Anti-social Behaviour Bill (Programme) (No. 2)

– in the House of Commons at 2:17 pm on 24th June 2003.

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Photo of Hazel Blears Hazel Blears Minister of State (Home Office) (Policing, Security and Community Safety) 2:17 pm, 24th June 2003

I beg to move,

That the programme order of 8th April 2003 in relation to the Anti-social Behaviour Bill be varied as follows—

Consideration and Third Reading

1. Paragraphs 4 and 5 of the order shall be omitted.

2. Proceedings on consideration shall be taken in the order shown in the first column of the following Table.

3. The proceedings shown in the first column of the Table shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the time specified in the second column of the Table.

TABLE
Proceedings Time for conclusionof proceedings
Amendments to Part 1, New Clauses relating to Part 1, New Schedules relating to Part 1, amendments to Clauses 12 to 14, Schedule 1 and Clauses 15 to 17, New Clauses relating to Part 2, New Schedules relating to Part 2, amendments to Part 3, New Clauses relating to Part 3, New Schedules relating to Part 3. An hour and three quarters after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order.
Amendments to Part 4, New Clauses relating to Part 4, New Schedules relating to Part 4, amendments to Clauses 36 to 39, Schedule 2 and Clauses 40 and 41, New Clauses relating to Part 5, New Schedules relating to Part 5. Three and a quarter hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order.
Amendments to Part 6, New Clauses relating to Part 6, New Schedules relating to Part 6, amendments to Part 7, New Clauses relating to Part 7, New Schedules relating to Part 7, remaining New Clauses, remaining New Schedules, amendments to Clause 56, Schedule 3 and Clauses 57 to 61, remaining proceedings on the Bill. Five hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order.

4. Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion six hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order.

I am pleased to be part of the consideration of the Anti-Social Behaviour Bill. This issue is close to my heart, and is very important to my community in Salford—it is probably our top issue. I should like to place on record my grateful thanks to my predecessor, my hon. Friend Mr. Ainsworth, for his impressive handling of the Bill in Committee. He dealt with some extensive debates tremendously. I also thank the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend Caroline Flint, who was an effective member of the Committee. As I am new to the Bill, I shall look to her for support during these proceedings.

I do not want to detain the House, because I am sure that all hon. Members are keen to get on with the substance of the debate. Much consultation has taken place through the usual channels, and I am grateful for the support of Opposition parties on this matter. I should also like to thank the Government Whip, my hon. Friend Mr. Heppell, who did much to facilitate the overwhelmingly positive and constructive debates that took place in Committee.

The motion provides for the total amount of time for discussion of the Bill to be six hours. I hope that the structure of the programme motion will allow hon. Members to debate the subjects that they want to discuss, as there are important matters before us. I suggest that we get on with that debate as quickly as we possibly can to ensure that we have time to explore the issues.

Photo of James Paice James Paice Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office) 2:19 pm, 24th June 2003

I welcome the Minister for Crime Reduction, Policing and Community Safety and, indeed, the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Caroline Flint, who, as has been rightly remarked, was an esteemed member of the Committee that considered the Bill. I hope only that, during the afternoon, in her ministerial capacities she does not have to say things that are at odds with what she said when she was a Back-Bench Committee member. Time will tell. I congratulate both Ministers on their appointments and welcome them to their posts and to the debate.

I share in the plaudits to Mr. Ainsworth, who led the Bill constructively. Many of the amendments and new clauses that we shall discuss later are the result, I am pleased to say, of him listening to the arguments. We shall deal with those in detail.

The Minister for Crime Reduction, Policing and Community Safety said that much discussion took place with the usual channels. That is true, but it was based on a certain lack of information—I will not go so far as to say misinformation—inasmuch as that negotiation took place on Wednesday and it was not until Thursday that the Government tabled a vast tranche of new clauses and amendments. Therefore, the discussions on the timetable motion were in terms of six hours instead of the usual six and a half. We know, because of earlier proceedings, one of the reasons for that, but the overall time was reduced, only one day was allocated and the knives fall where they fall because, as I say, we did not appreciate what the Government were going to do on Thursday.

Obviously, I am not at this stage saying whether those new clauses and amendments meet with our approval. That issue will come up during the afternoon. Some we welcome and some less so. Some are substantial and some were not previously indicated by the Government, in particular the amendment on residential courses under parenting orders. At no time was that raised in a previous discussion; it has come completely out of the blue to us. The amendments and new clauses were tabled on Thursday. We have had little or no time to consult on those with interested specialist organisations outside the House.

The Minister is right that we want to get on to debate those issues. Nevertheless, there is a point of principle here. The Government, having consulted with us in, we thought, good faith, later tabled a range of new items to be debated. Therefore, the timetable that we previously agreed is no longer apposite and I wish to oppose the motion.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

My hon. Friend advances the argument about the timetable motion with that combination of reserve and self-effacement for which he is renowned in all parts of the House. Does he agree that, in the light of the fact that we have no fewer than 105 new clauses and amendments to consider today, and that that entails an average time allocation of fewer than three minutes per new clause and amendment, the Government are doing violence to the responsibilities of Parliament to scrutinise legislation?

Photo of James Paice James Paice Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

My hon. Friend puts it in words that, as he rightly describes me as using reserve, I perhaps would not use, but it is an abuse of parliamentary procedure to agree a timetable through the usual channels and then effectively to destroy the appropriateness of that timetable by tabling all these amendments and new clauses.

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Labour, Nottingham North

Will the hon. Gentleman therefore support the declaration that Leader of the House made this morning that, wherever possible, all future Bills should go through pre-legislative scrutiny, so that the Government can import ideas, if not amendments, at a very early stage?

Photo of James Paice James Paice Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

I was not present when the part-time Leader of the House made that remark—

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Labour, Nottingham North

The hon. Gentleman must be part-time, otherwise he would have heard the Leader of the House.

Photo of James Paice James Paice Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I am certainly not part-time.

Of course, Conservative Members always welcome pre-legislative scrutiny. If that is to be the Government's approach to all legislation, they will not find opposition from those on the Conservative Benches.

I wish to proceed with discussion of the Bill, but I believe that it is right that the House should put down a marker that we do not approve of what has happened in the past few days. Therefore, we shall seek to divide the House on the motion.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Liberal Democrat, North Southwark and Bermondsey 2:24 pm, 24th June 2003

I warmly welcome the Minister for Crime Reduction, Policing and Community Safety and the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Caroline Flint, to their new positions. The team has been welcomed collectively, but it is the first time that they have come into bat on a Home Office Bill. We are glad to engage with them. We hope to persuade them and we hope that they do not come with fixed views.

We know that it is always difficult for Ministers picking up a Bill that has been led by others—the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Don Valley, was a Back Bencher on the Committee—suddenly to come to it with fresh thinking, but my hon. Friends and I hope that some of the arguments that we shall advance today will receive at least a positive response; obviously, we will not get all that we want this afternoon. We look forward to this afternoon's debate and to forthcoming debates.

I shall be brief because, as a result of the constraints that we are under, this debate is eating into the time to debate the substance. My colleagues and I share the view that this is exactly the sort of Bill that should not be guillotined. That is not a criticism of the Government Whip, who as always is as accommodating as he is allowed to be. The reality is not just that Government amendments and new clauses have been tabled after discussions about the timetable, but that we have portmanteau legislation.

The first part should be in a criminal justice Bill. The second and third parts should be in a housing Bill; they should not be in this Bill at all and need proper debate. The fourth part should be in an education Bill. The fifth part would be significant and controversial in any legislation and has received a critical report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights of both Houses of Parliament. The sixth part is not quite as controversial, and is to do with fixed penalty notices. The evidence that we were promised has not yet been forthcoming.

The seventh part should partly be in a children's Bill; the new Minister for Children no doubt has some interest in it. It is possibly a Department for Education and Skills matter or a social services matter. There are local government implications. Then we come to matters that are never uncontroversial: legislation about firearms, significant changes to do with age limits and powers. There is always controversy and proper debate about those. That is followed by environmental and graffiti matters. Every hon. Member has an interest in those—Back Benchers who were not on the Committee and who are not spokespeople for their parties may have something to say. Lastly, there are matters that you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, know about from your constituency and most rural colleagues know a lot about, although urban colleagues may deal with them not infrequently: matters to do with trespass, land use and travellers.

Those are major controversial issues. To think that we can do justice to those matters in six hours defies the most disciplined people in the most disciplined of Parliaments. It is just not possible.

Photo of David Wright David Wright Labour, Telford

The hon. Gentleman said that it was not appropriate to guillotine today's business. How long does he think we should debate the Bill for, and what would he say to residents in Oakengates in my constituency, who on Friday insisted that the powers in the Bill be brought in as quickly as possible?

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Liberal Democrat, North Southwark and Bermondsey

There are two issues there. People always want things as soon as possible. They will not know what is in the Bill. [Interruption.] Even if they do, I hope that they would expect Parliament to do its job properly.

The worst legislation is rushed legislation. The worst of the worst legislation is where Government Back Benchers do not properly scrutinise those on the Government Front Bench. The worst of the worst of the worst legislation is a Bill such as this, which was a shop window exercise before the local elections. It is a Christmas tree of a Bill, with some things clearly intended to be entirely window-dressing exercises, rather than properly thought-through legislation. I shall not get into the whole debate now.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Liberal Democrat, North Southwark and Bermondsey

Let me finish dealing with the point that was raised by David Wright. Other than Ministers, it is the job of all of us to scrutinise the Government. If he thinks that the whole House of Commons can scrutinise the Government on a Bill such as this in six hours, he is denying proper scrutiny of the Executive. The Bill probably would be adequately debated over two days; that is the answer. If he thinks that antisocial behaviour is important, it should be given two days and Parliament should be able to do its job properly.

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Labour, Nottingham North

It is incumbent on all those who complain about programme motions to come up with a positive alternative and to put it to the House, and I hope that pre-legislative scrutiny provides for that. However, the hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. He complains about the Bill's cross-Departmental elements, but that is the joined-up thinking through which various Departments contribute to a matter that does not fall within the ambit of a particular Department. I know that the hon. Gentleman has to score his point, but I hope that he accepts that it is a considerable breakthrough for Ministers to be working together in this way.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Liberal Democrat, North Southwark and Bermondsey

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I am completely signed up to trying to get more joined-up thinking. That is why my colleagues and I welcomed, encouraged and supported cross-Departmental Question Time in Westminster Hall, and why we submitted questions. Indeed, I was the Member who asked the first question in the cross-Departmental Question Time on youth matters. It is important to try to achieve a broad range.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Liberal Democrat, North Southwark and Bermondsey

I happen to know that there is a lot of controversy between Departments about this Bill, and that some were not nearly as keen as the Home Office on certain of the measures in it. I also happen to know that there were many rows inside the Government. Some felt that they were being bulldozed—

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

Order. We are making a meal of something that is not within the terms of the motion before the House. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman return to the motion.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Liberal Democrat, North Southwark and Bermondsey

The point in relation to timetabling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is that those matters may deserve to be explored. However—

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Liberal Democrat, North Southwark and Bermondsey

Will the hon. Lady please wait a second? Pre-legislative scrutiny is of course a way of ensuring that we do not have such difficulties later on. I entirely support and have always supported—as have my colleagues—the use of White Papers and Green Papers and various pre-legislative processes. Such processes always improve matters, so that we are less rushed and have to deal less frequently with last-minute amendments.

Photo of Dari Taylor Dari Taylor Labour, Stockton South

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman. Will he acknowledge that we spent more than 80 hours considering the Bill in Committee, that he was present for none of that time—it is appropriate that that be said—and that at each sitting the discussions were full and complete? No one was left wanting to make a statement, and we did not run out of time.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Liberal Democrat, North Southwark and Bermondsey

Of course I acknowledge that, but I should hope that the hon. Lady knows by now that only a few colleagues are nominated to a Standing Committee. I was not nominated for the Committee in question, but my hon. Friends the Members for Mid-Dorset and North Poole (Mrs. Brooke) and for Ludlow (Matthew Green) were, and they served on it throughout. Indeed, the hon. Lady will remember that they were assiduous in their contributions. This is the time when the rest of us get our say. Some 20 people served in Committee, but the rest of the 659 Members of Parliament—excluding those who are members of the Government—may want to have their say today.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Liberal Democrat, North Southwark and Bermondsey

I shall not give way again. [Interruption.] I said that I am not going to give way again.

Today is an opportunity for those who did not serve in Committee to have their say. Since proceedings began in Committee, some 530 Members have not had an opportunity to contribute to the debate. If they want to speak, this is the occasion to do so, and we should allow them the necessary time.

My colleagues—like the Conservatives and, I hope, Labour Back Benchers who are in favour of free speech and proper scrutiny—will oppose the timetable motion because we believe that Bills such as this deserve more time on the Floor of the House.

Photo of Hazel Blears Hazel Blears Minister of State (Home Office) (Policing, Security and Community Safety) 2:33 pm, 24th June 2003

I can tell that we are going to have an extremely lively debate. I was about to say that Mr. Bercow was perhaps guilty of hyperbole—unlike Mr. Paice, who dealt with the issues with some reserve—but it is clear that the hyperbole is infectious. I am sure that we are going to have a great day.

On the specific point about residential parenting orders that was made by the hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire, my predecessor, Mr. Ainsworth—whom I am delighted to see in the Chamber—pointed out in Committee, in respect of the relevant clause:

"The clause . . . needs to be modified to allow greater flexibility in the delivery of programmes"— a view shared by everybody in Committee—

"for example by making a residential component possible where it is considered necessary."—[Official Report, Standing Committee G, 8 May 2003; c. 103.]

So that issue was clearly flagged up in Committee and is not new.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous Conservative, South West Bedfordshire

Does the Minister share my regret that new clause 3, which was proposed by Mr. Allen, will not be debated today? There is a lot to be said for putting parenting within the scope of the national curriculum, so that a stigma is not attached to specific parents when, as part of a parenting order—

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

Order. The hon. Gentleman should not talk about a new clause or amendment that has not been selected for debate, and he certainly should not even attempt to talk about such matters during a debate on a programme motion. I call Ms Hazel Blears.

Photo of Hazel Blears Hazel Blears Minister of State (Home Office) (Policing, Security and Community Safety)

On the other concerns raised by the hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire, I acknowledge that it is right that Members have proper time to consider amendments. My understanding is that virtually all the issues to which the new clauses and amendments relate were raised in Committee. It is fair to say that in this instance, we have been a very responsive and listening Government, and we have tried to introduce proposals that meet the Committee's concerns. Whether the hon. Gentleman can support them remains to be seen, but we have certainly endeavoured to deal with some of the issues that were raised.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham

I much appreciate the Minister's earlier remarks—I have never been accused of reserve and I should be very sorry indeed to lose my record thus far. I say to her in all candour and seriousness that pre-legislative scrutiny, although extremely valuable, is never a substitute for, or an alternative to, proper scrutiny on the Floor of the House, particularly in the minds of those who were not such privileged citizens as those who participated in the Standing Committee.

Photo of Hazel Blears Hazel Blears Minister of State (Home Office) (Policing, Security and Community Safety)

The hon. Gentleman makes a perfectly reasonable point—for once—and belies his reputation. Pre-legislative scrutiny is a useful tool—in addition to the scrutiny that we undertake on behalf of those who sent us here. That is an important role.

There was plenty of time in Committee to debate all of these issues. I understand that time did not run out—in fact, unusually, things were a little lax—so I am surprised that Members feel so strongly about this issue.

Photo of James Paice James Paice Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office)

The Minister must not confuse consideration in Committee with proceedings on the Floor of the House. What she says about the Standing Committee is perfectly true, but there were many issues that the Government took away. I repeat: it was not until Thursday that we knew that the Government were going to respond to those issues at this stage. We were not aware, bearing in mind the proceedings in the other place to follow, that the Government intended to wait until Thursday to deal with these matters. My concern was not what the Government did, but that they did not act in time for us properly to scrutinise their new proposals.

Photo of Hazel Blears Hazel Blears Minister of State (Home Office) (Policing, Security and Community Safety)

As I said, I understand the hon. Gentleman's concerns and I hope that, during today's proceedings, we will have a good opportunity to ventilate issues that were canvassed in Committee but perhaps not discussed in great detail.

I should point out to Simon Hughes that individuals and communities do not conform to the silos of Government Departments. We in this House should be grateful that this Bill constitutes an attempt to put the victim, the witness and the community at the centre, and to wrap services around them in an innovative way, to try to ensure that the law that we pass really does address the needs of those communities, rather than of individual Government Departments. We need to look at this issue from a different perspective, and with a little imagination and creativity. This Bill is an excellent example of Ministers and Departments working together. It will not be perfect, but making a start through this Bill is an excellent way to proceed.

I do not want to delay the House any longer. My hon. Friend Mr. Allen made a very good point about integrated government and new ways of working, and I commend the programme motion to the House.

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 282, Noes 175.

Division number 250

See full list of votes (From The Public Whip)

Question accordingly agreed to.