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Mr. Brady: My hon. Friend makes an important point. I am pleased that the hon. Member for Crawley (Laura Moffatt) made herself known so that she at least could gain credit.

Mr. Paul Truswell (Pudsey): May I also correct the observations of the hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. Fabricant)? I, too, was a member of the Standing Committee. Would the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady) like to comment on the accuracy of his hon. Friend's observations? I hope that such accuracy does not characterise the rest of his contributions to the debate.

Mr. Brady: If Labour Members failed to make any impression in Committee, I can hardly blame my hon. Friend for not having noticed whether they were there, or indeed whether they are here this evening. At least two Labour members of the Committee have brought themselves to the Chamber this evening. I see that the hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale, East (Mr. Goggins) is also claiming credit for being present, but he is a Parliamentary Private Secretary and has doubtless been asked to sit there for particular reasons.

It is important that Labour Members take their responsibilities as Members of Parliament seriously. If only two of the 14 or 15 Labour Back Benchers who were members of the Committee are able to bring themselves to the Chamber this evening--they were not here yesterday evening for the substantive debate on the Bill--that is a poor performance.

I had hoped to be able to speak yesterday evening on the amendments dealing with rationing of health care, particularly because several constituents have raised concerns with me on that. Yesterday alone I had three letters expressing concerns that I had hoped to have time to raise during consideration in the Chamber. One was about the proposed closure of two of the three wards at Altrincham general hospital and another was from someone who had voted Labour all his life but wrote to say how much he regretted his decision because he felt so profoundly let down by the performance of the Secretary of State for Health.

If the Government persist in denying debate, closing their ears to what is going on around them and ignoring the real concerns of Members of Parliament--concerns that are reflected in the country, which is losing all faith in the ability of Labour Ministers to manage the national health service--they will pay the price. Only if they are prepared to listen to the concerns that my constituents wanted me to raise in the debate will the Government avoid making foolish mistakes and letting down their constituents and mine while they have the stewardship of the country.

The hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington said that I was a relatively new Member of Parliament. That is true and I do not for a moment deny

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that when my party was in government it sought to guillotine business on many occasions. Some of my hon. Friends, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd), have distinguished records of opposing such motions regardless of who was seeking to manage the time of the House inappropriately. Labour Members may wish to give some consideration to my observation that one reason why the public became rather sick of the Conservative Government towards the end of our 18 years was a perception that we were arrogant and not prepared to listen. There was a feeling that we would push policies through regardless of concerns. Staggeringly, in just two years the Labour Government have scaled giddy heights of arrogance and contempt for the public and Parliament that I do not believe that the Conservative Government ever reached. If the Government do not understand what they are doing and do not pay heed to my warning, they will pay the price.

6.15 pm

Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills): The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) has given us the most eloquent expression of what we understand by representative democracy and a parliamentary system. Ours is a system of debate. Governments put propositions to the House, seeking legislative rights. We test those propositions. That backwards and forwards process has been at the heart of our democratic system for more than 100 years.

I well remember the rage and anger of Labour Members when they were in opposition as it became clear to them that the guillotine had become a central feature of the Executive's control of the House. I do not mean to be dismissive of the hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart), but she has been muttering and angrily expressing derision at the fact that we have been debating the guillotine motion for an hour and three quarters. The debate is scheduled to go on for three hours.

Fiona Mactaggart: My anger is not about the fact that we are debating the motion, but about the quality of the debate and the way in which some hon. Members have chosen to contribute, which has, in most cases, been highly hypocritical. I exempt the hon. Gentleman from that criticism.

Mr. Shepherd: The hon. Lady is very gracious. In the years that I have been here I have learned that it is not appropriate for me to judge the quality of another's speech. Some of us are more inarticulate than others. It is the genuineness that rings through what hon. Members say that affects and informs our judgments. I would be hesitant to question the quality of another's speech.

The indignation of the then Labour Opposition against the device of the guillotine seemed true and palpable. We know that the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich spoke with a true voice, because she has repeated from the Government Benches what she said in opposition. All the raging in past Parliaments of those who now adorn the Government Front Bench, arguing and fighting against the imposition of a guillotine, which is the curtailment of freedom of speech and of the representative right to express a view, comes to nought in the end. That is the cynicism of our parliamentary processes.

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The hon. Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott) flitted in for two minutes to tell us that the debate was a waste of her opportunity to debate the substantive issues in the Bills. Everyone knows that the Opposition are not imposing a guillotine, but the hon. Lady will vote for the imposition of a restriction on the opportunity to speak.

That is the cynicism that informs this debate. The Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Health know in their hearts the futility of their position, given that they presented themselves to the electorate as new Labour with new politics and said that the old ways would not prevail: they would be part of the regeneration of British politics and British parliamentary democracy. We now know that to be a foo-fa; it is nonsense. This is now a repetitive process.

There is no question but that the motion is odious. The Secretary of State tried to argue for a guillotine on the Health Bill but the Government have tried to take away time from a proper guillotine consideration by including another Bill. If we address the two guillotine motions equally, instead of the traditional entitlement of the House, as set out in Standing Orders, to discuss a guillotine motion for three hours, we effectively have only an hour and a half for each.

These are the new developments of procedure. The Government are not entirely responsible for twin measures on a guillotine motion, but they are responsible for a total curtailment of debate, so that the five hours on the Health Bill are really only two hours. The Labour party seems quite happy with that. The implications reverberate slowly, trickling through to a wider public who see the sheer cynicism of a Government who profoundly believe that a soundbite is of itself legislation, which it is not.

Every hon. Member who has been here for more than one Parliament knows that the grind of parliamentary business is an attempt to examine some--we do not go through everything line by line or word by word--of the principles that are expressed, for good government, by all Governments through their legislative programmes.

The motion says:


That is not a happy thought--two hours are what the Government think sufficient to dispose of this business.

I find that incredible, as Madam Speaker has made a provisional selection of 22 groups of amendments even before we get to Third Reading; but let us do away with Third Reading. Why not? After all, the Government have expressed their view on the matter and there are now enough unrepresentative Labour representatives to close their ears and eyes and support this proceeding. They may genuinely believe in all the details of the legislation,but they support the proceeding that prevents the Opposition--any Opposition--from discussing the matter.

Without a Third Reading, we would have an average of five and a half minutes on each group of amendments. Madam Speaker took the trouble to give subject titles to the groups. The first is


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    which is the resumed debate on new clauses 4, 14, 16 and 17. The issues are great and weighty.

The next group is entitled:


    "Discrimination in the NHS on grounds of disability, race, sex etc."

That is important to many hon. Members and to many of our constituents and workers in the NHS. New clause 7 and amendments Nos. 78, 83, 80, 172, 81, 79 and 82 are all to be disposed of--if we average the time available--in five and a half minutes.


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