|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Simon Hughes: My hon. Friend is right; it has been genetically modified to make it a creature of the Labour manifesto at the last general election. I have checked the figures, and of the 711 Members of the other place, 245 have been created life peers by the Prime Minister. The Government have determined the entire composition of the House of Lords, so I hope that they will not try to criticise it at all.
Mr. Hogg: I cannot remember whether the hon. Gentleman was present this afternoon during questions to the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, but if he was not here, his colleagues will remind him that the Parliamentary Secretary justified the presence in the other place of the Law Lords and others with judicial experience on the ground that their experience was relevant to legislation of precisely this kind.
Simon Hughes: As it happens, I was not here thenI was trying to negotiate some amendments to the Bill outside the Chamberalthough I discussed that issue afterwards, and it is exactly the reason why the Law Lordsnot just Lord Donaldson, who has made his views public, but othershave been keen to ensure that they participate. When the Government briefed the Opposition parties, they invited Lord Ackneran extremely eminent lawyerwho also asked significant questions. So the right hon. and learned Gentleman's intervention is absolutely pertinent.
The last substantive reason that I want to adduce as to why we should not go down the road of this unnecessarily rushed procedure next week is that, every day, there is more evidence of the need for us to do our job carefully
At almost the same time, I was attending European Standing Committee B, which was considering the European arrest warrant. That Committee has not yet finished its work. We thought that it might sit for only an hour or two, but it is sitting for rather longer than we expected because its Chairman had to adjourn the sitting when it became apparent that the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Ainsworth), was working from a different draft of the document from the rest of the Committee. That only came to light because we had a chance to question him about the document. We would never had discovered that fact if we had not had chance to question him. That is a very good argument for proceeding carefully and ensuring that we all know what we are doing, especially on a hugely important matter, such as whether people accused of an offence in France or Germany can be arrested in this country even though what they had done was not an offence here.
The hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve) mentioned the third example to me a little earlier. It arose during debates on the Proceeds of Crime Bill in Committee, where he and my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Norman Baker) and other hon. Members have been labouring for many hours today, as on other Tuesdays and Thursdays, and where more unforeseen and unexpected implications turn up each day in relation to a complicated Bill, which has been given proper time for debate in Committee. All those examples demonstrate the need for us to proceed carefully and to take our time.
We want to send a warning about what will happen if the Government persist in being absolutist about the timetable and the Bill. The more that the Government push for a foreshortened timetable and the less time we have for the negotiation that my right hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) suggested would be sensible, the firmer will be the resolve of colleagues on the Liberal Democrat and Conservative Benches and elsewhere in the House. The more the Government insist on timetabling debate out of the Bill, the more we will insist on changing it. The more that the Government insist on not allowing proper consideration, the firmer is the probability that the Bill will last for a short time indeed. We will insist on sunset clauses that will ensure that it returns as new legislation in a short time from now.
Issues of whether the courts should have the right to oversee the Executive or whether the British Government and Parliament should breach its duties under United Nations conventions, such as that on refugees, should not be taken lightly or inappropriately. We will not be pushed over and we will not be told what we should legislate. Parliament will decide what should be in the Bill and if
Mr. John Gummer (Suffolk, Coastal): Interestingly, this is the one occasion when we have all the time in the world to debate anything to do with the Bill. If the Government had allocated proper time on other occasions, this debate might have been curtailed. Although I shall be careful to keep within the terms of the motion, it is not unreasonable to emphasise the fact to the Government that many Opposition Members are present not because this motion is immensely attractive but because we have had so little chance to discuss something that is fundamental to the rights of people in this country and elsewhere.
Mr. Garnier: Thanks to the Government condescending to debate this motion we have a lot of time available to us. However, we cannot have a vote at the end of our discussion. Any Division that takes place on the motion will take place on Wednesday. [Hon. Members: "Next Wednesday."] That is another matter. Any Division will take place on a Wednesday, when we will be required to tick a pink piece of paper. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the best way for Parliament to reach a conclusion is to have a vote immediately after the end of the debate?
Mr. Gummer: My hon. and learned Friend fails to recognise why we will not have a vote at the end of this debate. If we were going to vote, the Government Benches would be filled, or at least Government Members would be somewhere in the House. They would have to vote and might even have to listen to the realities of the issues under discussion. Perhaps they might be persuaded by the argument.
I perfectly understand why the Minister does not want Labour Members to be here. The most interesting thing about the Bill is that no organ of the press has supported it in its entirety or even most of it. The truth is that people outside the House have deep concerns about the Bill, so the motion should be discussed in detail.
Simon Hughes: Following the intervention of the hon. and learned Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier), does the right hon. Gentleman accept that a vote could take place in two circumstances? First, we could vote on an amendment, had one been selected. Secondly, if our proceedings go on long enough, we could vote on closure. I do not understand how the debate will end otherwise.
Mr. Gummer: It is no part of my intention to make the second possible. The Speaker made the first impossible and has decided not to reconsider it. We have to consider the circumstances in which we find ourselves.
I want to explain to the Minister why I have doubts about the motion. It does not tell us anything about what we are going to do. There are, of course, things that it cannot tell us. The Government have no idea what will happen in the other place, so it is right that the motion is flexible. However, it is not sensible for the Government not to tell us that we will have proper time to debate whatever they will bring before the House when Members of the other place have completed their discussions.
The Government have been universally condemned outside the House. I do not know whether members of the Government read the newspapers, watch television or concern themselves with critics elsewhere, but there has been no dissent in the media, in any circumstances, about the fact that the Government have not given proper time for discussion of the Bill. They might therefore think that they have made a mistake. It is possible that in a Napoleonic way the Government alone are right and the rest of us are wrong, but if they had any humilityI know that the Minister does, but I am not sure about the rest of the Governmentthis would be the moment for them to think again and give time for debate. That is why I asked whether we will have time to debate our concerns on any of those variegated days in which life will continue for as long as the Government wish it to.
I am happy to hang around for as long as the Government want to debate the most important subject that we have discussed since I had the enormous pleasure of voting for entry into the European Union. It is a crucial debate and I want to represent my constituents when we discuss some of the basic reasons why we are in Parliament.