Mr. Maclennan: The hon. Lady begs a great many questions in talking about the amount of time that is required. I do not know whether she has considered what is going on in the legislative and ratification processes of all the other countries. She might be right that it will take a little time for a sufficient number of members to ratify the treaty, but I would not wish to leave such a matter to chance, and it is very important that this country gives a lead. It is important not only for us to be among those countries that can influence the operation of the court,
I commend the Government for their handling of the Bill. The Minister has been extremely sympathetic in his handling of interventions and amendments. He has shown not merely tolerance of arguments, including some that I have made at some length, but a genuine sympathy for the process of deliberation. It is a travesty of what happened in Committee to suggest that he and the Government have been unsuitably precipitate in their handling of the Bill. The reverse is the case, as will be clear to anyone who takes the trouble to read the record. I have no doubt that those NGOs that were spoken of with a certain disfavour by one Conservative Back Bencher earlier will at least read Hansard. They will know that there has been suitable deliberation, and that although the one issue on which uncertainty remains--universal jurisdiction--has had to be temporarily shelved, that shelving was not the result of any failure by the Government to provide enough time to debate it.
Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate): The right hon. Gentleman is being much too generous to the Government, given the timing of the presentation of the Bill to the House of Commons. In the first instance, the Bill was never expected to reach the stage that it has reached, because it would have been lost had there been a 3 May election. The fact that it has been timetabled now to complete proceedings before we dissolve means that the Government cannot accept amendments, however good the arguments adduced in their favour by the right hon. Gentleman and the rest of us in Committee or, indeed, now; otherwise, the Bill will not become law. That is why the timetable motion is a disgrace, and does dishonour to so important an issue.
Mr. Maclennan: It is uncharacteristic of the hon. Gentleman to indulge in such hyperbole. There has been a great deal of time to consider all the issues that were before the Committee, and many of them were considered in another place before they were raised by us in Committee. The Government have decided, in the last analysis, to stand, not on the issue of time, but on what they have decided is appropriate. As the hon. Gentleman knows, I do not agree with the Government on universal jurisdiction, but even on that issue it has not been lack of time that has caused the Government to end the discussions. They have done so because they believe that they are right, and, to be candid, they are entitled to do so; they have at this time a majority.
I hope that, in the limited time that is available to us to consider these matters, we shall not indulge in criticism of the procedures. It will be more interesting to revert, as soon as possible, to the issue of substance, while recognising that the paramount interest of this country in today's proceedings is implementation of the Bill, to enable us to give effect in our domestic law to the provisions that have already been agreed by our signature to the statute of Rome.
Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South): I will not delay the House long, but it is important to place on the record from the Labour Back Benches, from someone who served on the Committee, my belief that we had an excellent debate in Committee and covered a wide range of areas.
It is somewhat duplicitous or hypocritical for the Opposition to advance arguments that imply that although they allegedly support the Bill, they are voting against the programme motion. It is not yet clear to me whether they will vote against Third Reading, but it was suggested in Committee by at least one Opposition Member that they would vote against the Bill if amendments were not agreed. Perhaps the modern Conservative party, in which the Back-Bench tail wags the dog, is in fact a kind of Leninist party--
The Bill meets many of the aims that the Conservative party claimed that it wanted to achieve. We had extensive debate in Committee. The programme motion gives us the chance to get the legislation through the House today. If we cannot do so, the Bill will not receive Royal Assent before the election, and it will be lost.
If the Bill falls, it will not be easy to reintroduce it quickly. It would again have to go through all its stages in both Houses of Parliament following the election on 7 June. Given the amount of time that the Opposition would no doubt want to discuss all the clauses and their amendments, we would have to spend several weeks more debating the same issues and making the same arguments as those we advanced extensively in Committee--whether it be the Conservative party's friendship with General Pinochet, the situation in Serbia or the problem of international jurisdiction.
We would not be able to complete all stages until the end of July, or even October or November. There would be no guarantee that this country would be one of the first 60 to pass such legislation. Therefore, we would not be one of the most influential countries in the International Criminal Court. For those reasons, we must vote for the programme motion and conclude business on the Bill today.
Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire): The Government must be delighted to have such subservient minions as the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Gapes), who has just addressed the House with such conspicuous lack of articulate sense.
In rushing the Bill through the House, there is a danger of our creating bad law. I want to say that, above all, that is symptomatic of the Government's steamroller approach, to which we have become increasingly accustomed during this Session of this very subservient Parliament, in which those in serried ranks behind the Government have supported whatever the Government have said and have been prepared to do whatever the Government have wanted them to do.
The Government have been able to do whatever they have wanted because of their huge majority. The electorate ought to have regard to that, as should Labour Members. None of us knows the result of the election. Many think that they know, but no Member in this Chamber does know. There will be a time--[Interruption.] I wish that the Minister would stop behaving in such an unministerial manner, by sitting on the Front Bench making silly interventions.