Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill (Programme) (No. 2)

– in the House of Commons at 3:38 pm on 21st November 2001.

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Votes in this debate

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That, in accordance with the resolution of the Programming Committee of 20th November and pursuant to the Programme Order of 19th November (Proceedings in Committee of the whole House, on consideration and on Third Reading of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill)—

(1) proceedings in Committee of the whole House shall, so far as not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at eleven o'clock on the second allotted day;

(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.

Allotted day Proceedings Time for conclusion of proceedings
First day New Clauses relating to the duration of the Act and reports to Parliament, Clause 123, Clause 1, Schedule 1, Clauses 2 and 3, Schedule 2, Clauses 4 to 6, Schedule 3, Clauses 7 to 17, Schedule 4, Clauses 18 to 20 6.00 p.m.
Clauses 21 to 35 8.30 p.m.
Clauses 106 to 119 10.00 p.m.
Second day Clauses 36 to 42 6.30 p.m.
Clauses 43 to 58, Schedule 5, Clauses 59 to 70, Schedule 6, Clauses 71 to 87 8.00 p.m.
Clauses 88 to 100, Schedule 7, Clauses 101 to 105, Clauses 120 and 121, Schedule 8, Clause 122, Clauses 124 and 125, Remaining New Clauses, New Schedules—[Beverley Hughes.] 11.00 p.m.

Photo of Oliver Letwin Oliver Letwin Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office) 3:49 pm, 21st November 2001

I do not want to trouble the House for long because we want to move on to the substantive matters, which are of huge importance. However, I have a question and want to register some concerns.

My right hon. Friend the shadow Leader of the House has explained to me that the programme motion as replicated in today's Order Paper is slightly different in a signal respect, from the Government's point of view, from the allocation of time as agreed. It does not refer to proceedings after 11 pm on the second day, which as I understand it are meant to include Report and Third Reading. Will the Minister illuminate the House on that troublesome point?

On a more serious note, I want to put on record our belief, which I am sure that Liberal Democrat Members and, I suspect, many Labour Members share, that it is wrong for the Lords to be allotted several days to consider the Bill when this House has one day for Second Reading and the greater part of two days exclusively for the purpose of scrutinising the Bill.

We have agreed a sensible division of the two days with the Government. I do not quibble about that. They have been generous in allocating the time as the Opposition thought fit, but it is not possible to allocate two days in a way that enables the House to have sufficient time to scrutinise and pursue matters that are of the utmost importance in both our opinion and that of the Government. That is why, despite the agreement on the allocation of time, I ask my hon. Friends to vote against the motion. I also urge them to express their views, but to be brief so that we can move on as quickly as possible to the substance of the debate.

Photo of Mr Paul Tyler Mr Paul Tyler Liberal Democrat, North Cornwall 3:52 pm, 21st November 2001

I want to echo a couple of the points made by Mr. Letwin. Although it is of course true that we are operating within strict limits, and we object strongly to the overall limits, there has been agreement on how to divide up the time, which is better for our business. In particular, I hope that when there is general agreement on amendments, we will deal with them speedily.

It is surely ridiculous, however, that the Home Secretary told us earlier this week that it had taken no fewer than 10 weeks to produce the Bill, yet if we are lucky we will be able to spend 10 minutes on some of its most important aspects, some of which will have a great effect on the civil liberties and human rights of our fellow citizens and other nationals. It is extraordinary that, once again, we have to rely on the other place, at the other end of the building, to give vigilant scrutiny to legislation. As the country's elected representatives, we should be responsible for the vigilant scrutiny of matters that affect the nation's civil rights.

The Bill contains many diffuse issues. They cannot be easily bound up and dealt with together. Although it is important to cover the wider issues within the limited time available, we, too, believe that the motion puts the House in a difficult position.

Photo of Mark Fisher Mark Fisher Labour, Stoke-on-Trent Central 3:54 pm, 21st November 2001

I, too, want briefly to add my support to what has been said and to register my grave concern about the motion. I interpret the fact that the Minister moved it formally as enthusiasm for getting on to the meat of the debate. That is the most charitable view, although it is strange that the Government do not want to say anything in their defence given the importance of the motion and the time that we have to debate it. They do not seem to want to explain why we have only two days. I hope that the Minister will speak at the conclusion of the debate and give us a glimpse of the Government's thinking. I am sure that she did not mean to be discourteous to House, and that she wished to hurry on to the important matters to be discussed, but I think that we are owed an explanation from the Government, however brief.

I entirely concur with the hon. Members for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) and for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) that two days is not only ridiculously short, but is a dangerously short time in which to consider things that change some of the fundamental principles of our legal system, albeit, if there are changes to the sunset clauses, for a finite amount of time. Nevertheless, for the next five years at least, our legal system will have a very different tone and implication.

It is not just the two days to which I object, but the fact that today, in the two and a half hours between 6 o'clock and 8.30, we shall have to consider the very serious question whether we want to go down the road to internment. We have had experience of internment in this country—let alone in Northern Ireland—twice in the last century, and we should have a chance to talk about it. Two and a half hours to consider the whole of part 4 is wholly inadequate given the grave seriousness of deciding to go for internment.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick Labour, Walsall North

I understand the concern about programming, which I share to some extent, if not entirely, but I wonder whether my hon. Friend has had the opportunity to see The Times today, because it gives a great deal of coverage to a fundamentalist Muslim cleric in Britain who has been sentenced to death in Jordan and is involved, it is alleged, with a terrorist network. The Spanish judicial authorities who have been investigating the case find it very difficult to understand why no action is being taken in Britain. There is some urgency, therefore, in connection with several people in this country. The public are, no doubt, wondering how on earth those people were ever allowed in. The Muslim cleric was apparently allowed in about seven years ago. I hope that my hon. Friend will understand the concern among the British public, even though I understand his concern, and that of others, over the programme motion.

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

Of course I understand those concerns, although I have not seen the reference in The Times to which my hon. Friend referred.

I stress that hon. Members' wish to consider these things is absolutely not, in this instance, a desire to reiterate or delay. Indeed, I believe that the fear shared by all who have grave worries about the Bill is that we shall not even reach some clauses. The idea of this, of all pieces of legislation, not having each of its clauses fully discussed and each of its implications considered is frightening.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell Labour, Linlithgow

Why not arrest and try the individual to whom my hon. Friend David Winnick referred?

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

I believe that when the House goes into Committee we shall discuss whether adequate powers to deal with some of these cases are already on the statute book.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick Labour, Walsall North

There is, of course, an argument that the Home Secretary should explain why, if these allegations are true, the cleric has not been charged. However, if we work on the basis that it is not possible to bring charges—my hon. Friend Mr. Dalyell would know, as we all do, that in such cases it is not always possible—should there not nevertheless be concern, which I believe that my hon. Friend Mr. Fisher has already admitted, over cases of the type that I have mentioned, and which The Times publicises today?

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

No one doubts the concern in the country and in all parts of the House, but the question that will be put to Ministers, with great force, and to which they must respond during the debate, is, in what regard does the present state of the law not allow us to deal with these things? Many of us were lucky enough to be in the House when my hon. Friend Vera Baird, with her considerable experience of these matters as a Queen's Counsel, spoke at the end of the Second Reading debate. She made what appeared to me, as a layman, a very plausible case to the effect that there was plenty of elasticity in the existing statutes to do exactly what the Government want.

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

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would care to make the point that although the hon. Member for Walsall, North may be right to say that there is a degree of urgency regarding some individuals who cannot now be prosecuted, he should remember that the Bill contains many measures that, on any view, are not urgent; for example, on incitement to religious hatred. Why should we be conducting our scrutiny on such a fundamental issue in only two hours or so?

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

I have great sympathy with the views of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and I have no doubt that he will express them when we come to those clauses.

We should proceed more slowly not only to achieve the quality of scrutiny that comes from debate, but to give us time to listen to expert voices from outside the House. There is a purpose behind the slow, measured and sometimes frustrating pace at which we pass legislation, which is to give us time to mull things over, sift out what is essential and listen to those who will be affected.

Last week, hon. Members on both sides of the House who are interested in this subject would have received the first batch of submissions from the organisations with the most immediate and pressing interest in the Bill, such as Liberty and Amnesty International. I was interested to find that today's post brought a submission from the Confederation of British Industry. It would never have occurred to me that the interests of its members would be affected by this legislation, but its submission concerned the data implications of the Bill. Inevitably, other organisations and groups will want to make representations once they have had a chance to read the Bill, think about it and consult their members. After next Monday night, or within a very few days of it, it will effectively be too late to do so.

Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that hon. Members have spent more time in Committee on the Proceeds of Crime Bill than has been allotted for the entire Committee stage of this Bill, and we have only reached clause 6 of the Proceeds of Crime Bill? That is important legislation, but it is not as important as this.

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

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point.

It is important that there should be more time to consider the Bill, not only for Members and those outside, but for Ministers. They need to consider what they want to achieve, although of course they have been thinking about that for the past 10 weeks, and to think how their intentions should be phrased. Moreover, that consideration must be tested in the House and against the opinion of outside experts and those who will be affected. I am sure that Ministers have paid attention to the Second Reading debate, to this debate and to the submissions from outside bodies, but I suspect that they have not given themselves enough time to take account of all that. The Government have already tabled amendments, and I am glad because some of them are sympathetic and constructive, but they have not given themselves enough time for the wider considerations.

One has only to look, as I did this morning, at the debates in the House in 1940, when internment was introduced, to see that there was a huge gap between the Government's intentions about how internment would work, as expressed in the good, sincere thinking of the then Home Secretary, Sir John Anderson, and the implementation of the policy by chief constables throughout the country. It escalated beyond the control of Parliament and the Government, despite their modest intentions.

The liberal protestations of regret that characterised the introduction of the policy were soon swept away by the flood of opinion about its implementation, which put a very different spin on the matter. That led to one of the most extraordinary and regrettable instances in our legal system, in which opponents of Nazism and Italian fascism were bundled together with Nazis and fascists in categories A, B and C and transported to the dominions or incarcerated here in appalling circumstances. Parliament was given assurances by the Government, which I am sure were well intentioned, but events worked out very differently.

We need to learn from history. There is a terrifying mood abroad in our society—a lack of interest in the past and a lack of understanding that the past is with us. The past is what we are; it is a live thing. I fear that the Government too often think that the past is out of date and irrelevant. It is not. We have very recent examples of internment in 1940 and 1914 and we should be learning from them.

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney Conservative, North West Cambridgeshire

The hon. Gentleman says that Ministers have not given themselves enough time. Will not he go further and recognise—anybody who has had the privilege of being a Minister will do so—that if very short timetables are set, the whole structure is geared to defending what is there, because changing it takes longer than not doing so. There is not only not enough time, but a psychological pressure on Ministers not to listen.

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

All hon. Members will pay particular attention to that contribution, not only because of the right hon. Gentleman's experience in government, but because of his understanding of the situation in Northern Ireland. He has given us wise words.

I make a late protest: we have not given ourselves time either for the particular, in relation to some clauses, or for the general, in relation to the whole Bill. I do not want to delay the House a moment further, but I express my hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will at least tell us briefly why the Bill is so pressing that we could not allow slightly more measured time for consideration and why the Government could not allow themselves more time to think about their response to the concerns expressed in the House and by people outside. 4.6 pm

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

I rise to support what my old friend Mr. Fisher has said, which is of great importance to this House. I hope that the Under-Secretary will not misunderstand me when I say that it is very regrettable that she did not introduce this short debate by giving us some indication as to why we are proceeding in this manner. She will forgive me if I remind her of what I told the Home Secretary on Monday. As I said then, some parts of the Bill may be urgent— I am not persuaded, but I recognise that such parts may exist—but it is clear from any viewpoint that there are large parts that are not urgent. The proper thing to do was to identify the provisions that were truly urgent, incorporate them into a short Bill and, if necessary, clear the parliamentary timetable—for example, last night's business could have been rescheduled—in order to give enough time to the business that we are now considering.

I think that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central—it may have been my hon. Friend Mr. Letwin—spoke about the time that is being given in the other place, where I believe that six days have been allotted. When this House does not properly consider legislation, it does two things. First, we destroy the implied bargain that exists between the citizen and the state in a democracy. When the House imposes obligations, which are always backed by penal sanctions, there is an implied bargain that we, the citizens' representatives, have properly considered the legislation and expressed an opinion about it. The truth is, however, that we will not do so tonight or on Monday. The bargain is being destroyed. When the electorate see that important measures are being introduced without discussion in this place, they will lose their understanding and respect for democracy.

Secondly, I say to the Government that, from time to time, people complain about the way in which the judges are extending the convention and becoming interventionist in their use of judicial review. Indeed, that point has been made by the Home Secretary and others on a number of occasions. One of the reasons why the judiciary is much more interventionist than it was, say, 20 or 30 years ago, is that it understands that this House is not properly discharging its functions. If this House fails properly to safeguard the liberty of the subject, it is not in the least surprising that other people try other methods of enshrining that liberty. That is why we see the interventionism of judges. Indeed, it also explains why I gave broad support to the incorporation in domestic law of the European convention on human rights. I recognise that that gives the judges a legislative function, but we ourselves are not performing our function.

I shall conclude shortly, but I want to make one more point. On any view, the clauses that deal with internment without trial are of fundamental importance; many amendments to them have been tabled. Theoretically, however, those clauses are to be discussed between 6 pm and 8.30 pm. If we have a division at 6 pm, as is likely, we will have two and a quarter hours at the very most in which we will be asked to destroy a fundamental principle of British law—that a person cannot be sent into detention without proper trial. We have two and a quarter hours to destroy a principle that has underpinned British law for 500 years.

Who, in all conscience, believes that that is right? It cannot be right; we are sending people to prison on the suspicion or belief of the Home Secretary, without allowing them a proper appeal of any kind. We are going to approve that in two and a quarter hours, so the majority of the amendments will not be discussed. That cannot be right and is deeply offensive.

Photo of Mr Kevin McNamara Mr Kevin McNamara Labour, Kingston upon Hull North

I support entirely the argument advanced by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. However, is it not a little strange coming from his lips? He was a Member of the Government who did away with the right to silence and sought to gag the BBC without any vote at all, just statements in the House.

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

Ever since I came to the House in 1979, I have defended the cause of liberty and the law; I stand for freedom, liberty and the law. Because of departmental responsibilities, I have not always been in a position to push that cause forward, but I have always believed in that principle. When I first came to the House in 1979, I was keen to bring about an elected second Chamber, and argued for that within my party as hard as I could. I recognise that the House is becoming an instrument of oppression; what we are doing tonight is part of that process.

Photo of Mr Tam Dalyell Mr Tam Dalyell Labour, Linlithgow

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. In no way do I wish to offend my hon. Friend the Minister. However, I was brought up in a world in which business motions, particularly contentious ones, were answered, not by the Minister who had responsibility for the legislation, but by a senior Government business manager. It may be out of fashion, but a Cabinet Minister should have been present to hear what was said on the Floor of the House—[Interruption.] Well, I was Parliamentary Private Secretary to Richard Crossman when he was Leader of the House. On several occasions when he heard what was said in the House, he got on to the Prime Minister and business was altered; that is a matter of fact. It may be unfashionable to say so, but that is how it should be. The Leader of the House should respond to our debate.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can I just add a matter for consideration by you and Mr. Speaker? On Monday night, we debated the order on derogation from the Human Rights Act 1998. The Home Secretary may have had a personal reason for his behaviour, but I am making political and constitutional point, not a personal one. He left early in our debate and was not present for any of it. For the first time in many years, we decided to put the matter to Parliament which, with Government support, voted to take us out of part of the European convention on human rights and the Human Rights Act. It would be helpful to have an assurance from the Government that Secretaries of State should be present for matters of major constitutional importance, however good their junior Ministers, and that they are present both for the debate and the vote at the end.

Several hon. Members:

rose

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

Order. It is not in the interests of the House to develop this point during a debate on what is already a timetabled motion. I am sure that what has been said has been heard. It may be re-attended to on another occasion. For the moment, the Chair is dealing with the Minister who is available.

Photo of Beverley Hughes Beverley Hughes Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

For those Members who have not noticed, there is a Secretary of State on the Government Front Bench who will have heard what has been said. My right hon. Friend will take part in the debate later this afternoon.

In the interests of trying to move to the substance of the Bill and in the interests of those Members who wish to speak in Committee, I shall try to deal with some of the points that have been raised. The shadow Home Secretary, Mr. Letwin, asked why the motion does not refer to events after 11 pm on the second day. That is because we are not debating now the programme motion that allocated time. The programme motion before us is not the motion that is relevant to the points that most Members have made. That motion was put to the House on Monday. If the hon. Gentleman refers to that motion, he will see that it refers to Report and Third Reading taking place from 11 pm to 12 pm. That was the motion that allocated the overall time provision.

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

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Would you be good enough to tell us whether we are right in thinking that the motion to which the Minister is referring—namely, Monday's motion—was not even debatable?

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

That is a matter not for the Chair but for debate.

Photo of Oliver Letwin Oliver Letwin Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

I am grateful to the Minister. I understand now the point that she is making.

Photo of Beverley Hughes Beverley Hughes Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

As for the general point that a number of Members have raised, the overall time allocated to the Bill in the House is the product of a difficult balance. As Members, we must balance what is required in relation to the urgency of the situation. I am grateful to my hon. Friend David Winnick for pointing that out. We are in a state of public emergency. We are responding to urgent events, and it is important that we get the Bill on to the statute book as quickly as possible. We must balance that with what is required in terms of public expectations.

How will the public expect us to behave when dealing with a Bill whose contents are a response to the events of 11 September? I think that the public will expect us to suspend our normal expectations and deal with these matters in an appropriate way, but in a way that responds to the urgency of the situation and to their expectations. We must balance these two points with what is required in terms of scrutiny. I accept, and so does my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, that many of the matters that we are talking about in considering the Bill are of the grave seriousness to which my hon. Friend Mr. Fisher referred.

We have the difficult job of balancing competing imperatives when we decide the amount of time that we need to allocate and the speed with which we need to get the Bill on to the statute book.

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney Conservative, North West Cambridgeshire

Will the Minister explain, as she is speaking for the business managers, how it is that a third day of consideration, tomorrow or on Friday, which would not have extended the overall time during which the Bill is to be considered in the Chamber, proved to be impossible for the Government?

Photo of Beverley Hughes Beverley Hughes Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

The right hon. Gentleman will know from his experience as well as I that those matters were discussed between the usual channels well in advance of the time scale being agreed. The time that we have allocated is a product of that process, with which he is well familiar.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

I wondered when the Under-Secretary would get around to that point. Discussions took place between the usual channels, of which I regrettably find myself part. It was made clear at the time—before we knew the Bill's detailed contents—that although we recognised the urgency of key parts of the measure, the addition of many other elements would change the picture. It is inaccurate of the Government to portray the whole Bill as having been agreed.

Photo of Beverley Hughes Beverley Hughes Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

As far as I can recall, the only addition to the Bill since the Home Secretary's statement on 15 October—the provisions on bribery and corruption—was included with the consent of all parties. The Home Secretary made a detailed statement about the extent of the Bill, and that formed the basis of our discussions. As soon as we had a draft Bill, we shared it with Opposition spokespeople.

In the interests of hon. Members who want to speak about the substance of the Bill—that is why we are here—I shall conclude. I regret that the Opposition will extend the debate on the programme motion by voting. That will take away more time from discussion of the substance of the measure.

Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Conservative, Harborough 4:21 pm, 21st November 2001

That was the most disappointing ministerial performance that I have witnessed for many years. [Interruption.] It is no good the Home Secretary attending the debate late and chuntering. We are debating the purpose of Parliament. If the Labour party, in the guise of that frightful Government, believes that it can ram stuff through, it is even worse than we thought.

The programme motion is unjustifiable, unnecessary, unbalanced and unwise. It will bring the Bill into disrepute. It is unjustifiable because the Home Secretary has boxed himself into a timetable. He and his ministerial colleagues said that the measure must be on the statute book by Christmas. No one else holds that view on the current Bill. I am sure that all hon. Members support measures to combat terrorism and we understand the urgency of enacting them. However, we await a decent explanation from the Under-Secretary or her more senior colleagues of why all the other material will be rushed through.

The Bill is unjustifiable not only on that basis. There are 30 pages of amendments and new clauses. Even the edited version—the marshalled list—contains plenty of dense and interesting issues for discussion.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick Labour, Walsall North

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman clarify that point?

Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Conservative, Harborough

I shall not bother with the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick Labour, Walsall North

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Photo of Edward Garnier Edward Garnier Conservative, Harborough

No. Sit down.

The programme motion is unnecessary because, as my right hon. and learned Friend Mr. Hogg pointed out today and my right hon. Friend Mr. Gummer said on Second Reading, a great deal of material in the Bill could be tackled later in a different measure.

The motion is unwise because the Bill that we are supposed to be debating in a spirit of co-operation and urgency is embroiled in a controversy of the Government's making about the rushed way in which a measure that is important for its legal as well as constitutional implications will be placed on the statute book. There is no reason for the Government's behaviour and I deeply regret their actions.

The motion is unbalanced because, as Mr. Tyler said, the elected representatives of the public receive two days for debate in Committee and the House of Lords have six days to discuss the Bill. We had an interesting debate on Second Reading. It is regrettable that those who were unable to contribute to it will be confined to two days of consideration—today and next Monday. It is extraordinary that the Government believe that it is appropriate for the unelected House to spend more time than the House of Commons on the measure. That brings the legislation into disrepute.

We in this Parliament, whether Opposition or Government Members, seek to pass legislation that has public consent. Not everyone will agree with it or acknowledge the good sense behind the policy, but those who are the subject of the law know that it has been through a process that they understand and with which they agree. This important Bill is to be rammed through the House at short order. When brought into effect, I fear that it will not have the wholehearted consent of the public who send us here to discuss these matters.

In addition to the arguments made by my right hon. and hon. Friends, the hon. Member for North Cornwall and Mr. Fisher, I have heard only one good thing today. My hon. Friend Mr. Letwin, the shadow Home Secretary, made the point that we shall at least express our distaste for the measure in a Division. That is all we can do, which is regrettable. I wish that I could argue further on the timetable motion and the substance of the Bill, but this Government do not want to listen. Frankly, I do not think they care.

Photo of Mr Tony McWalter Mr Tony McWalter Labour/Co-operative, Hemel Hempstead 4:26 pm, 21st November 2001

It is easy to lose sight of what these technical motions mean. On Monday, I sat on this Bench from 2.30 until the vote at 10 o'clock and each time I rose to catch the eye of the Chair I was unsuccessful. I remained in the House until business ended just after midnight. These motions deny a Member who is willing to take that much trouble to contribute the capacity to do so.

I accept that the electors of Hemel Hempstead may have been wrong to send me here in the first place, but the effect of a greatly restrictive timetable is to produce a situation in which those who want to contribute and make considerable efforts to do so are denied that contribution.

Photo of Mr Tony McWalter Mr Tony McWalter Labour/Co-operative, Hemel Hempstead

I shall not take interventions, as I have about a minute left.

This Bench is a long way back from the Front Bench. Nevertheless, the concept behind the House is that Members who sit here as well as Members who sit there should be heard. The arrangements made for debate should give us the capacity to contribute, but I was not alone in being unable to take part. Many Members who contributed to the debate on this 114-page Bill were given only 10 minutes, so they had to focus and restrict their remarks considerably.

I strongly agree with the representations made by Mr. Hogg. Restricting the timetable for a large Bill is different from restricting the timetable for a small, tight Bill. Had I been given a chance, I would have said that, among other things. Effectively, this is a very restrictive timetable motion—a gagging order on people who have been sent here to speak. That is an important element of the debate.

My next point relates to the matter raised by my hon. Friend David Winnick, who was not here at midnight on Monday. With almost no time left, one of my colleagues was finally called, and my hon. Friend Vera Baird made an important speech about whether our system has the capacity to confine people who constitute a threat to our country.

Photo of George Howarth George Howarth Labour, Knowsley North and Sefton East

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will you confirm that decisions as to who is called in a Second Reading debate are a matter not for the Government, but for the Chair?

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

That is probably self-evident to the House.

Photo of Mr Tony McWalter Mr Tony McWalter Labour/Co-operative, Hemel Hempstead

The order makes it impossible for whoever is in the Chair to accommodate all who want to express their views. It means that matters that the House should discuss, such as the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar, can be given only very restricted consideration. I hope that the Government will take seriously the impassioned pleas of Labour as well as Opposition Members, and give us a little more time to try and secure a Bill that is appropriate to the purpose and addresses the current legal deficiencies, while ensuring that those who want a say in its fashioning have an opportunity to speak.

Photo of Andrew MacKay Andrew MacKay Conservative, Bracknell 4:30 pm, 21st November 2001

I support all that was said by Mr. McWalter. I do so as one who broadly supports the Bill, voted for its Second Reading, and has only the same reservations as my hon. Friend Mr. Letwin—reservations that he expressed very clearly on Second Reading.

This has been a quiet week in the House. The business has been relatively unimportant. There was no reason why yesterday's Second Reading of the National Health Service Reform and Health Care Professions Bill could not have been delayed for a week. Tomorrow we are to debate Second Reading of the British Overseas Territories Bill, hardly the most exciting legislation of the current Session. The idea that such matters should have priority over proper consideration of this Bill is outrageous. As for Friday's business, we could surely have passed a motion enabling private Members' Bills to be taken on another Friday. No harm would have been done if the business had been delayed by a week or two.

Photo of Andrew MacKay Andrew MacKay Conservative, Bracknell

I should be very happy to hear from the Minister why that has not happened.

Photo of Beverley Hughes Beverley Hughes Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

When the Conservative Government presided over the passage of the Prevention of Terrorism (Additional Powers) Act 1996—I understand that the right hon. Gentleman was a Whip then, possibly deputy Chief Whip—did he object to the timetable governing those proceedings? I gather that it involved a statement on one day, all stages in the House of Commons on the following day, and all stages in the House of Lords, along with Royal Assent, on the day after that.

Photo of Andrew MacKay Andrew MacKay Conservative, Bracknell

If the Minister had been in the House at that time she would know that the Bill was very short and very precise, and that both sides of the House agreed that it could proceed through its stages quickly. This is a long and very complex Bill.

I would be quite happy for the Bill to go through in a week; I disagree with one or two other critics on that. I am saying that we should have had more time in which to debate it, because everyone would then have had the chance to express a view. This week's other business, which is at worst trivial and at best not very important, could have been delayed for a week. I hoped that the Minister would explain why the British Overseas Territories Bill is so important that its Second Reading must be debated tomorrow, rather than our having at least one extra day to debate this Bill in Committee. I now invite her to explain just why it is so important—but she shakes her head. [Interruption.] Let the Minister tell us just why the British Overseas Territories Bill is so important.

Photo of Andrew MacKay Andrew MacKay Conservative, Bracknell

If we had had Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday on which to debate this Bill in Committee and on Report, most of us who are critical of the timetable motion—Mr. Fisher nods—would have withdrawn our criticism. Nothing would have been lost, and the Minister and the Home Secretary would have gained a little credit.

It being forty-five minutes after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, Mr. Deputy Speaker, pursuant to Order [28 June], put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

The House divided: Ayes 334, Noes 213.

Division number 71 Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill — Programme — Timetable of Debate

Aye: 333 MPs

No: 213 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Absent: 108 MPs

Absents: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved,

That, in accordance with the resolution of the Programming Committee of 20th November and pursuant to the Programme Order of 19th November (Proceedings in Committee of the whole House, on consideration and on Third Reading of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill)—

(1) proceedings in Committee of the whole House shall, so far as not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at eleven o'clock on the second allotted day;

(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.

Allotted day Proceedings Time for conclusion of proceedings
First day New Clauses relating to the duration of the Act and reports to Parliament, Clause 123, Clause 1, Schedule 1, Clauses 2 and 3, Schedule 2, Clauses 4 to 6, Schedule 3, Clauses 7 to 17, Schedule 4, Clauses 18 to 20 6.00 p.m.
Clauses 21 to 35 8.30 p.m.
Clauses 106 to 119 10.00 p.m.
Second day Clauses 36 to 42 6.30 p.m.
Clauses 43 to 58, Schedule 5, Clauses 59 to 70, Schedule 6, Clauses 71 to 87 8.00 p.m.
Clauses 88 to 100, Schedule 7, Clauses 101 to 105, Clauses 120 and 121, Schedule 8, Clause 122, Clauses 124 and 125, Remaining New Clauses, New Schedules 11.00 p.m.