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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Mr. Keith Hill): Hear, hear.

Mr. Gummer: It is all right for the hon. Gentleman to say that, but if he had been here earlier he would have heard why many Members on both sides of the House thought the issue to be more serious than is suggested by a sedentary comment from a junior Minister in a different Department.

I am glad that the Deputy Chief Whip is here because he will be able to carry these comments back--not that he will, but I hope that he will--which is important for the health of the Government. They have produced a proposal which turns out to be flawed and, remarkably, does not

9 Jan 2001 : Column 1022

even satisfy the Chairman of the Defence Committee. The Government have to wait for him to table a manuscript amendment before they recognise that they have made a mistake. They have not talked to him properly and, surely, they were wrong in that. They do not have the experience or knowledge to know that it was necessary to do that in the first place. That was wrong. They have also allowed themselves a system, programme and timetable which make it impossible for the Government to listen to the House of Commons.

I come back to the serious issue that, today, we are supposed to have a Second Reading, then a 45-minute discussion of a guillotine, and then a discussion of the nature of the Committee considering the Armed Forces Bill. We are supposed to do all those things, but the Government have not given themselves time to listen to what the House of Commons says in the meantime. It is all right for the Executive, who are all happy, as they know that they have won the day--[Interruption.] However, it is the civil servants who have won the day. This is about the Ministry of Defence saying, as it has always said, to all other members of the Government, "Is it not better to have a nice, tidy, clean, clear system, instead of those inconvenient people called Members of Parliament to whom you have to go and listen?"

Mr. Gerald Howarth: I do not think that my right hon. Friend heard the sedentary intervention of the Minister, who said, with the arrogance that characterises the Government, "And we will carry the day every day for the rest of this Parliament".

Mr. Gummer: Of course, the Minister is right, but he is wrong in one respect, as a majority of 170 ought to make someone more reticent, rather than triumphalist. Even if that were true of other Governments, the Minister should remind himself that he ought to do better than them. He should not say that they were wrong, but he was merely following them. Do not tell me that; it is the answer of the coward through the ages: one does what is wrong because someone else has done it.

The Under-Secretary should be ashamed of himself. Even more important, he should bear it in mind that no previous Government have treated an Armed Forces Bill in such a manner. The Under-Secretary should not tell us about the power of a majority because no previous Government have behaved in such a way. He cannot sit, self-satisfied--

Dr. Moonie: Yes he can.

Mr. Gummer: He can, but he would be wrong to do so, and I believe that he wants to be right. He is factually wrong; he claims that others have done what only he has had the arrogance to do. That is sad because the Under-Secretary is better than that. He should not have made such a comment to the House, which is treating the matter seriously.

The Government are wrong for a third reason: they thought that the House would allow them to get away with their behaviour. In practical terms, they can get away with anything. However, the Government and the Under- Secretary should remember that they have been warned by the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) and by the right hon. Member for

9 Jan 2001 : Column 1023

Walsall, South, the Chairman of the Select Committee on Defence. If the Under-Secretary had seen some of the faces behind him earlier, when more of the experts were present, he would have realised that some other Labour Members believed that he was wrong. When the country knows what has happened, it will feel that he is wrong. The Government have damaged democracy tonight. They have been overweening in the use of their majority; they have removed from Parliament a duty that it has always had. In doing all that, they have done a grave disservice to Britain.

Mr. Blunt: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The Government are about to attempt to move a closure motion. When you consider whether to accept it, I hope that you will bear in mind that I have been trying to catch your eye as a former service man and--

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. That is hardly a point of order. Calling hon. Members to speak is entirely at the discretion of the Chair.

Dr. Moonie rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put--

The House divided: Ayes 177, Noes 72.

Division No. 41
[1.33 am


Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary
Austin, John
Bailey, Adrian
Barnes, Harry
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Berry, Roger
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Burgon, Colin
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Cann, Jamie
Casale, Roger
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Clapham, Michael
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cousins, Jim
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Dalyell, Tam
Darvill, Keith
Davidson, Ian
Davis, Rt Hon Terry
(B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Efford, Clive
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Fisher, Mark
Flint, Caroline
Follett, Barbara
Gapes, Mike
George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hanson, David
Healey, John
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hendrick, Mark
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hill, Keith
Hoey, Kate
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Illsley, Eric
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Joyce, Eric
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Laxton, Bob
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Linton, Martin
McAvoy, Thomas
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McFall, John
McNamara, Kevin
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
McWilliam, John
Mallaber, Judy
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Martlew, Eric
Meale, Alan
Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Morley, Elliot
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Palmer, Dr Nick
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Powell, Sir Raymond
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Rapson, Syd
Robertson, John
(Glasgow Anniesland)
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Stevenson, George
Stoate, Dr Howard
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Touhig, Don
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Tynan, Bill
Vis, Dr Rudi
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Wood, Mike
Worthington, Tony
Wray, James
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Mike Hall and
Mrs. Anne McGuire.


Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baldry, Tony
Bercow, John
Blunt, Crispin
Boswell, Tim
Brady, Graham
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Burnett, John
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Cran, James
Day, Stephen
Duncan Smith, Iain
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Evans, Nigel
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Roger
Gibb, Nick
Green, Damian
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hammond, Philip
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John
Heald, Oliver
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Keetch, Paul
Key, Robert
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lidington, David
Luff, Peter
McIntosh, Miss Anne
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Moss, Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Öpik, Lembit
Pickles, Eric
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Ruffley, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
St Aubyn, Nick
Sanders, Adrian
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spring, Richard
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Tyler, Paul
Walter, Robert
Waterson, Nigel
Wilshire, David
Yeo, Tim

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. John Randall and
Mr. James Gray.

Question accordingly agreed to.

9 Jan 2001 : Column 1025

Question put accordingly, That the amendment be made:--

The House divided: Ayes 187, Noes 9.

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