Actually, I agree with programme motions, because any idiot in opposition who argues that Government legislation can somehow be got through without programme motions should be taken out to the nearest lunatic asylum. What we are talking about here, however, is House business, which is a different issue.
I find the situation facing us a little bit galling. To be fair to the hon. Gentleman, if we divide on the programme motion he may well join me in the No Lobby, and if so it will not be the first time he has voted against his party because he is an independent soul; and I am sure he will cause havoc to his party on many more occasions in the coming months and years. The important point here is that insufficient time is available to us tonight to examine in detail the complex measures that have been proposed.
It appears that we are being asked to agree to measures that raise questions as to whether we will be able to debate the issues involved again. For instance, motion 10 on the Order Paper, in the name of the Leader of the House, is on September sittings and it states:
"That this House reaffirms the importance of its function of holding the Government to account: and accordingly asks the Government to put to this House specific proposals for sitting periods in September 2010."
Some of us were Members when the House last had September sittings, and they were a complete disaster in that there was never any business to debate. Frankly, it was just a public relations stunt, which might have made some people feel good- [Interruption.] There is no need to worry, as I am not going to debate September sittings; I shall return to the subject under discussion shortly.
There is a question to be asked, however. If we agree to this motion tonight, will the Government then allow another debate on what is being proposed, because the motion seems to give them carte blanche to impose September sittings? If we agree to the motion tonight, we will need to have a debate on September sittings in Government time. If that is not allowed, we will be denying something that is stated in the motion, in that we will not be reaffirming the importance of the
"function of holding the Government to account".
Instead, we will in effect tonight be giving the Government a blank cheque to do exactly what they want in September, and that cannot be right.
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