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Mr. Deputy Speaker: Before we come to motion No. 7, I have a statement from Madam Speaker. I should inform the House that the Leader of the Opposition has tabled a manuscript amendment to the allocation of time

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motion which the Speaker has selected for debate. The effect of the amendment would be to increase the total time available for debate on the allocation of time motion and the Bill from five to eight hours. Copies of the amendment are available in the Vote Office.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I know that you read The Guardian, and you will have seen in that paper today the report that on 7 March in the House, at column 886 of Hansard, the Home Secretary said that the Bill that we are about to discuss enjoyed the full support of the noble Lord Bingham, then the Lord Chief Justice. That appears not to have been the case, in that the Home Secretary was in possession of a letter that made it plain that the noble Lord had grave anxieties about the Bill. I am not for a moment suggesting that the Home Secretary has deliberately misled the House; I am sure that it was a misunderstanding--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has been misinformed; I do not read The Guardian. The other matter is one for debate. He has been in the House a long time--he entered it at the same time as me--so perhaps he can find another way of raising the matter.

Mr. Hogg: With respect, Mr. Deputy Speaker, it is not a matter of debate. I was about to ask whether you have some power. Incidentally, welcome to the readership of The Daily Telegraph. Is it possible for you to ensure that we have copies of the correspondence in the Library before we debate the timetable or the next stage of the Bill?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: It is not a matter for me to make available that correspondence.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether you or the Speaker have had notice from the Secretary of State for Education and Employment that he wishes to make a statement on the spending review. I am sure that all hon. Members know that that was the highlight of the spending review. We therefore confidently expected that he would want to make a statement, on which we could question him. However, it would appear--

Hon. Members: Order.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The House should let the Deputy Speaker be the Deputy Speaker; I will chair proceedings. The point raised by the hon. Gentleman is not a matter for the Chair. I have had no such notice--nor, indeed, has Madam Speaker.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Jack Straw): Further to the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, raised by the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg). I am happy to have copies of the correspondence placed in the Vote Office and on the Table.

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Criminal Justice (Mode of Trial) (No. 2) Bill (Allocation of Time)

5.51 pm

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Jack Straw): I beg to move,

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As hon. Members will recognise from the normal form of this allocation of time motion, it proposes that there should be a total, including debate on the guillotine itself, of five hours of debate on Report and Third Reading of this short but important Bill.

Guillotines are used by Governments of both parties. They are a regrettable necessity, but sometimes inevitable. Their use depends on the degree of contention of the Bill and whether agreement with the Opposition can be sought. It must however be added--history shows this to be so--that although Conservative Governments have certainly until now always enjoyed an in-built majority in the other place, a Labour Government, whatever their majority in this elected House, have never done so. The consequence, as statistics show, is that the number of occasions on which Government business is defeated in the other place is always much higher than it is here. Indeed, these proceedings would not be necessary had the Criminal Justice (Mode of Trial) (No. 1) Bill been allowed to proceed to this elected House, for us to debate it in the proper way.

Mr. Edward Garnier (Harborough) rose--

Mr. Straw: I shall give way to the hon. and learned Gentleman in due course.

I said a moment ago that the criterion for determining whether Bills should be the subject of guillotine motions used to be almost exclusively contention. This is a contentious Bill--I am the first to concede that--but it must be accepted that, these days, the Opposition are so disorganised that they cannot even deliver on Bills that have the full support of the Opposition Front-Bench team.

The very best example that I can quote, of a huge number, is the Disqualifications Bill, which was before the House in late January. The right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) said that she would give the Bill a fair passage. So chaotic were the Opposition's tactics that, far from doing so, they talked the Bill through on the Monday night, the Tuesday night and on the Wednesday, thereby shooting their feet off in ensuring that Prime Minister's Question Time and, I understand, Opposition Days and other business that they wanted could not proceed.

We saw the same with the Football (Disorder) Bill, which apparently has the full support of Opposition parties. The Leader of the Opposition said in a speech outside the House that he and his party would support "any moves" to control football hooliganism, yet owing to the inability of the Opposition Front-Bench team to deliver its own Members, we had to introduce a guillotine in this House to get the Bill through.

If any further proof were needed of the incapacity of the Conservative Front-Bench team to ensure that its Members are in order, I draw attention to its extraordinary performance just now in putting up Tellers against a series of orders, which has wasted more than an hour of the

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House's time. I cannot believe that Conservative Front Benchers would have voted against those orders had they read them.

For example, the Conservative Front Benchers voted against motion No. 4, concerning the local government finance special grant report in respect of Kosovan evacuees. Had they succeeded in defeating the motion--we shall not let them forget this--Conservative as well as Labour local authorities would have been denied grant aid from central Government in support of Kosovan evacuees. So petty is the Conservatives' approach that they even voted to deny the Data Protection Commissioner a salary, as on the Order Paper.

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