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Mr. Waterson: Let me assist the hon. Gentleman. I invited the Minister to withdraw the motion for a variety of good reasons, and I still have a rather innocent faith in human nature. However, if the Minister does not withdraw the motion, I will invite my hon. Friends to divide the House.

Mr. Maclean: Will the Liberals join us?

Mr. Tyler: Yes, we will, as we always do. We are never prepared to vote for a programme motion when we do not think there has been proper discussion about its contents and timing. I assure the right hon. Gentleman that I will support a decision to vote against the motion.

The Government must learn the lesson of these programme motions or the procedure will be no improvement whatever over the old guillotine motion procedure, except that it is slightly shorter.

Mr. Forth: The penny drops.

Mr. Tyler: The penny dropped a long time ago. If the right hon. Gentleman had listened on previous occasions instead of listening simply to his own voice, he would have known that we always vote against guillotine motions.

I know that everybody awaits the peroration--I hope that it will be the peroration--of this short debate, so I am pleased to hand over to the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst before he interrupts me yet again.

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Madam Deputy Speaker: I call the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer).

10.58 pm

Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal): I rise to oppose the guillotine motion--for that is what it is--on a matter of principle. The House is consistently and continuously bypassed by the Government. They ought to have shown the courtesy that befits a Government with a large majority and used their powers sparingly for the important democratic reason that the public must believe that, even with such a majority, the issues that are brought before Parliament are thoroughly discussed and properly considered. I am therefore sorry that the Minister, who is an honest and honourable man, should be put in this position because I am sure that he recognises that there is a much bigger issue at stake than even the contents of the Bill.

I oppose these motions as a matter of principle, and I will continue to do so, but I have a particular reason for thinking that this motion is serious. Unlike the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler), I think that primary legislation is important because so much is left to secondary legislation. I am surprised that even in the primary legislation the contents of the seller's pack are so sparsely set out. The inelegance of the words does not cover the fact that some of the big issues that ought to have been considered by a Government who a long time ago said that they would put sustainable development at the heart of all their policies have been omitted. They have introduced a Bill on homes, with seller's packs, in which there is no mention of the first thing that ought to be listed--

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that we are debating the programme motion rather than the content of the Bill, the debate on which took place earlier.

Mr. Gummer: It is because the contents of the Bill are so important that the programme motion lacks any time for us to discuss the issues. [Interruption.] One cannot discuss the programme motion without pointing out that this Government do not want debate on the issues and therefore reduce the time available for it. I take your comment, Madam Deputy Speaker, and will obey it, but these issues are not for the hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Mr. Jamieson) to giggle or laugh at. Unless we debate such things in this Chamber and in Committee, in plenty of time, people outside the House will not be satisfied that the secondary legislation to follow, for which the rules are very different and our opportunities far fewer, will have been properly discussed. The Minister must recognise that.

People believe that this House is where their issues are properly raised. A guillotine motion can be acceptable only when, for one reason or another, the Government believe that time to debate a Bill will be misused by an Opposition to the extent that they cannot get their programme through. How on earth has anyone got the idea that Opposition Members will not discuss the matter properly? Why did the Government feel that the motion had to be tabled?

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The Government say that the decision will be taken by the House, but with such a majority, it will be the same as the Government's decision. The House could have made such a decision, and that decision could have been properly represented by the Minister if he had said, "I am going to provide a great deal of time so that no one can complain. I ask the Opposition only to use as much as is necessary properly to debate the Bill." Why does he not do that? I suspect that it has something to do with another timetable, to which all these things are bent: a timetable for an election, not for the Bill. That is our problem in dealing with the issue.

I will not trespass on your great patience, Madam Deputy Speaker, by delineating all the other things that ought to be listed under clause 7, although I do not know where else one can discuss those matters except in Committee--the timetable for which the Government determined in advance of Second Reading and without any consideration of the possibility that they may want to table amendments. I suspect that a number of amendments will have to be tabled--not least those that will be necessary to satisfy people outside the House who are pressing the Government for further and better particulars on the supposed meaning of clause 7.

The Minister will be asked by the Energy Action Grants Agency, those concerned with energy efficiency and all the green organisations what is meant by phrases such as those in clause 7 and what will be introduced. The Government will not want to answer those questions with a vague comment on secondary legislation. They will, I am sure, feel the need to ensure that the Bill bears the green imprint that they claim to have so much at heart.

Mr. Bercow: Has not my right hon. Friend's point underlined the intrinsic absurdity of the timetabling of the Bill? Is it not the case--my right hon. Friend is an exceptionally experienced parliamentarian and a former Minister--that it is only when the detail of a Bill is properly considered and examined that we, including Ministers, can know the scope for, and desirability of, amendments for which additional time must be allowed for debate?

Mr. Gummer: My hon. Friend is right, and he leads me to my last point.

I shall say something much tougher to the Minister. The House is supposed to make the best law possible. The Government make it more difficult for us to do that by embarking upon a system that curtails debate in Committee and introducing a Bill where far too much is put into the hands of Ministers, who will deal with secondary legislation in an way that is not acceptable. Secondary legislation should not be as widely drawn. We should have a timetable that enables us to tease out of the Government how they would use the powers that they have placed before the House.

This procedure will not itself deprive the Government and Parliament of public support, but it is another step in a long and increasingly rapid journey, in which the Government make Parliament less able to represent people's demands and needs. Increasingly, those people will look outside Parliament if they want to get their demands met. I am sad to say that the Minister will be lending his support to a thoroughly undemocratic process.

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11.7 pm

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): As I am aware that Front-Bench spokesmen want briefly to respond to the debate, I shall make only one point.

These debates--this is only the second that we have had--rest on the assumption that we are given the offer of an end date to proceedings in Committee. Perhaps we have all assumed that Committee sittings will consist of a full day, with the Committee sitting normally until 10 pm, and on a Thursday until 7 pm. Let us suppose that the Government were to decide, in their control of the Programming Sub-Committee, which decides the detail of Committee proceedings, that Committees were to sit until only 8 pm, for example, and finish at 5 pm on a Thursday. It is a hypothetical case. The assumption that we made in working out the time that would be available in Committee, based on an end date and historical sittings of Committees, would be thrown out. We would all be left short-changed.

As was said in the previous debate, we are expected to rubber stamp the motion, knowing little about what is in the Government's mind when it comes to the detail of consideration in Committee, and to trample over everything that happened on Second Reading.

The process is a dangerous farce for all the reasons that have been given. It is being used in an attempt to short-circuit parliamentary process. It illustrates yet again the Government's arrogance. It presents us with the challenge of trying to make proper decisions with a lack of information. Unless the Minister satisfies us, I hope that we shall vote against the motion. We must watch closely what will happen in Programming Sub- Committees so that we can make judgments about how honest the Government have been with the House. I remain to be convinced.

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