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

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:36 pm on 11th July 2001.

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

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.