TABLE
SittingProceedingsTime for conclusion of proceedings
9thClauses 27 to 45 (so far as not previously concluded), Schedule 1, New Clauses, Clauses 46 to 49, Schedule 2, Clauses 50 to 69, Schedule 3
10thClauses 27 to 45 (so far as not previously concluded), Schedule 1, New Clauses, Clauses 46 to 49, Schedule 2, Clauses 50 to 69, Schedule 3
11thClauses 27 to 45 (so far as not previously concluded), Schedule 1, New Clauses, Clauses 46 to 49, Schedule 2, Clauses 50 to 69, Schedule 3
12thClauses 27 to 45 (so far as not previously concluded), Schedule 1, New Clauses, Clauses 46 to 49, Schedule 2, Clauses 50 to 69, Schedule 310.00 pm
13thClauses 70 to 851 pm
14thClause 86, Schedule 4, Clauses 87 to 101, Schedule 5, Clauses 102 to 106, Schedule 6, Clauses 107 to 127, Schedule 7, Clauses 128 to 131, Schedule 8, Clause 132, new Schedules
15thClause 86, Schedule 4, Clauses 87 to 101, Schedule 5, Clauses 102 to 106, Schedule 6, Clauses 107 to 127, Schedule 7, Clauses 128 to 131, Schedule 8, Clause 132, new Schedules5 pm"

Criminal Justice and Police Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:55 am on 1st March 2001.

Alert me about debates like this

The resolution does three things. First, it reorders our business so that we may discuss the new clauses dealing principally with animal rights at a more convenient time, on Tuesday. Secondly, it adds a 15th formal sitting of the Committee next Wednesday. Thirdly, it introduces a series of guillotines to ensure that we have a balanced debate on the issues covered by the Bill.

The hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) may disagree, but the discussion in the Programming Sub-Committee yesterday was acrimonious. He used language about me and other Labour Members that was unacceptable. I do not know whether he intends to repeat it this morning--

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

On a point of order, Mr. Gale. May I reiterate our oft-spoken objection that the Programming Sub-Committee's proceedings are not recorded. The Minister is now referring to discussions that occurred last night and only those of us who were fortunate enough to be present know what happened. It would have been helpful if there had been an official record of what happened because it would then have been possible to refer to the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hertfordshire.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

I am not sure that that is a point of order for the Chair, but I shall repeat my view that it is desirable that a record is made of at least the formal part of the meetings of the Programming Sub-Committee. However, that is entirely a matter for the Modernisation Committee. The Chairmen's Panel will make recommendations to that Committee in due course.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

I agree with your comments, Mr. Gale, and after discussion of the Vehicles (Crime) Bill I wrote to the Leader of the House with some views on the conduct of the Programming Sub-Committee for consideration by the Modernisation Committee. It is a pilot project, and from it we must learn its weaknesses and strengths. The point made by the hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray) has weight and should be considered.

However, it is a fact that the meeting yesterday was acrimonious--I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman dissents from that--and much of the language used was difficult. I want to reflect on some of the points made.

On the amount of time that we have spent debating the Bill, I said on Second Reading that I hoped to be able to have 16 sittings. For reasons that the Committee knows, it was decided at the first Programming Sub-Committee to have 14 sittings, and we gave a commitment that we would be prepared to extend that. We have in fact had two extra sessions that were not anticipated and do not count as extra formal sittings of the Committee.

Through the programming resolution, we have allowed for 15, rather than 14, formal sittings. Rather than the 16 sittings that I originally specified in the House, we will now have 17—that is, 15 plus two evening sessions. The Opposition's proposal to have two extra sittings would have taken the original 14 to 16, so their charge that we are giving significantly less time than they want is unfounded.

On guillotines, my experience of the Committee is that although there have been some positive aspects—for example, last Tuesday's sittings were full of constructive debates and contributions—some time wasting took place during earlier sittings. All the debates have been in order, not only because they were regulated by you and your colleagues, Mr. Gale, but because all members of the Committee took the trouble to be in order. I shall cite two examples of time wasting. First, during one debate, the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins)—a signed-up member of the criminal barristers' tendency—simply read for the record the Criminal Bar Association's evidence from the consultation process, which was one of 111 submissions. Although he had the right to do so, I saw no need for it, and it was time wasting. Secondly, we spent four and a half hours on clause 1—a long time with a great deal of time wasted in the process.

I pay tribute to hon. Members for the parts of the debate that were constructive. The Parliamentary Secretary and I tried to respond as constructively as possible. Neither he nor myself have spoken at undue length and we have always given way to allow for proper debate. Labour Members have universally spoken to the point and to effect. Surprisingly, I can say that the comments of the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) have been almost pithy. He has been clear and to the point and has debated properly. That has not been my experience in previous Committees, where he has spoken at inordinate, lawyerly length. I praise the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr. Blunt), whose contributions, throughout the proceedings and without exception, have been constructive and to the point.

I cannot say the same of other Opposition Members. The right hon. and learned Member for North-East Bedfordshire (Sir N. Lyell), the former Attorney-General, has popped in and out of the Committee from time to time, has shown no evidence of having read or discussed the Bill, and has been repetitive ad nauseam on points of no substance.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire 10:00 am, 1st March 2001

On a point of order, Mr. Gale. Is it right for the Minister to be passing remarks of that sort about an hon. Member who is not present?

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

As the Minister is aware, he is responsible for his own words, so that is not strictly a point of order for the Chair. It has always been the custom and courtesy of the House that if one Member intends to make a personal attack on another, he should seek to inform him first. I have no way of knowing whether that was done in this case.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

I have not done so, because I worked on the assumption that all members of the Committee would be present this morning. Given the nature of the acrimonious exchanges last night, I felt it necessary to respond to the issues that were raised about my conduct and that of my hon. Friends and to set out my position.

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire

On a point of order, Mr. Gale. The Minister responded to my previous point of order by saying that he assumed that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Bedfordshire would be present, which is why he gave him no notice that he intended to make a personal attack on him. Surely even if my right hon. and learned Friend had been present, it would have been necessary for the Minister to give him notice.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

The hon. Gentleman has been in the House long enough to know that no such requirement is placed upon Members, who are responsible for their own words, whether temperate or intemperate. It is certainly not a matter for the Chair, and I do not intend to take another point of order on it.

Photo of Charles Clarke Charles Clarke Minister of State, Home Office

Thank you, Mr. Gale. I will talk to the right hon. and learned Gentleman about the matter when he deigns to attend the Committee. I am responsible for, and have considered, my own words, and I must give my own assessment of events. Other hon. Members might disagree with it—that is a matter for them. In my opinion, the right hon. and learned Gentleman has not addressed the Bill seriously. The many extremely tedious exchanges on minor points that have taken place show that he does not understand the essence of the subject under discussion.

Some of the points made by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath were rather more serious. However, he, too, has spoken at inordinate length and extremely repetitively—I am thinking in particular of the discussion on the Criminal Bar Association—and that appears to have been a deliberate tactic. I exonerate the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire from much of what I have to say on this matter. As with other Committees in which he has participated, in general he has sought to speak effectively and to the point. In tabling amendments to probe the issues that have arisen, he is behaving quite reasonably. For the most part he has not spoken at inordinate length, although I cannot say the same for his colleagues.

Last night, my assertion about the use of the usual channels was challenged, and I want to return to that issue. In fairness, the Opposition have made it clear from the outset that in their view insufficient time has been allowed for consideration of the Bill, and they have argued for a finishing date later than 8 March. Although we do not agree with them in that regard, we have been prepared at all times to agree programming informally, through the usual channels and without the need for a guillotine, so as to ensure proper consideration of the Bill throughout. However, my hon. Friend the Whip has found it difficult to secure agreement on those points.

I contrast that with last night, when the hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire made a commitment to try to reach the end of schedule 1 by the end of today. I accepted that commitment implicitly, immediately and without question, and as a result I have amended the programming resolution to remove the guillotine in respect of that point. However, he could offer no further commitments. That is his prerogative, but we therefore decided that the guillotine process must be retained, and I shall once again explain why, in order to make matters as clear as possible. The Committee must consider properly all the issues with which the Bill deals. We cannot allow an entire chunk of clauses to fall off the end simply because we did not guillotine. The Opposition have given no assurance that they will honour that process, so there is no choice but to retain the guillotine.

I know that the charge will be made that we are being arrogant and are not listening to Parliament, but I do not accept that for one moment. We have sought to discuss matters in the best possible way, and to address issues of substance rather than playing to an audience by making rhetorical debating points. All Government members of the Committee—in particular, my ministerial colleague and I—have conducted the debate in that way, and that is the way in which we shall continue.

I shall conclude by repeating the offer that I made last night. We would be absolutely open to reaching agreement through the usual channels on an approach to timetabling that is informal in every respect, and to an additional meeting to debate further matters in a different way. For example, last night we were ready to agree to an evening sitting next Wednesday, Budget day. You rightly said, Mr. Gale, that we needed some certainty about a programme for Budget day, but no agreement could be reached on how to proceed, so we had no choice but to act as we have.

The Opposition's approach to this matter is informed by party political electioneering in the light of a possible general election. They are trying to argue that there has been insufficient time to consider the Bill, but their argument is false and I hope that the Committee will support the Government by supporting the motion.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

Before we embark on debate on this matter—I shall add a minute to our proceedings to allow for what I am about to say—I want to make a personal observation. It is regrettable that proceedings of the Sub-Committee are not minuted. Although members of the Committee may attend as observers—indeed, last night one did—that is not always possible. A written record would be helpful because the meetings are informal and not a matter of record, so comment on the proceedings can be reported only through the eyes of those who were present.

I understand that hon. Members have strong views—they would probably not be Members of Parliament had they not. I also understand that occasionally those views will be expressed forcefully. However, I must make it plain that I deprecate acrimony and will not tolerate unparliamentary or discourteous behaviour. Since I joined the Chairmen's Panel, every Committee that I have chaired has been courteous and harmonious within the bounds of proper political disagreement. I am certain that the Committee will want to continue in that vein.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I would not want the Committee to think that I said anything rude or unparliamentary in yesterday's Sub-Committee. I have always thought that courtesy is important and I have always been extremely courteous to the Minister. However, one is entitled to be angry if one feels that the Government are interfering with something important—namely proper scrutiny.

I sat on criminal justice Bills when we were in government, when I listened to Opposition Members and thought, ``Gosh, that is a tedious point. They are going on at tremendous length.'' The Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill was subject to 240 hours of scrutiny, but we did not guillotine it because we felt that it was important. One may argue that we guillotined other legislation, but when it came to Committee we tried to allow the Opposition enough time.

Labour Members may think that we have been going on at great length in this Committee, but the Minister disagreed. He said many times that we were making good points and debating seriously. It is worth remembering the Home Secretary's view when he was in opposition:

``Careful scrutiny is one of the best guarantors of good legislation.''—[Official Report, 20 November 1995; Vol. 267, c. 339.]

On our first day in Committee, the Minister, who was making his first point on the first clause, said:

``Many valid issues have been raised.''—[Official Report, Standing Committee F, 6 February 2001; c. 26.]

In the debate on unlawful street trading, he conceded that we had made a good point:

``I am ready to think again about the hon. Gentleman's point and see whether we might consider widening the scope in the way he suggested.''—[Official Report, Standing Committee F, 6 February 2001; c. 31.]

In the same debate, the Parliamentary Secretary immediately accepted one of our amendments. He said:

``The amendment deals with whether subsection (5) should be changed so that positive resolution procedure was required.''—[Official Report, Standing Committee F, 6 February 2001; c. 38.]

He then agreed that that should happen.

In the afternoon sitting, the Minister said:

``This is an entirely legitimate debate. There was a wide range of evidence from different bodies in the consultation process.''

He continued:

``I was at pains to tell the hon. Gentleman that his amendment was perfectly reasonable.''—[Official Report, Standing Committee F, 6 February 2001; c. 79-81.]

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green (Mr. McCabe) has also expressed sympathy with our views. He said:

``It would be a mistake if people who, under normal circumstances, were entitled to criminal compensation found themselves deprived.''—[Official Report, Standing Committee F, 6 February 2001; c. 86.]

In a later sitting, the Minister described an Opposition amendment as ``perfectly well meaning.'' He also discussed the Opposition's many contributions to

``what was nevertheless a serious debate''.—[Official Report, Standing Committee F, 13 February 2001; c. 105.]

He mentioned that we had made ``points of substance''.

The Minister also applauded the serious approach to the Committee adopted by my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate. He referred to

``the spirit of constructive inquiry.''—[Official Report, Standing Committee F, 13 February 2001; c. 146.]

He said:

``I commend the issues identified by Opposition Members for inclusion in the guidance . . . Some of the issues that have been identified, particularly in relation to restorative justice, are serious and appropriate.''—[Official Report, Standing Committee F, 13 February 2001; c. 166-7.]

Who made those suggestions? It was my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Bedfordshire, the former Attorney-General, who has been so castigated today. He is also a member of the Standards and Privileges Committee. It had important business that clashed with the business of this Committee. He was entitled to be away from the sitting. He should not be criticised.

Photo of Oliver Heald Oliver Heald Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Not at the moment.

The attitude of the Opposition to the Bill is not wrong. The criticism of my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath with regard to the Criminal Bar Association is misplaced. I have read the file of submissions that came from outside bodies about fixed penalty notices. The Criminal Bar Association was referred to because it was the only organisation to come up with a detailed analysis of the Bill. I do not accept the charge that my hon. Friend has misbehaved. The length of time spent on clause 1 was not unreasonable, given the Minister's own comments, which I hope will be documented fully in the record of our proceedings. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Bedfordshire should not be criticised. In fact, he has made some acute legal points, which Ministers have acknowledged as such.

That brings me back to whether the Committee was allowed enough time in the first place. The Minister must agree that I am always consistent about the matter. Not enough time has been allocated to us. A 132-clause Bill such as this probably needs 18 to 20 sittings. Originally, he offered us 16. He went back on that proposal after the Sub-Committee met and offered us 14. It is wrong to say, ``You've had evening sessions on Tuesday. They can count as extra sittings.'' They do not.

The original proposal was that we could sit on Tuesday evenings. It did not mention our having to finish at a particular time. If it had, we would have opposed it. We were entitled to long Tuesdays. We wanted extra days, which we have not had. It was extremely bad to offer that timetable and to mislead the House—inadvertently, I am sure. The Minister told the House that we would have 16 sittings. He then offered 14. He is now offering us 15, and we are supposed to be grateful. We are not.

The programme motion suggests that, on the last day, we should deal with 50 clauses and the remaining schedules. It is laughable. The Opposition should not be treated like that. It was always the case that, for a Committee to be guillotined, members had to have misbehaved. It was an insult to the Opposition to guillotine a Committee. In this case, I do not think that the Government have reached their decision because of time wasting. It has been done to fit in with their election timetable. It is an outrage. The Minister said that I used bad language towards him. I did not use bad language in the sense of calling him anything personal, but I am annoyed about the matter and he should be privately, quietly ashamed. If we want proper democracy in this country, the ability to debate matters and to ensure that matters are subjected to the careful scrutiny to which the Home Secretary referred, we need time to make our points.

I agree with the Minister that we should be able to debate Huntingdon Life Sciences next Tuesday. I want to do that. It was my idea, and it is important to people who want scientists to be protected. However, he need not take credit for that. We suggested such a debate. The fact that he agrees is good, but it does not get away from the fact that, overall, the timetable is a sorry disgrace.

Photo of Paul Clark Paul Clark Labour, Gillingham

Bearing in mind the comments that have been made about the procedure of the Programming Sub-Committee not being recorded, I do not intend to deal with what might have happened. I want to deal with the facts. The Opposition's position vis-a-vis programming motions is well known. It is not officially recorded in terms of the Sub-Committee, but it is well known and well documented from the Floor of the House and in our proceedings from columns 3 to 11 of the Official Report of the Committee's proceedings. That is clearly laid out. We can repeat that ad infinitum, but we are using up time in which we could be looking at the issues that matter and delivering the provisions of the Bill—which is, I suspect, what we all want to do.

The hon. Member for North-East Hertfordshire has just talked about the business of wanting to deliver, and to discuss properly the new clauses. The new resolution from the Programming Sub-Committee picks up what is clearly recorded in the Official Report, when the hon. Gentleman said that the most important issues were being raised under the new clauses

``but they will not be considered until the end of the Committee.''—[Official Report, Standing Committee F, 6 February 2001; c. 6.]

Clearly, that issue has been taken on board in the new programming motion because of concerns expressed not only by Opposition Members but by my hon. Friends and other interested parties.

Photo of Paul Clark Paul Clark Labour, Gillingham

No, I will not, because time is short.

The matter has been taken on board and clearly laid out in the new resolution. With due respect, we talk about wanting proper democracy. I would not disagree, but I suspect that proper democracy for Mr. and Mrs. Smith in Gillingham or, dare I suggest, for Mr. and Mrs. Smith in North-East Hertfordshire is about how they can go about their business without the threat of being abused in the street, meeting drunken people with disorderly behaviour, or people trespassing on the railways. That is clearly what is in the interests of democracy. I would suggest that were we to discuss with our constituents the number of hours that are programmed to deliver the Bill, they would want the provisions to be delivered rather than for us to devote endless hours to them.

I accept that there is always a case to be made for giving a Bill endless hours of discussion. However, when we have got on with business—on Tuesday, for example—as the Minister suggested, many good points arose from proper and sensible discussion. Clearly, we should be trying to deliver what is in the interests of people and democracy in a proper way, with reasonable opportunity for discussion in Committee.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

My hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Jackie Ballard) and I will oppose the motion. We made our opposition to the timetable apparent at the beginning, and things have got worse rather than better. First, by virtue of the fact that we now have sittings on Thursday mornings that stop before the House sits, we effectively get only one and a half hours. In the old days, morning sittings were normally two and a half hours, so on each of those three occasions, we lose one hour, making three in total. We sat late for half an hour on one occasion and for an hour and ten minutes on the other. Therefore, we have hardly made up the lost time that has not been allocated by late sittings.

Secondly, there is now a proposal before the Committee that we make up for the lost time in an additional sitting. In itself, that is welcome, but it is scheduled for Wednesday morning. The business in Westminster Hall at that time is a debate on the United Nations convention on human rights, in which some of us have an interest that falls directly within our responsibilities. It is hardly convenient or sensible for a Committee on home affairs business to be sitting when there is a direct relationship with other business that we may want to attend.

We are perfectly happy that the new clauses come at the end of the section that we are dealing with in schedule 1—that is entirely proper. However, I have just observed that we now have a guillotine that requires us, by the end of next Tuesday, to deal with underage drinking, travel restrictions, intimidation of witnesses, other witness matters, the curfew issue—which is extremely controversial—and disclosure of material. The Government have already tabled seven new clauses and 43 amendments to be debated by the end of that time.

A proper Committee structure does not allow time to debate such a proposal. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Gillingham (Mr. Clark). If our constituents realised how intent our Government so often are in so many ways on pushing through legislation, when most Labour Back Benchers say nothing most of the time and the only chance to scrutinise is given to Opposition Members who are willing to speak up and time is so limited, they would find our democracy increasingly unrepresentative. That will discredit the hon. Gentleman's party in government as well as Parliament as a whole.

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath

I was the Member who sat through the entire Programming Sub-Committee, although I am not a member of it, to observe its proceedings. In his personally directed remarks about my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Bedfordshire, a distinguished former Attorney-General, the Minister once again lived down to my expectations. You, Mr. Gale, have pointed out that it is only a parliamentary convention that hon. Members should be warned in advance if another Member wants to make remarks about them. The Minister said that he has not done so on this occasion. For Ministers of State deliberately to ignore a parliamentary convention that has been observed down the years is appalling. As my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hertfordshire says, the Minister should be ashamed of himself. However, I do not expect the Minister to be ashamed of himself.

Listening to the Minister for the first time, some people might believe that he sometimes gives the impression of being reasonable. Those of us who have got to know him during consideration of previous Bills know that whenever the Minister has an opportunity to make an attack he does so below the belt in precisely the way that he did about my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Bedfordshire this morning. I believe that he will come to regret that. It was, as my hon. Friend the Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray) says, disgraceful.

I am present, and I—

It being 30 minutes after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, The Chairman put the Question, pursuant to Order [7 November 2000.]

Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Conservative, Reigate

On a point of order, Mr. Gale.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

I am not taking a point of order during a Division.

Question put:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 10, Noes 6.

Division number 18 Adults Abused in Childhood — TABLE
SittingProceedingsTime for conclusion of proceedings
9thClauses 27 to 45 (so far as not previously concluded), Schedule 1, New Clauses, Clauses 46 to 49, Schedule 2, Clauses 50 to 69, Schedule 3
10thClauses 27 to 45 (so far as not previously concluded), Schedule 1, New Clauses, Clauses 46 to 49, Schedule 2, Clauses 50 to 69, Schedule 3
11thClauses 27 to 45 (so far as not previously concluded), Schedule 1, New Clauses, Clauses 46 to 49, Schedule 2, Clauses 50 to 69, Schedule 3
12thClauses 27 to 45 (so far as not previously concluded), Schedule 1, New Clauses, Clauses 46 to 49, Schedule 2, Clauses 50 to 69, Schedule 310.00 pm
13thClauses 70 to 851 pm
14thClause 86, Schedule 4, Clauses 87 to 101, Schedule 5, Clauses 102 to 106, Schedule 6, Clauses 107 to 127, Schedule 7, Clauses 128 to 131, Schedule 8, Clause 132, new Schedules
15thClause 86, Schedule 4, Clauses 87 to 101, Schedule 5, Clauses 102 to 106, Schedule 6, Clauses 107 to 127, Schedule 7, Clauses 128 to 131, Schedule 8, Clause 132, new Schedules5 pm"

Aye: 10 MPs

No: 6 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved,

That the Programming Order of the Committee of 6th February be amended—

(1) in paragraph (1), by inserting at the end the words ``and on Wednesday 7th March at half-past Ten o'clock''.

(2) in paragraph (3), by substituting ``15'' for ``14''

(3) in paragraph (4)—

(a) by inserting the words ``New Clauses'' after the words ``Schedule 1''; and

(b) by omitting the words ``New Clauses'' where they appear after the words ``Clause 132'';

(4) by substituting the following for paragraph (5)—

``(5) the proceedings at the 9th to 15th sittings shall be as shown in the second column of the Table below and (so far as not previously concluded) shall be brought to a conclusion at the times specified in the third column of that Table.