European Communities (Amendment) Bill (Programme) (No. 2)

– in the House of Commons at 3:32 pm on 11th July 2001.

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Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Minister of State (Europe) 3:32 pm, 11th July 2001

I beg to move,

That, in accordance with the resolution of the Programming Committee of 10th July and pursuant to the Programme Order of 4th July 2001 (proceedings in Committee of the whole House, on consideration and on Third Reading of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill),—

(1) proceedings in Committee of the whole House shall, so far as not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 10.00 p.m. on the third allotted day (or, if that day is a Thursday, 7.00 p.m.);

(2) those proceedings shall be taken on each of the allotted days as shown in the second column of the following Table and shall be taken in the order so shown, and shall be brought to a conclusion (so far as not previously concluded) at the times specified in the third column of the Table.

Table
Allotted day Proceedings Time for conclusion of proceedings
First day Amendment No. 1 8.00 p.m. (or 5.00 p.m. if a Thursday)
Remaining proceedings on Clause 1 and proceedings on Clauses 2 to 4
Second day Remaining proceedings on Clauses 1 to 4 (so far as not previously concluded) 10.00 p.m. (or 7.00 p.m. if a Thursday)
Third day New Clauses 4 to 6 7.00 p.m. (or 4.00 p.m. if a Thursday)
Remaining New Clauses 10.00 p.m. (or 7.00 p.m. if a Thursday)

(3) any proceedings on consideration and proceedings on Third Reading shall, so far as not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 10.00 p.m. on the fourth allotted day (or, if that day is a Thursday, 7.00 p.m.).

I am pleased to move the motion for the first programme drawn up by the Programming Committee. The purpose of changing our method of programming is to move the initial debate on the size of the time envelope for debate on a Bill from the Floor of the House to Committee, where there will be less grandstanding and more opportunity for sensible discussion. I hope that the programme will prove the wisdom of that approach.

Now that the detailed programme proposed by the Programming Committee has been published in the Order Paper, it is for the House to decide whether to agree to it. I hope that it agrees that it reflects the Opposition's priorities and ensures that all matters of concern to Members are properly debated. That was certainly my intention when the Committee met yesterday. Some 276 amendments have been tabled, not all of them by Mr. Cash. It is important that all the key issues are fully debated, and three full days in Committee will give ample time to address them. The arrangements will allow us to tackle properly each substantive clause, and will enable the House to address various proposals for new clauses—a point of some importance to the Opposition.

It is proposed that the first substantive debate on qualified majority voting take place today until 8 pm. For the rest of the day and the second day in Committee, we shall cover other amendments to clauses 1 to 4. On the third and final Committee day, we shall address proposals for new clauses 4, 5 and 6 until 7 o'clock, and then the remaining new clauses. I commend the motion to the House.

Photo of Richard Spring Richard Spring Conservative, West Suffolk 3:34 pm, 11th July 2001

The Bill raises fundamental questions about the future development of the European Union, and the issues are extremely complex.

In Committee, we shall discuss comprehensively such matters as the extension of qualified majority voting in 31 articles and 35 provisions; European defence policy outside NATO and its effect on the Western European Union and NATO; enhanced flexibility and the loss of the emergency brake veto; Eurojust and its effect on United Kingdom criminal and judicial procedures; detailed reforms of the European Court procedures; the extension of EU competence in areas such as common commercial policy; the social chapter, European political parties and several other institutional reforms; structural funds and the effect of the extension of QMV on the United Kingdom's regions; and a possible referendum in Britain to address the lack of democratic accountability and the disconnection with the structures of the EU.

Given the Government's contention, which we hotly contest, that the treaty and the Bill are essential for enlargement, presumably they, too, believe that the Bill's contents are fundamentally important. That makes their attitude disappointing.

We believe that the issues require four days of debate in Committee. That is more important than any more general debate after the Committee stage. It would be a matter for regret if the Government were to curtail the opportunity for us to analyse these important changes in full. I unequivocally put our sentiments about that on the record.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst 3:36 pm, 11th July 2001

I am slightly surprised that my hon. Friend Mr. Spring seems to know as well as the Minister how long the Bill will take in Committee. The difficulty that we confront is the apparent ability of hon. Members on both Front Benches to foretell with great accuracy and precision how long it will take a Committee properly to scrutinise a Bill, without necessarily knowing the totality of amendments and new clauses that will be tabled, as that process can continue during the Committee stage. Perhaps the Government, and even my hon. Friend, expect the Committee to take not a dynamic approach, but a rather static approach, whereby we freeze the item at the beginning, take a view of it, or a snapshot, and say, "Well, that's your lot."

That is not good enough. It is the ultimate absurdity that, in relation to a Bill of such magnitude and importance, the Government say that they not only know exactly how long deliberations will take in totality, but, with their huge majority, are laying down the detailed timetable for the consideration of the Bill in Committee, regardless of the magnitude of the matters under consideration and without any knowledge—by definition—of the number and nature of the amendments that may be tabled. There may, however, be partial knowledge of the amendments at this stage. My hon. Friend Mr. Cash has already tabled a number of extremely important amendments, which merit substantial debate and consideration.

Of course, the Government are not interested in that. They see it as their task to get rid of legislation as quickly and as conveniently as possible—not for the Government or their Members any delay or prolongation of deliberation. That is apparently unacceptable to people who—I concede this even about Government Members—dedicated considerable time and effort to being elected as Members of Parliament, but who, as soon as they arrive here, cannot wait to get out of the building as quickly as possible. They do not want to be delayed by the inconvenience and superfluity of consideration of the details of Bills.

Oh no, such matters are not for the Government or their Members. They regard what they choose to call "the mandate" as sufficient. If the mandate given to them by the electorate at the time of an election states that they are entitled to certain legislation, the Government seem ready to override the deliberative processes developed in the House over many centuries, which may, I concede, occasionally cause inconvenience to the Government and their Members. Yes, they may be delayed in this place a little longer than they would have chosen. Perhaps they want more time out of the building to dispose of the increase in pay that they all voted themselves just last week.

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

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way. He is addressing the House with that combination of charm and understatement for which he is renowned in all parts of it. Does he agree that there can never be any justification in any circumstances for the abandonment of self-government by legislative default and by what amounts to parliamentary truancy from the Government Benches?

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

Of course, my hon. Friend is absolutely right. Every time we consider a programme motion, we see that it provides excuses for hon. Members not to be present, rather than any reason for them to be here attending to their duties. It seems that the point of the exercise is to shrink to the minimum the time that we commit to the scrutiny of legislation.

That is a bad principle in itself, but it is underlain by the assumption that the Minister knows so much about the mood of the House and about what hon. Members have in mind that he can foretell with great precision how long it will take the Committee properly to consider the details of the Bill, notwithstanding the number, scope and importance of the amendments that have been tabled. Surely it is possible for further amendments and new clauses to be tabled during the Committee stage, unless we are to be denied even that right. Of course, such amendments would require further deliberation, so almost by definition we cannot know at this stage how much time we will require properly to consider the detail of the Bill.

The motion is yet another step on a road that the House has taken; at least, the Government have taken it, but I hope that my hon. Friends have not done so. The Government seem determined to minimise or dispose of all opportunities for proper scrutiny of legislation.

Photo of Mr Roger Casale Mr Roger Casale Labour, Wimbledon

If I understand the right hon. Gentleman correctly, he is saying that there should be greater time to debate the treaty of Nice in this place. He speaks from the Back Benches, but Mr. Spring, who spoke from the Front Benches, would like the matter to be decided by a referendum. Which of the two deliberative processes should it be?

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

I should certainly be intrigued about the possibility of a referendum on the Nice treaty, as on any matter of profound constitutional importance. If we can have a referendum on a matter as utterly trivial and irrelevant as the Greater London Assembly and the Mayor, there should be ample scope for one on something as important as our nationhood. I would not shrink from that possibility.

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. We are discussing the programme motion.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

Yes, Mr. Speaker. I know that you would not want me to pursue such matters.

I concede that the great danger in programme motion debates is the appearance of repetition on the part of Opposition Members. I make no apology for that, as the underlying principles to which we object remain the same in each case, although the detail is different. The principle is even more important in respect of this Bill, not only because of its scope and enormity, but in the light of the number and scale of the amendments that have been tabled, to say nothing of those of which we cannot yet even be aware.

I oppose the programme motion, just as I hope that I shall continue to oppose all such motions—on principle and in relation to their application, detail and the terms in which they are presented. For me, they demonstrate all too well the Government's attitude, as they seek constantly to diminish the role of the House of Commons, its Members and its Committees, whether Upstairs or on the Floor of the House. I hope that hon. Members will oppose this and all other such motions.

Photo of Menzies Campbell Menzies Campbell Shadow Secretary of State (Foreign Affairs) 3:43 pm, 11th July 2001

I support the principle of a programme motion where it is demonstrated that adequate time has been provided to ensure that all parts of a Bill are properly scrutinised and that all those who have realistic amendments can speak to them and gain a response from the Government. In respect of the motion before us, which allots three full days in Committee, I say respectfully that it seems to me that those criteria have been more than satisfied.

Interestingly, the contributions that we have so far heard from the official Opposition suggest that they would prefer a wholly open-ended arrangement. The Bill would thus become the Marie Celeste of the legislative programme, travelling hither and thither, with no clear destination. That is because the official Opposition believe that delay equals scrutiny. I have never been persuaded by that argument. Anyone who has faced 50 minutes of cross-examination by the late Mr. George Carman QC realises that delay does not necessarily equal scrutiny, and that a point of any substance can be made succinctly, effectively and in a short time.

I am convinced that the official Opposition are anxious not to scrutinise the Bill but to ensure that it never reaches the statute book. [Interruption.] That is a perfectly legitimate position. [Interruption.]

Photo of Menzies Campbell Menzies Campbell Shadow Secretary of State (Foreign Affairs)

The Opposition's position is legitimate, but it should not be given spurious respectability, as if their determination to scrutinise every provision line by line, phrase by phrase lies at the heart of their objections.

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Shadow Spokesperson (Defence)

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman acknowledge that, however succinctly a point is made, elements of the Bill that we have not previously considered will come before us. Their consideration will take time, and anything that is introduced later will inevitably be denied that time. We experienced that difficulty time and again when a programme motion was agreed for the Scotland Bill. Many clauses were not discussed, to the great frustration of Labour Members, simply because provisions that were not expected to take much time did so.

Photo of Menzies Campbell Menzies Campbell Shadow Secretary of State (Foreign Affairs)

It would have frustrated the people of Scotland if the Bill had been considered in the way in which the Opposition are urging upon us this afternoon. Their position would be legitimate if many Conservative Members who are present had not been party to guillotine motions in the 18 years that they were in government. Some of us remember legislation that was pushed through on a three-line Whip. Guillotines were used to ensure its passage because the Conservative Government believed that it was in the national interest and perhaps in their political interest to do that.

Protestations in support of endless delay whereby intellectual scrutiny can somehow be achieved carry little conviction from those who have in the past used every device available to a Government to ensure that their legislation reached the statute book.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way on that point?

Photo of Menzies Campbell Menzies Campbell Shadow Secretary of State (Foreign Affairs)

I am about to sit down so that we can get on to the real business of the Bill.

The programme motion is reasonable and sensible. We should adopt it and proceed to the substance of the Bill, about which the Opposition claim to be worried. 3.48 pm

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone

I agree with Mr. Campbell on the point that delay does not equal scrutiny. I have never believed that. However, legislation, especially on the scale of the Bill, which incorporates a treaty into our domestic law, requires rational analysis and proper examination. It cannot be done in the limited time available under the programme motion. It is frankly impossible, and the Government know it.

The relevant early-day motion and the Parliament First group received support from all parties. This afternoon, we are considering proper scrutiny and the independence of Back-Bench Members. I make no apology for tabling 250 amendments and new clauses because the treaty requires proper examination. I do not believe that there is the slightest chance of that in the parameters of the programme motion.

We need to get on and, in the interests of brevity, I shall simply add that I am slightly surprised, though not offended, that I was given no opportunity to participate in the Programming Committee, despite tabling so many amendments. Perhaps that is because the procedures do not allow it. The Prime Minister himself has suggested that he would like to see my pamphlet, along with the amendments and the arguments, and I have sent them to him. I am glad to see that the Minister, with whom I have had perfectly amiable relations over a long time, is holding up my pamphlet.

I have told the Minister in advance that, because of the shortage of time and because we do not have an opportunity to go into all the matters in the depth required, I will send him my briefing papers, which are also being supplied to certain Conservative colleagues of mine. He can then respond to them in writing. I should simply like to know, before we start these proceedings, whether he would be glad to follow that as an alternative procedure to the proper examination of this matter on the Floor of the House.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 3:50 pm, 11th July 2001

It is a crying shame, and no great tribute to the Minister for Europe that he should come to the House this afternoon to commend to it quite the most draconian truncation of debate on an important constitutional measure that we have seen for some considerable time. [Interruption.] People may chunter from sedentary positions in evident disapproval of my expression of that opinion, but I am bound to say to Labour Members that if they wish to cite recent examples of a more severe truncation of debate, I shall be happy to listen to all comers. We are discussing a treaty of the greatest moment for the future of this country. It has profound implications for the future of this nation, and for the question of whether we ultimately remain a nation at all in any meaningful sense. That is not a matter about which people should joke or skit. It is of the first importance.

I want to say to the Minister for Europe, with whom it is always a pleasure to joust in the House, that it is especially insulting that the Government have proposed to proceed with such a severe circumscription on the time for debate in the light of the decision of the people of Ireland. [Interruption.] The Government Whip, Mr. Caplin—who does not, I hope, have an opinion to express on these matters—seems to regard my reference to the verdict of the people of Ireland with a sniffy disdain that is both unworthy and a regular feature of the Government's attitude. The verdict of the people of Ireland is directly relevant to, and should have implications for, the attitude of the House to whether the process of ratification should proceed at all.

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

I am anxious to develop my argument, but it is always irresistible to give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Mark Hendrick Mark Hendrick Labour/Co-operative, Preston

The hon. Gentleman seems extremely concerned about the wishes of the people of Ireland. Will he tell us what concerns he has about the wishes of the people of the other 14 member states of the European Union?

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

I am very interested in their—

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. I am very interested, too, but not at the moment. We are debating the programme motion, and hon. Members should not develop that argument.

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

As you know, Mr. Speaker, I am naturally very well behaved, but just occasionally I need a prod from you and I am always exceptionally grateful to you for it. I shall not be tempted down the path of unvirtuous behaviour by the hon. Gentleman.

The people of Ireland have made an important decision, and we should treat it with respect. There is a real argument as to whether it is constitutionally proper for the House to proceed with consideration of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill at all. I subscribe to the view, which has also been enunciated by my hon. Friend Mr. Cash, that we should not consider this measure at this time. It is disrespectful to the people of Ireland and a violation of the principles that govern consideration of these matters. If one country chooses positively not to ratify the treaty, the ratification procedure should not proceed. Eminent lawyers are of that opinion, as well as many politicians.

If we are to proceed, however, let me be characteristically generous-spirited and accept that there is an argument for proceeding, although it is not an argument that I accept. Surely Labour Members can see that there is at least as strong an argument for proceeding more cautiously, for allowing more time, for recognising the case for greater reflection and for acknowledging—and thereby paying tribute to—the fact that hon. Members might wish to table more amendments as the debate proceeds.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Opposition Pairing Whip (Commons)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. Will he address the issue raised by Mr. Campbell about delay? Does he agree that delay is the precursor of detailed scrutiny, because as the Bill continues its progress through the House, ideas develop and further amendments arise as a result of discussions?

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

My hon. Friend is both right and eloquent in equal measure. I cannot resist his tempting offer that I should respond to the right hon. and learned Member for North–East Fife (Mr. Campbell). Indeed, I shall deal briefly but with relish with the rather contemptuous speech that he delivered a few moments ago.

Of all the observations that the right hon. and learned Gentleman made, I thought that the most offensive was the description "realistic amendments", which tripped effortlessly off his tongue. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is a distinguished parliamentarian and a distinguished lawyer, but it is not for him to decide what constitutes a realistic amendment. I do not recognise the accuracy of that description save in one particular, and that is your judgment, Mr. Speaker, that an amendment is in order. If that is your judgment, Mr. Speaker, it is perfectly reasonable for hon. Members to hope that there will be a chance to debate it. It is not for the right hon. and learned Gentleman breezily to dismiss amendments that he does not like as unrealistic.

I am a little worried about my hon. Friend the Member for Stone, who is an exceptionally diligent parliamentarian, because so far he has tabled only 250 amendments. That is a magnificent performance, but he is capable of a great deal better. As he observes the progression of the debate, it is very likely that he will decide to table further amendments.

The Minister for Europe is a brainy fellow. He can make the calculation quite readily. Let us suppose that on each of the three days of parliamentary debate that we are to be permitted—these crumbs from the table which have been flicked in our direction by an arrogant and supercilious Government—there are seven hours to debate the Bill. Let us assume that there will be approximately 20 hours or 1,200 minutes of debate.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

My hon. Friend is very rarely in error in these matters, but I fear that on this occasion he may be because the proposed programme measure sets an absolute end time for each period of deliberation. My hon. Friend does not know—and nor do any of us, including the Minister—what other business may precede our deliberations on the Bill before that absolute end time to which we are now invited to agree. So does my hon. Friend agree that whatever calculations he has made may already be in error because the allocated time could be encroached upon and reduced by as yet unknown business?

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

My right hon. Friend is entirely correct in that observation. I was offering my own surmise of what we are likely to get from the Government. It is perfectly true that I might have erred on the side of optimism and generosity towards Ministers. It is perfectly possible, and indeed quite likely, that although the Government have chosen not to make any statements today, there may be statements on one or other—or both—of the two remaining days set down for considering the Bill in Committee. If that were the case, my calculation would be that we would have fewer than 20 hours of debate.

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

I shall give way in a moment, but I am itching to get this point out and I know that the hon. Gentleman will not hold that against me.

If we are to have 1,200 minutes for debate and my hon. Friend the Member for Stone has tabled no fewer than 250 amendments on massively important matters, and if the bulk of those amendments are open for debate, it logically follows that there will be fewer than five minutes to debate each of them, on the extremely generous and unlikely assumption that there will be no Divisions. If we have a completely uninterrupted debate, that is how much time we shall have.

Do Labour Members really think that that is an adequate allocation of time, when we are talking about matters of profound significance such as enhanced co-operation, the future of European defence, the arrogation of powers by the European Union and the extension of qualified majority voting? If they consider that adequate, and most of them do not bother to turn up to debate the issues at stake, I do not know why they troubled themselves to go grovelling to their electors, begging to be voted in, when as soon as they are here they are only too happy to denude the House of its remaining powers.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone

Will my hon. Friend take this argument a little further, but not necessarily to its ultimate conclusion, by reflecting on the fact that the important thing is not that we are debating the issue here, albeit with so few Members in the House, which I deplore, but that we are providing information for people outside, to enable them to make a decision about the merits of what is before us? It is a disgrace that such a programme motion should prevent those people from knowing.

Furthermore, on Second Reading, there was no reference whatever, to my knowledge, to the fact that the principle of the Bill was being acceded to by the House of Commons on the BBC. There was no reference either to the speeches that were made, or indeed—

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

It might have been long but it was both valid and pertinent, as usual. My hon. Friend is entirely correct. All the evidence demonstrates that the public are broadly Eurosceptical, but we delude ourselves if we suppose for a moment that the mass of the British public are knowledgeable about or have yet developed an interest in the detailed contents of the treaty of Nice. It is our responsibility fully to debate the issues, to set out the arguments and to demonstrate to the public what the implications are and what the irrevocable loss of the power of self-government that the Bill inevitable entails will mean. That is what we want to do, and it is from that that Labour Members seem so suspiciously anxious to shy away.

Photo of Andrew Miller Andrew Miller Labour, Ellesmere Port and Neston

Will the hon. Gentleman log on to his server and dig into the massive database that he carries around with him to advise the House when the Conservative Government allowed approximately 40 minutes per line for debate on a Bill? We are dealing with a 34-line Bill.

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

That is an entirely spurious point, and the hon. Gentleman knows it. He has tossed me a bone, and with your permission, Mr. Speaker, I intend to maul it. The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the Bill contains 31 extensions of qualified majority voting; that there are issues of institutional reform at stake; and that the treaty entails consideration of our future defence arrangements. He recognises that there is nothing in the treaty to atone for the inadequacies of the treaty of Amsterdam in respect of the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. For the hon. Gentleman, who is well informed, knowingly to seek to skew the debate and give the impression to people following our proceedings that this is a minor, tidying measure is unworthy of him. There are major issues at stake.

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

I am answering the question with alacrity and gusto, and I intend to continue to do so.

Of course there is scope for difference of opinion on the subject and it is perfectly honourable to be, as the hon. Gentleman is, a Euro-federast. There is nothing dishonourable about his position—it just suffers from the demerit of being wrong. He is entitled to his view. However, we ought to be open and honest about the contents of the treaty. For the hon. Gentleman to suggest that just because a shell Bill is all that is required to give effect to the contents of the treaty—that measure itself is just a shell—is unworthy of him.

I will go one stage further and, in the process, I will probably be slapped on the wrist by the Opposition Whips, and possibly by my hon. Friend Mr. Spring. It is no good Mr. Miller deploying arguments about what happened in relation to previous treaties. I was a parliamentary virgin in the last Parliament, but I am not quite a parliamentary virgin now. It is no good the hon. Gentleman chuntering about the allocation of time, for example, for the consideration of the treaty of Amsterdam or the treaty of Maastricht. I am on the record on many occasions as objecting in the greatest detail not only to the treaty of Amsterdam, but to the treaty of Maastricht. I took great risks with my chances of getting selected as a prospective Conservative parliamentary candidate at all because I thought that the Major Government were profoundly mistaken to ram through the treaty of Maastricht. I am not apologetic about that; that is my view, and I am entitled to it.

Above all, I believe passionately—more than in any other principle—in the principle of parliamentary sovereignty and national self-government. It pains me deeply whenever I see any Government—be it of the left or of the right—compromising, devaluing or discarding that principle. That is what the Minister is proposing to do today. He ought to be ashamed of himself.

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Minister of State (Europe) 4:06 pm, 11th July 2001

It is tempting to reply in detail to Mr. Bercow and others. He spoke with his usual eloquence and parliamentary skill. It is tempting because those listening to the debate may think that some horrendous crime is being committed by the Government, given the gusto with which he spoke.

The fact is that the House agreed overwhelmingly to the procedure to have timetables and programme motions for Bills such as this, so that there is sensible and serious debate on all the issues. I want that debate to take place and I want the amendments of Mr. Cash to be discussed. He shows considerable diligence and expertise in tabling the amendments, and he is entitled to have them debated. Virtually the whole of the second day will be devoted to his amendments, and quite right too.

At yesterday's meeting of the Programming Committee there was a great deal of consensus. The Conservative Opposition—rightly, from their point of view, but wrongly in principle—said that they wanted an extra day for consideration. That point was registered and Mr. Spring has repeated it. However, I remind him that the Amsterdam treaty—a much more complex, far-reaching and fundamental treaty—took four days in Committee. It is appropriate and proportionate that this treaty, which is much less significant, should take three days in Committee. I did not say that it was an insignificant treaty; it is very important.

Mr. Forth implied that there was a detailed timetable; there is not. There is plenty of scope and few end times for the debates. If it were seen that time was running out, obviously it could be in the power of the Chairman of Ways and Means to reconvene the Programming Committee. That facility is within the rules, as decided by the House.

I say to the hon. Member for Stone that the Opposition leadership could have put him on the Programming Committee. It was not my decision, but theirs. I would have loved to see him there.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone

If I send the Minister the briefing amendments and the reasons for them, and if there is no opportunity to discuss them, will he get someone to reply in writing to me?

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Minister of State (Europe)

I apologise to the hon. Gentleman for not responding to that point. I will happily do as he asks. I will be interested in the extra overtime required from the Foreign Office to deal with his points. He may want to table a parliamentary question. [Laughter.] On the other hand, he may not. I will read his pamphlet with great interest.

Photo of Peter Hain Peter Hain Minister of State (Europe)

I will not rise to that challenge. I look forward to receiving the briefing from the hon. Member for Stone.

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 362, Noes 141.

Division number 21 European Communities (Amendment) Bill (Programme) (No. 2)

Aye: 362 MPs

No: 142 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved,

That, in accordance with the resolution of the Programming Committee of 10th July and pursuant to the Programme Order of 4th July 2001 (proceedings in Committee of the whole House, on consideration and on Third Reading of the European Communities (Amendment) Bill),—

(1) proceedings in Committee of the whole House shall, so far as not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 10.00 p.m. on the third allotted day (or, if that day is a Thursday, 7.00 p.m.);

(2) those proceedings shall be taken on each of the allotted days as shown in the second column of the following Table and shall be taken in the order so shown, and shall be brought to a conclusion (so far as not previously concluded) at the times specified in the third column of the Table.

Table
Allotted day Proceedings Time for conclusion of proceedings
First day Amendment No. 1 8.00 p.m. (or 5.00 p.m. if a Thursday)
Remaining proceedings on Clause 1 and proceedings on Clauses 2 to 4
Second day Remaining proceedings on Clauses 1 to 4 (so far as not previously concluded) 10.00 p.m. (or 7.00 p.m. if a Thursday)
Third day New Clauses 4 to 6 7.00 p.m. (or 4.00 p.m. if a Thursday)
Remaining New Clauses 10.00 p.m. (or 7.00 p.m. if a Thursday)

(3) any proceedings on consideration and proceedings on Third Reading shall, so far as not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 10.00 p.m. on the fourth allotted day (or, if that day is a Thursday, 7.00 p.m.).