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Mr. Clifton-Brown: The hon. Gentleman has made a point about knives. He will be aware that knives have been involved on at least four occasions in relation to this Bill, and on no occasion was the Government Whip prepared to go beyond 7 o'clock, despite the fact that we were prepared to do so. We do not agree with guillotines at all, but if the Government were to give the Opposition the freedom that the hon. Gentleman describes, within a constrained number of sittings, by extending the sitting time and removing the knives, there would be some purport in his criticism.
Andrew Bennett: I accept that; it seems to me that there has been a lack of negotiation. Personally, I would not start with the guillotines; I would simply start with the Government setting a deadline for the proceedings and hoping that the desired result could be achieved by negotiation. I have to say, however, that, having been in the House for quite a long time, and having filibustered in Committee on many occasions, I believe that the way in which Bills were scrutinised in the past was often not particularly helpful
I welcome the extra bits that the Government will put into the Bill, but I want to press the Minister on the question of delay. When the Select Committee was rather more enthusiastic for organic change, rather than a big bang of legislation, there was a worry that there would be a hiatus for local authorities in the interim while moving from the old system to the new. I think that such a hiatus is beginning to develop.
I hope that the Minister will tell us that this process will not delay the implementation of the Bill. The dates envisaged were some time after the Government expected Royal Assent to be given, and I hope that they will be kept to.
Will we have the extra planners we were promised? The legislative change will not work without more planners, and more effective planners. We were pleased when the Government made concessions on section 106 money, but many people outside are confused and concerned, and I hope the Minister can tell us exactly what is happening. I also hope that we can have a bit more information about the provisions relating to compulsory purchase orders, and an assurance that what the Chancellor talked about yesterday will not be slipped into the Bill: that would be very unfortunate.
I plead with the Minister to ensure that any new development body for the Thames gateway will not slow the process down. The Select Committee noted that in Dartford, for instance, people who had been working very slowly for nearly 10 years had now got their act together.
When trying to create sustainable communities, the Government should look again at the building regulations. This morning, with the Select Committee, I visited BedZED, a Peabody Trust development. That showed me how much progress could be made in the building of sustainable housing. I hope that building control regulations will keep up to date with the best of what is proposed.
I am glad that we are going to spend a bit more time on the Bill. Perhaps the Leader of the House will consider applying the same principle to the draft housing Bill. Finally, let me plead with the Opposition not to go on whingeing about guillotines, but to find ways in which they can work effectively within the new restrictions.
Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall): I am glad of the opportunity to speak. As the Leader of the House said, although there are precedents for carry-over, we are using a new procedure for the first time. My colleagues and I are far from happy about the way in which that procedure is being imposed on us.
I have experienced the benefitI hope it is a benefitof working with the Modernisation Committee on some of these issues since its inception. Neither the Leader of the House nor his Conservative shadow, the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), have experienced that benefit, let alone others who are speaking today. I therefore want to refer to points made by the Leader of the House earlier, and to what lies behind the process.
The Modernisation Committee has always seen this as a deliberate, careful trade-off. The Opposition parties would have a bigger role in deciding the business of the House, while the Government would have more certainty about the way in which its business might be pursued. In particular, we might together try to improve the product that emerges from the legislative sausage machine. I am sorry to produce another analogy immediately, but that would enable us to avoid the "London bus" syndrome of having to consider all the big Bills arriving seriatim during the parliamentary year without devoting proper scrutiny to some important parts of them.
The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Bennett) was right to point out that implicit in the Modernisation Committee's proposals was the fact that the Government would know the date when Bills would leave Committee, but that within a Committee it should be largely left to the Opposition parties to decide where the knives should fall and how much time should be spent on individual sections. That is all part of the proposal put to the House on 29 October.
We do not think it acceptable to deal with these matters piecemeal. There must of course be a specific motion for a specific Billthat is what the House agreed tobut we face the possibility that over the next few weeks we will have to deal with other stand-alone motions on other carry-over issues without the appropriate consultation that was agreed to, and to which the Government were previously committed.
Dr. John Reid: I do not dismiss some of what the hon. Gentleman is saying. Normally, at the time of Second Reading or thereabouts, we would want to give prolonged advance indication of the Bills that we
Mr. Tyler: I hear what the Leader of the House says and I know that he speaks with great sincerity, but I wonder whether we shall not be faced with yet more carry-over proposals between now and the end of the Sessionin which case his words may come to haunt him.
Two other important safeguards were built into the trade-off that was recommended to, and accepted by, the House. The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish has already mentioned one: that programming in Committee should be left to the initiative of members of that Committee, in particular Opposition members, so that they could identify the most important issues, and decide on the allocation of time and where the knives should fall, in a programming sub-committee.
The other safeguard is equally important. In the proposals put to the House on 29 October, there was a deliberate link with pre-legislative scrutiny. It was said that that was one way of ensuring that the time of both Houses was put to good use. The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish and his Committee did some good work on pre-legislative scrutiny, but let me put this to the Leader of the House. We now know that a lot of new material will come before the House and its Standing Committee. Will the Select Committee be given an opportunity to carry out more pre-legislative scrutiny?
Some of these issues are extremely significant. If the link is between pre-legislative scrutiny and carry-over, the full exercise must be undertaken rather than the Committee's being left to try and work its way through new material in a way that has been described as haphazardwhich is putting it pretty mildly. We should note in passing that the other place has built into its agreement to any carry-over the explicit promise that pre-legislative scrutiny will have occurred.