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Mr. Gorst : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am not disputing your ruling in any way, but my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House itemised the matters for which he was allowing sufficient time. I was pointing out that there might not be sufficient time for us to consider the question of human rights.
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. The hon. Gentleman makes the point that it is essential to the discussion of the Bill. We are not discussing the Bill ; we are discussing the allocation of time motion. Mr. Dobson.
Mr. Dobson : In earlier debates in Committee and on Second Reading, there have been references to conflicts between the European convention on human rights and the provisions of the Bill. That is one reason why my right hon. and hon. Friends and some Conservative Members want more time to debate the Bill--to have the opportunity to expose the problems which arise on the European convention on human rights. I must tell the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst) that the convention is more qualified than he suggested.
Everybody agrees that the Bill infringes our civil liberties. Some of the changes infringe our civil liberties more than they have been infringed already. The hon. Member--
The Secretary of State for Education and Science recently appointed a national curriculum working group for history. He told it : "The study of history in schools should help pupils come to understand how a free and democratic society has developed over the centuries".
As a schoolboy and as a student, I, like many others, studied just that-- how our freedoms and democracy developed. Anybody who studies their development must conclude that it took a lot of effort. It was an uphill struggle. People at the bottom had to push democratic rights against all manner of obstruction from people at the top. When we study the development of our democracy, certain events, movements and individuals stand out, but they are not all on the same side. There are two lists. There are those who worked to extend democracy and those who worked against it.
Whatever the period being studied, one thing is fairly predictable--Home Secretaries seldom feature in the roll of honour. Home Secretaries are the ones against whom writs of habeas corpus are issued, who wrongfully arrest people, who issue general warrants, who suspend the law of habeas corpus, who nobble juries or even contrive, with their Dorset relatives, to get the Tolpuddle martyrs transported to Australia.
Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (Derbyshire, West) : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can you confirm that the same rules of order as apply to Back Benchers apply to Front Benchers, and that this is not a Second Reading debate?
Mr. Dobson : Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Perhaps the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. McLoughlin) will be able to follow what I am saying. With the Bill, the Home Secretary is trying to inscribe his name on the list of his rather more authoritarian predecessors. How they would have loved some aspects of the Bill--its absolute duty of silence, absolute rights for Ministers to decide what is in the public interest and absolute authority to keep their secrets above the law. Until now, the people, the
Column 83press and Parliament have held out against the introduction of such absolutes. I like to hope that the House will hold out again tonight.
Mr. Edward Heath (Old Bexley and Sidcup) : I asked the Leader of the House at business questions on Thursday whether he would change his mind about tonight's motion. As he has not done so, I must again express my regret that he should introduce this motion and the guillotine on this Bill. I do not say, "on the Bill at this stage", but, "on this Bill".
The Home Secretary has himself emphasised the Bill's immense importance. At the conclusion of the debate on Thursday, he paid me the compliment of saying that some of my remarks had gone to the heart of the Bill, which is the relationship between the freedom of the individual and the overriding power of all-powerful Governments. Of course I still think that--it is the basis of the Bill and the important point in it.
There is much to be discussed in the Bill and there is much to be discussed on the amendments, which requires time. I am saddened by the fact that neither in his answer on the business statement on Thursday nor in his speech tonight has the Leader of the House set out a single reason why the guillotine should be introduced on this Bill. There has been absolutely no attempt to protract the time taken on it--when I have listened, and I have listened a great deal--by either side of the House.
At business questions, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House attacked the Opposition for having only 11 Members here for the debate. I would not deny that, nor would I detract from the fact, if it were true, that they were paying very little attention to it, but what concerns me is the fact that the Conservative Benches were filled for most of the time, and it was only towards the end of the debate that one or two of my hon. Friends were prepared to support the Government.
It has been apparent in debate and in remarks afterwards that the Home Secretary has not succeeded in convincing Conservative Members that he has met their points about the relationship between the individual and the Government. We have paid compliments to the Home Secretary and the Government on what they have done since the White Paper, but I must tell my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House that debate on the White Paper is not the same as debate on the Bill and cannot be taken into account when considering the amount of time spent on the Bill. We have had 13 hours of debate so far, and we are promised a total of 30.
What other arguments did my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House use? He said that he must make time for remaining legislation. With the greatest respect, that is not a justification for a guillotine. Our party has been returned to power three times in succession on the basis of our introducing less legislation, because we do not believe in it and because it does not give Parliament proper time to consider what there is. Instead, we have had more and more legislation. It has been ill prepared, half digested and not given proper consideration in the House of Commons. We are coming to rely increasingly on the upper Chamber to deal with legislation instituted by the Government, which comes from this Chamber.
Column 84I am old fashioned enough to think that that is not a good thing. I have never been in favour of abolishing the other place, but nor am I in favour of its having more power, which is what is happening automatically now. It has more time to consider legislation, and it votes boldly according to what it believes to be right. I cannot accept that we have to abbreviate consideration of this Bill to make way for more legislation.
Mr. Budgen : My right hon. Friend has often been attacked by many of our hon. Friends, who reflect that there is a certain irony here. His time as Prime Minister is now described as authoritarian, yet many of our hon. Friends use guillotines such as my right hon. Friend introduced as a precedent for being equally authoritarian. If they wish to attack my right hon. Friend, should they not learn from the mistakes of 1970-74 rather than emulate them?
Mr. Heath : I am delighted that my hon. Friend and I find ourselves together on the same side. I agree with him. I did not wish to introduce a personal element, but I intended to comment briefly on that point, because I see that some of my hon. Friends have been commenting outside the House.
My hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr. Hamilton), who I think is not here this evening--he has to come from rather a long way away--referred to my "rack and thumbscrew days". I was Chief Whip of this party from 1955 to 1959. I can remember those dictatorial and authoritarian days. At that time, my hon. Friend the Member for Tatton was aged six and my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow), who also, unfortunately is not here tonight, was aged 10. Obviously they too were deeply affected by the rack and the thumbscrew so extensively used on those occasions. What is more, I have had the benefit of advice from people in parliamentary offices, and I see that so extensive was our use of those powers as a whole that between 1955 and 1959, during which period I was Chief Whip, the guillotine was used, altogether, twice. I hope that we stand corrected.
Then we had the period of my premiership--1970 to 1974. Of course, in those days we still had Cabinet government, and the business was arranged by the Leader of the House and the Chief Whip, not by me. I see that the Home Secretary is frowning. In those terrible days--they had got much worse by that time--in those four years, the guillotine was used three times. That shows how monstrous my behaviour has been over the years.
Of course, there were those who criticised the action of the then Government over the European Communities Bill 1972--the accession legislation. I was delighted to see my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) in the Lobby with me last Thursday night. I think it is worth reminding ourselves what happened in 1972. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will remember that, before the actual Bill was dealt with, we had seven days' discussion, during which we reached the final decision that led to the Bill--seven days' discussion. When the Bill was introduced we had three full days' discussion. We then had 88 hours in Committee before the guillotine was introduced, and after its introduction we had some 90 hours' further discussion. The European Communities Bill was shorter than this one--it had only 11 clauses--yet that is the amount of time we spent on it. And that was after the Opposition had announced officially, as the right hon.
Column 85Member for Blaenau, Gwent (Mr. Foot) the former leader of the Labour party will remember, that they were determined to break the Bill in any way they possibly could and to use every manoeuvre to do so.
Mr. Heath : Well, we got the Bill. [Interruption.] Yes, we hear the question about the Prices and Incomes Bill. That too was legislation that had to be dealt with at once because it was a matter of national emergency. [Interruption.] It was indeed, and the amount of time spent on it was vast. Nobody can say that this Bill, which reforms an Act that was put on the statute book in 1911, is of such desperate urgency that we cannot treat it properly in debate on the Floor of the Chamber.
I still believe that this guillotine is a great mistake. Let me say two things. First, the Leader of the House announced in his statement tonight that he does not accept in full the recommendation of the Committee on Procedure that every Bill should be timetabled, although he tends to adopt the attitude that most of them will be. In fact, there is no change in attitude here, because under this Government, since 1979, 47 Bills have been guillotined. That is what has been happening.
Of course, consideration of a permanent guillotine for all Bills is nothing new. It was considered in 1959, when Rab Butler was Leader of the House. At that time I was Chief Whip, and I was inclined to favour a permanent arrangement. Since then, I have thought about the matter constantly, and I have been thinking about it in the context of this Bill, and it seems to me that there are very great problems. One is the problem of getting agreement about the initial timetable and about what would happen if one did not get agreement. Secondly, if there were a timetable in respect of every piece of legislation, a large part of the pressure on a Government to consider the views expressed in the House would be removed. Therefore, I would no longer argue that we should have a timetable for every Bill, or even for most Bills.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence), who is also absent tonight, spoke at the end of the debate on Thursday evening. He said that the Bill was absolutely right, that if it were changed to take public interest into account, offences would be committed, and it would be wrong to have offences committed. Now, this seems to me to be an unusual view from a member of the legal profession. However, I quite understand the consequences of it : there will no longer be any requirement for counsel for the defence ; one just has counsel for the prosecution, and they are therefore sure of getting their fees. They do their job : they prosecute, they go away, and everything is settled.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton finished by saying, "Let us have a timetable on everything
Column 86and get away to bed." That is what interested him--not the freedom of the individual, not the position of the state or the Government, not the responsibilities of this House, in legislation, to our constituents and to the country. No, let us get it away and let us get to bed. The only thing that concerns him is how early he can get to bed.
That is my double gibe. I now give way to my hon. Friend.
Dame Elaine Kellett-Bowman : I was observing that it was a quite uncalled for gibe against a very good member of the legal profession. The right hon. Gentleman is very rarely here, so he gets to bed very often.
I urge my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to think again very carefully before working on the basis that all legislation is going to be guillotined in this way.
Mr. Dykes : My right hon. Friend has just referred to the danger of the Government's getting into the habit, as would happen under these arrangements, of paying less attention to what the House says and feeling that less effort is required to get a very heavy programme of legislation through--not only this Bill, but other matters. Is he aware of, and is he disturbed by, the growing reality that the Government are really rather reluctant to accept any amendments suggested in Committee on any Bill whatsoever, other than very marginal amendments involving minuscule technical matters?
Mr. Heath : My hon. Friend has made what is, of course, a very important point. The only thing I could detect from the speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House this evening that justified him was that the Government have had enough of this Bill and they want to be rid of it. Indeed, he said so quite frankly. He said, "We have had enough time on it ; let us get on with something else"--presumably food, since we really must find something we can eat and drink, and that now requires legislation.
Let me follow up my hon. Friend's point. I have said before that I find it unparliamentary that the Government not only take no notice of amendments or proposals but often fail to answer any questions that are put to them in debate. However, I do not want to go into that. All I want to say is that I read with astonishment the leader in The Times today opposing this guillotine. It is not customary for The Times to be out of the hands of the press office at Number 10, but with its leader today that is what happened. The significance of that leader was that it pointed out the danger to this Government of the suspicion outside of Parliament and outside this country that--to use the customary phrase--they are being economical with the truth, that the rest of the world is not being told the whole story. Twice I have asked whether, under the new system, Irangate would become known in this country. No Minister has been prepared to give an answer to that question, because the answer is that it would not become known in this country. All that would have gone on under a Government who could hide and carry through policies
Column 87of that kind, knowing that they were absolutely safe. That must be sorted out. We may not yet have done it ; I do not believe that we have. However, just because we have not done it does not justify a guillotine.
It is fruitless, I know, to ask the Leader of the House to withdraw the motion ; however, I hope that he realises the opposition to it and how basic is that opposition. I hope that he also realises that this procedure should not be followed lightly, certainly not with constitutional Bills, in the future conduct of the business of the House.
Mr. Michael Foot (Blaenau Gwent) : The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) has made, as he did on Thursday, such a speech that he has carried all before him. I cannot imagine how the Government can provide an adequate reply to such a speech as he has delivered. I have to say in parenthesis that I did not quite recognise the beneficent regime that he operated when he was Prime Minister and Chief Whip, although he was right to quote the figures about guillotines. I happened to be in the House at that time and I opposed some of his measures. The speech that the right hon. Gentleman has made today will carry great weight in the country, even if it does not carry the vote in the House--as it should.
I suppose that I ought to be slightly flattered by what the Leader of the House said at the beginning of his speech. He sought to take shelter behind what he said were my actions in order to justify what he is doing. In a roundabout way, I suppose that I could take that as a compliment--not that I think that the right hon. Gentleman wishes to pay me such a compliment. However, there are startling and sharp differences between what happened in my time and what is happening now.
My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) was right to say that it makes a very big difference if the Government have a majority of 130 or 140. That is the kind of majority that this Government enjoy. We had a majority of only two or three. If we had not introduced guillotine motions, there would not have been the slightest chance of passing any legislation. The Government apparatus would have been utterly destroyed. That is very different from the present position. If the Leader of the House had allowed the Bill to go forward according to the normal procedure for debates, the Government's ability to pass this measure and a range of other measures would not have been destroyed.
Another factor, which is interwoven with the point that I have just made, concerns timing. There have been important occasions when guillotine motions have been introduced early in the Session. However, the five excellent measures to which the guillotine was applied in one day, for which I was criticised, were introduced towards the end of a Session. There is a big difference between the introduction of guillotines towards the end of a Session and those that are introduced right at the beginning of a Session. If a guillotine is not introduced for a measure that is being debated towards the end of a Session, the measure will be lost and the legislative programme will collapse. The Leader of the House has no right to compare what was done by the Government at that time with what he is doing now.
Column 88The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup suggested that one of the major reasons for the introduction of the guillotine motion today is because of the huge Government majority. The Government do not care much about the House of Commons. The Prime Minister spends very little time in the House of Commons. She does not worry very much about what happens here. She just says to her Ministers, "Get the business through the House of Commons. It does not matter what kind of measure it is. You have a good majority. You know when to introduce the guillotine at the best time." There has been an appalling deterioration in the way in which legislation is dealt with.
I would bet that the pressure on parliamentary draftsmen during the last two or three years has been growing greater and greater. The drafting of Bills is a very skilled affair. People need time to do it. If parliamentary draftsmen are given only a short time in which to draft Bills, what comes to the House of Commons--or what, which is even more important, spills into the House of Lords--is in an appalling mess. More and more of the measures that the Government have introduced during the last few years have been so shoddy and illiterate and have been presented to the House in such a miserable form that the Leader of the House on a series of occasions, because of the log jam at the end of the Session, has had to introduce guillotine motions to get them through. That is another way in which the House of Commons has not been properly treated.
The prophecy was made by those who were subsequently removed from the Cabinet that the Government's huge majority would have an effect on the way that the country is governed. It has certainly had a huge effect on the way in which Parliament has been mangled and misused. That is happening at an increasing rate. When the Leader of the House introduces a guillotine on this measure, the offence is even greater--though not because it is a constitutional measure. The right hon. Gentleman was right to refer to what happened in 1911, the last time that the Liberal party had the chance to introduce a guillotine.
It is quite true that on constitutional matters--because of the clashes on great issues, both in the country and in this House--guillotine motions have to be introduced in order to ensure that the measures are passed. I am glad that the Leader of the House's education has been improved by reading all my past speeches, but I have never said that there can never be a guillotine on a constitutional measure just because it is a constitutional measure. That would be quite wrong. However, when a Government with a huge majority have nearly a whole Session ahead of them within which to get important measures through, it is wrong of them to choose this measure for a guillotine and to force it through in that way. It is a disgrace both to the House of Commons and to the Leader of the House.
I do not believe that even the Leader of the House would have done it, had he come here to listen to the debates. It was quite often my custom to come and listen to debates in which I did not even participate. It is the duty of the Leader of the House to do that. Before he introduced this motion, knowing what fury it would arouse on both sides of the House, he ought to have listened to the debate. Had he listened to the speech of the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup last Thursday and to previous general debates, I do not believe
Column 89that he would have moved this motion, because he would have heard the demand that the Law Officers should attend the debates. When we ask for the presence of the Government's legal representatives so that they may expound these matters, we do so not because we think that they are the only people who can help us to understand what is provided for in the Bill but because we believe that it is an important issue, particularly when there happen to be such grave differences about the way in which the Bill has been presented. We are discussing legislation that will affect the country for the next 10 or 20 years. It is a disgrace that, after all our demands, not a single Law Officer has come to listen to the debate. The Prime Minister could send her civil servants and Law Officers all over the world to defend her Government, but she did not ask them to come here to listen to what was said in the House of Commons and to give authoritative answers on these matters.
If the Leader of the House was even thinking of introducing a guillotine motion on the Bill, he ought to have taken the trouble to come here and listen to the debate. Anybody who had listened to last Thursday's debate could not honestly have come here today and said that the debate ought to be truncated. Leaders of the House whom I can recall used to listen to the debates and would not have come forward with such a proposition in the circumstances. However, we are in a new situation, thanks largely to the Government's majority, and that is why legislation that is an infringement of civil liberties goes through Parliament.
The Leader of the House or the Home Secretary may be opposed to such legislation, although I am not sure which of those two contenders is most opposed to it. The Football Spectators Bill has been introduced in the House of Lords and it is so appalling that it may be to the Government's credit that they do not have the nerve to introduce it in the House of Commons. They know how shocking that Bill is. When the Bill comes to this House, we shall have to deal with it. It is another example of the way in which the Government act. The Leader of the House must take the chief responsibility because he is the person who should tell the Prime Minister that such legislation should stop and that the House does not want any more of it. He should pluck up his courage to do that.
People used to say--even Conservatives at election times--that a Conservative Government would not have a great legislative programme like previous Labour Governments. Yet more ill-digested, shoddy legislation has been forced through in the past two years than at any time that I can recall. That is due to the fact that the legislative decisions on major matters are made not by the Select Committee on Procedure, where the Leader of the House is supposed to preside, but by the Prime Minister, perhaps on the corrupt advice of Mr. Bernard Ingham, who has now been promoted.
Certainly, the Government would never proceed without that corrupt advice being offered, either first or last. I use that word advisedly because I would not have dared to use it if it had not been so appositely employed by the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup.
The Government, however, have made one change. I recall that in years gone by, the Government used to talk about the legislative machine of Parliament being transformed into a sausage machine. The Leader of the House has at least modernised matters. This is now a factory-farm Parliament : one privatisation measure after
Column 90another has been brought in which has to eat the entrails of its predecessors, so there will be an outbreak of parliamentary salmonella. No one knows where the next outbreak of the disease will be, although it seems that on this Bill, the outbreak is among Conservative Members.
It seems that we may have an intervention in the debate by the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit). He has not attended the previous debates on the Bill, so I hope that the House will give him a proper reception if he tries to give his advice on a debate that he has not heard and does not understand. He comes here merely to serve the Government's interests. I am not sure who else's interests he is serving. There are plenty of those in his subsequent moonlighting career as well.
I hope that the Leader of the House will listen to the debate, and that the Government can learn from it and take back to the Prime Minister the instructions of the House of Commons that we are not going to have any more of it.
Sir Peter Emery (Honiton) : No one who has attended the debate and followed, as I do, the two previous speakers, could comment that there is not some interest in the debate. Seldom have I heard my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath) more humorous, even though I did not always agree with what he was saying.
The right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) referred to the parliamentary draftsmen. I should like him to point out any time when the parliamentary draftsmen were not under pressure. Every Government have kept them under pressure. I was the first--perhaps the only--Minister to venture into their office, just below the Scottish Office, when I had to have some amendments dealt with quickly. It is a place that Ministers are not normally meant to visit. I found then that the permanent view was that parliamentary draftsmen were always under pressure, so that is nothing new in this Parliament or any other.
Equally, that is true of what my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup said. Every Government that I have known since I came to the House in 1959 have said that they wanted less legislation and that they would make legislation simpler and easier for everyone to comprehend. That never comes about and every Government, of whatever politics or party, fall down completely on that.
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) suggested that the guillotine was not necessary because the Government could have used their majority to introduce motions to shorten the debate. But there would have been immense criticism from Labour Members that the power of a majority was being rolled in time and time again to introduce motions to shorten or to close the debate.
Over the past four years, the Select Committee on Procedure has been trying to work for orderly debate. It is wrong for my right hon. Friend to suggest that the Select Committee on Procedure has been working for every piece of legislation to be guillotined. The view of the Committee is that we should do two things. First, we should not waste large amounts of time on the first few clauses of a Bill, so ensuring that later clauses are not debated. Secondly, we should try to ensure that every clause is debated before the
Column 91Bill goes to the House of Lords. If those two conditions could be brought about, the Committee suggests that we should have achieved something.
Mr. Buchan : I believe that the hon. Gentleman is, honourably, in error. It is not correct, as the Home Secretary and the Leader of the House have said, that we have been concentrating on clause 1. Clause 1 is connected to almost all the other clauses and we have been discussing the rest of the Bill in relation to clause 1. Some of the amendments seek to amend later clauses. Those on the Government Front Bench are misleading the House.
Sir Peter Emery : The hon. Gentleman has misunderstood me. I am saying--not only of this Bill but of all Bills--that we are concerned that time is not wasted on the earlier clauses, thus ensuring that there is not a full debate on the later clauses. It seems that if the debates on the remaining amendments to clause 1 had run as long as they had for the first three amendments in the 15 hours of debate, a guillotine would have been introduced much later and we should then not have been able to debate the later clauses.
One of the problems about the use of the timetable procedure is that every time a timetable motion is introduced, we do not debate the motion itself, but have a Second Reading debate. The speech made by the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) was 92 per cent. criticism of the Bill and was more like a Second Reading contribution. It has nothing to do with the timetable.
It would have been better if, on the six occasions last year when we had a half-day's debate on a timetable motion, we could have worked out, from the suggestions of the Select Committee on Procedure, three days of parliamentary time--a considerable amount of time in the overall year-- which could have been used for many other purposes, such as to debate European legislation. The Select Committee on European Legislation would be delighted with that. Alternatively, if extra time could be given to private Members' Bills, Private Members would be delighted. That would be much better than the arid debate tonight and on other occasions when the guillotine is introduced.
Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South) : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for pointing out the need for proper consideration of legislation that arises from the European Economic Community. However, does he agree that one of the fundamental objections to the line that he is pursuing is that, although we would all wish every clause to be given reasonable consideration, if a date has to be set as a result of that desire, the degree of certainty for any Government increases and the degree of uncertainty diminishes. That is an important factor in keeping control of any Government. It should be kept in some uncertainty until the House decides what to do.
Sir Peter Emery : Normally, I have great respect for the hon. Gentleman, but I must say that he is talking as though he were in "Alice in Wonderland". When the Chief Whip decides what legislation is to go through the House, he provisionally marks the dates on which it will come out of Committee, be considered on Report, and go to the House of Lords. If at any time the Government do not
Column 92succeed with that timetable, a guillotine motion is introduced. It is wrong to think that, since 1945, the Opposition have stopped a Bill getting on to the statute book because of the time that has been used in Committee. Never has that happened. Every Government ensure that that does not happen, by introducing guillotine motions.
Sir Peter Emery : When the Labour party was in power, there was certain opposition from hon. Members who are no longer below the Gangway. Guillotines were introduced to deal with any opposition. Governments do not care where opposition comes from. They will go forward with the legislation that they want. Anybody who believes the opposite does not understand what Governments are about.
The opposition to this timetable motion is a lot of nonsense. If it were serious and sincere opposition, why do I not see an amendment to it? The motion is to allow two days for debate. Why is there no amendment to allow three or four days for debate? I should have thought that that is the most obvious step to take if hon. Members were serious. If it is thought that the Government will not provide any extra time in a day, why do I not see an amendment to allow the proceedings to continue until any hour after 10 o'clock?
If the Opposition were serious--two ex-Prime Ministers have spoken about the matter--and if there had been amendments in the name of the Leader of the Opposition, it would have been difficult for the Chair not to select such amendments for debate. Hon. Members could have attracted enough support to ensure an unlimited debate all night for two nights if that would help.
Mr. Rooker : Will the hon. Gentleman give an example of what happens when amendments have been selected by the Chair, bearing in mind the Standing Orders under which we operate when the Government bring forward a guillotine motion? Hon. Members know that that is a waste of time. The amendments would never be put to a Division simply because of the guillotine and the Standing Orders under which we operate.
Sir Peter Emery : There is nothing to stop the Chair selecting any amendment to a guillotine motion. That has happened in the past. If tonight's opposition to the motion were as serious as it might be, it would not be like the froth on the top of a good pint of beer--nothing in substance and easy to blow away.
Mr. Heath : I have been listening with great interest to what my hon. Friend has been saying about the general attitude towards the motion. He says that hon. Members are not being serious. It is because the matter is so serious that we believe that a guillotine should not be applied. I hope that my hon. Friend will recognise that, because of the seriousness of the matter, we are not suggesting an
Column 93hour here or an extra half-hour there. The Home Secretary moved the adjournment on Thursday night--nobody else. We could have stayed here all night discussing the matter and going over further amendments, but the Government chose to move the adjournment, and that was that. I object to being called froth on the top of the beer.
Sir Peter Emery : I understand that my right hon. Friend does not like being called froth on the top of the beer, but he will understand that, if there is agreement between the Opposition Front Bench and the Chief Whip about the time hon. Members want to adjourn, that is what happens. He knows better than most how such arrangements are made.
If there had been a desire to get the Bill through in reasonable time, the ex-Chief Whip would also know that there are methods by which that can be arranged through the usual channels. When that procedure falls down, Governments must resort to a timetable motion, and that is exactly what is happening today.
Before I vote tonight, I want an assurance from the Home Secretary. If the Procedure Committee approach is correct, and I believe that to be the case, I want an assurance from the Home Secretary that in the 16 hours that are available, every clause will be debated--I do not say every amendment--and that every major point will be open to debate. That does not mean a prolonged debate. During the last two days of debate on the Bill, if hon. Members had restricted themselves to 10-minute speeches we would not be in this position today.