Private Security Industry Bill [Lords]

– in a Public Bill Committee on 10th April 2001.

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[Mr. Nicholas Winterton in the Chair]

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield 9:55 am, 10th April 2001

I am sure that the Committee's proceedings will be conducted in an agreeable and constructive manner, and that I will not often need to intervene.

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

I beg to move

That—

(1) during proceedings on the Private Security Industry Bill [Lords] the Standing Committee do meet on Tuesday 10th April at five minutes to Ten o'clock and, from Tuesday 24th April, on Tuesdays at half-past Ten o'clock and half-past Four o'clock and on Thursdays at five minutes to Ten o'clock and half-past Two o'clock;

(2) 7 sittings in all shall be allotted to the consideration of the Bill by the Committee; and

(3) proceedings on the bill shall be brought to a conclusion at the seventh sitting at Seven o'clock.

I welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Winterton. Although I have not previously served under your chairmanship in a Committee of the House, I have served under your chairmanship in Westminster Hall. I am sure that every member will adopt the spirit in which you introduced the Committee's proceedings. The resolution of the Programming Sub-Committee is the first expression of that spirit, as it was agreed unanimously.

The motion proposes that there should be seven substantive sittings. However, there is an expectation that an eighth sitting might be necessary, although that is not a requirement. If an extra sitting is needed, it will be convened on a more convenient occasion than this afternoon. I reassert the commitment that I gave in the House concerning that extra sitting. If the Committee's discussions are as constructive as the Chairman predicted and if it transpires that there is not sufficient time to discuss substantive issues, the Government would be willing for the Programming Sub-Committee to reconvene to arrange further sittings. However, as we wish to conclude matters by 1 May, we would not support extra sittings if they were scheduled to take place after that date.

If the Opposition wish to debate the issues in a different order from that currently proposed, we would constructively consider any guidance that they might give to the Programming Sub-Committee about that.

I hope that the Committee will agree to the Programming Sub-Committee's resolution, as it provides for ample time to discuss the Bill.

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

I welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Winterton. Unlike the Minister, I have previously served under your chairmanship on Bill and statutory instrument Committees, and I know that you will attend to your duties with your customary forthright independence.

I agree with the Minister that the Bill should proceed smoothly. The Government and the official Opposition do not have any disagreements concerning the Programming Sub-Committee's resolution. We have agreed to the programme motion and to the fact that one of the sitting times may have to be extended, if the need arises, to provide for eight sittings. There is no difference between the Government and the official Opposition about that.

I shall repeat a point that I raised during the proceedings of the Programming Sub-Committee. The official Opposition's strong and consistent view is that all proceedings of such Committees should be minuted and form part of the Official Report.

As this Committee's deliberations appear in Hansard, it is important to place it on record that my hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale)—who chaired the Committee considering the Criminal Justice and Police Bill on which the Minister and I served—has indicated that he believes, as do we, that it would be helpful for the Liaison Committee, the Chairmen's Panel and the Modernisation Committee to consider minuting all future Programming Sub-Committees. His opinion arises because of disputes that occurred in the Criminal Justice and Police Bill. The matter would be a decision for the House when the Chairmen's Panel and the Committees have considered it.

We believe that the matter is important because an official record would mean that there could be no dispute about what was said, and not said, in the Sub-Committee. There will be no dispute about what was said in this Bill's Programming Sub-Committee, but there has been in other Bills. There were good reasons for the creation of Hansard in the 19th century, which were to ensure that there was no misunderstanding of proceedings, and a clear record. That must apply equally to Programming Sub-Committees.

It would also be useful for the Modernisation of the House of Commons Committee, the Liaison Committee and the Chairmen's Panel to consider whether it would be appropriate for all members of the Standing Committee to be allowed to attend and speak in the Programming Sub-Committee, even if they were not allowed to vote. Presently, there is the ridiculous position that even Front-Bench Members are not officially members of the Programming Sub-Committee. The situation may arise, as it did in the Criminal Justice and Police Bill, when Front-Bench Members could attend the Programming Sub-Committee, but could neither speak nor vote. I place on record the official Opposition's view that that must be reconsidered, and we will continue to raise the matter until it is resolved.

We appreciate the Government's assistance in indicating that they are prepared to contemplate a proposal from the official Opposition to consider matters in a different order, if the need arises as proceedings continue. We may take the Government up on that, although it is difficult to predict how matters will progress. Presently, we do not have such a proposal, as we have no difficulties with the programming motion, and we hope that seven or eight sittings will be sufficient.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

I thank both hon. Members for their agreeable remarks. I have noted the comments of the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins). Clearly the matter that he raised will be considered by the Chairmen's Panel, the Modernisation of the House of Commons Committee and, no doubt, the Liaison Committee. By chance, I sit on both Committees and the Chairmen's Panel, so the hon. Gentleman may be assured that the matter will be properly aired, and that recommendations will be made.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That—

(1) during proceedings on the Private Security Industry Bill [Lords] the Standing Committee do meet on Tuesday 10th April at five minutes to Ten o'clock and, from Tuesday 24th April, on Tuesdays at half-past Ten o'clock and half-past Four o'clock and on Thursdays at five minutes to Ten o'clock and half-past Two o'clock;

(2) 7 sittings in all shall be allotted to the consideration of the Bill by the Committee; and

(3) proceedings on the bill shall be brought to a conclusion at the seventh sitting at Seven o'clock.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

I remind the Committee that there is a financial resolution in connection with the Bill, copies of which are available in the Committee Room. I also remind the Committee that adequate notice should be given of all amendments. As a general rule, my co-Chairman, Mr. Benton and I do not intend to call starred amendments. Clause 1 The Security Industry Authority