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8.38 pm

Mrs. Beckett: First, let me respond to the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young) by saying that, like him, I regret the tone of some of the debate, and hope that, in future, the Select Committee will return to its customary comradely tone. I shall certainly bear in mind what he said about the Main Committee. At first, it was not entirely plain to me whether he had proposed an early debate on the matter. Perhaps that is what he means, and we can certainly discuss that through the usual channels.

I regretted, and was perhaps a little surprised by, the tone of some of the debate, but I suppose that I should not have been. Despite what he said a moment ago, the right hon. Gentleman in his opening remarks made the ridiculous proposition that in some way in the past 18 months this Parliament has become less central to the life of the nation. That suggestion was comprehensively blown out of the water by the right hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Mr. Maclennan), who made the pertinent point that it was complete nonsense, and that the role and treatment of Parliament had been changing for many years.

One or two speeches suggested that there was something strange about the Government making proposals to a Committee and seeking their endorsement. The right hon. Gentleman picked up on that in his closing remarks. As you will remember, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that is neither strange nor unusual. The most recent example that I can call to mind was in the 1993-94 Session, when

16 Dec 1998 : Column 1049

the then Government sought changes in the Standing Orders for the consideration of deregulation orders that were put to the Procedure Committee; so there is nothing unusual about that.

Nor, indeed, do the Government have any intention of using their majority to dictate to the House. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will confirm that our conduct in the Committee does not support that suggestion. Although it is not unusual for the Government to propose changes to Standing Orders and so on, it is unusual--and we were advised that it might not be possible--for the Government to put alternative motions to the House.

However, the Government did just that, giving effect to the considered and unanimous decision of the Select Committee at paragraph 73 of the report:

the one in the right hon. Gentleman's amendment--

    "be adopted."

The Government have gone further than would have been necessary had we chosen to use our majority, and decided to give the House the choice of the alternatives on a free vote.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Foster) commands great respect and affection in the House, and he continues to command mine despite my strong disagreement with what he said this evening. Not only did I disagree with my right hon. Friend this evening; I disagreed with him over the Jopling proposals, and did so forcefully. As he has put his views on record and referred to mine, I would say to the House openly and bluntly that I have had the advantage of serving in the House for a slightly longer period. I have also had the advantage of serving in the Government Whips Office, in a Government who had no majority.

On the basis of that experience and the rest, I can say that the notion that in some way time is the weapon of the Opposition is a myth. As I said to the then shadow Cabinet, very rarely does the House change what the Government do in that way. Instead, we kill a few hon. Members on both sides. That may be considered a suitable occupation for a modern House of Commons, but I have never thought it so.

Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot): Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Beckett: No, I have only two minutes.

I remind the House that we are considering proposals for an experiment. The delay in introducing the Jopling proposals has been mentioned, but the principal reason for that delay was that the then Government initially wanted to make a permanent change in the Standing Orders. I hope and believe that my advice as shadow Leader of the House to the then Leader of the House had some influence--I suggested that it would be a mistake to make permanent a change of which the House did not have experience, and that it would be wise to proceed through evolution and experiment. That is precisely what the Government are recommending tonight.

The debate has made it clear that the real choice is between what I would describe as no change or proper change. I do support the mish-mash and half-baked

16 Dec 1998 : Column 1050

experiment that is--in my view; and it is my view alone--almost bound, and perhaps even intended, to fail. The House has a choice between the status quo and a good proposal. I urge the House to support the motion, but not the amendment to it.

It being four hours after the commencement of proceedings, Mr. Deputy Speaker proceeded to put the Question already proposed from the Chair, pursuant to Order [15 December].

Question agreed to.


Motion made, and Question proposed,

    That, with effect from Monday 11th January until the end of the present session of Parliament, the Standing Orders and practice of the House shall have effect subject to the modifications set out below:

(1) the House shall meet on Thursdays at half-past eleven o'clock, and will first proceed with private business, motions for unopposed returns and questions;
(2) proceedings on business on Thursdays shall be interrupted at seven o'clock; and
(3) in their application to Thursday sittings of the House, reference to a specified time in the Standing Orders shall be interpreted as reference to a time three hours before the time so specified, save that reference to half-past ten o'clock shall be substituted for reference to twelve o'clock in Standing Order No. 24 (Adjournment on a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration).--[Mr. Mike Hall.]

Amendment proposed to the Motion (Sittings of the House (No. 1)): in paragraph 1, leave out from 'will' to end and add

Question put, pursuant to Order [15 December], That the amendment be made:--

The House divided: Ayes 140, Noes 311.

Division No. 26
[8.41 pm


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Amess, David
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Barnes, Harry
Beggs, Roy
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Brady, Graham
Brand, Dr Peter
Brazier, Julian
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Burnett, John
Burns, Simon
Butterfill, John
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chidgey, David
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Colvin, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cotter, Brian
Cran, James
Curry, Rt Hon David
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Day, Stephen
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Duncan Smith, Iain
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Evans, Nigel
Fallon, Michael
Fearn, Ronnie
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
Gerrard, Neil
Gibb, Nick
Gill, Christopher
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gorrie, Donald
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hammond, Philip
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John
Heald, Oliver
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard
Johnson Smith,
Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Keetch, Paul
Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Kirkwood, Archy
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lidington, David
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Madel, Sir David
Maude, Rt Hon Francis
May, Mrs Theresa
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Mitchell, Austin
Moore, Michael
Nicholls, Patrick
O'Hara, Eddie
Öpik, Lembit
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Paterson, Owen
Pickles, Eric
Randall, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Ruffley, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
St Aubyn, Nick
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Shepherd, Richard
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Spring, Richard
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Steen, Anthony
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Trend, Michael
Tyler, Paul
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Waterson, Nigel
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Willetts, David
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Woodward, Shaun
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mrs. Marion Roe and
Mr. John Bercow.


Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allan, Richard
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Ms Hilary
Ashton, Joe
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Baker, Norman
Ballard, Jackie
Banks, Tony
Barron, Kevin
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Bennett, Andrew F
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Blunkett, Rt Hon David
Boateng, Paul
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Breed, Colin
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Butler, Mrs Christine
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Caborn, Richard
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Caplin, Ivor
Caton, Martin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chisholm, Malcolm
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Colman, Tony
Cooper, Yvette
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Ms Jean
Cousins, Jim
Cox, Tom
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Dafis, Cynog
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, John
Dewar, Rt Hon Donald
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Drown, Ms Julia
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Fatchett, Derek
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Don (Bath)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Foulkes, George
Fyfe, Maria
Galbraith, Sam
George, Andrew (St Ives)
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Goggins, Paul
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Gunnell, John
Hain, Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hanson, David
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Harris, Dr Evan
Harvey, Nick
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Home Robertson, John
Hoon, Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Jowell, Ms Tessa
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Kingham, Ms Tess
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Liddell, Mrs Helen
Livingstone, Ken
Livsey, Richard
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Llwyd, Elfyn
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McDonagh, Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
McNamara, Kevin
McNulty, Tony
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Marek, Dr John
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Martlew, Eric
Maxton, John
Merron, Gillian
Michael, Alun
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Milburn, Alan
Moffatt, Laura
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Murphy, Paul (Torfaen)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
Oaten, Mark
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prescott, Rt Hon John
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quin, Ms Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Radice, Giles
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Rendel, David
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooker, Jeff
Roy, Frank
Ruddock, Ms Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Adrian
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Short, Rt Hon Clare
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Steinberg, Gerry
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Stunell, Andrew
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Vaz, Keith
Vis, Dr Rudi
Wallace, James
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Willis, Phil
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wood, Mike
Worthington, Tony
Wray, James
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:

Miss Melanie Johnson and
Dr. Phyllis Starkey.

Question accordingly negatived.

16 Dec 1998 : Column 1054

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I had always understood that the business of the House of Commons was traditionally a matter for a free vote. Outside the Aye Lobby, there were no Whips, either Liberal or Conservative, but outside the No Lobby there were at least four Government Whips, encouraging those with no independence of mind into the Lobby. Is not that an abuse of the House?

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