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Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham): But the right hon. Gentleman will observe that the programming motion now before the House provides that programme motions will be put to the vote immediately, and we shall not be able to debate them for 45 minutes as we were able to do in the last Parliament. Moreover, there is no point in saying that there was all-party agreement to the report because, had the right hon. Gentleman been in the House, attending the debates in the last Parliament, he would have known full well that programming motions were resisted on every occasion. I made more than 12 speeches opposing them.
Mr. Cook: I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman can take some credit for having been one of the reasons that persuaded the great majority of the members of the Modernisation Committee, in their last report, to propose that those programming motions should be taken forthwith. I did say--
Mr. Cook: I will turn to the issue of substance later, but I said at the start of my comments that the motions before the House faithfully include the recommendations of the Modernisation Committee, of which--the right hon. and learned Gentleman is right--that was one.
Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton): The right hon. Gentleman told my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) that it was his participation in 12 debates that led the Modernisation Committee to its conclusions, but that is not the case. One of my objections to the way in which that Committee dealt with the matter is that it made no analysis of the way in which programming motions were debated in the previous Session.
Mr. Cook: Other members of the Modernisation Committee will be able to respond to the hon. Lady's comments on the way in which it reached its conclusions. I am sorry if she is going to deny the right hon. and learned Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) the benefit of being able to claim the credit for the change.
Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak): My right hon. Friend mentioned previous reports of the Select Committee on Modernisation. I have only had a chance to look at the report on the programming of legislation. It does not seem to include all the items that are before us today. For example, has the proposal that Lords amendments and Government motions to disagree with them should be taken forthwith without any debate been considered previously?
Mr. Cook: It is fair to say that the Modernisation Committee's report is brief and does not go into the full detail necessary for the resolution that is put before the House. That proposal is entirely consistent with the policy proposal of the Committee.
Mr. Bercow: I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his gracious protection of my interests, but I am sorry to have to say that his flippant response to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Mr. Hogg) betrays an ignorance of the history of the dispute on this matter, that is to his enduring discredit. Is he not aware that in the previous Parliament there was continuous dispute about the operations of the Programming Sub-Committees and programming motions on the Floor of the House, and that his hon. Friend the hon. Member for Sherwood (Paddy Tipping)--an assiduous performer at the Dispatch Box, who is sadly no longer a member of the Government--undertook, with the support of his boss, the then Leader of the House, the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Margaret Beckett), on a number of occasions to review the operation of those matters. Has the Leader of the House forgotten, or did he not know?
The motions put before the House give effect to proposals of the Modernisation Committee that remain experimental. That is why they were temporary in the previous Session and why they must both be renewed. Both will be reviewed at the end of this Session. I invite hon. Members, therefore, to recognise that this is not the seismic debate that some people attempted to describe in which we are setting aside centuries of tradition and of the rights of Members. This is an experiment to make the proceedings of the House more effective, which the House itself will have ample opportunity to review and reconsider on a future occasion.
Sir Patrick Cormack: The right hon. Gentleman is beginning what I hope will be a long and illustrious tenure of an important office. Does he accept that the Modernisation Committee is discredited in the eyes of many Members of Parliament because it is chaired by the Leader of the House? If it were chaired by the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), by my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd), or even--dare I say it?--by me, it would command much greater cross-party support for its proposals. I urge the right hon. Gentleman seriously to consider his position with regard to that Committee. If it produced proposals that were truly cross-party, there would not be much objection from most Conservative Members.
Mr. Cook: The hon. Gentleman has made one of the most gracious pleas for a post that I have heard. I shall bear his volunteering in mind. As I told the House, it is important that as the Leader of the House I should take a close, personal interest in the Modernisation Committee and be involved in its decisions. Also, the hon. Gentleman's characterisation of how the Committee arrives at its recommendations is not borne out by the nature of the conclusions of the report. There is no evidence that--
Mr. Cook: I will not give way. I am still responding to the hon. Gentleman's hon. Friend on the Back Benches. I have to defend the rights of Back Benchers in the House, too. There is no evidence in the report that my predecessor manipulated the Modernisation Committee or imposed a conclusion on it. Indeed, the initial recommendation for programme motions was unanimous on the part of the Committee--including all the then Conservative members of the Committee.
Mr. Cook: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for pointing out that the parentage of this project is shared by many hon. Members of all parties. I had it in mind to pay tribute to Sir Peter Emery and am pleased to echo what the hon. Gentleman said--that after many years of distinguished service in and experience of the House, he was able to participate fully in some of the radical proposals for modernising our procedures.
The motion on deferred Divisions, which is the second on the Order Paper, is identical to the motion that the House considered in the previous Session. It flows from the proposal of the Modernisation Committee, which reasonably justified it on the basis that it would