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

My hon. Friend makes a valuable point. We shall have to see. Unfortunately, Opposition Members are not in control. The Government may find that their Members do not turn up again, as on Tuesday, no doubt because of the huge doubts on the Government Benches about the legislation. Those doubts were apparent in the speech made by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Davidson) on Second Reading. Mysteriously, despite his enormous ability, expertise and interest in the legislation, he was excluded from the Committee. The Government are in control, and they are determined to ram through the legislation and to stifle debate. So we shall have to see.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend, East (Sir Teddy Taylor) that the clashes between the timing of Committees and the business of the main Chamber are unfortunate. As he knows, at every stage, I opposed from the Front Bench the ridiculous new hours that the Government sought to inflict on the House, because they exacerbate the

clashes. Many of my hon. Friends have opposed them as well.

Although the previous Leader of the House and former Foreign Secretary, who is now on the Back Benches, the right hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook), was keen on the new sitting hours, the new part-time Leader of the House—who is also part-time Secretary of State for Wales—the right hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain) indicated in an exchange with the shadow Leader of the House, my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), that he was not so keen on the new Committee hours. That was in September at business questions. I was on the Front Bench, next to my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst, and I heard the Leader of the House say that.

There must be some hope—this is the only long-term comfort that I can offer my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend, East—that if the new Leader of the House is allowed full rein in his view, as he is not keen on early starts to Committees or the new revised hours, we may return to the more traditional hours in Committee and in the House. [Interruption.] I am delighted that the Government Whip, the hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Ms Prentice), supports me on the issue of hours. She is being unusually vocal for a Government Whip, and I welcome that.