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|Proceedings||Time for conclusion of proceedings|
|Clauses 1, 3 to 5, 76 to 78, 2||6.55 p.m. on Tuesday 9th September|
|Clauses 6 to 16, 74, 17 to 31, 65, 66, 32 to 46||6.55 p.m. on Tuesday 16th September|
|Clauses 47 to 57, Schedule 1, Clauses 58 to 64, 67 to 73, Schedule 2, Clauses 75, 79 and 80||5.15 p.m. on Thursday 18th September|
|Clause 81, Schedule 3, Clauses 82 to 102, Schedule 4, Clauses 103 to 136, Schedule 5, Clause 137, Schedule 6, Clauses 138 to 140, new Clauses, new Schedules and any remaining proceedings on the Bill||7 p.m. on Tuesday 14th October|
Sexual Offences Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:10 am on 9th September 2003.
It is good to see you in the Chair, Mr. Griffiths. I am sure that the Committee will make excellent progress under your guidance. I do not wish to detain it speaking to the programme motion, but it is important to acknowledge at the start of our proceedings the historical significance of what we are about to discuss. It is almost 50 years since Parliament considered a comprehensive sexual offences Bill, and even then, in 1956, the Bill was a consolidation of existing legislation, so we should not underestimate the significance of the Bill that we are about to debate.
As happened on Second Reading, I am sure that members of the Committee will search for common ground. Given the policy under discussion, it is natural that we wish to work together and, in that spirit, I give the Committee a couple of assurances. First, despite the tight deadlines that the Committee is up against, Ministers will be as open as possible and provide maximum information about amendments and so on to all members of the Committee. Secondly, I acknowledge the important work of and the contributions made by voluntary bodies and many
organisations outside the House, including the Metropolitan police, who gave us an excellent presentation yesterday on Operation Sapphire. We appreciate the important contributions made by such organisations in helping us to think matters through.
Finally, while a clear timetable and framework are set down in the programme motion, we will be as flexible as possible. When issues are raised that require considered debate, we will do everything possible to make sure that such discussions are full and frank.
I welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Griffiths, and the Minister to the Committee. As the Under-Secretary knows, the Opposition's approach will be one of co-operation. We shall try to ensure that this important legislation goes on to the statute book in good condition. It is clear that many aspects of the Bill are common ground between all political parties, even though there may be some anxiety about its details, which we shall consider during our discussions in Committee.
As the Under-Secretary knows, Opposition parties do not much care for programme motions on the whole. However, I am reassured by his words about the flexibility that will be built into the system. We shall endeavour to ensure that we reach the end of the Bill knowing that every part of it has been scrutinised properly. I am sure that, with the Ministers' co-operation, we will achieve that aim. We are undertaking important work and I look forward to co-operating with all members of the Committee to that end.
I echo the welcome to you, Mr. Griffiths.
I too welcome the spirit of co-operation. It was almost a joy to participate in the debate on Second Reading. For the first time, I felt that hon. Members on both sides of the House were searching for the right answers for our society. With that in mind, we will play a positive role in scrutiny of the Bill. We will want to make sure that we debate those issues about which we are concerned, and that we find the right words to solve some of the problems that worry us all in view of the difficulty of striking the right balance in the Bill between protection and criminalisation. We look forward to playing a full part in the proceedings and serving under your chairmanship, Mr. Griffiths.
I, too, welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Griffiths.
Tribute should also be paid to the constructive approach taken to the Bill in their lordship's House by both Government and Opposition Benches. I pay particular tribute to my noble Friend Baroness Noakes. The Bill was better when it left the House of Lords than when it started there. I join my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) in saying that we shall approach the Bill constructively.
Question put and agreed to.
I remind hon. Members that they must give adequate notice of amendments. I do not, as
a general rule, intend to call starred amendments, including any that may be reached during an afternoon sitting. I also remind hon. Members to switch off their mobile phones.