|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Sir Nicholas Lyell (North-East Bedfordshire): The Home Secretary told the House that the Bill, which does not allow either reputation or general matters to be taken into account, enjoyed the active endorsement of the Lord Chief Justice. Yet we know from what he has told us now that a fortnight earlier he received a letter from the Lord Chief Justice expressing his serious unease. He knows that on 20 January, the Lord Chief Justice, in supporting the No. 1 Bill in Committee, said:
I was persuaded very much on balance to omit the clause and to continue to discuss what is essentially a subsidiary matter with the Lord Chief Justice because of what my hon. and learned Friend said in the House.
Mr. Straw: If the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Bedfordshire, the former Attorney-General, and the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and something else--I can never remember the name of his constituency, but I am sure that it is a very nice place and that he represents it properly--
Those who oppose the Bill root and branch should have the courage to say that they oppose it in whatever form it exists. They should say that they disagree with the fundamental argument that was advanced by the royal commission. The argument about reputation and livelihood was a subsidiary one, as anyone can see. They disagree also with the fundamental argument which was advanced by the Lord Chief Justice, at large, well before either of the Bills was published, on 21 July. That is the issue--
That is the issue before us. It is my judgment that there is quite sufficient time to debate the central issue this afternoon. It is a matter of record that the Opposition have been so hopeless that they could not find one constructive amendment to table that Madam Speaker could have chosen as a lead amendment for debate. Moreover, they could not fill the time in Committee for more than four sittings.
The guillotine motion is regrettable, but it is necessary because of the Opposition's failure to organise themselves so that we can do business instead of having endless and unnecessary votes. I recommend the motion to the House.
Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Home Secretary suggested that there was something inappropriate in the failure of one of the official Opposition's amendments to be selected first in the group. Can you confirm that the order of amendments selected corresponds to the order of the text of the Bill, as drafted by the Government, and does not reflect any judgment by Madam Speaker on the Opposition amendments selected for debate?
Mr. Hogg: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I apologise for rising to make a second point of order, but the Home Secretary said something rather important: that if the reputation clause were put back, it is possible that he could do business. It may be that the House is approaching a compromise. May I suggest that the proper way forward is to adjourn these proceedings so that the Home Secretary can have consultations with those on the Opposition Front Bench, to see whether a deal is possible?
Mr. Alun Michael (Cardiff, South and Penarth): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Would it not be entirely inappropriate to adjourn the House in the casual way suggested by the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg), when the amendment removing the reputation clause meets points made in the other place and concerns expressed that consideration of the matter may be inappropriate--
Mr. Malins: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Having heard the Home Secretary say in relation to the reputation clause that we can do business, I seek your guidance. My amendment No. 6 deals precisely with that point, taking into account the circumstances of the accused. Does that mean that I must speak to the amendment later in the debate, or will the Home Secretary accept it?
The past half hour or more has demonstrated that the Government have no idea what they are doing with the Bill or the timetable motion. A number of arguments--I use the term advisedly--were advanced by the Home Secretary in support of his timetable motion.
First, the right hon. Gentleman said that the defeat of the Bill in the other place was the reason for the timetable motion today. The first Bill never got to this House. It started in the other place and was defeated there, and the timetabling arrangements in this House for this second Bill have nothing whatever to do with the progress of a Bill in another place. If the Government cannot get their act together in another place, that is their look-out. If they must rely on a guillotine in the last week of the parliamentary year to get this Bill through, that also is entirely their own fault.
The second point to which the Home Secretary clung was that the Disqualifications Bill had been stopped in the Lords. Again, so what? I understand that the Disqualifications Bill has not been stopped. It is in the House of Lords and, if the Government want it to do so, it will go through the normal debating procedures. If they do not wish the Bill to be discussed in the other place, as appears to be the case, that is presumably why they have not brought it before a Committee or the full House in the other place. Again, that has nothing to do with the progress of the present Bill in this House.
Slipping a little further off his life raft, the Home Secretary attempted to argue that support for the Football (Disorder) Bill had been given unequivocally by the Leader of the Opposition. My right hon. Friend gave no such thing. He was speaking in principle about football hooliganism and how we all agree, on both sides of the House, that we do not approve of it. He said that if a Bill were produced which met our approval, it would receive our approval. The Leader of the Opposition in no way gave the Home Secretary or that shambles on the Government Benches a blank cheque.