Nationality and Borders Bill

– in a Public Bill Committee on 19th October 2021.

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[Sir Roger Gale in the Chair]

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet 9:25 am, 19th October 2021

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to what will be for some of you the first sitting of a Committee for a very long time, and for others probably the first sitting of a Public Bill Committee. Please switch electronic devices to silent. I am afraid that food and drink are not allowed in the Committee Room, so if any Member feels obliged to get a coffee or something, I am afraid they have to drink it outside in the corridor. Water, of course, is permitted.

Members are encouraged to wear masks when they are not speaking, in line with current Government guidance and that of the House of Commons Commission. Please also give each other and members of staff space when seated and when entering. I shall mainly not be wearing a mask, I am afraid, because my glasses steam up and I need to be able to see my papers. I mean no discourtesy to any Members who feel either inclined or obliged to wear a mask. Hansard will be grateful if Members could email their speaking notes to hansardnotes@parliament.uk.

The format of the Committee Room this morning is slightly changed as a result of the pandemic. It is a sadness to me and to the Clerks that civil servants are now required to sit in the Public Gallery rather than where they would normally sit, along the side. That makes life slightly difficult for parliamentary private secretaries, who may wish to communicate messages from the civil service to the Minister. I gather that that is now done electronically, but if there is a problem please let me know. I hope that the system will work, but we need to know if there is a difficulty.

We are about to commence line-by-line consideration of the Bill. Before we do that, at the risk of teaching granny to suck eggs, I will give a very modest tutorial. I am fully aware that, as Committees have not sat for some time, there will be Members present who have never sat on a Public Bill Committee. Even those who have and, dare I say it, even Chairmen sometimes get things wrong or do not understand what is going on. It is a fairly arcane process. All the papers that are needed, in case you have not already worked this out for yourselves, are on the table in front of me. You are not supposed to walk in front of the Chair, but I will not bite your head off if you suddenly find that you need a paper that you do not have, so feel free to come and get it. I should have said at the start that when I am in the Chair—this may not be the case with Ms McDonagh; it is up to her to decide—if Members wish to remove their jackets they may do so. Given the weather, you may not wish to.

Coming to the selection list, which I hope you all have a copy of, you will note that amendments are grouped by subject of debate, which may or may not be in the order that the Bill dictates. The order is dictated by subject matter, not the sequence in which amendments have been tabled. That is why you will find that the groupings appear to be out of order. The first grouping—amendments 29 and 84—relates to clause 1, so that is pretty straightforward. The second grouping under clause 1 relates not only to clause 1 but to other clauses. If you wish later to move an amendment, only the lead amendment may be moved. Therefore, amendment 29 may be moved, but not amendment 84, and amendment 8 but not the rest of the group. The other amendments may be moved when they are reached in the Bill. The amendments to clause 10 will be debated now but moved formally when we reach clause 10.

I am sure that is as clear as mud, but it will become clear. If Members have doubts about this or any other procedure, please do not hesitate to ask; like the man from the Inland Revenue, we are here to help you.

Not all amendments will be moved. All Government amendments will be moved, but if an Opposition Member wants to move an amendment that does not appear at the start of a group, please tell us. The Clerk will note it and you will be asked to move it at the right point in the Bill.

I hope that is relatively clear. Unlike in proceedings on the Floor of the House, any Member who wishes to speak should indicate as much to the Chair—I do not have second sight. We will try to accommodate you. You may intervene more than once in Committee, whereas only one speech may be made of the Floor of the House.

At the end of clause 1 there will be a stand part debate, offering an opportunity to debate the whole clause, as amended. If I consider that every conceivable thing that can, should or needs to be said about clause 1 has already been said, I shall not permit a stand part debate: that is in my gift, not yours. I always say that you may have one bite of the cherry, but not two. I normally allow a fairly wide-ranging debate on the first group of amendments—Siobhain might take a different view—but please bear it in mind that if you avail yourself of the opportunity I am unlikely to permit a stand part debate: you cannot say the same thing twice.

I shall try to guide you as we go along, but I am probably no less rusty than you. Let us see how we get on.