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Mr. Hogg: I am sorry to distress my right hon. Friend, but does he agree that the Government do not intend to give him or the House an opportunity properly to discuss the Lords amendments? Did he hear that in all probability the messages will come on Wednesday? As he knows, Labour Back Benchers like to be away at 7 o'clock on Thursdays. If we are extremely lucky, we will have three or four hours to indulge in a bit of ping-pong. Does my right hon. Friend think that that is a proper way to deal with a matter of such gravity?
Mr. Gummer: My right hon. and learned Friend knows that I am a man of charity and I hope that the most likely outcome does not come about. I am trying to encourage the Minister, for whom I have considerable respect, to at least go back to those who decide such mattersif not to Mr. Campbell, then to othersand let them know that this issue is of such importance that we should have enough time to debate it.
We have had this argument before, but the world has changed since then because every single commentator has condemned the Government for the timetable that they have placed on this Bill. When everybody suggests that this is wrong, it is difficult for the Government to argue that we have to accept every part of the Bill because everybody believes in it and wants it. It is a very curious situation. We should be concerned because the parts of the Bill about which commentators have expressed concern are not passing issues; they are crucial to the
I am concerned also that the Government have so far given no indication that they are considering dropping those parts of the Bill that are manifestly not urgent. If they were to propose doing so, most Conservative Members would be happy for them to have the timetable that they have requested for next week. After all, the objection to what the Minister said about finishing the business next week, when there will still be another week to go, stands only if the Government continue to press parts of the Bill that are clearly not urgent. If they are concerned merely with those parts that it is acceptable to view as urgent, if contentious, I should have thought that the House would be prepared to go along with them.
Simon Hughes: Will the right hon. Gentleman reflect on the fact that another important condition for facilitating the earlier passage of the Bill might be that the terrorist-related matters, which form the core of the Bill, should have a limited life, about which we could negotiate, rather than an indefinite time in statute, because there has not been time properly to debate the Bill in both Houses?
Mr. Gummer: The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that I entirely share his views on that. It is a matter not only for this Bill but for all Bills passed as the result of an emergency. I have long wished to introduce a Bill that says that any such legislation should automatically fall after two years and have to be reintroduced. We know that the legislation that followed BSE, the Marchioness disaster, the dangerous dogs issue and Dunblane was deeply flawed. It would be much better for us to have replaced that legislation very soon afterwards and debated it in the comparative calm that follows after 12 or 24 months.
Mr. Hogg: Is there not another troubling aspect to the Bill? My right hon. Friend makes the point that not all parts are urgent, but the Government have never tried to prioritise within the Bill. Indeed, they have sought to assert from time to time that all parts are connected with terrorism, when manifestly that is not the case.
I have a real concern about the Government's bona fides. It seems to me deeply offensive for them to come to the House and say, "We are defending national security and are fundamentally concerned with the protection of the people of Britain, so we need emergency legislation," and then to attach to that a whole series of measures that they know perfectly well would never be passed, and would never win the support of their own Back Benchers, if they were presented in the normal way of things
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that not only is he verging on what might be regarded as Second Reading territory, but he is doing so for the second time.
I shall therefore address the next issuethe problem of timing for people outside the House. One difficulty with the motion is that it will provide no time for Conservative Members and, I suspect, many Government Members to discuss these issues with those outside who have a crucial interest in them. For example, on Second Reading and in Committee, I raised the issue of religious incitement, which is crucial to the question of freedom. I do not wish to trespass on the patience of the House by reminding it why that is so, except to say that at the heart of British freedom is the right to uphold and disagree with religious views. We choose our religious views; we do not choose our race. We choose what we believe in; we do not choose the colour of our skin. Those are different issues, but the Government have confused them.
Out there are many people who will wish to discuss whatever the Lords do to the Bill. They are of all races and all creeds and they need to be heard by Members of Parliament. All of us who care about the matter will want to talk to them about whatever compromise or decision is made in another place.
Mr. Hogg: My right hon. Friend made the point that he and his parliamentary colleagues will want to talk to outside lobbyists. Should he not make the even more important point that they will want to talk to us? Unless they have ample time in which to do so, they will not be in a position to make representations.
Mr. Gummer: My right hon. and learned Friend makes an important point, which goes to the heart of the issue. When the House legislates on the freedom of the individual, people must feel that they have had a proper role in its decisions. If we make decisions about whether rat catchers should be called rodent operatives or whether we should go in for one of the peculiar politically correct phrases that seem to be in vogue, that does not matter much. However, if we are talking about what men and women may say, how they express their deepest beliefs and how they purport to present their being in our society, that matters deeply, and they must feel that they have had an input.
Rather like you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in my constituency I have a number of rather extreme religious sects, with whom I have little in common. However, we share one thing; a belief in their right to say what they think about the Bill before I speak and vote on it in the House. I cannot see how the timetable will allow any of those people, whether they are Jehovah's Witnesses or strict Plymouth Brethren, to express those views.
Simon Hughes: Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that our experience of the Bill shows that individuals and groups have wanted to take part in the debate and have changed their views? I shall cite one example; the Muslim Council of Britain took a certain view at the beginning but, having listened to some of the debate, it changed its view. It might well be minded to express a different view if it knew that a different proposal was on the table. There is not a fixed view out there; it is responsive to what we say and do in the House.
The Parliamentary Secretary made a serious statement suggesting that secondary legislation would be introduced. I do not know whether he meant to tell us about that, had it not been for my hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) and the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes). Between them, they coaxed out of him, elegantly as ever, a willingness to tell us about secondary legislation.
Norman Baker: Would not it be helpful if the Minister, who has been quiet for some time, intervened to explain what secondary legislation is anticipated, and when it will be available for hon. Members to see?
We ought to have known before about possible secondary legislation. That is what is so wrong about what is happening in this Parliament. Why does Parliament allow the Executive to present to the House such a piffling motion, which does not contain anything that any sane person in any other assembly would insist on in the minutes delivered before a meeting? Can it be true that any board of any company, private or public, any institution, or any Government institution would allow such an issue to be discussed without full details?