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1. The Bill shall be committed to a Standing Committee.
2. The Standing Committee shall have leave to sit twice on the first day it meets.
3. Proceedings in the Standing Committee shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion on Thursday 5th April.
4. Proceedings on consideration shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at Nine o'clock on the day on which those proceedings are commenced or, if that day is a Thursday, at Six o'clock on that day.
5. Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at Ten o'clock on the day on which those proceedings are commenced or, if that day is a Thursday, at Seven o'clock on that day.
6. Sessional Order B (Programming Committees) made by the House on 7th November 2000 shall not apply to proceedings on consideration and Third Reading.
7. Paragraphs (6) and (7) of Sessional Order A (varying and supplementing programme motions) made by the House on 7th November 2000 shall not apply to proceedings on any motion to vary or supplement this order for the purpose of allocating time to proceedings on consideration of any messages from the Lords, and the question on any such motion shall be put forthwith.
We believe that the motion proposes ample time to consider a Bill of this size, whose principles are generally supported by Members on all sides of the House--even if some vote against them--and by voluntary organisations.
Mr. Boswell: My immediate reaction to that speech was, frankly, "Oh dear." I must confess a certain liking for the late Frankie Howerd, a fine comedian--particularly on television. Some of the more mature of our colleagues may remember him appearing in what might loosely be called the Roman follies. He always built up the case in the forum and then, at a certain point, he would turn aside, remember himself and say, "And now, the prologue." Tonight, it was, "And now, the programme motion."
Mr. Hogg: I am grateful that my hon. Friend gives way, when the Minister did not. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is extraordinary that this House should be asked to approve a programme motion on the basis that there will be enough time to consider the Bill in Committee, when we have not been told when the Committee will meet, how often it will meet or the total length of time for which it will meet?
Mr. Boswell: Not for the first time, I find myself entirely in sympathy with my right hon. and learned Friend. He may not have been able to attend the whole of the previous debate--I understand the reasons for that--so I remind him that I made an offer. I said that we might consider withdrawing our opposition on the reasoned amendment if the Government took away their absurd programme motion tonight.
Rev. Martin Smyth: I appreciate the hon. Gentleman giving way, as it was obvious that the Minister was not prepared to do so. Will there be enough time to clarify one aspect of the Bill? In part 3, clause 43(12) says:
Mr. Boswell: As I am no longer a Minister, I am not sure that I can give the hon. Member an authoritative and ministerial reply; the Minister clearly cannot. That point exemplifies the need for proper discussion of the Bill in a full Committee stage. That has nothing to do with subverting the Government, let alone subverting the intentions of the Bill, which may be admirable.
Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate): My hon. Friend said that the Criminal Justice and Police Bill was almost a disaster, but I am sorry that I must take issue with him. It was not almost a disaster, it was a disaster. There were 50 clauses that were not examined in Committee. If that is not a disaster for the people of this country, I do not know what is.
The Government offer no time for debate because, in their book, only soundbites matter. The Bill does not matter to them. I may be old fashioned--and I am mortified that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) is not here tonight, as he would probably clash swords with me on the matter--but I think Bills are the core business of the House. We should debate them and get them right, but the Government persist in their belief that the Opposition are a nuisance to be crushed and not persuaded.
At all events, the only defence offered by the Government is that they will table no amendments in Committee. That is the triumph of hope over experience: I have never come across a Government who did not table amendments in Committee. If the Government have closed their mind to tabling amendments, it suggests that they will not take seriously what the Opposition have to say. I am sure that they will say that, although they understand the objective behind half of the amendments that we put forward, the wording is defective or not in order. However, it is not sufficient for them to say in advance, "Sorry, no dice: we're not going to change a thing, whatever you say."
Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall): The Government have said that they will not table any amendments. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if it turns out that they do table amendments, it would be logical for the Government to extend the period covered by the programme motion?
Mr. Boswell: I agree. I cannot speculate on the conduct of the Committee, but we could find ourselves in a real dilemma. We would not want the Government to break one of their pledges. If they produced an amendment--even if it were a good one that I might wish I had devised myself--the Committee would have to decide whether to vote against it so as to fulfil the Government's pledge not to introduce any amendments.
Mr. Bercow: Does my hon. Friend agree that precedent suggests that to suppose that the Government will not table amendments to the Bill would represent a triumph of optimism over reality and a victory for complacency over common sense? Even if the apologists for mediocrity that pepper the Government Benches choose not to table amendments to the Bill, Conservative Members and other