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Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): We did not need that explanation. It is fairly obvious to all of us. We all know who we are.

Mr. Pearson: I certainly know who I am, and I am prepared to say what I believe on the matter before us, even though it might not be acceptable to some of my right hon. and hon. Friends.

I was not put here to have an easy job; I was put here to scrutinise the Government, and I believe in doing that. It is imprudent for the Government to timetable a motion on a fundamental change to my terms and conditions of employment that will make life easier for Government and for Back Benchers, but which will produce a result which is far worse for democracy. Therefore I shall vote against the timetable motion.

4.31 pm

Sir Peter Emery (East Devon): I rise to make two important points. The Modernisation Committee has not seen, let alone discussed, the orders on the Order Paper. The principles behind them have appeared in reports, but when it comes to the detail of how the orders will apply, they may well represent a different view and approach, which the House might wish to consider and debate.

Mr. Forth: Is my right hon. Friend suggesting that the words before us today are the Government's interpretation of what the Modernisation Committee wanted to say?

Sir Peter Emery: I do not know if "wanted to say" is right. The words are the Government's words, interpreting the reports which have been before the House for some time. In as detailed a matter as this, I should have expected the method by which the alterations would be applied to have come before the Committee, which has been dealing with the matter for some months, so that it could have seen the way in which the Government wanted matters to operate in the House.

Sir Patrick Cormack: Does not that reinforce my plea to the Leader of the House that we should debate the principles this afternoon, and the motions should be tabled at a later date?

Sir Peter Emery: I am delighted to have given way to my hon. Friend, but he has stolen the last line of my speech.

My second point is that it is most unusual for the person who leads for the Opposition on the Modernisation Committee to come forward with a detailed Opposition paper on the recommendations under consideration. That report is a detailed outline by my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young) of how the procedures might better be applied. I urge all hon. Members to read the report; it will not take more than a few minutes. It suggests a different pattern and sets

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out a slightly different view of the final proposal, which was agreed only by the Government and the Liberal Democrats; Conservative members of the Committee opposed it.

Helen Jackson (Sheffield, Hillsborough): I do not want to continue a Modernisation Committee discussion, but does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the principle of better timetabling in the House has been the subject of numerous debates? Was not it the view of the Modernisation Committee that the place to discuss the important matter that we are considering today was the Chamber, so that the whole House could make a decision by the end of the Session? That was the wish of the whole Committee, and we are realising it today.

Sir Peter Emery: The hon. Lady is an assiduous member of the Modernisation Committee, and has most ably contributed several views, which are not always popular with her party. Her comments reinforce those of my hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir P. Cormack). She is right to say that the Modernisation Committee believes that the changes should be presented by the end of the Session so that they can apply next Session. However, that does not mean that we have to do it all in a rush tonight; after all, the Queen's Speech will not take place next week. We are sent away Friday after Friday; the Government therefore do not have so much business that they cannot hold a debate on the matter, hear the views of the House, consider them and present recommendations.

I am most critical of one matter. I believe that there are ways in which one should assist in getting measures through the House, but every aspect of a Bill should be considered in Committee. That does not often happen; it should happen far more. For a long time I have argued that when timetabling, we should ensure that every part of a Bill is considered. However, that point is not made in any of the orders. If it is not in order to ensure that a Committee considers every aspect of a Bill, I wonder whether it is right to proceed with the motion that we are considering, because it will curtail the sort of discussion that the House has the right to expect the Leader of the House to provide for our convenience. Although the Leader of the House is a Minister--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, whose expertise in procedural matters is widely acknowledged in the House, but I must direct his attention to the fact that the contents of the motion relate not to whether we should proceed but to whether the correct amount of time has been allowed.

Sir Peter Emery: I am delighted that you interrupted, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because you remind me of what I am trying to say. I am obviously not saying it well enough, and I need much longer, to ensure that I do.

The timetabling that the motion suggests is unfair to the ordinary Back-Bench Member. The duty of the Leader of the House to the House means that she must always be fair to hon. Members from all parties, not only to the Government. I perceive no reason--if there is a reason, perhaps the Leader of the House will provide it--for not proceeding with a general debate on the two reports, with reference to a third. Any thoughts that arise from those could be put forward in a new motion to the House,

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which would alter Standing Orders. All that can be done before we rise. We have the time. Why will the Leader of the House not consider that appeal? I hope that from the noise that greets me when I sit down, she will realise how strongly the House feels about it.

Hon. Members: Hear, hear!

4.40 pm

Ms Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate): I have listened with no small interest to the contributions from hon. Members on both sides of the House in this short debate. I confess to a sense of stupefaction at what I have heard. The image of the Chamber that has been presented is in marked contrast to my practical experience of the Chamber during the years that I have been a Member.

I acknowledge that my experience of this place is not as long as, for example, that of my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), who posited the possibility that the debate had been introduced because there was an overwhelming desire among the majority of Members to be the guests of friendly embassies, but she will be aware of at least two occasions, which I experienced, when debate in the Chamber was kept deliberately long in order that the majority of Members would not be distracted from watching television screens during an important football match. On another occasion, a debate was kept deliberately long to facilitate some dinner organised by Her Majesty's Opposition to celebrate someone who requires no kind of celebration at all. The basic argument that we have heard is that the Chamber's overriding business is to scrutinise the Executive--would that it did.

Sir Patrick Cormack: The hon. Lady has missed the point. We are asking for the same treatment that the Government and the Leader of the House will give to the Liaison Committee report on Thursday. It will be debated in principle on a motion for the Adjournment of the House. Presumably, at a later date, there will be a proper opportunity--there certainly should be--to vote on the report's specific recommendations. We are asking for a debate in principle on the Modernisation Committee report's far-reaching proposals--some of which might be acceptable, some of which will not--so that the House can come to a general view and then specifically debate each order when it is laid.

Ms Jackson: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making that point, but I regret to say that I disagree. He has markedly failed to understand my point. He is arguing, as the majority of Members consistently do, that longevity equates with acuity. It does not. As I am sure he is aware, it is simply not the case that, via these proposals, a debate in the Chamber will be in any way curtailed. The Chamber will be allowed--

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham): Will the hon. Lady give way?

Ms Jackson: May I finish the point? I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman.

The Chamber will be entirely capable of debating any issue until 4, 5 or 6 o'clock in the morning if that is its wish. There is no basic change in that respect. If Members

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genuinely wish to hold the Executive--this or any other Executive--to account, surely we should be looking for much longer and more detailed Question Times and the shortening of Back-Bench speeches. If Members cannot say what they wish to say within 10 minutes, they have little to say.

Mr. Redwood: In that case, can the hon. Lady explain how modernising has so far helped us to hold the Executive to account? We have had a halving of the number of Prime Minister's Question Times, no statement on Biarritz and no statement on the fuel protests because Parliament was on an extended holiday. How does that help us to hold the Executive to account?


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