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Mr. Hawkins: The record will show what the Minister said. However, the reaction of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield to the Minister's hint was quintessentially one of satisfaction: he said that he had made a bold cast and not expected to land such a big fish.
Mr. Gummer: Will my hon. Friend return to the guillotine motion and explain to the Government that our objection to the guillotine is that it stops Oppositions properly using the time and processes of the House to ensure that their voice is heard? Attacking the Opposition for doing what Oppositions have done in democratic Houses for the past 300 years is to misunderstand what the House is supposed to be about.
Mr. Hawkins: My right hon. Friend's extensive experience means that he knows that all too well. The current Government have already developed an extremely bad reputation for curtailing debate and ignoring democracy. They regularly behave as an elective dictatorship.
Let me give my right hon. Friend some recent examples of that behaviour. There were 118 amendments to the Bill that became the Freedom of Information Act 2000, 77 of which were not debated in the House. There were 268 amendments to the Bill that became the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, 47 of which were not debated here. There were 666 amendments to the Bill that became the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, 522 of which were not debated here. Then one comes to the Special Educational Needs and Disability Bill, which is a substantial Bill--
Mr. Hawkins: I was responding to my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Coastal, who rightly pointed out how it is necessary repeatedly to emphasise to the current Government that they are supposed to allow proper scrutiny, because on Bill after Bill since they introduced the ridiculous procedure of programming and guillotining everything, the House has not had the opportunity to do its proper job of scrutiny. Most recently and worst of all, the Criminal Justice and Police Bill--
Mr. Hawkins: I simply wanted to draw attention to the fact that we face the same problems on the current Bill as we have faced on all recent legislation. It was the Minister in his opening remarks who referred to the Criminal Justice and Police Bill and our debates on it.
Mr. Hogg: Perhaps I might help my hon. Friend. What I think he is saying is this: the Minister of State has given it as his opinion that we have sufficient time to debate the Bill, but that sort of observation has been made on previous occasions in respect of other Bills and we have not had time to consider those Bills. Is it not therefore right that we should not place any weight on what the Minister has just said?
Mr. Hawkins: My right hon. and learned Friend is right--that is precisely the point. The worst example of that was on the Criminal Justice and Police Bill. The Private Security Industry Bill runs to 30 pages; it has 26 clauses and 10 pages of detailed schedules. The importance of the issues and the reason why the programme motion is wholly inappropriate were demonstrated by the Minister's right hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, South (Mr. George), who thought the Bill sufficiently important to speak for no less than one hour and 21 minutes. I do not know whether he will serve on the Committee; we shall have to wait and see. If, on Second Reading, he was sufficiently doubtful about whether the Bill was in a proper form to speak to the House for an hour and 21 minutes, may I strongly suggest that the artificial timetable proposed by the Minister is wholly inadequate?
On Second Reading, there was much discussion of the valuable contributions of the British Security Industry Association. However, less attention was paid to the concerns of the Joint Security Industry Council, which is the voice of the private security industry and represents a large number of professional bodies, ranging from the Association of British Insurers to the Defence Manufacturers Association, the Guild of Security Controllers, the Security Institute, the Master Locksmiths Association and the Security Industry Training Organisation mentioned in debate. The concerns of those constituent bodies, as well as of the JSIC and its chief executive Mr. Mike Welply--with whom I had a meeting yesterday--must be debated properly in Committee.
The Committee must also debate properly the concerns of the group of leading corporate investigation consultancies, which represents a number of significant companies, including Control Risks and the Armor Group. The right hon. Member for Walsall, South--speaking, I remind the Minister, from the Government Benches--concluded that the Bill was a mystery, reminding me that Winston Churchill said that Russia was
Mr. Hawkins: My right hon. Friend is right. He may remember that, when we were in government, we passed the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 during the last Parliament. It was the longest criminal justice measure then on the statute book, and we debated it for 240 hours in Committee under the old system whereby everything was scrutinised. Many Members of the then Opposition, who are now Government Members, wanted to have their say in full.
In conclusion, I feel strongly that the programme motion is entirely inappropriate. The Government should be ashamed of themselves; their own senior Members, such as the right hon. Member for Walsall, South, said that the Bill is not in an adequate form. Although we are in an artificial situation and in pre-election mode, we cannot allow the programme motion to be accepted by default.
Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall): Brevity is the soul of wit. Whenever dissolution takes place, I hope that this will be the shortest speech of this Parliament. I refer Members to column 920 of yesterday's Hansard and just say, "Ditto".
Mr. Doug Henderson: I have spoken to the House once or twice on procedural matters, and I do so tonight because I have an interest in the substantive issue. Previously, I have had an interest in my own timetable, rather than in the issue before the House. I support the timetable motion. We have a terrible tendency towards ritual in this place. We go through the same ritual night after night, after Second Readings. The House needs to re-examine our procedures, but I would be straying from the subject of the motion if I started to deal with that this evening.
The programme motion is a little artificial. Most of us do not know when the general election will take place. We can all speculate and work out whether there will be time between now and the general election to do justice to the Bill, which I hope will end up on the statute book. There are parts of the Bill that I would seek to modify, and I hope that the Government will take on board some of my suggestions on Second Reading. My hon. Friend the Minister is nodding; he knows the issues to which I refer. I am merely mouthing what many of the interest groups are saying, both on the employers' side and on the workers' side, and representing the police.
The alternative to the programme motion is to go through the nonsense that we have watched happening over the past two or three years. I do not blame the Opposition; we have all got ourselves into the mess. I do not accept that democracy is the issue, as was said from the Opposition Benches. Democracy is about putting proposals to the electorate and having a system of bringing about the execution of those proposals,
Mr. Blunt: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. Although the issue may not be democracy in the terms in which he defines it, the debate is about scrutiny, which is surely one of the primary functions of a legislature.
Mr. Henderson: I agree with the hon. Gentleman, and I want adequate time to be allocated for debate. I remember when I came to the conclusion that, because of the way in which Parliament had developed, we could not continue to operate as we have done in the 14 years I have been in Parliament. I reached that conclusion after we had spent hour after hour debating what ice cream salesmen do in St. James's park across the road, rather than debating real issues that affect the constituents of hon. Members on both sides of the House. I am not saying that that matter should not have been debated, but it did not warrant the extensive filibustering that took place. That convinced me that we needed to change our procedures. If we want the Bill to see the light of day--although events beyond our control may prevent that--we must support the Minister's proposal.