I beg to move,
That the Order of
1. Paragraphs 2 to 5 of the Order shall be omitted.
2. Remaining proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading shall be taken at today’s sitting.
3. Remaining proceedings on Consideration shall be taken in the order shown in the following Table.
4. Each part of the remaining proceedings on Consideration shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the time specified in relation to it in the second column of the Table.
|Proceedings||Time for conclusion of proceedings|
|New Clauses and new Schedules standing in the name of the Prime Minister and relating to press conduct; remaining new Clauses and new Schedules relating to press conduct.||Three hours after commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order.|
|New Clauses standing in the name of a Minister of the Crown and relating to Legal Aid; amendments to Clause 22, Clauses 24 to 30, Clause 32 and Schedule 16; new Clauses and new Schedules relating to protection of children or to vulnerable witnesses; remaining new Clauses and new Schedules; amendments to Clauses 20 and 21, Clauses 35 to 40; Schedules 19 and 20 and Clauses 43 to 46; remaining proceedings on Consideration.||11 pm|
5. Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously disposed of) be brought to a conclusion at midnight.
Last Wednesday, when moving the programme motion for the Report stage, the Minister of State, Home Department, my hon. Friend Mr Browne, said that the Government would introduce a supplementary programme motion if the cross-party talks on Leveson had concluded, either with or without agreement, to allow a debate on Leveson-related amendments on this second day of Report. This supplementary motion fulfils that undertaking. It allows for three hours, starting now, for the debate on this motion and on the Leveson-related amendments. Thereafter, the House will have until 11 pm to consider the remaining amendments to the Bill, with a final hour, minus Divisions, to midnight for Third Reading.
The House will be aware that the Leveson report was published at the end of November and it is now mid-March. The sooner that legislation relating to exemplary costs and damages is on the statute book, the sooner we can get on with implementing the new regulatory framework. If we do not legislate in the remaining weeks of this session, we risk a further delay of some months or more. We therefore needed to secure the debate today on the amendments relating to press conduct, and it is a consequent fact that the amount of time available to consider other amendments today is necessarily curtailed.
It is severely curtailed, because even if there were no Divisions, were the clauses on Leveson to last their full three hours, less than 40 minutes would be left for all the other clauses, dealing with some very important issues, some of which would probably never be reached.
My hon. Friend will note that it is a matter for hon. Members to determine to what extent they want to make progress on the next group of amendments, and the rate at which they make progress depends on the character of the debate. That is often true when we consider Report stages. The extent to which later groups of amendments can be considered depends on the time that Members choose to take in debating earlier groups. It may, of course, be that the time to consider amendments relating to press conduct will not occupy all the time available.
I hope that the Leader of the House will remember that I and others have suggested that he might look with colleagues at the very simple principle that when we use up some time for other business on a Report and Third Reading day, we have injury time to replace it, so that there is an automatic carry-over to give us the guaranteed time that we were expecting.
I do recall my right hon. Friend making that point previously. I simply say that it is an inflexible approach. It is our intention to assist the House in the way we structure programme motions, and that is precisely why this programme motion has been constructed around extending two hours beyond the moment of interruption. I emphasise that we are now four hours and 40 minutes away from the closure of the debate. If a normal Report stage falls on a Monday, it is not unusual for there to be two statements or an urgent question and a statement, which takes the House from 3.30 pm to about 5.30 pm, at which point we are four and a half hours away from the moment of interruption on that day, so I stress that we are not an unusual length of time away from the moment of interruption for a debate on Report.
The Leader of the House is right in what he says about the time, but surely what is unusual and exceptional about this programme motion is the importance of the matters that we are debating. The Leveson-related amendments are some of the most important that we could be debating, given the interest out there among the public and in the House. That is the difference, and we should therefore allow sufficient time for them to be debated, as well as the other remaining important matters.
The programme motion gives sufficient time for debate on the amendments relating to exemplary costs and damages. On the wider issues relating to press conduct and the Leveson report, the House has had the opportunity for three hours of debate arising from the
What is exceptional today is the
The point today is that the
This has nothing whatever to do with personal disappointment. These are matters of some considerable importance; otherwise, they would not be in the Bill. The fact that we wish to debate amendments or new clauses—indeed, the amendments and new clauses have been selected—suggests that they are considered to be of some importance by people other than their individual proponents.
Another point that my right hon. Friend perhaps needs to address is that the emergency debate that we have just had surely cannot have been in his mind when the timetable motion was drafted and tabled. He did not know that Mr Speaker would grant the three-hour debate, so the three hours taken out of the debate—or, as he might say, put in the debate—cannot have been in the calculation. We need to be clear about the thinking behind the timetable motion.
I am quite clear about the thinking behind the timetable motion. We wanted to make sure that there was sufficient time to debate Leveson-related issues. Also, it will also not have escaped my hon. and learned Friend’s notice—it did not escape the notice of my hon. Friend Mr Cash, who is no longer in his place—that we did not anticipate necessarily that the debate would start at 3.30 pm, not least because I anticipated that the Prime Minister would make a statement on the European Council. Thus, when we consider the overall time available, we find that we are not very far from where we anticipated we would be. My right hon. Friends and I understand that if we cannot have a full debate on all the issues to which the later groups of amendments relates, there will no doubt be future opportunities for us to do so.
Mr Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of my hon. Friend Mr Bone and other right hon. and hon. Members. Its effect would be to restrict today’s debate to the clauses relating to press conduct and provide an additional third day for consideration on Report, with Third Reading to be scheduled for a future date. I will not trouble the House with questions of how we could fit further days into the diminishing time remaining before the Session concludes, but I would like to make it clear that, as Leader of the House, I have sought with colleagues to provide at least two days on Report for important Bills where necessary and possible. My right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury, my predecessor as Leader of the House, and I have done that for 14 Bills in this Parliament, which stands in stark contrast to the previous Administration’s record. Indeed, today’s consideration is in addition to what was originally set out in the programme motion the House agreed on Second Reading. It is wholly exceptional to move to three days on Report; that has been given to only two Bills in this Parliament, and only three between 2001-02 and 2009-10.
I reiterate that if we crack on we will have four and a half hours available for further consideration of the Bill on Report and on Third Reading. Given the widespread interest in the issues before us, I hope that the House will agree to the programme motion quickly so that we can proceed with the substantive business.
I rise to support the programme motion moved by the Leader of the House in this short debate. Clearly, the House is having to deal with an unusual situation, because the Bill has become a vehicle for implementing the Leveson proposals on press regulation. The fact that it has evolved in this way has certainly made for some unusual processes that would hardly be considered best practice for the routine passage of legislation through the House, but sometimes needs must.
We must all remember that it has been 20 months since MPs from all parties came together to set up the Leveson inquiry after the revelations about industrial-scale phone hacking and indefensible press intrusion into the lives of families such as the Dowlers and the McCanns. It is time the issue was gripped, and today’s programme motion will allow it to be resolved.
Over 100 days have passed since Lord Justice Leveson’s inquiry reported and all parties promised that we would work together to find a lasting solution to prevent such scandals ever happening again, while also protecting press freedom. As cross-party talks took place last Wednesday, the Opposition withdrew an amendment to the programme motion that would have allowed some new clauses relating to the Leveson report to be taken ahead of some other parts of the Bill. We withdrew the amendment following an assurance from the Minister of State, Home Department, Mr Browne, that changes to the order of consideration would make it impossible to talk out any attempt to deal with the Leveson amendments in the Bill. The Government were as good as their word and produced a programme motion changing the order of consideration for the clauses in the Bill.
However, on Thursday the Prime Minister decided to pull the plug on the cross-party talks and table his own amendments to the Bill, which did not comply with the Leveson principles. Consequently, a raft of new amendments was tabled seeking to implement Leveson with statutory underpinning and other safeguards of independence. Today’s debate was looking as though it would offer a straight choice between a Leveson-compliant and a non-Leveson-compliant approach. However, as we have heard today, overnight a cross-party agreement was reached that will put in place an enduring solution, protected against pressure from the press, or indeed from Ministers in the Privy Council.
As part of that agreement, an amendment will be made—I understand that it has been tabled in the other place—to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill to ensure the statutory underpinning necessary to protect the royal charter vehicle from being arbitrarily changed in the Privy Council without reference to Parliament. Essentially, therefore, the programme motion before us ensures that the Leveson new clauses can be debated and added to the Crime and Courts Bill today. We therefore agree that the new clauses on press conduct should be taken ahead of the consideration of other parts of the Bill and that this debate should last for the requisite time.
There is no disagreement between the Leader of the House’s programme motion and the amendment that will be moved by my hon. Friend Mr Bone; all agree that the clauses relating to Leveson should be debated and decided upon today. However, the hon. Lady’s support for the Government’s programme motion means that all the other clauses will probably not be reached, including new clause 12, which relates to the provision on intermediaries for very vulnerable witnesses and has been signed by 57 colleagues on the Opposition side of the House.
There are important debates that need to take place on the clauses that come after those relating to Leveson. If everybody co-operates and speaks succinctly—I am about to demonstrate this by sitting down—we ought to have time to consider them all. I note, in passing, that some of the amendments to be considered are manuscript amendments and that the House will have had only a short time to examine them before they are debated. It is undesirable in principle to have manuscript amendments, but it is inevitable in the context of the fast-moving cross-party talks on Leveson, which continued into the early hours of this morning. The House has to be flexible and its procedures have to enable agreements to be enacted if the circumstances are exceptional, as I believe they are in this case.
I know that many Members are disappointed that debate on other parts of the Bill will be curtailed or truncated by the programme motion, but I am sure that if we work together we can ensure that we can debate all the parts of the Bill. I hope that Members on both sides will accept the programme motion, which will enable us to implement the findings of the Leveson report on regulation of the press, ensuring that any future victims can have redress, while maintaining press freedom. I also hope that we will be able to debate in an appropriate manner all the other parts of the Bill before finishing those stages at midnight.
I beg to move amendment (d), at end of paragraph 2, leave out ‘at today’s sitting’ and insert
‘in two days (in addition to the First Day already taken)’
It is normally a great privilege to follow Ms Eagle, but this evening the opposite is the case. I am afraid that what has happened today is part of the deal that has been done to reach all-party agreement. The deal was: “Okay, if we agree to this, we won’t object to the fact that these very important amendments and new clauses won’t be discussed.” It is clear that there will now be a maximum of only 40 minutes in which to discuss some really serious issues. I fail to understand how the Leader of the House or the shadow Leader can say that there will be other methods and time to discuss them.
I have moved a manuscript amendment to the programme motion—the first time I have done so—because of the unusual circumstances. In the short time since it was prepared and we knew what was happening today, 15 right hon. and hon. Members from both sides of the House have signed it, including two former Home Secretaries and the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee.
When we were in opposition, we always used to criticise the then Government for curtailing debate on legislation, but I must say that this is the most outrageous example I have ever seen. These are really serious issues affecting extradition and vulnerable people, and to say that, effectively, they will not be discussed because of a clever way of guillotining their consideration is, to my mind, completely unacceptable.
Over 20 amendments have been selected, never mind all those that were tabled but not selected, and very many Back-Bench Members have signed them. It cannot be right to have tabled a programme motion last Thursday at 5.15 pm, after a huge row at business questions, saying that there would supposedly be plenty of time to discuss the Bill—although people had queries about that—without any knowledge that a
If the Leader of the House thought that that amount of time should be available, we are going to be three hours short of it today. It would be possible, even now—I know that it is not going to happen because I have been here and seen this too often—for him to get up and say that this is a perfectly reasonable amendment to the programme motion and accept it. All the Leveson clauses would still be debated exactly as was proposed in the original programme motion; all that would happen is that the important amendments that we have lost would be debated on another day. If the Leader of the House is saying that so much legislation is rushing through this House that we have no time to find on any other days, that is hard to believe since the House of Lords has been given an extra week’s recess because we are not progressing enough business.
In May 2009, when we were in opposition, the Prime Minister-to-be made a speech called “Fixing Broken Politics”—I would recommend it to every right hon. and hon. Member—in which he made it clear that the one thing he was not going to do when he was in power was restrict debate; he was going to have open, transparent debate and allow enough time to scrutinise really important issues.
Did the hon. Gentleman really believe what the then Leader of the Opposition, now Prime Minister, said? Did not those of us on the Government Benches during those years say that the programme motions that were being tabled and passed would almost certainly happen in the same way if the Conservatives won the election? I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is not so naive.
I am very naive, because that is exactly what I believed. At that time, the hon. Gentleman would have gone through the same experience of the expenses scandal, when there was a real movement in the country for this place to change so that proper scrutiny would take place in this mother of Parliaments.
Previously, any scrutiny occurred down the corridor; we never got the chance to reach important clauses and amendments in Bills. We complained about that week in, week out. Yet here we are tonight having lost any debate whatsoever on really important clauses. Even when the situation was at its worst, under the Blair regime, I cannot remember anything being so dramatically curtailed. Why on earth could not the Leader of the House simply have said that we were going to have another day because of the
What my hon. Friend says is true. He did not mention, but could easily have done so, that glorious sunlit day in Birmingham—perhaps he attended the party conference that year—when we were exhilarated to hear the then shadow Leader of the House give the greatest pleasure to us all when he announced that we would no longer automatically guillotine. That is the substance of the matter that has animated so many of us on the Government Back Benches. The deliberate intention not to debate things—to manipulate the order of play, so to speak, on the Floor of the House—deceives the public out there and corrupts the purpose of our being here.
My hon. Friend puts it far better than I do. Of course, I did rejoice at that. I went into the new coalition Government with a real feeling that we were going to be different—that things would change. Tonight we are taking a huge step backwards. As I said, I cannot recall any occasion on which an SO24 application has been granted and we therefore lose X amount of business that is not then rearranged.
Some cynical people—I am probably one of them—would say that this has suited the business managers enormously, because an amendment had been tabled that they did not want to debate. If I am wrong about that, it would be very simple for the Leader of the House to accept my amendment and we will see how well the Government respond to it.
The other problem is that this debate on the programme motion eats into the time that is allowed for debate on the substantive issues. That is a trick the previous
Government introduced. We said it was wrong, but it is exactly what has happened tonight. The previous Leader of the House promised that we would not automatically programme business. This is the worst abuse that I have seen since becoming a Member of this House. I urge the Leader of the House, at this late stage, to show that he is a democratic champion of this House, to stick up for Back Benchers, not for the Executive, and to accept my amendment.
It is a great delight to follow Mr Bone, not least because I want to take him up on something that he said the other day and has said again today. He uses the phrase, “the mother of Parliaments”, as though this Parliament is the mother of Parliaments. That is completely and utterly incorrect. John Bright referred to England as being the mother of Parliaments, and his point was to criticise England because it had not yet managed to bring the full franchise to all working men; he was not quite so enlightened as to include women at that time. I know that the hon. Gentleman knows this to be the case because he told me so in the gym the other day, so I hope he will stop misleading the House. [Interruption.] It is not inadvertent; it is deliberate, and I know it is, but I say it in a kindly way.
This has been a very odd day. I have scoured the history books and I cannot find an example of
The Leader of the House said that he would always, or nearly always, try to provide two days on Report—although we have not ended up with that—and boasted about the fact that there have been 14 such occasions so far. I agree that, broadly speaking, that is a good principle. It may be important to have more than one day’s debate on a long and contentious Bill, particularly a Bill such as this, where the Government are rewriting large chunks of it, or on a Christmas tree Bill that has baubles, tinsel and fairies on top. However, if there are statements or other business, that trammels up the debate on Report. All too often, Whips will try to make sure that certain matters are not reached.
I have some sympathy with what the hon. Member for Wellingborough is saying, but my complaint is that it is a bit rich for the Government to complain, as they have been doing in the media and in the House today, that Members are trying to hijack other Bills. Perhaps the Leader of the House should timetable in the hijacking of Bills between now and the general election, because we have every intention of hijacking as many as possible in order to make sure that we get better legislation. That is what the whole process is about. If we can persuade the Liberal Democrats, as well as the minor parties, to join us on more occasions than thus far, we hope that we will manage to get better legislation.
Part of the problem is that last week one programme motion was tabled within 10 minutes of the close of play. Such practice makes it impossible for ordinary hon. Members to know what the next day will hold and when we will discuss individual Bills. If the whole idea of programme motions is that they are for the convenience of the House, it is for the multiple inconvenience of the
House if they are tabled at the very last minute, especially when, as I understand it, the Government did not even understand last week that such a motion is amendable or that there is no way that the Opposition or any other Member can seek to amend it until it has been tabled. That happened at the very last minute last Tuesday night and last Thursday night, so Mr Speaker was left with a very difficult decision on whether it was right to allow the House to proceed on the basis of manuscript amendments such as those that have been tabled by the hon. Member for Wellingborough or other manuscript amendments that have even been tabled by the Government. That is a shabby way of doing business. It brings this House into disrepute when people cannot make proper arrangements.
Last Thursday the Government were not even aware that, if they wanted to discuss certain things relating to Leveson, they had to table a motion under
The Leader of the House also said last week that he would table amendments when the discussions had concluded. I asked him what he meant by “concluded” and he rolled his eyes and pulled the slightly grumpy, Deputy Dawg face that he is pulling now. The papal conclave ended and amendments were tabled a long time afterwards. Incidentally, the one good thing about this papal conclave is that at least a woman—my right hon. and learned Friend Ms Harman, the deputy leader of the Labour party—was allowed to be on it.
A lot of important issues need to be considered with regard to extradition. The hon. Member for Wellingborough is right that under the current programme motion we are unlikely to reach the amendment tabled in his name and the names of, I think, 95 other Members, most but not all of whom are Conservative.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that today has been an odd day, but it has been extremely beneficial to discuss all the issues relating to Leveson. However, the issues of extradition and the European arrest warrant are of huge concern to the people of this country. I say to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, through this intervention, that, given the many cases when the United States in particular has sought the extradition of people from this country and raised huge concern among the British people, debate on the issue should not be truncated. The House should be given more time to debate it.
Indeed. I commend those who brought issues of extradition to the House’s attention on the basis of Back-Bench motions. However, given that it is now exactly a year since this House unanimously agreed a motion on the visas of those involved in the death of Sergei Magnitsky, we now know that a motion of the House means absolutely nothing unless it is part of the legislative process.
The hon. Gentleman is right. I would like to be able to debate extradition and the European arrest warrant and we have tabled an amendment in the names of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and others. Indeed, many people will be looking to this House to have a proper debate on the provisions that will end the right to appeal for those applying for a visitor visa. The hon. Gentleman and I may take a different view on that, but the Government have ordered the business in this way when they could easily have said last Thursday that they would not debate the Bill today, but would do so tomorrow, Wednesday or Thursday. That would have made it perfectly possible to have a debate on Leveson and then on something else, which would have been a much better way of proceeding.
I am afraid that there is not much point in supporting the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for Wellingborough. Frankly, I hope he will withdraw them, because a vote would waste another 16 minutes when we could be getting on with business. I say to the Leader of the House that it is a shame that we are proceeding in this way.
I do not think that defending the right of this Chamber to scrutinise the Executive is a waste of time and I hope that my hon. Friend Mr Bone will press his amendment to a vote. To be frank, this is an abuse by the Government of their privilege in setting the timetable of this House and it is a huge shame that Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition are joining in that exercise.
There is no disagreement at all that we should debate the Leveson clauses until 10.21 pm. Whether the amendment or the Government’s programme motion is passed, that will be the effect. We have already had a very interesting three-hour debate and by the time the vote on the amendment to the programme motion is finished we will probably have time for another two-hour debate on the relevant clauses. There is no disagreement about that.
The disagreement lies with all the other clauses, schedules and amendments that will be lost as a result of the Government’s programme motion. For example, new clause 12 has been signed by 57 Members, mainly Opposition Members, and relates to the provision of intermediaries for very vulnerable witnesses. New clause 14 has been signed by 110 Members, mainly Government Members and also relates to very vulnerable witnesses. New clause 13 will probably never be reached, but it relates to exceptions to automatic deportation and has 104 signatories from both sides of the House. Those are important new clauses, which we will either not debate at all or to which we will give very little and totally inadequate attention. This is not the way that this great House of Commons ought to behave. Of course, it would not behave in this way if we had the business of the House committee that Her Majesty’s Government promised they would deliver by 2013.
Some Members present may think that the effect of the amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough would be to extend tonight’s sitting, but, unusually for my hon. Friend, that is not the case. If the manuscript amendments are passed, tonight’s main debate would finish at 10.21 pm. If the Government’s programme motion is passed, we will be here until midnight. Members should not turn around and blame my hon. Friend or me when they are moaning about being here at midnight. What the two of us want to see is another day given for discussion of the Bill’s important extra clauses. What is unreasonable about that? All we want is for this Chamber to scrutinise those clauses and come to a decision on them. It will not be able to do that in the 40 minutes that the Government feel are adequate.
It is a great shame that the Leader of the House did not go into any detail about possible alternative days to discuss these issues. We finish our main business on a Tuesday at 7 o’clock. We have had exceptional circumstances today and everybody understands that. I think that most Members would be supportive, given the circumstances, of staying longer tomorrow night. Were the Government to extend tomorrow’s sitting to 10 o’clock, we could probably deal with the extra new clauses and amendments, but the Leader of the House has not made any such suggestion. Next Tuesday, we have a Back-Bench afternoon. The Government could have replaced that with the remaining stages of the Crime and Courts Bill. We could therefore wrap it all up before the Easter recess in a perfectly satisfactory way, with proper scrutiny of all the new clauses and amendments.
However, that kind of imaginative thinking does not seem to come from the Government, which is a great shame. The Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Prime Minister have been innovative today in knocking their heads together and agreeing on this Chamber’s response to the Leveson report. Most Members would agree that that is a good thing. But now, we are being let down by Her Majesty’s Government, who refuse to extend that innovative thinking into ensuring that this House scrutinises legislation properly. That is a great shame.
When the Leader of the House made an announcement last week about rescheduling the business for today, naively, given my 21 years’ experience, I presumed that a good part of the crime and courts work would be taken elsewhere. For the past few months, we have been treading water. There have been many Opposition days and Back-Bench business days flying around. That is not a bad thing and I am not running those things down, but there has been plenty of slack in the system and there remains slack in the system. The hon. Member for Kettering has identified two opportunities in the past couple of minutes.
What are we dealing with at the moment? An Executive who are treating this place with contempt. Earlier, we were all back-slapping and grinning, and saying that we were doing something about Leveson and getting stuck into doing something for the public. The public should know that conscientious parliamentarians, such as those who have spoken today, are being denied the opportunity to scrutinise important legislation, such as provisions on the all-important European arrest warrant, exceptions to automatic deportation and provisions to deal with vulnerable witnesses. As a lawyer, I find it abhorrent that we are not able to discuss provisions that deal with vulnerable witnesses.
The Leader of the House said that there would be other opportunities to discuss those issues. Would it not be useful, arising from the strong representations and speeches that have been made from both sides of the House on the right of Parliament to debate such issues, if the Leader of the House indicated when we will be able to discuss such issues if he is not willing to agree to the amendment?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making that point, with which I agree fully.
The Executive are overriding completely the will of this place. The matters that we are not able to discuss are not minor ones; they are vital matters that concern people out there. They are not matters for the twittering classes of Westminster alone; they are vital matters that affect ordinary citizens up and down the UK. For example, we are dealing with automatic deportation and ensuring convention rights. We cannot be expected to run through such vital issues in a matter of minutes. I find the whole thing utterly unacceptable.
I was in Parliament in 1992 when the then Conservative Government thought better of such practices and provided time for debates to take place. Very rarely were debates truncated in this way. It is utterly unacceptable and I am sure that people outside this place will see that. We took a step forward this afternoon, but we are taking a major step back this evening.
On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Would it not be appropriate for the Leader of the House to show respect for the views that have been expressed in the past 15 minutes and at least come to the Dispatch Box and make some comments? He is just sitting there grinning and showing indifference. What sort of respect does that show for the views of the House of Commons?