European Parliamentary and Local Elections (Pilots) Bill

Part of the debate – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:30 am on 30th October 2003.

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Photo of David Heath David Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 9:30 am, 30th October 2003

Thank you, Mr. Cook. I welcome you to the Chair this morning. My contribution will be slightly shorter than that of the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins).

The Government were entirely humiliated on Tuesday. Their defeat in Committee was caused by the rather lackadaisical approach of some Labour Members. However, since then, we have had a coming together of minds. The Government have shown some common sense, in that at last they have been prepared to negotiate and discuss the Opposition parties' timing requirements rather than take them as read.

We object to programme motions when we are not consulted and are told what is an appropriate time for the Opposition to give proper scrutiny to a Bill. The Government then push through the measure on a majority vote. That is unacceptable. It is not the way to conduct effective business in this House. That is why we opposed the programme motion before the full House, and we opposed it on Tuesday for precisely the same reasons.

As I said, since then we have had consultation. I have made representations, as has my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole. We said that we felt that we needed a full Committee day in addition and that we wanted normal starting times to give us the time to do our work properly. The Government, having been forced into a humiliating defeat, realised that the game was up and that they had to retreat. They have done so, and it therefore seems entirely ridiculous now to oppose what we asked for. I have to say to the hon. Member for Surrey Heath that I was very surprised to see the Conservatives voting in the Chamber yesterday against an additional day of sittings for this Bill. It seems perverse to vote against the extra time allocation for which we asked.