Protection of Freedoms Bill (Programme) (No. 3)

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Defence – in the House of Commons at 6:41 pm on 10th October 2011.

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Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 6:41 pm, 10th October 2011

I sense that, deep down, the Minister knows that he is on a sticky wicket and that the programme motion is not really adequate for debating the issues before the House.

As the Whip responsible for this Bill, my hon. Friend Mark Tami, and his colleagues, would have accepted the programme motion had we not had, as Mr Hollobone said, three hours of statements, which have taken us up to 6.41 pm. This Bill determines the very important issues of DNA that my right hon. Friend Alan Johnson wishes to discuss, and those discussions will reach their conclusion at 8.30 pm. Although I disagree with him on those issues, I support his right to say what he wishes about his concerns. The concerns of Mr Leigh on public order issues will not be debated at all because the programme motion means that we will run out of time. However, I cannot support the hon. Gentleman if he presses his amendment to a vote, for the simple reason that it would knock out the business of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle regarding the important issues of DNA.

On reflection, the Minister will know that this is an inadequate programme motion that requires an 8.30 pm completion time for important issues of life and death, which is what DNA is about. It is about the prevention of crime, the security of our citizens, and ensuring that our citizens can walk safely, free of fear of crime. Those issues will not be debated at the length that my right hon. Friend wishes. We have had debates in the past when I have sat where the Minister sits and he has sat where I am now. I suspect that if I had come along this evening with a programme motion that provided for one hour and 45 minutes—potentially even one hour and 15 minutes—on DNA, he would be standing here saying what I am saying. As a Minister, I moved programme motions from the Government Front Bench just as the Minister has; I know and respect that fact. I am not averse to programme motions. My hon. Friends the Whips are not averse to programme motions, and, in the past, the Labour Government introduced programme motions. However, there has to be an element of fairness about them. We cannot support a programme motion that gives us, potentially, one hour and 15 minutes on the life and death issue of DNA and upsets the hon. Member for Gainsborough because he is not having a debate at all.

If I had moved that programme motion tonight, the Minister would have opposed it. If I had spoken as he has tonight, he would have opposed it. He will vote for it tonight, but he knows that he would vote against it if he were in my place. In fairness to the Opposition, he should allow time for this debate and reflect on the programme motion. Mr Bone made some sensible points, and we could have further discussions based on those. There is no problem with that. I will happily consider a small Adjournment of the House if Ministers want to discuss this with my hon. Friend Mr Campbell. He is an amenable chap. We have worked together in the Home Office and we know about these matters, and he will help us to reach a conclusion.

It is not acceptable to have these major issues debated in this way and rushed through the House. We did not do that when the Minister opposed our proposals on DNA, which were fair and responsible. He needs to reflect on that. If he does not, then I cannot support the hon. Member for Gainsborough for the reasons I have outlined, as much as I wish him to have his say, but I will certainly not support the programme motion, and I ask my hon. Friends to vote against it.