Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Speaker: That is not a matter for me; Ministers are responsible for their replies.

Mr. Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, of which I have given you notice. You will, of course, be aware of the provisions of the resolution of the House made in the 1996–97 Session, which, among other things, states:

I find myself in a difficult situation, because I know that when she was Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, the hon. Member for Wallasey (Angela Eagle), whom I see in her place—I have discussed this matter with her—completely inadvertently and entirely unintentionally gave the House inaccurate information in the Adjournment debate on the Throckmorton asylum centre that you granted me on 23 May. She said:

that is, the number of asylum seekers—

She went on to say:

That information took me by surprise, but I made researches during the recess. I wrote to the hon. Lady on 28 May—I wish that she were still a Minister, because she was a very fine one. In the letter, I said:

I concluded:

11 Jun 2002 : Column 726

The curious difficulty that arises is that the Minister who, entirely unintentionally, gave the House that information is no longer a Minister, so she is not in a position to correct the record herself. What advice would you give me, Mr. Speaker, in these unusual circumstances?

Angela Eagle (Wallasey): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is obviously a matter of great regret to me that one of the last things that I said from the Front Bench was inaccurate, as the hon. Gentleman says, and I apologise to the House for that. At the end of the Adjournment debate, when I stated what I thought was a fact, the looks of astonishment on the faces around me gave me some clue that I might not be on safe ground. I subsequently had my office researchers begin to check whether my statement was accurate, but unfortunately an event that I had not anticipated supervened to prevent me from putting the record straight from the Front Bench. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has been able to do so, and I pass on my regrets to the House for misleading it.

Mr. Speaker: It looks as though the record has been put straight. If I let this matter go on any longer, it will take longer than the Adjournment debate.

Mr. Luff: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I express my gratitude to the hon. Lady for her statement?

Mr. Speaker: Yes.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I recall that there was a time, perhaps long ago, when, whichever party was in power, there was a custom—not a rule, but a custom—regarding Members asking written questions. If there was any difficulty about answering them, and the civil servants had to puzzle out why they were being asked, the Member concerned would ring the Minister's private office to explain the background. That saved a great deal of civil service time and led to better answers.

Mr. Speaker: I thank the Father of the House.

Mr. David Wilshire (Spelthorne): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I want to return to your earlier ruling in response to my right hon. Friend the shadow Leader of the House that it is not a matter for the Chair that the Government keep secret records on Members of Parliament. If it is not a matter for the Chair, what advice can you give to Members about how they can get access to that secret information that the Government keep on us and are using against us?

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Gentleman should go to the Minister concerned.

11 Jun 2002 : Column 725

11 Jun 2002 : Column 727

Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill (Programme) (No. 3)

Mr. Speaker: I inform the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin).

3.44 pm

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Blunkett): I beg to move,

    (4) The proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at Ten o'clock on the second day.

    (5) Sessional Order B (programming committees) made on 28th June 2001 shall not apply to proceedings on consideration and Third Reading.

Before I come to the programme motion, I put on record my appreciation of the way in which my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Angela Eagle) led for the Government in the Committee that considered the Bill. I greatly appreciate what she did throughout the past year and thank her for her tremendous support.

We have a two-day debate before us and I hope that we shall take as little time as possible over the programme motion so that we can debate the issues that the timetable tackles. I hope that I can help to achieve that by setting an example. I want to draw some matters to the attention of those who are not familiar with what happened to the timings for this important and complicated measure.

11 Jun 2002 : Column 728

On Second Reading, the Opposition appealed for extra time in Committee, and I said that I was willing to consider the matter with the Whips. I did that, and because of representations from Opposition Members in Committee that deferred three sessions of the 32 and a half hours allocated for our proceedings, we agreed that there should be an extra day. That was welcomed by hon. Members of all parties. Indeed, the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) said:

    "I am grateful for the Minister's explanation and for the generous time available to scrutinise the Bill. The official Opposition have no objection and concur with the Government's proposal."—[Official Report, Standing Committee E, 30 April 2002; c. 105.]

I was grateful for that comment because it clarified that the additional day allowed the Committee to consider many, if not all the major issues that were before us at the time.

On Second Reading, my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey said in her summing up that we would table further amendments to deal with what is known as benefit shopping and the outcome of the Roth judgment. Everyone knew that further amendments had to be considered in the light of that. Two weeks ago, I said that there would be a further substantive amendment on the appeals process. Today, I am moving a programme motion that provides, not for the original one day that was allocated for Report and Third Reading, but for the two days that I personally requested so that the additional amendments could be properly scrutinised.

With the additional day in Committee, the two extra days for Report and Third Reading are proper and adequate. The timetable motion shares the time available between consideration of accommodation centres and of appeals in a way that enables hon. Members to have their voices heard and their anxieties raised and considered.

Next Section

IndexHome Page