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Mr. Hutton: The Government have already very carefully considered all those issues of principle. We believe that the arrangements that we have established in the Bill, and the way in which we plan to implement them, are the fairest and most sensible way of proceeding. The entire purpose of the exercise is to ensure that the national health service properly recovers the costs of treating road accident victims, and that has always been the principle behind the legislation. We are simply ensuring that that principle--which has been accepted in the House for 70 years--operates in practice. The beneficiaries of the arrangements will be the NHS and those who use it, our constituents.

A significant extra sum will be collected for the NHS because of our proposed arrangements. The fundamental reason why we cannot accept amendment No. 2 is that it would strike at the very heart and purpose of the Bill, by denying the NHS significant new resources for a further considerable time. We are not prepared to allow that to happen.

Sir Robert Smith rose--

Mr. Hutton: I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman.

The hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr. Hammond) made it sound as though our announcement on 2 July was made in an insignificant

21 Jan 1999 : Column 1064

place. It was not. The announcement was made in the House, during the Chancellor's Budget statement. In such circumstances, it was therefore perfectly reasonable to say to the insurance industry, "You have been given sufficient notice of our intention to proceed on those lines." That is our view.

Sir Robert Smith rose--

Mr. Hutton: I shall not give way.

The Government are therefore unable to give the assurance sought by the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge--that we might review the operation of that aspect of the Bill. We do not intend to do so.

Mr. Hammond: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Hutton: With very great respect, we need to make some progress. The issues have already been discussed in Standing Committee, and hon. Members are anxious to conclude the proceedings.

The hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge also mentioned the Motor Insurers Bureau. The point is that, for the first time, the MIB is being introduced into the arrangements, which is a significant change. We have therefore decided to propose the arrangements outlined in the Bill. As it is a new departure, we believe that our proposed arrangements are the appropriate and most sensible way of proceeding.

Our argument is clear and consistent. Our arrangements are sensible and will guarantee maximum income for the NHS, which is what we want to ensure. We cannot accept the Liberal Democrats' amendment.

3.15 pm

Dr. Harris: The Minister's answer was entirely unsatisfactory, as it did not deal with the points that I made or the points that were made so clearly and precisely by the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr. Hammond). It is not adequate for the Government simply to say, "We're not going to be fair to the insurance industry. We'll be quasi-retrospective about it, because we want to maximise income." The issue is not one of income maximisation. If it were, why do we not simply set unfair higher fees, which would be another way of maximising income?

I listened very carefully to every word that the Minister said. At no point did he address the substantive issue of dates; indeed, no date other than 2 July passed his lips. Our amendment to change the date on which the changes will apply will not strike at the Bill's "heart and purpose" but merely create the appropriate date on which the changes should apply. It is difficult for me to be persuaded by the Government's argument if they do not deal with the substantive points that have been made.

I should like to know whether the official Opposition feel that the Minister's reply dealt with the arguments that they made. Merely reciting the Bill's purpose is not a sufficient way of debating significant concerns about retrospectivity. It is a matter of fairness. The Government of course want to maximise income, but if that is the only principle they are pursuing, they will be riding roughshod over the principle of natural justice.

21 Jan 1999 : Column 1065

As the Minister has not addressed the substantive issues raised by me and the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge, the Liberal Democrats shall press the amendment to a vote. The hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge has just finished making a very clear speech, which the Minister entirely failed to answer. It is therefore incumbent on Conservative Members to put their votes where they mouths are, and not continue to abstain in Divisions on substantive legislation simply because they want to spend more time on Thursday afternoons shoring up their constituencies. We did not change the hours of the House so that they could abstain in Divisions, as they did in the previous one.

It is still mid-afternoon, and Liberal Democrat Members are keen to engage the Government in debate. When I press the amendment to a Division--as I shall if the Minister has nothing further to say--I hope that Conservative Members will support us with their votes and not only with their words.

Mr. Hammond rose--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I should tell the hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr. Hammond) that the tradition in the House is that the hon. Member who moved the amendment should be the last to speak to it, so that he or she may be able to withdraw it.

Mr. Hammond: I should like merely to respond to the point that the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris) made--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Perhaps the hon. Gentleman can do so on another occasion.

Question put, That the amendment be made:--

The House divided: Ayes 24, Noes 225.

Division No. 44
[3.18 pm


Allan, Richard
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Brand, Dr Peter
Breed, Colin
Burnett, John
Burstow, Paul
Cotter, Brian
Foster, Don (Bath)
George, Andrew (St Ives)
Harris, Dr Evan
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)
Livsey, Richard
Moore, Michael
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Öpik, Lembit
Rendel, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Sanders, Adrian
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Tyler, Paul

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Tom Brake and
Mr. Phil Willis.


Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Ms Hilary
Ashton, Joe
Austin, John
Barnes, Harry
Bayley, Hugh
Begg, Miss Anne
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blizzard, Bob
Blunkett, Rt Hon David
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Buck, Ms Karen
Butler, Mrs Christine
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Chisholm, Malcolm
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cooper, Yvette
Corston, Ms Jean
Cox, Tom
Cranston, Ross
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Dalyell, Tam
Darvill, Keith
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Dean, Mrs Janet
Doran, Frank
Drew, David
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Etherington, Bill
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Fyfe, Maria
Galloway, George
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
Gerrard, Neil
Godman, Dr Norman A
Goggins, Paul
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hanson, David
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Healey, John
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Heppell, John
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Home Robertson, John
Hopkins, Kelvin
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jenkins, Brian
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, Ms Tessa
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kelly, Ms Ruth
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Kingham, Ms Tess
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Linton, Martin
Livingstone, Ken
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Love, Andrew
McAllion, John
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McDonagh, Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNulty, Tony
McWalter, Tony
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter
Marek, Dr John
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Martlew, Eric
Merron, Gillian
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Miller, Andrew
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morley, Elliot
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Hara, Eddie
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Organ, Mrs Diana
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prescott, Rt Hon John
Prosser, Gwyn
Quin, Ms Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Radice, Giles
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Rooker, Jeff
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Ruane, Chris
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Shipley, Ms Debra
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Touhig, Don
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Vaz, Keith
Vis, Dr Rudi
Wareing, Robert N
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Phil

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Kevin Hughes and
Mr. Jim Dowd.

Question accordingly negatived.

21 Jan 1999 : Column 1067

Order for Third Reading read.

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