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Mr Williams, it is a pleasure to speak under your chairmanship today. I will briefly respond to the shadow Minister’s remarks. I do not accept what he says and I want to set out the chronology. I am surprised that he has indicated that he has not had enough time to prepare the list of witnesses and to get everyone he wanted here.
The Bill has existed in the form that the Committee will consider today since May 2013. It was also subject to extensive pre-legislative scrutiny by the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport. Unofficial conversations then took place between the Government Whip and Opposition Whip on Wednesday 30 October when it was agreed that there would be two evidence sittings and two scrutiny sittings. That was nearly two weeks prior to today’s hearing, so I suggest that the shadow Minister was on notice then that oral evidence was to be heard.
At Second Reading, which was on 5 November, the official Opposition chose not to vote against the programme motion or the motion to extend the Committee when the error was discovered. That is nothing to do with the time element for getting witnesses to today’s sitting and the two should not be conflated. The Opposition have had plenty of time to voice concerns about the timings and it is a shame that the issue was raised with me for the first time last night.
Notwithstanding that, I note that we shall be hearing from a very, very impressive list of witnesses today. In the knowledge that those who were unable to attend will be able to submit written evidence, and considering the extensive pre-legislative scrutiny, I hope the hon. Gentleman does not intend to delay this short but important and much needed Bill any further.