Criminal Justice Bill (Programme) (No. 5)

– in the House of Commons at 3:32 pm on 19th May 2003.

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Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office 3:32 pm, 19th May 2003

I beg to move,

That, in accordance with the Resolution of the Programming Committee of 14th May, the Order of the House of 2nd April 2003 (Proceedings on consideration and Third Reading of the Criminal Justice Bill) be amended by omitting the entries in the Table for the second and third day and inserting the following:

Day Proceedings Time for conclusion of proceedings
Second day New Clauses relating to Part 1, Clause No. 7, Clauses Nos. 9 and 10. One and a quarter hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion for this Order.
New Clauses relating to Part 2, Clauses Nos. 11 to 17, New Clauses relating to Part 5, Clauses Nos. 27 to 34, New Clauses relating to Part 9, Clauses Nos. 50 to 62. Two hours after the commencement of those proceedings.
New Clauses relating to Part 7, Clauses Nos. 36 to 43. Four and a half hours after the commencement of those proceedings.
Clause No. 63, Schedule No. 4, Clauses Nos. 64 to 81, New Clauses relating to Part 10. Six and a half hours after the commencement of those proceedings.
Third day New Clauses Nos. 30 to 39 and 46 to 51. Two and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Bill.
Remaining New Clauses relating to Part 12, Clauses Nos. 127 to 163, Schedule No. 7, Clause No. 164, Schedule No. 8, Clauses Nos. 165 to 171, Schedule No. 9, Clauses Nos. 172 to 176, Schedule No. 10, Clauses Nos. 177 to 201, Schedule No. 11, Clauses Nos. 202 to 206, Schedule No. 12, Clauses Nos. 207 to 211, Schedules Nos. 13 and 14, Clause No. 212, Schedule No. 15, Clauses Nos. 213, to 221, Schedule No. 16, Clauses Nos. 222 to 246, Schedule No. 17, Clause No. 247, Schedule No. 18, Clause No. 248, Schedules Nos. 19 and 20, Clauses Nos. 249 to 251, Schedule No. 21, Clause No. 252, Schedule No. 22, Clauses Nos. 253 and 254, Schedule No. 23, Clauses Nos. 255 to 258, Schedule No. 24, Clause No. 259, New Clauses relating to Part 6, Clause No. 35, Schedule No. 3, Clauses Nos. 260 to 265, Schedule No. 25, Clauses Nos. 266 to 268, Schedule No. 26, Clauses Nos. 269 to 273, Schedule No. 27, Clause No. 274, Schedule No. 28, Clause No. 275, Schedule No. 29, Clauses Nos. 276 to 280. Four hours after the commencement of those proceedings.
Remaining New Clauses, New Schedules, any remaining proceedings on the Bill. Five and a half hours after the commencement of those proceedings.

It is probably good advice for new Ministers speaking in that capacity for the first time to keep their contributions short. The House will be pleased to know that I intend to follow that advice, not just for the obvious reasons but because I believe that we need to get on and debate the many important issues before us over the next two days. Indeed, the proposed programme has been drawn up to help the House make the best use of the 13 hours of debate on the Bill that we shall have today and tomorrow. These 13 hours follow the six and a half hours on 2 April, as well as 32 sittings in the Standing Committee. In that connection, I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in recording our appreciation for the part played in those deliberations by the Minister of State, Department for International Development, my hon. Friend Hilary Benn.

I am reliably informed that few Bills have had as many days as this on the Floor of the House on Report. It is important, therefore, that we should use the time wisely to debate the substance of the Bill, rather than lingering on procedure. The Government have tabled several new amendments and policy provisions. In some cases, the timing was unavoidable—for example, the murder sentencing provisions respond to a court ruling at the turn of the year. In others, the amendments respond to the valuable and constructive points raised on both sides of the Standing Committee. I am thinking here, for example, of measures relating to the Sentencing Guidelines Council and to retrial for serious offences.

I believe that the programme motion strikes the right balance, and I commend it to the House.

Photo of Dominic Grieve Dominic Grieve Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 3:34 pm, 19th May 2003

First, I welcome the Minister to his appointment and congratulate him on it. If he can conduct his relations with the opposition parties in the manner of his predecessor, amicable relations in all parts of the House will be maintained.

Hilary Benn will be missed very much. We certainly appreciated his approach to consideration of the Bill and the conciliatory way in which he dealt with timetables and matters in Committee. With a certain note of sorrow, therefore, I have to say to the Minister that, despite fully accepting that the Government have sought to co-operate with the Opposition in allowing time for proper scrutiny, so many more proposals have been tabled by the Government that, perhaps inevitably, the allocation of three days for consideration on Report, which was a generous offer when it was made, is, I am afraid, insufficient.

After considering the number of amendments before us and the number that we have to debate tomorrow, I am sure that the Minister will acknowledge that, in reality, we have a grossly overloaded timetable. I might say that that is no fault of the Government Whip, who has done his very best throughout to squeeze the quart into the pint pot, but the truth is that the quart will not go into the pint pot. There is insufficient time to do justice to the legislation.

In particular, one has only to consider the diversity of the amendments to realise that tomorrow, as will be the case today, we face a situation in which very different proposals are grouped, which will inevitably result in a lack of focus during the debate. I regret that because there are important matters to discuss. Therefore, although we have sought to co-operate with the Government in managing the Bill's timetable, this is an occasion on which we part company with them. I do not want to take up much of the House's time as I want to get on with the debate, but we shall oppose the timetable motion.

Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 3:37 pm, 19th May 2003

I entirely agree with Mr. Grieve in his welcome for the Minister and his comments on Hilary Benn, who did an excellent job in Committee. I wish him well in his new responsibilities.

Having said that, I entirely accord with the view that the programme motion is an admission of defeat by the Government in that it is clear that this important measure—what we are told is the flagship criminal justice Bill of this Parliament—will not receive the scrutiny it requires. It was already a substantial Bill of 280 clauses and 29 schedules, so it was always going to be difficult to give these important matters proper scrutiny, even in the three days originally allotted. Since then, the Government have come back to the House, with the result that there are nearly 500 amendments before us, and 28 Government new clauses.

These are not lightweight matters of detail. They include fingerprint and DNA samples, sentencing for murder, gun crime, increases in the penalty for causing death by dangerous driving, membership of the Sentencing Guidelines Council, abolition of committal proceedings, reporting restrictions, jury service, outraging public decency, the Criminal Records Bureau and extending powers of detention without charge. Those are matters of life and liberty. They deserve the House's proper attention, which is precisely what they will not receive under the programme motion.

Like the hon. Member for Beaconsfield, I do not want to take up valuable debating time, but Clare Short was absolutely right last Monday when she referred to

"increasingly poor policy initiatives being rammed through Parliament".—[Hansard, 12 May 2003; Vol. 405, c. 38.]

QED, this is an example of exactly the tendency to which she drew attention, and we must do everything we can to resist it in this Chamber.

Photo of Douglas Hogg Douglas Hogg Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham 3:39 pm, 19th May 2003

Last Thursday, at business questions, the Leader of the House made it plain that he was willing to look again at programming. He said that there should be a little more time for consideration, so as to reflect on our experiences. I hope that when he comes to do that, he will reflect on what will happen with this Bill, which incidentally will replicate what happened with the Finance Bill last week.

It is inevitable that many important new clauses and amendments will not be discussed in this place; they will go to the other place wholly undiscussed. As Mr. Heath and my hon. Friend Mr. Grieve have said, those matters are of considerable importance. They include, and I will cite just three, jury trials, the way we deal with those sentenced for murder, and corporate manslaughter, the latter being the subject of a Back-Bench amendment.

Apart from the general points that I usually make on these occasions, there are others points that we should keep in mind. For many of us, this is the first opportunity to participate in debate on the detail of the Bill. It will perhaps be revealing a secret when I say that I volunteered to serve on the Standing Committee. The Whips did not find my offer very attractive and I do not wholly blame them. I was one of those who was willing, on my own terms, to serve on the Standing Committee and I was rejected, but now I would like to participate fully in the debate and I find that the Government timetable motion prevents me from doing so.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

As one who was similarly underprivileged and down-trodden to the extent that I was denied a place on the Standing Committee upon the Bill, and in view of the importance of the public understanding why we are inveighing against the programme motion, will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that, even if we were to have six and a half hours uninterrupted debate without a single vote, which is wholly implausible, there would be under two minutes to debate each of the almost 200 amendments and new clauses today?

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

I am sure that my hon. Friend will not misunderstand me when I say that I do not suppose that six and a half hours would entirely accommodate my hon. Friend. I see why our Front-Bench team was uneasy at the prospect of a Hogg-Bercow axis. None the less, we are here today and we want to participate in the debate.

There are other serious points. I do not think that it is right to allow the Executive to determine the business of the House. They are entitled to come before the House and to place legislation before it, but what they are not entitled to do is to regulate the timetable. That seems to be a matter for us. I hope that, in the fullness of time, a business committee of the House, not the Executive, will regulate the timetable.

While I recognise that there are discussions between the Front-Bench teams as to what particular clauses and new clauses people want to focus on, Back Benchers do not always agree with Front Benchers. Therefore, it is important when the timetable is being regulated, that the interests of all hon. Members, Back Bench, Front Bench and minority parties as well, be properly taken into account. That is not happening in these timetable motions.

I see, Mr. Speaker, that you are going to call me to order in a moment. I come back directly to the question. A lot of important matters will remain unaddressed. We will send them to the other place undiscussed. That is a denial of democracy. Ultimately, we bring democracy into disrepute.

Photo of Sylvia Hermon Sylvia Hermon Shadow Spokesperson (Women), Shadow Spokesperson (Trade and Industry), Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 3:45 pm, 19th May 2003

My colleagues from the Ulster Unionist party are with me in spirit, although not in reality. On this occasion, they are united with me. I welcome the Minister to the Dispatch Box and am delighted to see him here today. However, I wish to commend warmly his predecessor, now the Minister of State, Department for International Development, Hilary Benn. When we began the 30 or so sittings in Committee—for which I had the great privilege to be selected—I was not familiar with the criminal law, but I came away from it greatly educated on double jeopardy, hearsay evidence and other matters, thanks to the Minister's predecessor.

My concern with the motion relates to the amendments on Northern Ireland. Five months ago in Committee—plus two or three days—the then Under-Secretary said:

"I confirm . . . that Northern Ireland Ministers intend that the Bill should apply to Northern Ireland".—[Official Report, Standing Committee B, 16 January 2003; c. 390.]

As I understand it, only part 10 of the Bill will extend to Northern Ireland. It grieves me terribly, on behalf of the 1.6 million people of Northern Ireland, that we are only today—five months later—seeing the amendments extended to Northern Ireland, and done so selectively. I urge the Home Office to think about joined-up government, involving Northern Ireland Ministers and Home Office Ministers. Other parts of the Bill should be extended to Northern Ireland and should have been extended to it in good time.

Photo of Mike Hancock Mike Hancock Liberal Democrat, Portsmouth South 3:47 pm, 19th May 2003

Unlike Mr. Hogg and Mr. Bercow, I did not volunteer to serve on the Standing Committee, because I fully expected, as a Back Bencher, to be given the opportunity to talk about the Bill, the 500 amendments and 25 Government new clauses. To be denied that, means that Back Benchers have been denied the opportunity of voicing the criticisms and concerns of constituents on vital issues that will affect many of them for years to come.

Surely it is to neglect the responsibilities of the House towards the general population to have the debate curtailed in such a way and for so many important issues to be squeezed out. As the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham said, many of the amendments will not even be discussed in this place. That cannot be doing justice to the Bill. If the Bill is to do justice to the nation, the House should at least be given the courtesy of doing justice to it.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack Conservative, South Staffordshire 3:48 pm, 19th May 2003

This brief debate has already produced three rather interesting contributions. The first—from the Minister, whom we all welcome most warmly—was extremely brief, concise and to the point. My right hon. and learned Friend Mr. Hogg then revealed something of which I was not aware: that there are occasions on which Whips can be truly discerning. There was also a remarkable contribution from my hon. Friend Lady Hermon, who revealed something even more unusual; that there are occasions on which the Ulster Unionist party can be united. I suspect that that is because she spoke for them; the others are all absent.

We are debating an extremely serious matter this afternoon; the Government's timetable, which was never generous, but has been transformed into a guillotine of severe proportions. The subjects that the House will be called upon to debate today and tomorrow are so important that none of us should speak in this debate for more than a few seconds or minutes. However, we will not be able to go back to our constituents this weekend and say that there was a proper discussion on trial by jury and the other important matters, a litany of which were read out by Mr. Heath in his pertinent contribution.

Frankly, this is a disgrace. The Executive should not be able to put the Commons in a straitjacket in this manner. In future, if we are to have proper programming of Bills that allows adequate discussions of important issues, the timetables must be properly agreed. There must be flexibility if the Government subject us to an avalanche of extra amendments. Otherwise, we are going to turn this place into a total non-entity, which it is close to being already.

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 283, Noes 160.

Division number 202 Criminal Justice Bill (Programme) (No. 5)

Aye: 283 MPs

No: 160 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name


Nos: A-Z by last name


Question accordingly agreed to.