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Mr. Streeter: We oppose the programme motion--[Hon. Members: "Ah!"] I am sure that is what I said--[Interruption.] I am sure that Hansard will confirm that is what I said--[Hon. Members: "No, it will not."] It will when I pop upstairs in a moment.
We oppose the programme motion on a point of principle because it does not give us adequate time to do our job properly--to scrutinise the measure, to improve it, to take expert advice and to move sensible amendments in the Standing Committee next week. The Government have made a terrible mistake. They have taken us for granted, they have taken the House for granted and they have taken our constituents for granted. They have shown once again their utter contempt for the House of Commons--it will not do.
Mr. Rogers: I do not normally speak on programme motions. Obviously, I fully support the motion. I agree with the generosity of my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench in giving as much time as possible to Opposition Members so that they can voice their objections to the motion. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for International Development on moving the motion formally.
I do not understand why the hon. Member for South-West Devon (Mr. Streeter), the Opposition spokesman, wants to hold up the Bill, when the Opposition--apparently--support every part of it. He has a point when it comes to European aid, but I am sure that the Minister will be able to resolve the matter in Committee.
I have sat through many debates on programme motions recently and the Opposition's only saving grace lies in the sometimes brilliant tactics employed by the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), whom I admire greatly. When I presided over the European Parliament, I dealt with Members such as Marco Pannela; but the right hon. Gentleman is far better than the Italian anarchists--[Hon. Members: "Machiavelli."] The right hon. Gentleman is a man of superb ability.
However, that skill is all that I can admire about the Opposition. The hypocrisy of their stance on the measure flabbergasts me. I sat on the Opposition Benches with a bad grace for a long time, while the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) arrogantly scoffed as his Government pushed through Bills--
Mr. Hogg: I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He and I have been Members of the House for a long time. He will be good enough to remind the House that the general practice when the Conservatives were in office was not to timetable a Bill until it had been in Committee for approximately 100 hours. What is different at present is that the Government are timetabling a Bill in advance of consideration and before there is any reason to suppose that its discussion will be artificially extended.
Measures were pushed through--gas privatisation, transport privatisation, privatisation of the coal mines. The measure on the atomic weapons establishment was pushed through. All those Bills were pushed through and whenever there was any difficulty, they were guillotined. That was why the issue of the modernisation of the House arose. Those guillotines were nothing to do with modernisation; the Conservatives wanted to ram their business through the House.
Mr. Gummer: The hon. Gentleman has the honour to be the Member of Parliament for Rhondda, and I ask him whether he can think of a single one of his predecessors who would have accepted a timetable motion that was introduced before there had been at least 100 hours of debate. I challenge him to mention a single occasion on which I introduced any programme motion on a Bill that had not already been the subject of at least 100 hours of debate. I have been entirely supportive of the Secretary of State for International Development, but will he explain why we must have a timetable motion on the Bill--about which we are agreed, but on which we might be able to help the Government--given that we could have debated it in this Parliament without such a timetable being inflicted?
Mr. Rogers: I should have thought that it would be pretty obvious, even to the right hon. Gentleman, that the timetable motion has been moved because there will be an election. Although we shall be returned, we obviously want to get the Bill on to the statute book in this Parliament, given its significance for the underdeveloped world. It is a good Bill and it contains--
Mr. Hogg: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We are being told that we should hurry our consideration of the Bill because there is to be an election. Would you be good enough to confirm that the fact that we may be facing an election on 3 May relieves us of the obligation to scrutinise legislation properly?
Mr. Speaker: The right hon. and learned Gentleman inadvertently seeks to draw me into the debate. The hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) has put his case, and it can be rebutted by any Back Bencher who catches my eye.
Mr. Rogers: I am amazed that the right hon. and learned Gentleman, with his considerable legal background and knowledge of the constitution and make-up of the House, should make such a spurious point of order.
Mr. Rogers: The right hon. Gentleman asks me to move along, but he wants me to do so to create a bit of space for himself. He has spent considerable time honing his special skills, and I shall not go on for too long because I like to listen to his speeches. I hope that you will find it in your heart, Mr. Speaker, to call him so that we can enjoy his speech a little later.
The hon. Member for South-West Devon raised the important issue of the diversion of our aid through the European Union. With the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst, I spent five years in the European Parliament and I saw the way in which the European Community's aid budget was blatantly used for certain national interests. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my hon. Friend the Minister realise, when they negotiate in the European Union, that certain countries have used the aid budget to further their own interests and not necessarily the interests of those who deserve the aid most.
Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East): The hon. Gentleman has great experience and knowledge of European affairs, so will he explain to us how he expects a Committee of the House of Commons to introduce measures to ensure that European aid is spent on relieving poverty? We know that a huge amount of money goes on graft and corruption, so how is a Committee, with its pathetic limited powers, expected to do anything on the subject in two days?
Mr. Rogers: I shall certainly do whatever you say, Mr. Speaker. However, the hon. Member for South-West Devon cited the issue of European aid as a fundamental point in his contribution on the programme motion. I am amazed that the hon. Member for Rochford and Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) should ask that question, because his Government put through the Maastricht treaty. Baroness Thatcher came back to the House and said what a wonderful--