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 Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Conservative, Surrey Heath 9:30 am, 30th October 2003

Good morning, Mr. Cook, and welcome to your chairmanship of the proceedings. As you are aware, we had an exciting but rather truncated and abortive first day because of the Government's significant defeat. I believe that that was the first time that the Government have been defeated anywhere in the House of Commons since 2001. Of course, they then used their majority in the Chamber to ram through a revised programme motion against our opposition. We object to all guillotines. To call it a programme motion is entirely inappropriate as it is simply a guillotine. We are against guillotines in principle, and we voted against them on the Programming Sub-Committee.

For those of us who were here on Tuesday, it turned out to be a rather more exciting day than might have been expected. Similarly, the week turned out to be a rather more significant political week than expected. I am indebted to my colleagues for their support, and also to the two Liberal Democrats, the hon. Members for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) and for Mid-Dorset and North Poole (Mrs. Brooke), and to the hon. Member for North Tayside (Pete Wishart) from the Scottish Nationalist party. All Opposition Members were here, as we should have been, and the Government were defeated on the casting vote of your fellow Chairman, Mr. Cook, in the finest tradition of the Chairmen's Panel.

We still oppose guillotines despite the fact that we now have a revised programme motion in which the Government have given us the further time that we

argued for in the original Programming Sub-Committee and in the original debate on programming. We will oppose that guillotine this morning.

Having had two extra days, those of us who were interested have had time to peruse in detail the Electoral Reform Society's observations, which came in Tuesday's post, as I pointed out then, and the papers from the Electoral Commission. I am sure that that information will inform hon. Members from both sides of the Committee who wish to make contributions.

Despite those extra two days and the fact that we now have extra sittings next week, we oppose the programme motion because it is well known that the Opposition object to the way in which the Government use their huge parliamentary majority to ram through guillotines and curtail debate when they have all their people in the right place at the right time, as they did in the Chamber yesterday.