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On the motion "Family Law"--on the Child Support (Information, Evidence and Disclosure and Maintenance Arrangements and Jurisdiction) (Amendment) Regulations 2000--the Ayes were 522, the Noes 5, so the motion was agreed to.
1. Clauses 1 to 4 and any New Clauses shall be committed to a Committee of the whole House.
2. The remainder of the Bill shall be committed to a Standing Committee.
3.--(1) Proceedings in Committee of the whole House shall be completed in one allotted day.
(2) An allotted day is one on which the Bill is put down as first Government Order of the Day.
4. Sessional Order B (Programming Committees) made by the House on 7th November shall not apply to the Bill.
5. Proceedings in the Standing Committee shall (unless previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on Thursday 8th February 2001.
In a way, I am a little disappointed. Had the Bill been discussed on Monday, the honour of proposing the first ever programme motion of this kind would have fallen to me, but the prize went to the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Hill), in connection with the Vehicles (Crime) Bill. The occasion turned out to be rather more eventful than had been expected, because there was some dispute about what had been agreed through the usual channels. Let there be no dispute this time: nothing has been agreed through the usual channels.
I am conscious that we are in fairly new territory, and I therefore want to explain what the motion involves. I hope to be brief, as it is fairly straightforward. It provides for clauses 1 to 4, and any new clauses, to be taken on the Floor of the House. That is when the key decision will be made--the decision between the three schedules.
Mr. O'Brien: The day will be our normal parliamentary day, so I imagine that the debate will be curtailed, as usual, at 10 o'clock. No doubt the way in which the debate will be determined will be discussed through the usual channels. It is not for me to prejudge that. However, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman well knows, those discussions will doubtless take place in the usual way.
All hon. Members should be able to participate in the choice, which is why we are taking the schedules on the Floor of the House in a day. We have allocated one day because that will be sufficient, and the Bill will be the first item of Government business on that day. On that
It is also worth noting that the decision on which option to adopt in the Sunday Trading Bill, the most recent example of an options Bill, was taken in a single day on the Floor of the House. Once the choice has been made, the detail of the chosen option needs to be scrutinised properly. Again, following the Sunday trading precedent, we believe that that should be done in Standing Committee. The motion requires that process to be completed by 8 February next year, and I shall explain why the Government believe that that is appropriate.
I cannot predict on which day the full debate will take place on the Floor of the House. As I have indicated, that is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and the usual channels. However, we anticipate that there will be about three weeks between that point and the date by which the Bill must complete its Committee stage. It is likely that the Committee will have to consider only one of the three options in the Bill. It has about three weeks to consider that option, which could mean 13 sittings--a sitting to consider the sittings motion and 12 more. To put that in context, the longest of the three schedules is about 17 pages long. By contrast, the Greater London Authority Bill--to take a recent example--was over 300 pages long. Anyone who believes that 12 sittings are insufficient to consider a maximum of 17 pages should, in that case, consider the length of time needed to consider a Bill of 300 pages. We would probably have to take a whole parliamentary Session.
Mr. David Maclean (Penrith and The Border): The hon. Gentleman was careful to use the words "17 pages", as opposed to specifying the number of paragraphs. The option for which the Home Secretary said he would vote contains 64 separate paragraphs. Is the Minister seriously telling the House that six Committee sittings--which is all that there would be in three weeks--are enough to deal with 64 paragraphs of a highly contentious schedule?
Mr. O'Brien: As the right hon. Gentleman knows, there would be 12 sittings, since there are two sittings a day. In our view, that will be sufficient, and that is the basis on which we are asking the House to consider the motion.
In addition, and in accordance with Sessional Order C, a Programming Sub-Committee will be appointed to consider how the time in Standing Committee can be used most sensibly and efficiently. The motion before us proposes that, in the case of this Bill, we will dispense with a Programming Committee. There is a simple reason for that. As I have already mentioned, the Committee of the whole House will, in effect, be invited to make a single decision. It seems entirely probable that there will be a single debate on the options, followed by a series of Divisions. That being so, there would be no point in appointing a Programming Committee to decide how time on the Floor of the House should be allocated.
The Bill before the House is complete. Apart from one amendment on commencement, to which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary referred in his opening speech on Second Reading, no Government amendments are envisaged. We see no reason why proper consideration of the Bill should not be possible in the time scale envisaged in the motion before the House. This is not a case of trying to rush the Bill through; it is simply a matter of setting a reasonable time scale for a measure that is not by any stretch of the imagination a long Bill.
Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield): The Minister referred to the Greater London Authority Bill, and the fact that the Business Sub-Committee on that Bill, which I happened to chair, was able to agree, across the parties, the way in which the Bill should be handled in Standing Committee. I do not think that this Bill will get cross-party support. Is it not unfair to cite a Bill that had cross-party support in the Business Sub-Committee, and agreement as to how it should be handled in Standing Committee, in connection with this Bill, on which I do not think that agreement will be forthcoming?