fixed set of ideas, comes here to express his or her views, and never undergoes any process of renewal--never goes back to listen to what the outside world is saying.

Elections are a good time at which to bring home the views of constituents. Many of us knock on doors in our constituencies during election campaigns, and at the end of the recent campaign I felt that I had a good idea of my constituents' concerns. That is an important process in which we should engage as often as we can, and that means having time to engage in it. If we are in this place all the time, the balance is wrong.

Photo of Gwyneth Dunwoody Gwyneth Dunwoody Labour, Crewe and Nantwich

On a day when it has been announced that the House will probably rise on 19 July, does it not behove us be careful about saying that we do not have enough time to talk to our constituents?

Photo of Mrs Anne Campbell Mrs Anne Campbell Labour, Cambridge

I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that 19 July is early. In recent years, the House has sat until the end of July. The early finish may be due to a number of factors, but it is certainly not due to the fact that the Executive want to give us time to go back to our constituencies. Listening to constituents, however, is an important part of our role.

Photo of Mrs Anne Campbell Mrs Anne Campbell Labour, Cambridge

I am about to finish. I am sure that my hon. Friend will have an opportunity to make his own speech.

I hope that the House will vote for the proposals. I believe that both the quality of our lives and the quality of debate will be improved if we accept that programming will become a permanent feature of our procedures.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham 4:38 pm, 28th June 2001

It is a pleasure to follow Mrs. Campbell, who made some remarks with which I agreed. Let me say this to the House more generally: I hope that Ministers will gather from the debate that there is a lot of genuine anxiety on both sides of the House about the way in which we conduct business.

The hon. Lady said that we had returned from the election with a clearer view of what the electorate felt about a number of issues. One message that I received--as, I think, did other Members--concerned the extent to which the House of Commons, politicians and politics are held in low regard. There are many reasons for that, and I do not think it necessary to catalogue them now; but for many years I have been aware of a recognition that the House has become the instrument of the Executive, and we as Members of Parliament have become the creatures of party. As a result, members of the public observing our deliberations say of Members that they are but expressing the party view.

I want to impress on hon. Members my profoundly held conviction--which, I should point out to Mr. Tyler, I held when I was on the Government Benches and serving in a Government office--that Members of Parliament should be much more independent. It is very nice to see my deputy Chief Whip on the Front Bench, because he knows my views as he has heard me express them many times. I took the precaution of including in my election address my belief that it is desirable for Members of Parliament to be as independent as possible. I wanted my constituents to know that when I come to the House it is my intention to be as independent as I feel is right.

I do not believe in the whipping system, and I do not like to be told that I have a free vote only on matters of conscience. I regard all votes as free. Clearly, there is a presumption that we vote in favour of our party, and we are obviously not experts on many issues. This has nothing to do with conscience. When individual Members of Parliament form an opinion, it behoves them to express that opinion and to vote according to it when desirable.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone

I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on that statement and on his election address. I made a similar point in my election address for exactly the same reason. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the greatest objective and justifiable change that any great party could make would be to have a policy of ensuring the independence of Parliament as well as the independence of Back Benchers?

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

I agree with my hon. Friend. Modernisation is important, and there are things that we can do about our practices to make ourselves more efficient. To re-establish independence on both Benches is by far the most important thing that we can do. If we were to do that, and to speak our minds and vote accordingly, we would be held in much greater esteem, and the decisions of the House would have much greater authority.

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

I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I told my electorate that I would agree with everything that my Chief Whip told me, but then I was the Chief Whip.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman's point is particularly valid for Select Committees and Committee work, but it is more difficult to be independent in the discussions that take place on the Floor of the House. The fact that the centre of gravity has moved from the Chamber to the Committees--which some people regard as a retrograde step--may be an advantage in the context of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's argument.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

The hon. Gentleman is right in part, but I would like to see as much independence as possible everywhere. It is obviously easier to be independent in the Committees, because hon. Members have access to much more information on the specific measures that they are discussing. I want hon. Members to be, broadly speaking, independent, and to form their own views on the basis of the evidence presented to them.

Incidentally, I would change the oath that we all take when we come to the House, not because I am an anti-monarchist--I am not--but because I want hon. Members to take an oath that they will vote in accordance with their judgment.

Photo of Michael Lord Michael Lord Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is now straying rather wide of the mark.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

Only to this extent, Mr. Deputy Speaker--I may be able to persuade you of a slightly different view. If hon. Members swore that they would vote in accordance with their judgment, they would be in a much better position to say to the Whips, "Oh, no, my friend. I have sworn an oath, to which I intend to adhere." That would erect a different obligation, which one could set against the obligation of party. However, I do not want to test your patience further, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I am against the deferred Division procedure, and I have not the slightest intention of participating in any of the votes in the No Lobby for the remainder of this Parliament. We are allowing important decisions to be made by hon. Members signing a visitors' book, which they may sign as many as five or six days after the debate. I willingly concede that hon. Members frequently vote on matters without having heard the debate and without having been present at any material time, but the deferred Division procedure gives a legislative or parliamentary sanction to that process. I regard that as profoundly unsatisfactory. Although I did not entirely agree with my hon. Friend Mrs. Browning when she talked about third-party influence, the truth is that when hon. Members vote on a piece of paper six or seven days after the event they are much more prone to pressures from their Whips than they would be if they were present for the debate.

If hon. Members have to vote at the end of the business under discussion, there is a reasonable chance that they will listen to some part of the debate. They may identify some anxieties or problems that they wish to communicate to their Front-Bench colleagues or to the House, but the deferred voting procedure makes that impossible.

By using delegated legislation, Governments can make substantial changes to the law. If they must have hon. Members present--often late at night--to approve those changes, that is a check on the volume of legislation that they can handle in that way. The hon. Member for Cambridge understandably does not want to be here late night after night, and she would say to her Whips, "Look, my friends, this is intolerable." If enough of her hon. Friends said to their Whips, "This is intolerable", the volume of legislation passed in that way would not be as great as it would be if the Government could get it through by getting the visitors' book signed. There is no merit in the visitors' book, so I do not intend to sign it throughout the lifetime of this Parliament.

I am profoundly uneasy about programme motions. We need to consider the detail of the proposal for the programme motion, which has two substantive parts: paragraph A and paragraphs B and C. The key detail of paragraph A is that the motion is tabled before Second Reading and is to be voted on immediately after the conclusion of the Second Reading debate. It will be voted on, not debated, after Second Reading. Save for three limited exceptions, the programme motion will be taken forthwith.

The detail of the programme motion will be formulated before the Second Reading debate, which is before right hon. and hon. Members have had a chance to express their views on the merits of the Bill, or even those parts of the Bill that are deemed to be material. That is a travesty, because the Executive are determining the timetable without having listened to the views of hon. Members. We are precluded from saying that the timetable is inappropriate, because we cannot debate the timetable motion: it is to be voted on immediately after the Second Reading debate. That is a travesty of democracy.

Paragraphs B and C relate to the composition of the Programming Committee and Sub-Committee. The House will know that the Programming Committee comprises eight Members to be selected by the Speaker, with a quorum of four. The truth, as we know well, is that the members of the Committee and the Sub-Committee will be selected largely by the Whips. They will draw up the timetable that they wish to see. They will probably not consult the awkward squad on either side. Indeed, the awkward squad's interests will be disregarded. I do not suppose that the interests of Mr. Fisher or of my hon. Friend Mr. Shepherd will be taken into account because the Front Bench will not want that to happen.

As my hon. Friend Mr. Howarth said, the process also takes place in secret. There is no record of what happens in the Programming Committee. We do not know what pressures were brought to bear, who said what or how people voted. The process is put together by the Front Benches, whose interests are not mine nor are they those of my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack), who is now a Back Bencher and whose interests should be with us. We have a legitimate interest in preserving the rights and powers of Parliament.

Photo of Richard Shepherd Richard Shepherd Conservative, Aldridge-Brownhills

The rights and powers of the people.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

Indeed, my hon. Friend is right.

When we consider legislation, leaving aside the benefits and rights that flow from it, we are considering penalties and obligations. Legislation imposes burdens on the electorate, sometimes penal in character. In a democratic society, we all make an implied bargain to the effect that legislation will be properly scrutinised by the representatives of the people. There is an implied bargain between members of a political community that legislation will not be imposed unless those representatives have had a chance to scrutinise it and express their views. The process that I have described, and which the Government are pursuing, is calculated to break down that bargain.

Inevitably, large chunks of legislation, some of it quite serious, will go through--some went through in the previous Parliament--without it having been discussed. When people begin to realise that their obligations are arising not as a result of scrutiny but as a result of fiat, directive and Executive action, they will come to realise that the days of the elected dictatorship have truly arrived. I am not trying to say that we are a dictatorship yet because I do not believe that that is true, but we are putting in place procedures that enable the Executive to ride roughshod over the liberties and freedoms of the people of this country and to ignore the considered opinions of their representatives. That is not just bad in the short term, but will undermine the foundations of democracy. I fear for the future.

Photo of Ann McKechin Ann McKechin Labour, Glasgow Maryhill 4:52 pm, 28th June 2001

It is a great honour to make my maiden speech as the representative of the electorate of Glasgow, Maryhill. Although I was selected as a Labour candidate only in March this year, I received a warm welcome from the community. I heartily support my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House in the motions before us. Tradition has an important part to play in our institutions, but it should not act as a barrier to progress.

I pay tribute to my predecessor, Maria Fyfe, who served the constituency diligently and with great skill over the past 14 years. Since arriving here, I have met many hon. Members who held her in high regard, and that sentiment was expressed to me by many of my constituents during my election campaign. She is an excellent example to follow. She was an independent and strong Back Bencher and I am sure that all hon. Members join me in wishing her well in her future endeavours. I feel privileged to stand here today as her successor and as part of a long line of Labour Members for Maryhill and, uniquely for Glasgow, as its second female Member of Parliament.

My constituency has yet again resoundingly shown its support for the Government with a 60 per cent. share of the vote and a majority almost double that achieved in the 1999 Scottish Parliament elections. Glasgow's citizens know that the Government are working for them on jobs, pensions or public services. When my predecessor was first elected, unemployment in Maryhill was growing at an alarming rate and was matched with chronic under-investment in public services and housing stock. The consequent dire effects on the local community were all too evident.

I am happy to say that the policies of the present Government, based firmly on the principle of social justice, have already had significant effect. In the past four years, long-term unemployment in Maryhill has been reduced by a massive 65 per cent. and the general unemployment figure has been lowered by almost 40 per cent.

However, there is still much to be done to lift our constituency from the poverty trap, and I urge the Government to continue their good work with a resolute commitment to full employment and continued increases in our public spending. Too much talent and life has been squandered in the last quarter of a century. We have a heavy responsibility to our constituents, who have placed their trust in us year after year, to deliver them a country where opportunity for all is not just a meaningless phrase but a reality.

Maryhill has a strong record of community activism. That was particularly evident during my election campaign when the Forth and Clyde canal, part of which runs through the area, was formally reopened as part of the millennium project. Water has always been seen as a symbol of life, and that project encompasses many hopes and aspirations in the constituency for a better life in the coming years. Although Maryhill might not appear to be a tourist attraction, it may surprise hon. Members to know that it includes a bird sanctuary, the site of a Roman fort adjoining the Antonine wall, the Queen's Cross church designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the largest number of farms in any Glasgow constituency.

Maryhill is also home to Glasgow's best-loved football team--Partick Thistle, of course--which this year not only celebrated its 125th anniversary but succeeded in winning promotion to the first division. I am sure that this will be only the beginning of more triumphs for the club and I look forward to watching my first ever football match at its ground. Although I have not watched a match before, my active membership of the Labour party in the west of Scotland over the past decade has proved to be an invaluable source of information and advice.

There has rightly been great concern in the House about the low turnout at this and other recent elections. I urge hon. Members from all parts of the House to give serious and mature consideration to that issue in the weeks and months ahead. It is clear that a growing percentage of our electorate feel no link between themselves and their elected representatives. It is beholden on us to commit ourselves to reform and modernisation, where necessary, while retaining the highest standards of conduct. In particular, I welcome the Government's proposed legislation to allow political parties to achieve better gender balance as an important step in that process.

It is vital, however, that all sections of our society, including the media, play their part in establishing the principle that our Government are the servant of their citizens and that, in turn, all citizens have a duty to maintain our elected democracy. That sense of shared responsibility has, for multiple reasons, broken down in recent years. Unfortunately, spin and sleaze are not new phenomena in world history; they have been with us since the days of Machiavelli, if not before. But the right of ordinary citizens freely to elect their Governments is still a relatively recent concept, and one that has involved much struggle and sacrifice. Many people throughout this globe are still facing death and oppression and are fighting for rights that we take for granted at our peril. We must move away from the pre-eminence of individualism in our society, to create a society where the principle of caring for, and working with, our fellow citizens has priority.

It is not just within the confines of our own boundaries that threats to democracy exist. Elected Governments will face enormous challenges in the coming years, as we experience the effects of continued globalisation and changing relationships with international organisations. The economic and political strength of transnational corporations has been well documented, but as yet the imbalance of power that they hold has still to be harnessed and regulated for the proper benefit of all people on the planet. If we are to avoid a return to a modern-day version of feudalism, democracies will need to unite to ensure that the interests of their citizens instead of the level of dividends paid to shareholders are made paramount.

I very much welcome the widespread reforms that were recently put in place by the Department for International Development, and its new priority on the reduction of world poverty. As someone who has long campaigned for the end of the link between trade and aid, I congratulate the Government on their proposed reforms of the aid system. The Government have established themselves as a world leader in the fight against the scourge of world poverty, but much still needs to be done, and I urge them to renew their efforts on debt reduction at the forthcoming Genoa summit, and to argue vigorously for reform of our international organisations to ensure that poverty reduction is truly integral to their decision-making processes.

Reform should be embraced, not feared. Let us tackle our challenges, be they at home or abroad, with renewed vigour and confidence to ensure that we have a democracy that is fit for this century.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack Conservative, South Staffordshire 5:00 pm, 28th June 2001

It is a real pleasure to follow Ann McKechin and to congratulate her on her maiden speech, which was delivered with assurance and fluency and which was very much in the tradition of the non-controversial maiden speech while nevertheless making some extremely punchy and proper points. I am sure that the House will look forward to hearing from her again, although she is likely to get the odd intervention in future, as she probably knows.

The hon. Lady spoke warmly of her predecessor, Maria Fyfe. We all remember Maria with considerable affection as a very individualistic parliamentarian. She was a real parliamentarian--she was frequently here and often intervened in debates. She was most certainly not a lackey of any Government--she spoke her mind, with confidence and authority. Her accent was slightly more Glaswegian than the hon. Lady's, so we did not always get every nuance. I am sure that we shall from the hon. Lady. Maria was a dear woman and an excellent Member of Parliament and we shall miss her. I am sure that we have a splendid replacement in the hon. Lady and I wish her many happy years here--with 60 per cent. of the poll it is going to take us more than a couple of elections to remove her. She will enjoy being here, I am sure.

The hon. Lady was right to interpret the rules governing maiden speeches by ranging widely, and you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, were right to let her do so. What is pertinent to this debate, however, is the fact that the hon. Lady was speaking as the Member of the Westminster Parliament--the United Kingdom Parliament--for Glasgow, Maryhill. In debates such as these, we all have to remember the words of the late Duncan Sandys who, when upbraided for not attending his constituency--not that it was difficult because it was only in Streatham, just down the road--said that he was the Member for Streatham in Westminster, not the Member for Westminster in Streatham.

We have to pay due regard to our constituencies and our constituents and the hon. Lady will almost certainly do so. I am sure that she will report back regularly, as we all do in our different ways.

I was saddened by the speech of Mrs. Campbell and I am sorry that she is not still in her place. She seemed to imply that we were here too much and in our constituencies too little. She was rightly interrupted by Mrs. Dunwoody, who reminded her that we have not only weekends but parliamentary recesses. That is when we do the bulk of our constituency work. Our prime duty is to be here when the House is in Session. I have always refused mid-week engagements in my constituency. I have returned there mid-week only for funerals, not for ordinary constituency engagements. It is my duty to be here.

One thing that has saddened me in the past few years, and which is relevant to this debate--it is not only the fault of this Government--has been the way in which the parliamentary week has been squeezed. There was a time when Thursday was one of the great parliamentary days. Until four years ago, we had Prime Minister's Question Time every Thursday as well as business questions. The House sat until 10 pm, when it nearly always voted. Thursday was an important parliamentary day.

An indicator of the way in which Thursday has ceased to be a great parliamentary day is the fact that even the Conservative party's 1922 committee now meets on Wednesdays, not Thursdays, because insufficient Members are here on that day. I do not suggest that all the blame is on one side of the House. The rot set in with Jopling. Many of us were too easily seduced by some of the Jopling proposals.

I will never forget a wonderful speech by Mr. Foster, who told the House as he bared his soul a couple of years ago, how he had delayed the implementation of the Jopling proposals, which was very much in his gift as Opposition Chief Whip. He and the redoubtable Don Dixon delayed the proposals until they knew that they would be in government in a short time. They knew that the proposals would serve the Executive and the interests of government, and the right hon. Gentleman said so honestly in the House.

Of course, hon. Members can bare their souls and say all sorts of interesting things in debates such as this. I am bound to say that I savoured enormously the speech of my right hon. and learned Friend Mr. Hogg. His was a wonderful bravura performance of the kind that we have come to expect of him on every occasion. I could not help but remember the days when he was a Government Whip instructing the 1922 committee on how we must vote--and if we deviated, by jove we would be in trouble.

I can also remember when, as a most distinguished Minister, my right hon. and learned Friend was not likely to brook deviation or any challenge--but of course, now that he is liberated on the Back Benches and in opposition, he is one of the foremost champions of parliamentary liberty. He has already said this afternoon that he will not cast his vote in a single deferred Division for the next four or five years, which will doubtless ensure that he can do one or two other things on Wednesdays.

This is a very serious debate, and I am bound to say that I welcome the tone of the speech made by the Leader of the House. I do not want to sound patronising, but the right hon. Gentleman has it within him to be a very considerable Leader of the House. When he was first elected, he immediately made his mark as someone who fitted in here and who relished the cut and thrust of parliamentary debate. He was a consummate debater, and some of the classic debates in the House in my time featured the right hon. Gentleman. He gave no quarter, but he was always punctilious, courteous and hard hitting, and I have missed him during the past four years. I make no criticism; of course, he had his particular brief and he did not attend debates very frequently because he was on Her Majesty's Government's business in other parts of the world.

The right hon. Gentleman could be a considerable Leader of the House, so long as he remembers that he has a dual role. Of course, he is a leading member of the Cabinet and of Her Majesty's Government, but he is also the leader and the servant of the House of Commons, and in that context, his role is second in importance only to that of Mr. Speaker or the occupant of the Chair. I hope that he will recognise that it is important that he gives back to the House more opportunities for the effective scrutiny of the Executive.

Legislation that is not properly scrutinised is frequently very bad, and we should all remind ourselves of that. Like my hon. Friend Mr. Shepherd, I have never been a friend of the guillotine. I have voted against guillotines introduced by my party because it is wrong when great swathes of important legislation go undebated and undiscussed. We reached a parliamentary nadir just a few weeks before the general election, when we debated the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 and the House connived at what I then called, and call again, a parliamentary lie--we deemed that things had been discussed that had not been discussed. That was a low point in parliamentary history, and I hope that it will never be repeated and that it will not have set a precedent. That happened as a direct consequence of programming legislation.

I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's assurance that he will not automatically programme all Bills. It is not the subject of programming that excites Opposition Members, but the manner in which it is done, so I hope that when programming is considered, there will be a proper opportunity adequately to discuss all the clauses of the Bill under consideration. That will mean that the Government cannot programme until after Second Reading. There must be proper opportunity for extending the time that is available. To take up the point made several times by my hon. Friend Mr. Grieve from the Opposition Front Bench, there must also be adequate discussion of amendments from the House of Lords. If that means that the Government have to produce less legislation for the House rather than more, so be it. That would be a good thing. If it means that the Government have to produce more draft Bills that we can crawl over before we come to debate them in their substantive form, again that will be a good thing. It is the quality, not the quantity, of legislation that matters.

There are many proposals in the Queen's Speech on which there will not be an ideological divide between the Government and the Opposition, but there will certainly be a divide if things are rushed through without the opportunity adequately to consider and properly to debate. That also means the opportunity properly to consult with those legitimate outside interests whose fortunes will be affected by the legislation that we are passing. Far too often in the past four years, there has been inadequate time to discuss with our constituents and other interests what the Government have proposed.

The pre-election Session was rushed and there was almost no opportunity to discuss certain legislation. The Leader of the House will have to bear all these things carefully in mind if he is to earn the reputation of which he is certainly capable; if he is to go down in history as one of the considerable Leaders of the House. I remember many Leaders of the House, and two or three stand out as absolutely first class. One thinks of Norman St. John Stevas, who was responsible for introducing the Select Committees. My hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge- Brownhills anticipates me by mouthing the words "John Biffen", who was a marvellous Leader of the House because he was--I do not think that I am being unfair to anyone else--the least partisan. He was semi-detached before his semi-detachment was dispatched by the lady with the handbag. I sincerely hope that if the present Leader of the House becomes semi-detached he will not be dispatched. I hope that the Prime Minister will redeem his parliamentary reputation by realising that he has put the right man in the right place and leaving him there. This is a reputation that is at the moment potential, and we all want it to become actual.

Programming should not be entered into automatically. It is important that the Leader of the House heeds the words uttered this afternoon about the composition of Programming Committees and the way in which the time is allocated. If he does not, we may well have a repetition of events last year, and the reputation of Parliament will suffer in consequence. None of us, whether we come from Glasgow, Maryhill or from South Staffordshire, will benefit if the reputation of Parliament sinks. I want to see Parliament once more at the centre of national life, which at the moment it is not, and this Chamber at the centre of Parliament's life, which at the moment it is not.

The Leader of the House did not deal adequately with deferred Divisions--the postal ballot a week after the debate, when there has been no requirement to do anything and plenty of opportunity to be got at by all sorts of people. Deferred Divisions are a negation of what Parliament and parliamentary voting should be all about. I hope that, at the least, the right hon. Gentleman will discuss with his colleagues on the Modernisation Committee a reorganisation of deferred Divisions. As he reminded us, we are still in the experimental stage. Divisions should at least take place the day after the debate. It might be inconvenient for hon. Members to be here at 2 o'clock the next day to cast their votes, but we are not here for our convenience. It is our role to serve our constituents and to represent them adequately and properly. If that means the inconvenience of casting a deferred vote the day after a debate--at, for example, 9 o'clock in the morning or 2 o'clock in the afternoon--so be it.

I am no friend of long nights--I have been in the House too long for that. I remember Parliament sitting night after night in 1970 to debate the Industrial Relations Bill. There was a great spirit of camaraderie and I shall never forget the Labour Opposition bursting into song with a rendition of the Red Flag at about 4 am. Nevertheless, the quality of legislation was not enhanced and the Industrial Relations Act 1971 had possibly the shortest life of any reforming legislation in the past 50 years. I do not want us to be here just for the sake of it, but it is our role to ensure that legislation is more than adequate.

As for the Modernisation Committee, I do not like its title and want it renamed. The "Improvement of Scrutiny Committee" would more adequately describe its proper function and role. I apologise to the Leader of the House if my intervention was a shade flippant, but he should think carefully about his role in relation to the Committee. He should consider whether it might be better for him to have someone like the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich or my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge- Brownhills as its Chairman. Its stature as a parliamentary Committee would grow immeasurably and its recommendations would carry far more weight. The right hon. Gentleman would continue to have an input; he would not be prevented from attending Committee meetings to put his point of view. However, the Leader of the House, a senior member of the Executive, should not be perceived as being in the driving seat of a body that is deciding how we will scrutinise every Government action. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will reflect carefully on that over the recess.

We are at the beginning of a new Parliament. The Conservative party did not have an especially successful election. That fell to the Labour party. Democrats must congratulate the winning party, but they must recognise, as the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill did in her maiden speech, the fact that we have to look to ourselves when we consider the percentage poll. Some 25 per cent. of those eligible to vote voted for the Government; 19 per cent. voted for us; and 11 per cent. voted for the Liberal Democrats. In that context, none of us has anything about which to be proud. One reason for that vote is the fact that the House has fallen in the estimation of the people. It lies within our power to enhance that reputation once again.

It is important that hon. Members, especially new Labour Members, remember that they have a crucial role. We cannot properly and fully hold the Executive to account unless they take part in that process. Everything that we do to reform and change our procedures should be with one aim in mind--to improve that scrutiny and involve everyone in it. If the Leader of the House can set us on that road, he will deserve the thanks of us all.

Photo of Mr Iain Luke Mr Iain Luke Labour, Dundee East 5:19 pm, 28th June 2001

It is with a great sense of honour and humility that I rise to make my maiden speech in this venerable Chamber. I am proud to have been elected by the constituents of Dundee, East to represent the city of my birth and their best interests in Westminster.

I believe that Dundee is Scotland's friendliest city. It certainly claims to be the United Kingdom's sunniest city, given its favourable location on the east coast and the shelter of the Sidlaw hills. It is one of Scotland's most densely packed urban centres, forming a regional centre for North Tayside, Angus and North-East Fife.

Dundee is unique in Scotland, if not in the UK, in that it can boast two premier league football teams within a stone's throw of each other on the same road. As well as that, there is an even political balance in football support in the city. My hon. Friend Mr. Ross is known in Dundee as an Arab, not because of his intense and knowledgeable interest in the middle east, for which I commend him, but because of the alleged practices in which his club used to participate: putting sand on the ground to make it more difficult for more skilful teams to play football in the winter. On the other hand, I am a dyed-in-the-wool true blue Dundee supporter. I hasten to add that not many supporters of either club will be casting their votes in the ballot in September for the leader of the Conservative party. Dundee is therefore a truly united city.

I am proud to represent a city which, over its long history--it celebrated its octocentenary in 1991--has never been frightened of change. One recurrent theme has been its ability to restructure and adapt itself to the circumstances with which it has been faced. Sited on the banks of the silvery Tay, which, as William McGonagall reflected, <b5>

"flows past Dundee once a day", the city is one of the most beautiful estuarial settings. The beauty of its surroundings has, however, provided a picturesque backdrop to some tumultuous times.

In its long history, Dundee has been destroyed at least twice--once during the dynastic disputes between our two kingdoms in the 14th century, and again during the civil conflict between the Crown and Parliament in the 17th century. Neither, however, has posed an impediment to the growth of my home town, which continued at a great rate during the 19th century, when the city embraced technological and economic change to become what was known as "Juteopolis"--the centre of the world's jute production. Links with the Indian sub-continent remain today. Dundee was a city of immense wealth and, indeed, of immense differences in income and opportunity. It was a truly radical city--outside Glasgow, perhaps at times the most radical in the UK.

Dundee provided a platform in the early 20th century for Winston Churchill, who was then part of the Liberal Government who introduced many progressive and impressive reforms, changing the social provision of this country for ever. Although Churchill lasted in the seat for 14 years, he was uniquely ousted by the only prohibitionist Christian Socialist Member of Parliament, Neddy Scrymgeour.

During my lifetime, changes in the city have been even greater. I and my generation have witnessed a massive transformation in the city's outlook, economy and physical environment. Gone are the days when the "standard fayre" was a pie, a pint and an onion bridie. We have moved to the Budweiser and bun served at Dundee contemporary arts centre, of which I am proud to be a director, which has transformed the city's outlook as a provider of culture and art. William Topaz McGonagall, whom we in Dundee would call a worthy, would certainly write a poem in the hilarious vein, which unfairly earned him the title of world's worst poet, chronicling his amazement at the changes that have been effected in the city in the 99 years since his death.

The city is currently building itself out of the 1960s city-centre planning blight that is so prevalent throughout the UK. It is not frightened of change. As a previous two-time chair of the Dundee partnership and economic development and housing convenor of the city, I like to think that I have made some contribution to the process and helped Dundee to meet the demands of the 21st century.

Gone are the days when Dundee was known as the city of jute, jam and journalism. Now, we boast many leading- edge companies, such as NCR, Michelin, ABB Nitra and a host of smaller, research-based enterprises that are building on the biomedical expertise and computer-game technology of our city's two universities. I am proud of my city's progress and look forward to participating in that process and serving as its advocate here in Parliament.

The House and Dundee can rest assured that I shall do all I can to assist the civic process. I shall also do what I can to assist the modernisation of the House. I should like to pick up a theme that I have heard discussed in the past few weeks: the disengagement of electors from our political processes. Setting aside the television coverage, which tends to put people off anyway, I got the feeling while going around my constituency during the campaign that many people believe that it is the politicians who have distanced themselves from the electors.

Wherever we stand on modernisation, a vital role for the House is to re-engage with electors, especially young people. I have had the privilege of visiting schools and taking part in debates. I have seen the passion, commitment and great interest that many young people have. My Conservative opponent nearly got lynched in one school when he kept referring to the Scottish Executive as the "White Heather Club", but he certainly gave dimension to the debate and that should be continued.

I shall continue the campaign for modern practices pursued by my predecessor, John McAllion, to whom I pay tribute. I know that the Whips in the House will have heaved a collective sigh of relief now that John has moved to the Scottish Parliament, where he is technically under the control of Tom McCabe, the Labour business manager there. Throughout his time here, John advocated continual improvement in the lives and economic prosperity of his constituents, and I know that he will continue to do so in Holyrood. John and I and all the other elected representatives for Dundee will work as a team to put the case for our city. I am proud to have been elected to represent my home town and I shall do everything in my power to ensure that the best case is advanced for the city.

Photo of Richard Shepherd Richard Shepherd Conservative, Aldridge-Brownhills 5:27 pm, 28th June 2001

The speech by Mr. Luke was a cheer to me. One of the very first cities to enter my consciousness was Dundee: I was born in Aberdeen and my mother comes from Glasgow, and our journeys between the two settled on Dundee, whose romance has never left me. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the great jute industry which, in a sense, opened up Scotland and brought the world to Scotland, so part of his history as a man of Dundee extends much further than the borders of Europe.

When the jute trade, which had created great wealth and prosperity, went into decline, Dundee shared the experience of many of our great cities. I give a cheer for what the hon. Gentleman had to say in that respect. I was especially moved by the fact that he believes in representing the people of Dundee. I believe profoundly that the purpose of the House is to bring together people from all the parts of this island of ours to represent the people who live real lives--those who suffer the varying fortunes and prosperity of their town or region. I wish the hon. Gentleman well--his was a bonny and fair speech.

Before the House today are certain motions, and every speaker has touched on them--indeed, the hon. Member for Dundee, East did so as well. It is a cause of sorrow to me that we seem to be in a court in which the prosecution determines how long the defence may have to make its case. That was not always the tradition of the House. I should have liked the Leader of the House to be present for my speech, because I agree with much that was said by my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack), who held forth the hopes for one of the most profound and forensic of cross-examiners of previous Governments, who could use procedures that were more open in those times to cause great difficulty to the Government.

I wonder what would happen if there were yet another Scott inquiry. I remember the formidable arguments that Sir Richard advanced to demonstrate the improprieties and the actions of people in high places. I was convinced that his arguments were right, and I along with one other Conservative Back Bencher supported the critique that Sir Richard Scott made of the actions taken by government. He said that certain Ministers had failed in their constitutional duty. I can think of no more severe rebuke. We are talking not of pennies that are stolen but of people who fail in their constitutional responsibilities.

In a sense, that is why I feel that the burdens of the arguments that have been advanced in response to the motions are a real failure in a constitutional sense. I would have liked to remind the Leader of the House that his job is as set out in the traditional sense by my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire. The right hon. Gentleman represents the House to the Executive. The formation of how we go about our businesses must allow the defence, if I may so categorise the other position, the opportunity to make its case--the Opposition's case. The motions arrogate power to the Executive--not the House as a collective of individual representatives, such as the hon. Member for Dundee, East and me, of defined areas in the country--and to the Government and the Crown.

A great Member retired at the end of the previous Parliament. He used to characterise the historic function of the House as a struggle against the powers of the Crown. In the course of our democratic history, however, the Crown moved from the end of the Mall to Downing street, and with that came the distinction that was lost. The Crown now so entirely controls the House that the opportunity for us to make a contrary case is diminished. The motions will enforce that.

There is no opportunity to make representations prior to the determination by the Government of what is the appropriate length of debate. Why is it that my hon. Friend Mrs. Browning, who led for the Opposition from the Front Bench, and all my other hon. Friends have so taken agin these proposed measures? If I were taking Oakeshott as my guide, I would say, "I do not know where we are going sometimes. I can only guide myself by past experience."

The experience of the previous Parliament was lamentable. We ended up with no safety valve. There were no means by which we could say, "This was insufficient." My right hon. Friend Miss Widdecombe and three other colleagues protested in a Committee Room. The Government insisted, as my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire said, that what was not true was true and that the House had considered a Bill when it had not.

I have spoken about justice lying in that cross-section of the detail of procedure. However, the justice that we are talking about concerns liberty, the liberty of the people whom we represent. There are those who argue that Parliament is in decline, and we know why that is. What difference do we make? If I want to do a deal, like Mr. Ecclestone, I deal direct with Government. None of those matters ever came before the House.

Our constituents are not foolish. We have no weight in the balance of things. Perhaps when there is a Major-type Government with a small majority, where persuasion can alter the conduct of individual Members who support that Government, that will make a difference. In these great days, however, there is fealty to party. That is not to denigrate the concept of party, because I do not doubt that every Member on the Government Benches supports the Labour party, and that those Members who sit round me support the Conservative party. But the control of patronage runs through the whole system.

The Leader of the House told us that the motions were built on reports produced by the House. With my hon. Friend Mr. Winterton, I served on the Modernisation Committee. We consistently asked for a simple thing--an analysis of how the system had worked in practice. Rational people sat down and pursued rationally a Bill's individually weighted progress, allowing for differing tolerances, but that turned out so badly that the Liberal Democrat representative, Mr. Tyler who, if I may say so, had prattled on in Committee about the merits of the arrangements, saw his party vote against every single measure.

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

Had the hon. Gentleman been in his usual place earlier, he would have heard me explain in detail why we objected to that motion and why we think that the present motion is an improvement. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman was not present, but perhaps he will at least give me credit for having explained that carefully. Since I was Chief Whip at the time, I was giving guidance to my colleagues; I was not accepting guidance from anybody else.

Photo of Richard Shepherd Richard Shepherd Conservative, Aldridge-Brownhills

Building on experience, why should we suppose that the arrangements set out in the motion will be any different? We can only put our trust in the good will of the Leader of the House not to impose the guillotine--which, effectively, is what the arrangement amounts to--according to his or the Government's view, as opposed to that of other hon. Members. However, that runs contrary to everything that has happened.

The Leader of the House will not be aware that, during the four short years of the previous Parliament, when he was representing this country abroad, the Labour Government, of all Governments, imposed more guillotines than Mrs. Thatcher did in 11 years. That is passed off as a simple thing, but I fought many of those guillotines because, as has been said, they involved our liberty, justice and relevance. That is all that I have to say on the issue.

I tabled an amendment to the motion which was not selected. However, I did so to try to shout to the House and those who are listening that, effectively, the motion gives the Executive the power to determine every jot and title of the business of the House and therefore strikes at our very function and at those whom we represent.

Photo of Gwyneth Dunwoody Gwyneth Dunwoody Labour, Crewe and Nantwich 5:37 pm, 28th June 2001

It is always a privilege to follow Mr. Shepherd because he frequently expresses the views of the electorate in terms with which people identify.

Parliaments were created precisely to represent people's views, however they are expressed and wherever they come from. I am speaking today because Parliament matters as a representation of what the electorate think. Those who say that the recent election proved conclusively that people were turned off by voting and did not want to be involved are not confronting something that ought to be important to us. The electorate are concerned that their views, worries and upsets should be spoken about freely and simply in Parliament. If they do not believe that we are doing that job or, even worse, if they think that we are busy talking about our own interests, but not theirs, they no longer feel that their votes have an effect.

During the election, I spoke to many people who were concerned that the voting expected of them was no longer relevant to their lives. They did not feel that Her Majesty's Government and, in particular, Parliament reflected their real worries. Unlike the constituents of my hon. Friend Mrs. Campbell, they did not discuss with me the procedures of the House of Commons. It would be nice to think that many of my constituents in Crewe and Nantwich have an intimate understanding of the role of Select Committees and the decisions on which procedural motions have an effect but--brilliant though they all are--sadly, that is not the case. The reality is that people want hon. Members to raise their problems in the House in language with which they identify, which they understand and which represents them.

If the House organises its work in a way that appears to exclude the rights of Back Benchers in favour of the organised juggernaut of government, and appears to make it more difficult for people's worries to be communicated to those in charge, the electorate will become uneasy about the process of government. That process governs people's lives, and is not a matter of which party is in power. When we alter the House's procedures enough to take away some Back-Bench rights, we take away hon. Members' right to represent ordinary voters.

I have been in the House a long time, under Governments of all shapes, sizes and colours. They have all organised the programme of the House for their own convenience, to get what they wanted out of it. All Prime Ministers believe that they speak for God--although there is not much evidence for that--so I am not surprised that they should want to get the measures that concern them on to the statute book. However, the tentacles of modern government reach much further, extending beyond the laws of the country to all those matters that impinge on people's lives every day but which are not discussed in the House.

I am worried not by the way in which legislation is examined or changed but by the continuing aim of speeding up its movement through Parliament. That removes the right of Back-Bench Members to give voice to what they are told by constituents.

We have been told that time is a weapon but that we should not use it. Often, however, time allows constituents to tell hon. Members what is wrong with legislative proposals. Time is the oil that makes legislation move forward at a speed that is acceptable to the electorate. If people no longer find our laws acceptable, they will begin to withdraw their support.

I am delighted to see my young friend the Parliamentary Secretary on the Front Bench. Perhaps it was cruel to land him, on his first appearance, with what I consider to be a negative proposal that will amount to a retrograde step. It is not new: it is the latest in a series of changes that are having a direct effect on the workings of the House. We have heard that the proposals are part of an experiment, and that they will not last, but when will the experiment end? I have heard a lot about timetabling, but nothing about the timetable for the experiment. Will the House of Commons have time to evaluate the experiment's effect?

When the electorate become uneasy about their lines of communication with the Government, and no longer think that their views are being represented as a whole, they will believe that alienation is their only answer. They will look for other means of expression outside Parliament, local government and the recognised norms of a democratic society. That is extremely dangerous.

It would be foolish to claim that the measure before us today, which is quite a small change, will automatically lead us down that path, but the thinking behind it could. That is the real worry: the feeling that the Executive must always have their way, that the Government must always get their legislation through whenever and by whatever means they want. That way lies perdition in a democratic society. Those who elect and send us here are varied and subject to many different pressures. If the gap between them and us, and between Parliament and what happens outside, becomes unbridgeable, there will be no need for timetables because our decisions will have no impact and be of no use. Ultimately, they will be of no worth to the electorate.

Photo of David Cameron David Cameron Conservative, Witney 5:45 pm, 28th June 2001

I am pleased to follow the maiden speeches of Ann McKechin and Mr. Luke. Both spoke movingly and amusingly about their constituencies. I am glad that the hon. Member for Dundee, East is a true blue in the sense that he supports Dundee. It is our role to turn him blue in other ways; I look forward to trying to do that.

I am delighted to make my maiden speech in a debate on our procedures. I have worked in two Departments--the Treasury and the Home Office--as a special adviser, and I was therefore one of the bad guys, always in a rush to get legislation through the House in order to prove that the Executive were delivering their programme. However, experience shows that too many Bills are passed too quickly, often with too little scrutiny and to little concrete effect. I have therefore enjoyed listening to the debate on the Government's suggestion for improving matters. I remain sceptical about their solution.

I listened carefully to my hon. Friend Mr. Shepherd. Both his speeches today were incredibly inspiring. As a new boy, I shall try to remember those lessons about our role and that of the House of Commons. The balance has tipped too far in favour of the Executive, and I am highly suspicious about programming Bills in advance and separating debates from votes.

I listened carefully to the comments of my right hon. and learned Friend Mr. Hogg about being independent Members and listening to the arguments. I remember working with my right hon. and learned Friend Mr. Howard when he was Home Secretary. We lost many votes in the other place, and my right hon. and learned Friend asked our Minister there why we kept losing them. He replied, "Home Secretary, I am afraid that, although I get all our peers to come and vote, they listen to the arguments and they do not always go the right way."

It is a privilege and an honour to represent the constituency of Witney and the people of west Oxfordshire. Witney is a seat rich in history and blessed with some of England's most stunning towns, villages, buildings and countryside. It stretches from the market town of Chipping Norton in the north to the banks of the Thames in the south, and includes the thriving market towns of Witney, Carterton, Woodstock, Burford and Eynsham.

The western boundary is Oxfordshire's county boundary and includes Cotswold villages of great beauty such as Taynton and Idbury. To the east, the seat stretches towards Oxford's city limits, taking in Begbroke and Yarnton. There are 115 villages and settlements in valleys and plains watered by the Dorn, the Glyme, the Evenlode and the Windrush.

Burford was home to one of our great Speakers, William Lenthall, who stood up so clearly for the independence of the House and his office. West Oxfordshire can also boast of great statesmen. It contains the birth and burial places of Winston Churchill--Blenheim and Bladon.

We have great generals, such as John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, who was rewarded with Blenheim palace for his victories in the war of the Spanish succession. As we, on the Conservative Benches, settle our own issue of succession--Spanish or otherwise--I hope that our battles are shorter and slightly less bloody.

West Oxfordshire's political history extends to all traditions. The Levellers, who are now regarded as heroic early socialists, rebelled during the civil war because they believed that their leader, Cromwell, had betrayed the principles for which they fought. I am sure that Labour Members who might sometimes feel the same way do not need reminding that the leaders of that rebellion were rounded up and shot in Burford's churchyard. William Morris, the socialist visionary, lived and is buried at Kelmscott manor in my constituency, and I have no hesitation in urging all hon. Members to visit that beautiful village on the banks of the Thames which time seems to have passed by.

Since 1945, west Oxfordshire has been represented by Sir Douglas Dodds-Parker, who parachuted into France in the 1940s; by Neil Marten, who served with the special forces during the war before embarking on a long and distinguished ministerial career; and by Douglas Hurd, now Lord Hurd, who was an outstanding Foreign Secretary. This brings me neatly to Mr. Woodward.

I know that it is traditional to pay tribute to one's immediate predecessor, and I have no hesitation in saying that I agreed with almost everything that he said in the first half of the previous Parliament, when he was a trenchant critic of the Government. It was only when he moved to the Labour Benches and supported that Government that our views started to diverge. I know that he worked hard for people in west Oxfordshire and must have felt strongly to leave such a magnificent constituency with such friendly and welcoming people. However, he remains a constituent, and a not insignificant local employer--not least in the area of domestic service. We are, in fact, quite close neighbours. On a clear day, from the hill behind my cottage, I can almost see some of the glittering spires of his great house.

West Oxfordshire's economy includes a wide diversity of agriculture and small and medium-sized businesses. Witney was for years dominated by blankets, beer and its railway. There remains just one blanket factory, the beer is predominantly brewed elsewhere and the railway has been closed. I will always support moves to examine reopening our railway to Oxford and extending the line to Carterton. Witney and west Oxfordshire are now beacons of enterprise and success. A range of service, technology and light industrial businesses have thrived in our area, and with the Arrows and Benetton Formula 1 teams, we are becoming the grand prix capital of the world. Our unemployment rate is close to the lowest in the country. However, our farming and tourism businesses have suffered badly from the foot and mouth outbreak and need time and an understanding, enabling Government to recover.

RAF Brize Norton, adjoining the relatively modern town of Carterton, is now one of our largest employers. It is one of Britain's longest-established air bases, and has played an important role in the defence of this country and in servicing our armed forces. Its facilities and expertise in air-to-air refuelling make it the perfect location for the future strategic tanker aircraft and I will always support its role. The now ageing VC10s that thunder down the runway loaded with fuel for our fighter aircraft are fondly known locally as "Prescotts", because they are able to refuel two Jaguars simultaneously--one under each wing. There was some suggestion during the election campaign that the right hon. Gentleman's name should be appended to some other type of aircraft, perhaps a fighter that packed a bit more of a punch.

Carterton is a rapidly growing town and in need of new services, such as a sixth form for its excellent community college, the campaign for which I strongly support. West Oxfordshire has an excellent Conservative-led district council, which has invested in those kinds of facilities, including some in Carterton, and I look forward to working with it in the years ahead.

Chipping Norton, long famous for William Bliss's tweed mill, which remains a striking landmark, is a classic Cotswold market town. It is also home to the kennels of the Heythrop hunt. There is a long tradition of hunting in west Oxfordshire, originally based in the royal forest of Wychwood, where Ethelred II established the first royal hunting lodge more than nine centuries ago. I will always stand up for the freedom of people in the countryside to take part in country sports, and, in the light of today's debate, would always be concerned about any limits set on a debate on a hunting Bill that could curtail that freedom.

Under its beautiful and serene exterior, west Oxfordshire faces important issues and problems. Rural poverty has been exacerbated by foot and mouth. The decline of local services, emphasised by the tragic closure of Burford hospital during the last Parliament, has angered local people. We still have cottage hospitals in Witney and Chipping Norton, which I strongly support.

Rumours of budget cuts for our hospitals and the dreaded "r" word--rationalisation--for our ambulance service are rife. Those emergency services and hospitals play a vital role in rural communities and they should be expanded, not discarded. In the context of today's debate, the health reform bill promises decentralisation, but we shall need a lot of time to scrutinise it and ensure that it really will deliver a local NHS. I hope that that can happen under the proposed system.

In Witney, there is huge pressure on housing and great concern that the Government's top-down housing targets will mean building on greenfield sites and wrecking the countryside that we love. That is another issue of great local importance.

The theme of how we make and scrutinise decisions runs through today's debate. I wanted to be elected to the House because I believe in what it stands for and what it can do to hold Governments to account, air grievances and raise issues that people in west Oxfordshire care about. I also wanted to be elected because, through action here, one can get things done.

I shall support all the efforts being made to restore the House as the cockpit of debate, and the place where policies are announced, debated and decided and where the Government are scrutinised and challenged, whether on the Floor of the Chamber or through strengthened, independent Select Committees. I cannot see how deciding in advance how much time should be given to a Bill and systematic guillotining can help in that regard, but I am a new boy and I am listening to the arguments.

The beauties of west Oxfordshire of which I have spoken--the glorious view from the top of Burford high street and Pope's tower in Stanton Harcourt--sum up for many people what they feel about their British identity. I know that we shall always be able to treasure that identity, whether it rests on those feelings or on something else, but what matters just as much as our identity is our self-determination, and our ability to make decisions as a nation and to question and challenge them properly in this place. The ability to continue doing so rests in our own hands. It is a privilege that I shall try to preserve while serving the kind and generous people of west Oxfordshire. 5.57 pm

Photo of Gerald Howarth Gerald Howarth Conservative, Aldershot

It is rare for an hon. Member to have the privilege of following such an outstanding maiden speech. I congratulate my friend and hon. Friend Mr. Cameron on a superb speech that provided a fascinating and witty discourse on the qualities of the Witney constituency, which we have not heard so eloquently expressed previously.

I am bound to say, and as my hon. Friend may know, I regard him as a wonderful replacement for his predecessor, and I have no hesitation in saying that. He not only kept to the conventions of the House in his witty description of the circumstances of his arrival in Witney, but made extremely apposite points about the debate. We look forward with great pleasure to hearing more of him in the House, because he is a splendid addition to our Conservative ranks. In him, I see a conviction politician who will fight for the interests of his constituents and of our party and Parliament.

I have only two minutes in which to address the House on these important matters, so, having had the pleasure of entertaining hon. Members at rather greater length in the previous Parliament, I shall be brief. I oppose what the Government propose, because the debate, like the discussion on the programme motion, has shown the contempt in which the Government hold Parliament.

My right hon. and learned Friend Mr. Hogg described deferred Divisions as the visitors' book. It may be signed at 3.30 pm on Wednesdays, immediately after Prime Minister's questions, which has been moved from Tuesdays and Thursdays. There is minimum inconvenience for hon. Members, and right hon. Members in particular, who can sign the visitors' book at 3.30 pm. The introduction of that visitors's book is greatly to the disadvantage of the House and our procedures and, like my right hon. and learned Friend, I shall not sign it throughout this Parliament, because it is an affront.

As for the programming motion, my hon. Friend Mr. Shepherd mentioned how many times the present Government, in comparison with the previous one, had tabled guillotine motions. Moreover, the time allowed for debates on such motions has been reduced from three hours to 45 minutes, and then to no time at all, with the Question being put forthwith. That demonstrates the contempt in which the House has been held by this Government--this Labour party.

We should not see this development in isolation, for the Leader of the other place has made clear his plans for extensive changes there as well. We are witnessing an assault not just on the procedures of the House of Commons but on those of the other place, where it is proposed--not yet formally proposed, but the idea has been floated--that there be no votes during Committee stages.

It is to the great credit of the upper House that it has engaged in some of the more extensive debates on important issues that are of concern to our constituents, and that matters have been subjected to greater scrutiny there than has been possible here. The measure introduced today does the Government no credit whatever. 6.1 pm

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Minister (Scotland)

This has been a good debate. It struck me as much more measured than the debate in which we first discussed the question of motions of this type, and perhaps rather sombre in tone. I shall return to that in a moment.

One reason why this debate has been more good- humoured than the last may be the maiden speeches that we have heard this afternoon. I especially enjoyed those of the hon. Members for Glasgow, Maryhill (Ann McKechin) and for Dundee, East (Mr. Luke), and, of course, of my hon. Friend Mr. Cameron, whose constituency I know well. He succeeded in depicting it in short words but with a great deal of feeling.

All those new Members are welcome. It is, perhaps, especially apposite that they should have made maiden speeches this afternoon when we are debating issues that touch our future, our existence and our relevance. For what concerns us today is not just the programming motion in itself: as has been said, it is linked with the overall direction in which the House is going.

Hon. Members speak of modernisation and the need for it. I am second to none in saying that there are numerous areas in which the practices of the House, and its efficiency, could do with review; but the key issue for us to consider is whether we are going down the right path in carrying out that task, or whether we are simply passing an ad hoc measure whose purpose seems largely to be to suit the needs of the Executive rather than those of the House.

I hope this is not an omen, but one thing about the Labour speakers today struck me as noteworthy. Let me for the moment leave aside Mrs. Campbell, who made an interesting speech with much of which I had little difficulty in agreeing. As far as I could see, not one Labour member of the Select Committee on the Modernisation of the House of Commons--apart from Mr. Pike, who contributed briefly to the earlier debate on the guillotine motion--spoke today, although the Committee's recommendation is being presented to the House. Yet this is supposed to be a debate initiated by the House itself.

My impression is that Labour Members who have made valuable contributions today have been very guarded in their reception of the proposals. I shall say more about those contributions shortly. No one expressed great enthusiasm except the hon. Member for Cambridge, and even she had some reservations. We saw a succession of critics on both sides of the House, the only two enthusiasts being the Leader of the House and Mr. Tyler, who was a member of the Committee. I am sorry that he is not present now.

I do not want to spend too much time on deferred votes. I agree with Mr. Fisher, who rightly said that it was the lesser of the two issues that we are considering. I regret the fact that we brought the deferred votes procedure into operation, because it shows that the House is approaching its problems wrongly. It may be inconvenient to vote after 10 pm, and that may be a reflection of bad programming. However, rather than addressing how we could better programme or modernise our procedures so as to minimise such votes, we have committed and will continue to commit the great error of separating vote from debate.

There may not be many hon. Members present in the Chamber during debates, but at least there is a centrality to those activities, which is maintained when votes follow debates. The previous exceptions to the rule that we vote after debates were few. It has now been turned into a rubber-stamping exercise carried out on a Wednesday afternoon, and it is difficult to escape the conclusion that for some people it is a relatively painless way of improving their voting record.

If we lose the centrality of the Chamber and its activities, we will lose something precious. We are not social workers in our constituencies--that may be a role that we have taken on, but it was not the role that we were elected to undertake. Our role is in the process of debate in Parliament, and even the gossip in the Tea Room is important in that exchange of political views because it brings us together. If we compartmentalise ourselves--as the deferred voting process tends to do--we do ourselves and the country a great disservice. I hope that we will revisit deferred voting, and that when we do, we will have the courage to tackle the problem that it was designed to address in a different way.

The proposal on programme motions goes much further than the system that we had last year. I was particularly struck by the contributions of the hon. Members for Stoke-on-Trent, Central and for Cambridge, who acknowledged that much more needed to be done than merely tinkering with programme motions. I shall not run through a list of all my hon. Friends who made telling contributions, but my hon. Friend Mr. Shepherd, who is a great exponent of our parliamentary tradition, should be listened to with care when he says that we are paddling ourselves into irrelevance and oblivion. That is how this will be perceived.

It is all very well having programme motions. I welcome them, and I have sat on Standing Committees that have been subject to programme motions. I acknowledge to the Leader of the House that if the system of Programming Sub-Committees that he is establishing works, it could be a great improvement. However, I am bound to flag up my anxieties.

First, the secrecy surrounding the process is all very well, but how can we learn from it if we are denied access to the Sub-Committees' operations and deliberations? After all, most parliamentarians learn from their mistakes, as do most people in their daily lives, yet those excluded from a Sub-Committee's deliberations will have no idea whether it got it right or not, except anecdotally. It is scandalous that we are setting up such a structure with no transparency.

Whole areas will be of no concern to the Committees and their Programming Sub-Committees, because much of this programming business relates to matters dealt with after the business has returned to the Floor of the House or when it comes back from the other place. In the last Parliament, the Government extensively used the House of Lords to rewrite and amend legislation. I see Labour Members shaking their heads. I sat on the Committee that considered the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Bill. That Bill commanded support from both sides of the House and was acknowledged when it left Committee to be in a woefully defective state. The Government, perfectly properly, amended it in the House of Lords. However, although that Bill was all the more the responsibility of the House since it concerned the electoral process, we had virtually no opportunity to consider it in detail when it returned to this place.

The guillotine that was imposed then was identical to what we will have if we pass the programming motion under consideration. I cannot see the difference. In both cases a ministerial decision determines how long should be allowed for debate and the programming takes place accordingly. There is no indication as to whether there will be an opportunity for input or consultation of any kind. I fail to understand how that can be an improvement on the existing system or how it will be to the House's credit. During today's debate, one hon. Member after another has highlighted the central point that it is wrong to pass legislation that has not been scrutinised.

We have heard a great deal about filibustering and about hon. Members who hold up proceedings. We have to face the fact that with hundreds of Members of Parliament and, thank goodness, with some who will not slavishly follow the Whips, there will be people with bees in their bonnets. Some of them may be unreasonable, as may be those who have lobbied them, but they are entitled to a hearing if this place is to have any relevance.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central rightly pointed out that from about 1866 onwards power started to ebb away from this place to the Executive. It is at least worth remembering that in the 19th century considerable tolerance was accorded to windbag Members of Parliament who droned into the night about their pet subjects. Ultimately, that was a matter of forbearance by the Executive, whom the Leader of the House represents just as I hope that he will represent our interests across the Chamber. That forbearance was based on the principle that it was necessary to have exhaustive discussion because if we do not, as Mrs. Dunwoody so rightly said, people may start to resort to extra-parliamentary methods to achieve their ends.

We should remember what happened as recently as last autumn when large numbers of people took part in a protest that paralysed this country and brought about a change in the Government's taxation policy. It may be thought that that was to the advantage of my party, but it frightened me. It seemed to be a classic example of a breakdown of parliamentary democracy. I speak as someone with a half-French background; there, I am afraid that the notions of parliamentary democracy are not well developed. In that country, such action is an institutionalised phenomenon and is seen as the only way to bring home to the Executive and the elite who govern the country the people's dissatisfaction at the way in which the country is being run. Mercifully, we have been free of that, but when I look at what is being proposed today, I am left with the feeling that this is another nail in the coffin.

Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough

Will my hon. Friend summarise his views before finishing? It is important to know what the Opposition Front Bench would do in office. Does he agree that the Government have a right to get their Bills through and to do so in a reasonable time but that the Opposition also have a right to determine what subjects should be debated within that time? If there were to be a Conservative Government, would he ensure that there were discussions through the usual channels before any vote on a programming motion and that there would be such a vote only if discussions broke down?

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Minister (Scotland)

My hon. Friend makes powerful and compelling points, but I would go further, in this sense.

Many have congratulated the Leader of the House on his appearance at the Dispatch Box, and I do, too. He has an opportunity, but the question is, will it be taken? If indeed the Government wish to bring forward proposals, along the lines of those of the Norton committee, for substantial reform of how Parliament can hold the Executive to account, he will have support, and if things such as the programme motion before us were part of those proposals, it would be much easier to be reassured about the Government's intentions. But at the moment, every time that modernisation comes along, it is simply another nail in the coffin of the few remaining--doubtless sometimes abused and tawdry--powers left to Back Benchers to make a noise about something. I tell the Leader of the House that if this is the best that we are going to get, we shall be in a sad and sorry place by the end of this Parliament.

For myself, I will vote against these motions. I believe that they are wrong. The only circumstances in which I could support them would be if they were part of a total package that had been brought about by co-operation. The willingness to co-operate exists, but the will on the Government side appears wholly absent.

Photo of Stephen Twigg Stephen Twigg Parliamentary Secretary (Privy Council Office) 6:16 pm, 28th June 2001

I start on a positive note. I welcome at least the first part of the concluding remarks made by Mr. Grieve and sincerely hope that, with a new Parliament, we can develop the good will that he mentioned. I would much prefer that the process of debate and consideration of the reform and modernisation of the House had full cross-party support, and that Members from the main Opposition party did not feel, as they have today, unable to support the proposals.

We have had an interesting debate, in which Members have spoken from a range of perspectives. It is the first debate in this Parliament on the modernisation of the House of Commons. Let me quote something that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said last night in his winding-up speech on the debate on the Loyal Address, because I believe that it responds to some of the points that have been made tonight by Members on both sides of the House. He said that two important purposes of modernisation were, first,

"to enable the House to hold the Government to account and to scrutinise their Executive decisions and legislation . . . good scrutiny makes for good government . . . The second objective of modernisation must be to ensure that the hours and working methods of this House belong to the same century in which most of our constituents live and work."--[Hansard, 27 June 2001; Vol. 370, c. 738.]

Very often, these debates create the impression that those two purposes are alternatives--opposites. I see no reason why we should have to choose between them. I see no reason why we should not seek to achieve both.

The hon. Member for Beaconsfield mentioned the Norton commission and the Hansard Society, both of which have made positive contributions to this debate and both of which, in their different ways, seek to meet both criteria set out by my right hon. Friend last night.

I thank all Members who participated in the debate. I apologise if I cannot respond to all the points made, but I undertake to write to any hon. Member whose points I do not address. I associate myself with the remarks of the hon. Member for Beaconsfield about the three excellent maiden speeches that we have heard.

My hon. Friend Ann McKechin made a powerful and confident speech. I pay tribute to the work that she did before entering the House on issues of international development and fighting world poverty. I was interested to hear that Glasgow, Maryhill is a farming constituency and to hear of her ardent support--new-found ardent support--for Partick Thistle.

I apologise to my hon. Friend Mr. Luke because I missed the opening of his speech, but he made a strong commitment, as did his predecessor in the House, to the modernisation of the House and its practices, and I pay tribute to that.

Mr. Cameron made a very witty, powerful contribution to the debate. I am sure that he was pleased to bring to an end the brief period in which Witney was represented by the Labour party, although when he started to talk about the Levellers I wondered whether he might be planning to follow his predecessor and cross the Floor. I suspect that that might not happen. I congratulate all three maiden speakers.

Today's debate has focused mostly on programming, but I was struck by the fact that two Conservative Members said that they had never participated in a deferred Division and intended never to sign what they termed the visitors' book. I was worried that if that became a trend throughout the Conservative party, Labour's already large majority would become larger still. In the interests of democracy, I encourage other Conservative Members to participate in deferred Divisions.

We heard some pretty synthetic anger about the use of deferred Divisions. Mrs. Browning seemed to be concerned that our constituents might discover the timing of a vote and lobby us about how we should vote. I do not imagine that any of us would have a problem with that. If a deferred Division is on a matter that gives rise to strength of opinion in a constituency, surely it is part of the proper democratic process that people can participate.

Mr. Forth suggested that deferring Divisions meant that Members would be less informed when participating in votes. If anything, a deferred Division enables a Member to be more informed. A Member who was not present for the debate has the time to study Hansard. It is not reasonable to suggest, therefore, that people who do not participate in debates are any less well informed than those who vote in the traditional way at the end of a debate.

The motion gives more rights to Standing Committees, as was grudgingly acknowledged by the hon. Member for Beaconsfield, when he said that it could be a great improvement. That will be the test in the coming year as we experiment with the proposal. The Government will still table a programme motion on Second Reading, to set an out date from Committee and the overall allocation of time for remaining stages. The motion will, for the first time, give the Standing Committee power to make its own proposals to amend either the out date or the allocation of time for remaining stages. Moreover, the motion obliges the Government to table a motion to give effect to the Standing Committee's proposals, which will be taken forthwith, or, if the proposals are rejected, to have a debate on the Floor of the House. If the proposal is that there should be more time in Standing Committee, the motion cannot be delayed and must be tabled within five sitting days.

That will enable the Standing Committee and the House to vary an out date and the time for remaining stages in the light of the Committee's sittings. It gives the initiative to the Standing Committee, as the Modernisation Committee concluded that its members are best placed to undertake programming. We have looked at the experience of the previous Session and have tried to learn from it. That is what the Modernisation Committee report seeks to do and the proposals tonight would implement that.

I shall attempt, albeit briefly, to respond to some of the other contributions. The hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton quoted a letter from the previous Leader of the House and was concerned that programming does not ensure that all parts of the Bill are scrutinised. Clearly, one of the major purposes of programming is to ensure that that scrutiny happens through all the stages of the Bill. The letter received from my right hon. Friend is evidence of her good faith. She stressed the powers that Opposition parties should have through the process and she tried to review how it was working in practice.

If the Opposition do not engage with the process, there is little that can be done. That is why the Modernisation Committee has reviewed the proposals to create greater flexibility. If there is good will and hon. Members on both sides of the House participate, we may be able to have more effective scrutiny as a result of the changes.

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

Notwithstanding our principled objection to the proposals, once they were agreed there was no question of our not participating in the Programming Sub-Committees; we did participate. The right hon. Lady wrote the letter because Ministers were not complying as she had expected them to.

Photo of Stephen Twigg Stephen Twigg Parliamentary Secretary (Privy Council Office)

It is clearly incumbent on all hon. Members, including Ministers, to comply with the letter and the spirit of the changes. That is important because they are as much about the culture as about the rules of the House and any Sessional Order with which we deal.

I shall move on to try to address some of the other points made by right hon. and hon. Members. My hon. Friend Mr. Fisher said that, although programming was acceptable, compensating changes should be made. As I have said, the aim of programming is not to reduce scrutiny. My hon. Friend made some important points about pre-legislative scrutiny, but the changes should not be seen in isolation. Pre-legislative scrutiny has already taken place, and we have the opportunity to extend it with the legislation that will be introduced in this Parliament. Hon. Members should view the changes as a package, rather than simply considering each of them in isolation. I agree with my hon. Friend that we need to consider far more pre-legislative scrutiny.

Mr. Shepherd, who served as a member of the Modernisation Committee throughout the previous Parliament, made a point, as he did in a previous debate, about the number of guillotine motions during the previous Parliament compared to the period when Baroness Thatcher was Prime Minister. I understand that he arrived at his figure for the number of Bills guillotined by adding guillotine motions to programme motions. I entirely respect the fact that he does not agree with programming; that is the point of this debate, but programming has wide support in the House. If guillotines are considered separately from programme motions, the hon. Gentleman will find that his point does not arise.

Mr. Bercow made a point about the Programming Sub-Committees not meeting in public and the lack of available transcripts. I understand that all the formal proceedings of the Committees are minuted, but that it is not the practice to publish the minutes. That is the point that the hon. Gentleman makes, but it is not a decision for the Government. The Sub-Committees are constituted as Select Committees. They are deliberative Committees, and Mr. Speaker has ruled that they sit in private. That has advantages, because a more consensual approach can be established to ensure that the concerns of Opposition and Government Members, as well as those of Front Benchers, are included, but such issues can be reviewed and are open for debate as the process of modernisation and reform of the House continues.

The hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack), to whom I apologise because I was not in the Chamber to hear all his speech, made an important contribution. He made the suggestion, among others, that the Modernisation Committee could be reconstituted as an "Improvement of Scrutiny Committee". Clearly, that is one of the many suggestions that can be considered as matters progress. Of course, the Procedure Committee and the Liaison Committee, both of which are chaired by Back Benchers, serve as powerful advocates for change and improvement in the practices of the House. The most positive way forward is to achieve the best possible co-operation between those Committees and the Modernisation Committee during this Parliament.

If hon. Members will excuse me, I shall draw my speech to a close by referring more generally to the background to the debate. Several Members have referred to the role of Members of Parliament. Sometimes the impression given is that Labour Members are super social workers and that Opposition Members simply want to scrutinise legislation. That suggestion is deeply unfair; all hon. Members seek to do our best not only in representing our constituents but in scrutinising legislation and the Government.

The proposals are experimental and are based on a review of how the previous proposals worked in the previous Session. If they do not work, we can review and reconsider them in a year's time. As has been said, there was support from all parties in the Modernisation Committee. The former Member for East Devon, Sir Peter Emery, supported the proposals, as did Labour and Liberal Democrat Members who served on that Committee.

Many hon. Members have talked about the low turnout at the recent election and the disconnection between people and politics. The yah-boo politics, the time-wasting and the unnecessarily adversarial style in the House contribute more than anything to the alienation that is felt out there about politics and its relevance to peoples' lives. Being kept up all night to take part in debates makes no sense, does not mean that we make good law and is not a positive advertisement--

It being half-past Six o'clock, Madam Deputy Speaker put the Question, pursuant to Order [this day]

The House divided: Ayes 265, Noes 125.

Division number 6

See full list of votes (From The Public Whip)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved,

That in the current Session of Parliament Orders A to I below shall have effect:

A. Programme Motions

(1) If, before second reading of a bill, notice of a motion providing--

(a) for committal of the bill, and

(b) for any proceedings on the bill to be programmed,

is given by a Minister of the Crown, the motion may be made immediately after second reading, and Standing Order No. 63 shall not apply to the Bill.

(2) Such a motion is to be called a programme motion.

(3) An order made by the House as a result of a programme motion is to be called a programme order.

(4) A motion to vary or supplement a programme order is also to be called a programme motion.

(5) A programme motion may provide for the allocation of time for any proceedings on a bill.

(6) Except in the following three cases, or where paragraph (8) of Programme Order B (Programming Committees) applies, the question on a programme motion is to be put forthwith.

(7) The first exception is where--

(a) a Standing Committee has reported a resolution under paragraph (11) of Sessional Order C (Programming Sub-Committees) proposing an alteration of the date by which the bill is to be reported to the House, and

(b) the motion made under paragraph (12) of Sessional Order C (Programming Sub-Committees) does not give effect to the Standing Committee's proposal.

(8) The second exception is where the motion makes further provision for proceedings on consideration and third reading of the bill otherwise than in accordance with a resolution of a Programming Committee under paragraph (5) of Sessional Order B (Programming Committees) or a resolution of a Standing Committee under paragraph (13) of Sessional Order C (Programming Sub-Committees).

(9) The third exception is where the motion reduces the amount of time allocated under a programme order for any proceedings on the bill (whether or not it also increases the amount of time allocated for other proceedings on the bill).

(10) In an excepted case, any question necessary to dispose of proceedings on a programme motion is to be put not later than three-quarters of an hour after the commencement of proceedings on the motion.

(11) Standing Order No. 15(1) (Exempted Business) applies to proceedings on a programme motion.

(12) Standing Order No. 83 (Allocation of Time) does not apply to a programme motion.

(13) If a programme order applies to a bill, neither Standing Order No. 82 (Business Committee) nor Standing Order No. 120 (Business Sub-Committee) applies to the bill.

B. Programming Committees

(1) This order applies if proceedings in committee of the whole House or on consideration and third reading are subject to a programme order.

(2) There is to be a committee for the bill consisting of--

(a) the Chairman of Ways and Means (who is to be chairman of the committee); and

(b) not more than eight other Members, nominated by the Speaker.

(3) The committee is to be called the Programming Committee.

(4) The quorum of the Programming Committee is four.

(5) The Programming Committee shall consider the allocation of time to proceedings in committee of the whole House or on consideration and third reading and report any resolution which it makes to the House.

(6) Proceedings in the Programming Committee shall be brought to a conclusion not later than two hours after their commencement.

(7) For the purposes of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph (6), the chairman shall--

(a) first put forthwith any question which has been proposed from the chair and not yet decided; and

(b) then put successively questions on any motions made by a Minister of the Crown.

(8) On a motion being made in the House relating to a resolution of the Programming Committee, any question necessary to dispose of proceedings on the motion shall be put not later than three-quarters of an hour after the commencement of those proceedings.

(9) If such a motion is agreed to, its provisions shall have effect as if they were included in the programme order for the bill.

(10) Proceedings on a motion made under paragraph (8) may be entered upon and decided, though opposed, at any hour.

(11) Resolutions of the Programming Committee--

(a) may be reported from time to time; and

(b) subject to the powers of the Speaker or Chairman to select the amendments, new clauses and new schedules to be proposed, may include alterations in the order in which specified proceedings on the bill are to be taken.

C. Programming Sub-Committees

(1) If a bill is subject to a programme order which commits it to a standing committee, the order stands referred to the committee and shall be considered by a sub-committee of the committee.

(2) The sub-committee is to be called the Programming Sub-Committee.

(3) The Programming Sub-Committee shall consist of--

(a) the chairman or one of the chairmen of the committee (who is to be chairman of the sub-committee); and

(b) seven members of the committee, nominated by the Speaker.

(4) The quorum of the Programming Sub-Committee is four.

(5) The Programming Sub-Committee shall report to the committee any resolution which it makes about--

(a) the number of sittings to be allotted to the consideration of the bill in the committee;

(b) the allocation of the proceedings to each sitting;

(c) the time at which any proceedings, if not previously concluded, are to be brought to a conclusion;

(d) the date by which the bill is to be reported to the House;

(e) the programming of consideration and third reading.

(6) Proceedings in the Programming Sub-Committee shall be brought to a conclusion not later than two hours after their commencement.

(7) For the purposes of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph (6), the chairman shall--

(a) first put forthwith any question which has been proposed from the chair and not yet been decided; and

(b) then put forthwith successively questions on any motions made by a Minister of the Crown.

(8) Resolutions of the Programming Sub-Committee--

(a) may be reported from time to time; and

(b) subject to the powers of the chairman to select the amendments, new Clauses and new Schedules to be proposed, may include alterations in the order in which specified proceedings are to be taken.

(9) On a motion in the terms of a resolution of the Programming Sub-Committee being made in the committee, any question necessary to dispose of proceedings on the motion is to be put not later than half an hour after the commencement of those proceedings.

(10) If the provisions of a resolution of the Programming Sub-Committee under sub-paragraphs (a), (b) or (c) of paragraph (5) are agreed to (with or without modification) by the committee, the provisions (or the provisions as modified) are to have effect as if they were included in the programme order for the bill.

(11) Any resolution of the committee--

(a) proposing an alteration to the date by which the Bill is to be reported to the House; or

(b) making a recommendation about the programming of the Bill on consideration and third reading;

shall be reported to the House.

(12) If a resolution is reported proposing an alteration to the date by which the Bill is to be reported to the House, a supplemental programme motion shall be set down for a day not later than the fifth sitting day after the day when the report was made which may--

(a) give effect to the Committee's proposal;

(b) otherwise alter or supplement the provisions of the original programme of the bill; or

(c) confirm the date set in the original programme order for the bill.

(13) If a resolution is reported making a recommendation about the programming of the Bill on consideration and third reading, a supplemental programme motion shall be set down before the consideration of the bill on report which may--

(a) give effect to the Committee's recommendations;

(b) otherwise alter or supplement the provisions of the original programme of the bill; or

(c) confirm the original programme order for the bill.

D. Programme orders: conclusion of proceedings in Standing Committee or in Committee of the whole House

(1) This order applies for the purpose of bringing proceedings in standing committee or in committee of the whole House to a conclusion in accordance with a programme order.

(2) The chairman shall put forthwith the following questions (but no others)--

(a) any question already proposed from the chair;

(b) any question necessary to bring to a decision a question so proposed;

(c) the question on any amendment, new clause or new schedule selected by the chairman for separate division;

(d) the question on any amendment moved or motion made by a Minister of the Crown;

(e) any other question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded.

(3) On a motion made for a new clause or a new schedule, the chairman shall put only the question that the clause or schedule be added to the bill.

(4) If two or more questions would fall to be put under paragraph (2)(d) on successive amendments moved or motions made by a Minister of the Crown, the chairman shall instead put a single question in relation to those amendments or motions.

(5) If two or more questions would fall to be put under paragraph (2)(e) in relation to successive provisions of the bill, the chairman shall instead put a single question in relation to those provisions.

(6) On conclusion of the proceedings in a committee, the chairman shall report the bill (or such of the bill's provisions as were committed to it) to the House without putting any question.

E. Programme orders: conclusion of proceedings on consideration or third reading

(1) This order applies for the purpose of bringing proceedings on consideration and third reading to a conclusion in accordance with a programme order.

(2) The Speaker shall put forthwith the following questions (but no others)--

(a) any question already proposed from the chair;

(b) any question necessary to bring to a decision a question so proposed;

(c) the question on any amendment, new clause or new schedule selected by the Speaker for separate division;

(d) the question on any amendment moved or motion made by a Minister of the Crown;

(e) any other question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded.

(3) On a motion made for a new clause or a new schedule, the Speaker shall put only the question that the clause or schedule be added to the bill.

(4) If two or more questions would fall to be put under paragraph (2)(d) on successive amendments moved or motions made by a Minister of the Crown, the Speaker shall instead put a single question in relation to those amendments or motions.

F. Programme orders: conclusion of proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments

(1) This order applies for the purpose of bringing proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments to a conclusion in accordance with a programme order.

(2) The Speaker shall first put forthwith any question which has been proposed from the chair and not yet decided.

(3) If that question is for the amendment of a Lords Amendment, the Speaker shall then put forthwith--

(a) a single question on any further amendments of the Lords Amendment moved by a Minister of the Crown; and

(b) the question on any motion made by a Minister of the Crown that this House agrees or disagrees with the Lords in their Amendment or (as the case may be) in their Amendment as amended.

(4) The Speaker shall then put forthwith--

(a) a single question on any amendments moved by a Minister of the Crown to a Lords Amendment; and

(b) the question on any motion made by a Minister of the Crown that this House agrees or disagrees with the Lords in their Amendment or (as the case may be) in their Amendment as amended.

(5) The Speaker shall then put forthwith the question on any motion made by a Minister of the Crown that this House disagrees with the Lords in a Lords Amendment.

(6) The Speaker shall then put forthwith the question that this House agrees with the Lords in all the remaining Lords Amendments.

(7) As soon as the House has--

(a) agreed or disagreed with the Lords in any of their Amendments; or

(b) disposed of an amendment relevant to a Lords Amendment which has been disagreed to,

the Speaker shall put forthwith a single question on any amendments moved by a Minister of the Crown relevant to the Lords Amendment.

G. Programme orders: conclusion of proceedings on further messages from the Lords

(1) This order applies for the purpose of bringing proceedings on any further message from the Lords to a conclusion in accordance with a programme order.

(2) The Speaker shall first put forthwith any question which has been proposed from the chair and not yet decided.

(3) The Speaker shall then put forthwith the question on any motion made by a Minister of the Crown which is related to the question already proposed from the chair.

(4) The Speaker shall then put forthwith the question on any motion made by a Minister on or relevant to any of the remaining items in the Lords message.

(5) The Speaker shall then put forthwith the question that this House agrees with the Lords in all of the remaining Lords proposals.

H. Programme orders: Reasons Committee

(1) This order applies in relation to any Committee to be appointed to draw up Reasons after proceedings have been brought to a conclusion in accordance with a programme order.

(2) The Speaker shall put forthwith the question on any motion made by a Minister of the Crown for the appointment, nomination and quorum of a Committee to draw up Reasons and the appointment of its chairman.

(3) The Committee shall report before the conclusion of the sitting at which it is appointed.

(4) Proceedings in the Committee shall be brought to a conclusion not later than half an hour after their commencement.

(5) For the purpose of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph (4), the chairman shall--

(a) first put forthwith any question which has been proposed from the chair and not yet decided; and

(b) then put forthwith successively questions on motions which may be made by a Minister of the Crown for assigning a Reason for disagreeing with the Lords in any of their Amendments.

(6) The proceedings of the Committee shall be reported without any further question being put.

I. Programme orders: supplementary provisions

(1) The provisions of this order apply to proceedings in the House or in Committee of the whole House on a bill which is subject to a programme order.

(2) Standing Order No. 15(1) (Exempted business) applies to the proceedings for any period after ten o'clock (or on Thursday, seven o'clock) allocated to them in accordance with the programme order.

(3) The proceedings may not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.

(4) If, on a day on which the bill has been set down to be taken as an order of the day, a motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 24 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) would, apart from this order, stand over to Seven o'clock--

(a) that motion stands over until the conclusion of any proceedings on the bill which, in accordance with the programme order, are to be brought to conclusion at or before that time; and

(b) the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings on the bill which, in accordance with the programme order, are to be brought to a conclusion after that time is postponed for a period of time equal to the duration of the proceedings on that motion.

(5) If a day on which the bill has been set down to be taken as an order of the day is one to which a motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 24 stands over from an earlier day, the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings on the bill which, in accordance with the programme order, are to be brought to a conclusion on that day is postponed for a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on that motion.

(6) No dilatory motion may be made in relation to the proceedings except by a Minister of the Crown; and the question on any such motion is to be put forthwith.

(7) If at any sitting the House is adjourned, or the sitting is suspended, before the expiry of the period at the end of which proceedings are to be brought to a conclusion under a programme order, no notice is required of a motion made at the next sitting by a Minister of the Crown for varying or supplementing the provisions of the programme order.