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Lembit Öpik: The right hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point of principle. I shall consult my Front-Bench colleagues; should a vote be called, we may be influenced by his argument.

Mr. Gummer: I am much flattered by the hon. Gentleman. I shall therefore bring my remarks to a close, because my purpose, it seems, has been to some degree achieved.

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I would like to remind the House that at moments like this, when there are not many Members and very few of the Government's supporters in the Chamber, we need to be most careful and precise about our procedures. I hope that the House will recognise that there is a daily, weekly and monthly need to stand up for the rights of the House, if we are not to fail to defend our constituents on the issues that really matter. My experience of the House over many years is that if one does not stand up on the issues that apparently do not matter, when it comes to those that do, one is in no position to fight. The hon. Gentleman ought to be on our side, given his history, rather than opposing us.

4.12 pm

Mr. Browne: With permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall respond to the debate. The right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer) saw through the flimsiness of the argument of his Front-Bench colleague, the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies), when he said that he had used the wrong argument. Unfortunately, the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal, in a very articulate and informed way, also got the wrong end of the stick.

The position of the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik) on timetabling continues to confuse me. I have been present when he has talked about recorded debates. I have also been present when he has manfully argued for the discipline of timetabling and treated us to some of his experience in business, telling us how important the discipline of timetables has been in that experience. I know that there are hon. Members present who have heard those arguments. The hon. Gentleman castigates me explicitly and by implication for listening and responding to argument. However, that is exactly what he does with his protean utterances on timetabling.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate): I am grateful to the Minister for giving way, because he and I have both occasionally had the support of the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Lembit Öpik) and his Liberal Democrat colleagues on Northern Ireland issues. Will the Minister inform the House whether he has more confidence in his arguments when he has the support of the Liberal Democrats?

Mr. Browne: The hon. Gentleman invites me to come down on one side or the other. As I have a long-term relationship with the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire, that might place me in an uncomfortable position. I try to recognise when the hon. Gentleman is right and on those occasions I am pleased to have his support. When I think that he is wrong I am pleased to engage in debate with him.

The hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford says that we do not need a timetabling motion because there is no issue of controversy. However, the House has not had an opportunity to consider the provisions that were passed in the other place and are before the House today in the sort of detail that will allow the hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon), for example, as well as, I am sure, the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues on the Front Bench, to ask the detailed questions that they are entitled to ask in relation to those provisions.

The hon. Gentleman went on to say that there is a timetable motion because I, the Minister who has been responsible for the Bill, seek to curtail debate that will

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expose the fact that there has been a change of Government policy. He will see from my contribution to the debate, when we come to the substance of it, that I take that issue head on. There has been a change of policy, and I recognise and accept that. I say to him and others that there is no point in debate in this House if one cannot persuade Ministers at some stage to change policy. As I have been prepared to change policy, hon. Members are entitled to point that out to me—and I am sure that it will be pointed out. However, if he does not think that three or four hours is enough time in which to do so, I despair of his ability to make such a point. There are only so many ways in which he can say "U-turn", even if he does not want to use that phrase.

In an intervention, my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay) suggested that some form of choreography between the Front-Bench teams has led to the timetable motion, on which he was assured by the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford. If my hon. Friend's reaction was anything to go by, he accepted the hon. Gentleman's assurance that there was no such choreography. So that conspiracy theory was blown out of the water; there was nobody for the Government to conspire with. There can be no conspiracy—unless people are whispering to themselves—although that does not of course stop a Conservative Front Bencher suggesting that that is exactly what the Government are doing.

In having to be consistent with the position that the Conservative Front-Bench team is attempting to take, the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal suggested that there is a conspiracy on only one Front Bench, and that that has led to the timetable motion. That is no explanation for the motion either. [Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman may say that that is a good argument. It was not a convincing argument, but it was a good one.

The reality is that the timetable motion is a practical attempt to set aside a sufficient amount of time in the House to debate provisions which, albeit accepted in principle by all parties, require some scrutiny and debate. I am sure that questions will be raised that need to be answered.

Mr. Quentin Davies rose

Mr. Browne: Perhaps one such question is arising now.

Mr. Davies: The hon. Gentleman seems to be in a state of some confusion. He is saying that, notwithstanding the broad agreement in principle on the Lords amendments, providing opportunities to discuss some of the detail might be necessary. That is a weird basis on which to argue for curtailing discussion. He is concerned that Parliament needs more time to consider the matters, so the last thing the Government should be doing is artificially limiting that time.

Mr. Browne: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. I am suggesting that the motion is a practical attempt to set a reasonable period of time in which to discuss matters—informed by debate not only on Second Reading but in Committee and during remaining stages, and in the other place.

Although I restricted my opening remarks to a few sentences, I pointed out that the whole debate in the other place took less time than we are proposing to allow in

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this House to debate the provisions before us. Given the agreement in principle on them, there ought to be sufficient time to consider the issues. I suggest that the timetable motion allows sufficient time to do so.

The hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford has disavowed the generous interpretation of the hon. Member for Montgomeryshire, who was not arguing that debate was being curtailed unnecessarily. It appeared to me that he said that there would not be enough time. Time will tell whether that is so.

Lembit Öpik: With the greatest respect to the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies), I was not convinced by his arguments. I was interested in the deeper principle outlined by the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer). In that sense, there is a concern that the habit of always having a programme motion when it does not count makes it harder for us to defend the need for more time when such a motion does count.

Mr. Browne: I am grateful for that observation. I understood the hon. Gentleman's position to be that he was agreeable to programming in principle. He has said that on several occasions, but now it appears that he agrees with programming generally, but not in principle—whatever the difference between generally and in principle may be. Is it that he is generally agreeable in principle to programming? I am not sure.

Until now, my understanding was that the hon. Gentleman, who speaks regularly for the Liberal Democrats when I am at the Dispatch Box, was agreeable in principle to programming. We have to try to convert the principle to which he is agreeable into some form of practical expression. The motion before us is designed to do that in a way that provides sufficient time to debate the provisions that are before the House today. That is the argument, and it is on that basis that I support the motion and ask the House to do so as well.

Question put:—

The House divided: Ayes 274, Noes 162.

Division No. 207
[4.20 pm


Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Rt Hon Donald
(Swansea E)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Bailey, Adrian
Baird, Vera
Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Battle, John
Beard, Nigel
Begg, Miss Anne
Bennett, Andrew
Benton, Joe
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Borrow, David
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Rt Hon Nicholas
(Newcastle E & Wallsend)
Browne, Desmond
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Cairns, David
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Caplin, Ivor
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Challen, Colin
Chaytor, David
Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Rt Hon Charles
(Norwich S)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cooper, Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Jean
Cousins, Jim
Cox, Tom
Crausby, David
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Darling, Rt Hon Alistair
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Dhanda, Parmjit
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Donohoe, Brian H
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Drown, Ms Julia
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Farrelly, Paul
Field, Rt Hon Frank (Birkenhead)
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foulkes, George
Francis, Dr Hywel
Galloway, George
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Goggins, Paul
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Hanson, David
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hendrick, Mark
Hepburn, Stephen
Hewitt, Rt Hon Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hughes, Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, Rt Hon John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Ingram, Rt Hon Adam
Irranca–Davies, Huw
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Joyce, Eric
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kelly, Ruth
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lammy, David
Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Linton, Martin
Luke, Iain
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McCafferty, Chris
McCartney, Rt Hon Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
MacDougall, John
McFall, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
Mahmood, Khalid
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mann, John
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall–Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Merron, Gillian
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Morley, Elliot
Mullin, Chris
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Edward
Olner, Bill
Organ, Diana
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
Owen, Albert
Pearson, Ian
Perham, Linda
Picking, Anne
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter
Plaskitt, James
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quin, Rt Hon Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Rt Hon Nick
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Joan
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheridan, Jim
Shipley, Ms Debra
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, Rt Hon John
Squire, Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stoate, Dr Howard
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Rt Hon Ann (Dewsbury)
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tynan, Bill
Vis, Dr Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Watson, Tom
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Winnick, David
Woodward, Shaun
Wright, David (Telford)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. John Heppell and
Mr. Graham Stringer.


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Allan, Richard
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael
Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Atkinson, David (Bour'mth E)
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Bacon, Richard
Baldry, Tony
Barker, Gregory
Baron, John
Barrett, John
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Boswell, Tim
Brady, Graham
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Malcolm
Burns, Simon
Burstow, Paul
Burt, Alistair
Butterfill, John
Cable, Dr Vincent
Campbell, Gregory (E Lond'y)
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies
(NE Fife)
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth
Collins, Tim
Conway, Derek
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cotter, Brian
Curry, Rt Hon David
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Djanogly, Jonathan
Dodds, Nigel
Duncan, Alan (Rutland & Melton)
Duncan, Peter (Galloway)
Duncan Smith, Rt Hon Iain
Evans, Nigel
Ewing, Annabelle
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Field, Mark (Cities of London)
Flight, Howard
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Foster, Don (Bath)
Francois, Mark
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gray, James
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian (Ashford)
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hammond, Philip
Hancock, Mike
Harvey, Nick
Hayes, John
Heald, Oliver
Hendry, Charles
Hermon, Lady
Hoban, Mark
Holmes, Paul
Horam, John
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jenkin, Bernard
Keetch, Paul
Kennedy, Rt Hon Charles
(Ross Skye & Inverness W)
Key, Robert
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Kirkwood, Archy
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Laws, David
Leigh, Edward
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Liddell–Grainger, Ian
Lidington, David
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
McIntosh, Miss Anne
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Mitchell, Andrew (Sutton Coldfield)
Moss, Malcolm
Murrison, Dr Andrew
Oaten, Mark
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, George (Tatton)
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paterson, Owen
Pickles, Eric
Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Prisk, Mark
Randall, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Rendel, David
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Angus (Moray)
Robertson, Hugh (Faversham)
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Roe, Mrs Marion
Rosindell, Andrew
Ruffley, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Sanders, Adrian
Sayeed, Jonathan
Selous, Andrew
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Shepherd, Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, Keith (Mid–Norfolk)
Soames, Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Spring, Richard
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Steen, Anthony
Streeter, Gary
Stunell, Andrew
Swire, Hugo
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, John (Solihull)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Taylor, Dr Richard (Wyre F)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Thurso, John
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Waterson, Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Whittingdale, John
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Julian Brazier and
Mr. Desmond Swayne.

Question accordingly agreed to.

15 Apr 2002 : Column 379


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