Criminal Justice and Police Bill

– in a Public Bill Committee on 7th March 2001.

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[Mr. Roger Gale in the Chair]

Photo of James Gray James Gray Conservative, North Wiltshire 10:30 am, 7th March 2001

On a point of order, Mr. Gale. I welcome you back to the Chair. You may not have spotted from reading the Hansard report that yesterday, at least in theory, the Committee considered 24 clauses, 41 Opposition amendments, 27 Government amendments, 13 new clauses and nine Government new clauses that covered 13 pages of closely printed script. Today we are due to consider 16 clauses, 36 amendments and four Government amendments, and tomorrow, amazingly, we have 53 clauses and schedules to consider, including six Government amendments.

This week's programming is bringing our proceedings into disrepute, because the Opposition are being given no opportunity to consider the Bill. The nation will be watching us, because we are dealing with important matters, on many of which there is broad cross-party agreement, but we are not being given the opportunity to consider them.

Is it possible to reconvene the Programming Sub-Committee once again, so that it can consider asking the House for an extension of the out date to 13 March, not least because an early election now seems less likely?

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

Further to that point of order, Mr. Gale. I join the hon. Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. Gray) in requesting you to reconvene the Programming Sub-Committee. He used the word ``considered'', but the truth is that little was considered yesterday: many changes were made at the guillotine, without debate. Given the extreme unlikelihood of an early dissolution, we now have the opportunity to rethink the timetable so that we can consider the rest of the Bill in an orderly fashion and without delay. Indeed, completion within the next fortnight seems entirely possible.

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

Further to that point of order, Mr. Gale. Has the Minister approached you to give an estimate of how many clauses he expects not to be debated today? Yesterday, 25 clauses and 44 amendments, all on important matters, were not discussed. If he has not approached you, would you consider using your power to reconvene the Programming Sub-Committee, so that the matter can be reflected on and the date put back?

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

Further to that point of order, Mr. Gale. The Committee will recall that, at the most recent meeting of Programming Sub-Committee, the Government offered not to impose a guillotine last night at 10 pm or today at 1 pm, on an understanding about the clauses that we should have reached—we would have had to sit through the night yesterday and this evening—but no such agreement was made.

The Committee will also recall that there was no Division on the clauses that were agreed to at the end of yesterday's sitting. The Committee will further recall that a substantial amount of party political badinage took place yesterday, which was not encouraged by Labour Members. Finally, the Committee will recall that, as I said yesterday evening, although some Opposition new clauses were in order, they were designed to make various party political points prior to the election. We believe that the Committee has had adequate time to consider the Bill, and we shall carry it through. That is the Government's position.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

I do not propose to allow the Committee to get into a prolonged debate, because the matters that concern the Chairman—that is what points of order are about—are clear. The sittings of the Committee and the guillotines within those sittings were a matter for decision by the Committee, following a second meeting of the Programming Sub-Committee. For the moment, therefore, they are set in concrete, and the Chairman has no power or right to interfere. I have made it abundantly plain, and I know that Mr. Hood, my co-Chairman, shares this view, that if the Committee wants a further sitting of the Programming Sub-Committee, the Chairman is here to serve.

If, this morning, the usual channels agree—that would be the most courteous way forward—to hold a further sitting of the Programming Sub-Committee, I am prepared to convene one immediately after the guillotine falls this morning. That is not a matter for me. It is entirely a matter for agreement between the usual channels and the parties. If there is no agreement, and one party formally requests a meeting of the Programming Sub-Committee, I shall have to exercise my judgment. I would prefer to think that, as is custom and practice, the usual channels will manage to hammer this out in the Corridor outside.

I shall make one other point, as these issues have been raised, and as there has been reference to matters of record. I have not had the opportunity to read the Hansard reports of yesterday's proceedings in Committee, to which I was not privy. I have, however, had drawn to my attention exchanges that took place on the Floor of the House while I was absent on parliamentary business yesterday. I note that a reference was made—although not by a member of this Committee—to filibustering in this Committee. I wish to place it plainly on record that Mr. Hood and I, as Chairmen, and all the members of the Chairmen's Panel, both deprecate acrimony—although we cannot altogether control it—and, more importantly, will not tolerate filibustering.

So far as I am concerned, there has been no filibustering—at least, up until yesterday, for which I cannot speak, but I am sure that Mr. Hood would not have tolerated it. We should now move to the business of the day before we waste any further time.