I beg to move,
That the Order of 1st November 2004 be varied by the substitution for paragraphs 4 and 5 of the following:
1. Proceedings on Consideration shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour before the moment of interruption.
2. Those proceedings shall be taken in the order shown in the first column of the following table, and each part of those proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the time shown in the second column.
|Proceedings||Time for conclusion of proceedings|
|Amendments relating to Clauses 7, 68, 85, 88, 161, 162 and 179;New Clauses NC7 and NC11;Amendments relating to Clauses 83, 89, 266 and 272.||Two hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order.|
|Amendments relating to Clause 58; Remaining proceedings on consideration.||One hour before the moment of interruption.|
3. Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption.
The motion will ensure that in the time available, hon. Members can concentrate on the key issues in the Bill—casinos, bingo, charity lotteries and amusement arcades. I am sure that the key issues and the drafting amendments, which are designed to improve the Bill, can be debated adequately in that time.
The Bill differs radically from its form on Second Reading. The Government radically changed its thrust in Committee, imposing limitations on the key provisions relating to casinos right at the last minute. Indeed, the biggest change was made on the final day in Committee, which allowed little opportunity to explore why the Government had made that sudden U-turn.
We are now faced with a Report stage that is programmed and limited to just one day. It is profoundly unsatisfactory that a Bill that has undergone years of consultation and scrutiny should suddenly be changed so dramatically at the very last minute, and then that the House of Commons should have so little opportunity to examine the changes that the Government have proposed.
The official Opposition will not vote against the programme motion, because to do so would limit even further the time that we have, but I want to place on the record the fact that we regard this situation as completely unsatisfactory. I have no doubt that when those in another place come to consider the Bill, they will take account of the fact that large chunks of it were not properly scrutinised by the House of Commons.
I would like to add to my hon. Friend's remarks. This Bill has been around, in various shapes and forms, for some four or five years. We had the Budd report, the White Paper, the pre-legislative scrutiny and then the Bill, which has been heavily amended throughout. The major concerns expressed by the Joint Committee regarding the planning advice were swept to one side with the claim that that was all firmly in place, but now, at the 11th hour, those changes are being proposed.
On Second Reading the Secretary of State did a somersault, or U-turn—call it what one will—that substantially changed the character and nature of the Bill. Then in Committee, after 300 clauses, with only 60 or so to go, and after numerous Government amendments and new clauses, the Minister produced the 888 policy. In my 28 or 29 years in this House, I had never seen a Standing Committee adjourn to debate a ministerial statement at the tail end of its proceedings. This has been a catalogue of mismanagement, order, counter-order and disorder. If I were a Minister or an official I would be extremely embarrassed that things should be in this state today.
I shall follow my hon. Friend Mr. Whittingdale in not taking too much time, because we want to get on to the amendments. However, I felt it right to register, for the first time, my views about a programme motion. Most programme motions are spurious, but this one represents an abuse of the House. It is an abuse of parliamentary procedure to bring forward on Report more than 90 Government amendments and some six new clauses, and allow us only until 10 o'clock to get through it all. I hope, Madam Deputy Speaker, that through your office you can express that concern in the appropriate quarters.
Although Mr. Whittingdale and I may have our differences later, I entirely agree with his remarks. I wish to place it clearly on the record that we formally requested that the Government allocate two days to the Report stage of this very important Bill, not least in the light of the large number of amendments that were tabled in Committee at the last moment, and that have been brought before us today.
As the hon. Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford rightly says, we do not wish to waste time debating the lack of time, so we will not oppose the programme motion, but we wish clearly to register our belief that the time allowed for the debate is completely inadequate.
I will be brief, for the reasons already given by my hon. Friends the Members for Maldon and East Chelmsford (Mr. Whittingdale) and for South-West Hertfordshire (Mr. Page) and by Mr. Foster. I entirely agree that the whole passage of the Bill has been a mess.
I want to make a specific point on the programme motion. If the Government had had the sense to listen in much greater detail to all, not merely some, of the recommendations made by the Joint Committee so ably chaired by my hon. Friend Mr. Greenway and including my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Hertfordshire, they could have avoided a lot of the mess into which they have got themselves. One of the reasons why they had to make two such humiliating U-turns in Committee was that they were under pressure, which they completely failed to anticipate, from a media campaign and from some of their own Back Benchers.
However, that huge media campaign would not have occurred if the Government had simply stuck to the pre-legislative scrutiny Committee's recommendations. My hon. Friend the Member for South-West Hertfordshire would not then have faced the position that he described as unique in his parliamentary experience, which is much longer than mine.
It is inadequate that we have such limited time today. I do not want to take up more time, but I hope that those in another place will listen carefully to all that my hon. Friends the Members for Maldon and East Chelmsford and for South-West Hertfordshire, the hon. Member for Bath and I have said today. I hope that they will insist—as they have the right to do in another place, where the Government cannot so easily programme, guillotine and bulldoze things through—on proper scrutiny.
I predict that the Government will regret not acceding to the request of the official Opposition and the Liberal Democrats for two full days of debate. I suspect that there will be substantial rebellions in another place by Labour peers, especially those who have detailed knowledge of the industry. They will say, as I am saying, that the recommendations of the Joint Committee should have been followed and that, having performed all those humiliating U-turns and changes of policy, the Government are wrong subsequently to guillotine and programme the debate. By doing that, they are preventing the House from doing the job for which we were all elected.
The Government are introducing much new material, which will not be debated by the House. I therefore suspect that they will have genuine problems in another place. Once the other place has finished with it, we may end up with a Bill that is much closer to the Joint Committee's sensible recommendations.
It is not my habit to speak about such motions, because I know that, no matter who is in power, they must have some such procedure. However, I ask the Minister whether he genuinely believes that it is in any way reasonable to discuss 127 amendments, new clauses and Government amendments in one hour. That simply means that we will not have the slightest chance of discussing them all.
Some Members of Parliament represent seaside towns. For example, my constituency has many amusement arcades. The residents and the owners of the arcades had meetings with me and said that there were some questions that I simply had to ask the Government about amendments Nos. 106 and 109. They want to know, for example, whether and in what circumstances the Government would use the powers for which they are providing. Yet there is not the slightest chance of my being able to ask those questions. The second part of the selection list includes a long list of headings, including "Age limit", "Miscellaneous", "Lotteries", "Restrictions on gambling and gaming", "Gaming machines" and "Children". How on earth can we hold a reasonable discussion on 127 different amendments in one hour? It is not possible, and the proposition constitutes treating the House of Commons with contempt.
It is not as though we are dealing with a silly industry that does not count. The betting and gaming industry employs 82,000 people, and the income that it generated last year was £1.76 billion. The industry is huge, and important to seaside towns. Although I appreciate that there will be no vote, which I greatly regret, will the Minister say whether the Government would be willing to re-examine the matter and ensure that we have at least a quarter of an hour, or even 20 minutes, on some of the big issues? They are desperately important matters, which could have a serious effect on employment in seaside towns. I wonder whether the Minister, even at this stage, would allow half an hour or 20 minutes on some issues.
I hope that the Government appreciate that when many jobs are at risk—and the people who run the industries do believe that jobs will be at risk—the least we should do in the House of Commons is hold some sort of discussion and provide some opportunity for hon. Members to ask questions and find out why the Minister intends to proceed with some of the proposals. The time allowed for discussion makes the House of Commons nonsensical, and I hope that the Government will think again.
The Executive are accused of not listening to the House of Commons, and then we get accused of reacting to it. I have been a Member of Parliament for some 20 years, and I believe that if Governments of both sides had taken heed of the House, that would probably have made for better legislation. Therefore, that is exactly what we have done. On Second Reading there was clearly much concern in the House, and we responded to it. Yet when the Executive respond to that, we are accused of U-turns and back-downs; many such descriptive nouns are used.
If Sir Teddy Taylor examines the programme motion, he will see that there are two hours, followed by the time until 9 o'clock, and then an hour for Third Reading. I believe that there will be adequate time.
We have indeed responded to all the issues of concern raised on Second Reading, and there has been some radical change. Mr. Page argued that we used the facilities of the House to allow an Adjournment of the Standing Committee. Well, what is wrong with that? The House was flexible enough to be able to take into account the concerns that hon. Members had clearly expressed on Second Reading, and the Executive have responded to them. A statement was made to clarify the position, which I believe is now more in concert with the views of the pre-legislative scrutiny Committee—and, indeed, with what we brought to the House on Second Reading. I am proud that we have listened to the House of Commons and responded positively to hon. Members' concerns. I believe that we are now presenting a Bill that is in concert with what the British people are thinking.
Question put and agreed to.