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

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:50 pm on 11th July 2001.

Alert me about debates like this

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

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.