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The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Jack Straw): May I reassure the hon. Gentleman that the point that he is making is not correct?

Mr. Wardle: I am grateful for that intervention, but I am sure that the Home Secretary, who has been positively delphic on that point, will agree that, over the years, there have been many cases of immigration officers discovering that there were reasons why someone should not, after all, be given leave to enter, even if he had a visa and prior entry clearance. If the Home Secretary is saying that, at the Committee stage, the ISU has been heeded and the matter has been taken on board, that is all well and good--it is all the more reason why it should be debated on the Floor of the House.

Similarly, if we should reach the stage--I am certainly not going to accuse the Home Secretary of wishing to get there himself in the immediate future--that was presaged by article 100c of the Maastricht treaty, which was before his time, when a standard visa format throughout the European Union was proposed whereby the suggestion could be made and adopted in the European Union that those European visas would be sufficient to ensure leave to enter this country, our immigration controls would be blown to pieces.

The third and final reason why time is needed for the debate is to focus still further, as the Committee has, on asylum problems, particularly concentrating on the twin pillars of the Geneva convention--the well-founded fear of persecution and the fact that a person can seek asylum only in the first safe country he reaches. That should be debated here, along with the fact of the queue, which, the Home Secretary must allow, has not gone away.

For all those reasons, it is iniquitous that a timetable motion has been slapped on the Bill and that there will not now be adequate time for a full and reasoned debate on the Floor of the House.

5.50 pm

Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West): I am pleased to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Mr. Wardle). He was a little hard on the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith (Mr. Chisholm) who, even though he made only a short contribution to the debate yesterday, was the only Labour Back Bencher to make any contribution. Also, given that the first group of amendments was germane to the Scottish borders, it is worth pointing out that he was the only Scottish Member who bothered to make a contribution. At least he deserves some credit for having turned up.

I find it offensive and wrong for the Government to suggest that our proper debate of the Health Bill yesterday was, in any way, time wasting. If Labour Members, who have a responsibility to represent the interests of their constituents, particularly those north of the border, could not be bothered to turn up to register their concerns and

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the views and interests of their constituents, there was all the more reason for Conservative Members to ensure that the new clauses, which had only just appeared, should be scrutinised and debated.

I no longer see the Minister of State in his place--he was here earlier. During his introductory remarks on new clause 18, his subsequent interventions and his reply to the debate he was unable to give the vital detail on which the Chamber should arrive at a judgment about the new clause. It was clear that it had been thought up late in the process and that little consideration had been given to it. It was tabled with minimal notice to hon. Members and, even the Minister did not realise its full implications.

In those circumstances, it is utterly astonishing that, after just a few short hours of debate yesterday, the Leader of the House should suggest that a vital piece of legislation, dealing with the national health service, could not be debated in proper detail because, apparently, a short debate had taken place on one or two new clauses which had only just been made available to hon. Members to express a view.

Mr. Fabricant: Was not it ironic that new clause 18, on which we spent a long time, was a Government new clause, tabled at the very last moment? If the Government were so concerned about saving time, why did they not table the new clause in Committee?

Mr. Brady: I could not agree more. My hon. Friend, who spoke yesterday and did his duty as a Member of the House to try to scrutinise a piece of ill-considered legislation, is right to point out that it was a Government new clause. It was introduced late in the day and took up time which would otherwise have been available to debate other elements of the Bill. It is utterly outrageous. [Interruption.] I will give way to the hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) in a moment.

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) indicated dissent.

Mr. Brady: I thought that the hon. Lady wanted to intervene. No doubt she would have been in trouble with her Whips Office had she done so. [Interruption.] I am sure, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you did not hear as well as I did what was uttered as the hon. Lady left the Chamber.

It is unacceptable for right hon. and hon. Members on the Government Front Bench to suggest that it was wrong for Conservative Members who did not have the privilege of serving on the Standing Committee to devote their time and resources to scrutinising the legislation. It is doubly disappointing that those of us who were not on the Committee and who, quite properly, participated on Report--as hon. Members are entitled and have a responsibility to do--should be criticised for such participation.

Mr. Bercow: My hon. Friend recalls accurately the proceedings of yesterday evening. Does he recall that, during consideration of new clause 18, the Minister of State gave no impression that he had even seen or studied the new clause let alone digested its contents before coming to the Chamber? Does my hon. Friend accept that, as a naturally charitable individual, as he and I pressed

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the Minister to explain the rationale for and content of the new clause, the analogy of cruelty to dumb animals sprung to mind?

Mr. Brady: I shall not be drawn by my hon. Friend.

Had the Secretary of State taken the trouble to attend the Chamber yesterday and witnessed the performance of the Minister of State who, as my hon. Friend rightly points out, did not appear to be acquainted with the new clause and still less with its implications or detail, he might have taken a different view from the rather facile opinions he so arrogantly expressed earlier. Had the Leader of the House been present to see that those on the Government Front Bench advanced no meaningful argument and that Government Back Benchers, in their typical fashion, said virtually nothing, the Government might not persist in the ludicrous assertion of time wasting. Some hon. Members take seriously their responsibility to scrutinise and debate legislation.

Mr. Fabricant: Is my hon. Friend interested to know that during the entire course of the Committee stage only one Government Back Bencher made a speech--and then only briefly? Not one of the other Government Back Benchers made a contribution.

Mr. Colin Pickthall (West Lancashire): The hon. Gentleman said that a moment ago.

Mr. Fabricant: No. I said nothing about the Committee stage. The hon. Gentleman was not listening.

Mr. Brady: That is an important point. My experience of Standing Committees is almost invariably the same. There is no real effort made by Labour Members to scrutinise legislation introduced by their Government so it comes as no great surprise to find that they should make similarly little effort to do the job for which they were sent here by their constituents during proceedings on the Health Bill.

It is bad enough to find that there was little scrutiny by Labour Members in Committee, that new clauses are being introduced by the Government and that there is no effort by Labour Members to scrutinise them on Report, but it is utterly unacceptable for Labour Members, particularly the Secretary of State for Health, who should know better, to criticise Opposition Members for doing what we have been sent here to do. We are exercising our right to scrutinise ill-judged legislation that has been introduced without thought.

I was delighted to see my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir N. Fowler) demonstrating how seriously he takes his responsibilities so soon after joining us on the Back Benches. Far from seeing it as an opportunity to put his feet up, he was immediately bringing the benefit of his experience and beliefs to the Chamber. It is a bit rich for the Secretary of State for Health to laugh at the record of my right hon. Friend given that he did not even bother to turn up for the scrutiny of his own Bill. Much as he may chunter from a sedentary position, he has done himself no credit by his performance yesterday in claiming that there were more important things for him to do--he has not enlightened us as to what they may have been--or in his brief contribution today when all he could do was attack hon. Members who do

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their duty. He did not list the constituencies of Labour Members who did not bother to represent their constituents in the Scottish border area. Those constituents may have had some concerns about the implications of new clause 18 for expenditure on health services for Scottish taxpayers.

Although those Labour Members were not here for last night's debate, the Secretary of State thinks that it is shameful that Opposition Members should be trying to do their job. He does not think that it is shameful that some of the silent bodies sitting behind him have failed to examine the detail of the Health Bill.

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