Business of the House

– in the House of Commons at 3:37 pm on 28th January 2008.

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Photo of Jim Murphy Jim Murphy Minister of State (Europe) 3:37 pm, 28th January 2008

I beg to move,

That, at this day's sitting, the Speaker shall put the Questions necessary to dispose of the Motion in the name of Ms Harriet Harman and Secretary David Miliband relating to the Business of the House (Lisbon Treaty) not later than Ten o'clock;
proceedings may continue after the moment of interruption;
and Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply.

The effect of the motion would be to bring proceedings on the main procedural motion to a conclusion no later than 10 o'clock this evening. This is a straightforward motion that is procedural in nature. If the House agrees to it swiftly, we will have around six hours to discuss the Government's proposed approach to the important scrutiny of the European Union (Amendment) Bill. That discussion will give hon. Members the opportunity to debate the substantive business motion in detail. At that time, I will make the case in favour of a structured, themed approach to scrutiny of the Bill. A themed approach will ensure that we can cover the range of issues arising from the Lisbon treaty.

Photo of David Howarth David Howarth Shadow Solicitor General, Ministry of Justice

Can the Minister explain what difference the motion will make and how the business of the House would be structured differently if it were not passed?

Photo of Jim Murphy Jim Murphy Minister of State (Europe)

The purpose of the motion is to bring our consideration on the main motion to a conclusion by 10 o'clock this evening. Once motion No. 1 has been considered, we will have the opportunity to discuss the structure of the table in motion No. 2 and the themed debates before the House.

The themed debates will ensure that we are able to cover the range of issues that arise from the Lisbon treaty. The issues that we have identified are: justice and home affairs; energy; human rights; the single market; common foreign and security policy; international development; EU institutions and decision making; and climate change. That will allow us to—

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. The Minister is going beyond the scope of the motion. The business that he is talking about relates to the next motion.

Photo of Jim Murphy Jim Murphy Minister of State (Europe)

Mr. Speaker, with your indulgence, I shall nevertheless give way to Mr. Cash.

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons

I have ruled this subject out of order. We shall have to wait and see what the hon. Gentleman says in his intervention.

Photo of Bill Cash Bill Cash Conservative, Stone

I was going to raise a similar point, and I am grateful to you for having ruled accordingly, Mr. Speaker. Will the Minister be good enough to accept that the effect of this motion is to prevent debate, whereas there used to be a time when such programme motions and guillotines were used to ensure proper, orderly debate? This motion is designed to stop debate.

Photo of Jim Murphy Jim Murphy Minister of State (Europe)

I think that the whole House will thank the hon. Gentleman for fulfilling the unusual role of keeping the House in order when it comes to a European debate.

I am confident that, with some collective self-discipline, this allocation of time and the subsequent debate on the business motion will ensure that we have a comprehensive debate.

Photo of Gwyneth Dunwoody Gwyneth Dunwoody Labour, Crewe and Nantwich

Is the Minister saying that, if anything that we wish to debate is not on the list of subjects that he has enunciated, it will be excluded from the debate if we accept his timetable? It is a simple point, but it is rather important.

Photo of Jim Murphy Jim Murphy Minister of State (Europe)

Mr. Speaker, I think that you would discourage me from responding to that point until our second debate this afternoon, at which time I shall be happy to respond to my hon. Friend's question.

The allocation of time up to 10 o'clock this evening will give us ample opportunity to discuss the Government's motion and the amendment tabled in the name of the Opposition.

Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Chair, Tax Law Rewrite Bills (Joint Committee)

Will the Minister explain why he seems to be wasting time on a motion on the 10 o'clock rule? We always finish at 10 o'clock on Mondays unless the business is suspended. If, by chance, we are still talking at 10, it will be up to the Government Chief Whip to rise to his feet and move that the question be now put. I cannot anticipate your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but it is likely that that would be granted. We could have this debate every Monday. Is this an elaborate attempt on the part of the Government to demonstrate how generous they are with their time? In reality, the Minister is simply giving us the usual amount of time for a Monday debate.

Photo of Jim Murphy Jim Murphy Minister of State (Europe)

The right hon. and learned Gentleman makes a fair point. The important point, however, is that Mr. Cash probably would not have given us the opportunity to conclude our proceedings at 10 o'clock, and the purpose of the motion is to ensure that we can do so. Based on the encouragement of Mr. Clarke, I urge the House to support the motion.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Party Chair, Liberal Democrats 3:43 pm, 28th January 2008

I just want to make sure that the House understands the point made by Mr. Clarke. This motion is complete nonsense. It is unnecessary. If it were necessary, it would be serving to reduce the opportunity for amendments. However, Mr. Speaker, you have ruled that that is not the case and that you had full discretion over the amendments. This motion should therefore not be on the Order Paper.

The Government have consulted about the style of dealing with the Bill, but not about the timetable. I am afraid that they have started today badly, because they are not only alienating the people whom they have alienated before by bringing the Bill to the House, but, procedurally, alienating some of their friends who support the Bill but who cannot support this motion or a timetable that has not been carefully negotiated to accommodate all the interests of the House. We shall oppose the motion when it is put to the vote.

Photo of Bob Spink Bob Spink Conservative, Castle Point 3:44 pm, 28th January 2008

This motion seeks to limit debate to 10 o'clock tonight, which in view of its importance is quite improper. The whole country is interested in our constitutional relationship with the European Union. We are debating the timetable for that debate, so it is important that we do not curtail the debate in any way.

Last night, BBC Radio 4's "Westminster Hour" at 10 pm covered the House's upcoming business, yet at no time was the EU debate mentioned. That shows, of course, the lack of publicity given by the BBC, because of its bias and probably as a result of the EU's funding of the BBC. The soft loans and other funding amount to some €256 million over the past five years alone. That shows the importance of our having an unlimited debate in this House, so that people in this country can understand the importance of the question. I am certainly against the motion and I urge the House to vote against it so that Members can debate the matter for as long as it takes and we can get publicity and understanding in the country on its importance.

Photo of Rob Marris Rob Marris PPS (Rt Hon Shaun Woodward, Secretary of State), Northern Ireland Office 3:46 pm, 28th January 2008

In response to Bob Spink, I have to say that my constituents would find it odd if we were to have a long debate about timetabling a debate for a timetable.

Photo of William Hague William Hague Shadow Secretary of State (Foreign Affairs)

The Minister might have done better to have moved the motion in 10 or 20 seconds rather than partly to have got on to other things. As the Opposition, we disapprove of all the restrictions proposed so far on debating this particular measure, but we believe that the sooner that we get on to the main motion before the House, the better.

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 248, Noes 204.

Division number 55

See full list of votes (From The Public Whip)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved,

That, at this day's sitting, the Speaker shall put the Questions necessary to dispose of the Motion in the name of Ms Harriet Harman and Secretary David Miliband relating to the Business of the House (Lisbon Treaty) not later than Ten o'clock; proceedings may continue after the moment of interruption; and Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply.

Photo of David Howarth David Howarth Shadow Solicitor General, Ministry of Justice

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In the light of the vote that we have just had, may I ask you to interpret Standing Order No. 32, on the selection of amendments? Only the main motion and one amendment have been selected, which does not seem enough to keep us going until 10 o'clock, Mr. Cash notwithstanding. Could you confirm that if time passes very slowly and the debate looks like coming to a premature end, you have the power to make a further selection of amendments during the debate?

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons

The hon. Gentleman is quite right—I do have the power when a debate is in progress to allow what is known as a manuscript amendment, but I am not going to do that this evening, so he need not worry. It has been my experience in the long time that I have been in the House that Mr. Cash is certainly able to keep things going until 10 o'clock—in fact, beyond, if necessary. I thank David Howarth for his deep concern, but I do not think that he has anything to worry about.