Mr. Ainsworth: It remains for us to say a few words at the end of our consideration of the Bill, and to thank you, Mr. O'Hara, and your colleague and co-Chairman, Miss Begg, for the way in which you have conducted the proceedings. I also thank the Clerk and the Staff of the House, who assist us in dealing with the legislation, and Hansard for hanging on to every word and trying to make sense of what we say. I want to thank the Home Office staff for the support that they have given me and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon (Mr. Wills), and all members of the Committee on both sides for the way in which they have dealt with matters.
One of the highlights of the Committee was that the fact there was time for only one outburst from the hon. Member for Henley. It is a shame that he did not return earlier from his break in India, as we might have had more demonstrations of his intellect imposed on us, as is his usual style.
We discovered a little about the past behaviour of the hon. Member for Torridge and West Devon with his brawling abroad with the Royal Navy, or was he merely condoning the brawls with the Royal Navy during the Trafalgar cup many years ago?
The ultimate highlight was the disclosure of the secret discussions that take place between my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster, North (Mr. Hughes) and certain Members on the Opposition Front Bench, the taxis travelling across London and all the serious ramifications that that has for all hon. Members.
I have enjoyed the proceedings and, on balance, am glad that they were shorter than the proceedings of the Committee that considered the Proceeds of Crime Bill. That Committee certainly was a one-off. We have attempted to expose all the issues, and I hope that we will be able to report the Bill to the House for further consideration.
Mr. Hawkins: May I extend the Opposition's thanks to you, Mr. O'Hara, and to the Clerks, the Staff of the House and all members of the Committee. This has been one of the most good-humoured Committees on which I have ever had the pleasure to serve. It has been enormously helped by the relaxed approach adopted by you and your co-Chairman, Miss Begg. My hon. Friends and I have been grateful for the latitude that you showed us in this afternoon's sitting, which has been especially good-humoured—we may all be a little demob happy. That latitude is especially helpful when dealing with arcane and technical matters on the law of extradition, and with serious issues that are difficult to deal with in brief interventions. We benefit greatly from those senior Members who are prepared to sit on the Chairmen's Panel and chair our proceedings.
I share the Minister's view that this was, to some extent, Proceeds of Crime Bill mark 2. No doubt it would have been longer and we would have needed
Column Number: 28more Committee sittings under the programme motion if the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Davidson) had served with us on the Committee. The battles between him and my hon. Friend the Member for Henley have passed into parliamentary legend, and will doubtless feature in many of our memoirs in years to come.
The Whips—the hon. Member for Halton (Derek Twigg) and my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster—also managed to work in a good-humoured way. Although the Minister tried hard to drive a wedge between the Liberal Democrats, he did not succeed. I had hoped to tempt the hon. Members for Doncaster, North and for Knowsley, North and Sefton, East (Mr. Howarth) to support us on certain Divisions, and there were a couple of times when the Government might have been in serious trouble. Some votes were only seven to six in the Government's favour. The Minister's Parliamentary Private Secretary was the missing Member on one Division, and the Division had to be delayed to enable him to rush back in. Otherwise, it would have been six all, and we might have had an Opposition victory.
Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North and Sefton, East): The hon. Gentleman should not delude himself about my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster, North and me.
Mr. Hawkins: I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was with us when his hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster, North strongly supported our concerns and raised serious issues with the Minister. It is recorded in Hansard that he voted with the Government only because of the Minister's reassurances. We came quite close on occasions, and the other place will examine the voting figures carefully.
I sincerely thank members of the Committee and also the outside organisations that provided the Opposition with briefing material to help us at least try to match the army of civil servants that backs the Government.
Mr. Burnett: I want to join the Minister and the hon. Member for Surrey Heath in thanking you, Mr. O'Hara, and Miss Begg for your relaxed and tolerant chairmanship, which was much appreciated. The Committee has been free of rancour, and we have had some well-humoured sittings. It has been reasonably enjoyable.
We are immensely grateful to the Clerks, who help us enormously. Briefings from outside are also enormously helpful. Liberal Democrat and Conservative Members do not have a thousand civil servants—armies to prime, rehearse and assist us—so we have to work hard to call the Government to account.
As well as the Clerks, I want to thank those who record our proceedings and the Attendants, several of whom I had the privilege of serving with in Her Majesty's Royal Marines. They may have had an inkling of what I meant when I mentioned the Trafalgar cup in 1966. It remains to thank the police and members of the Committee, particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland. From
Column Number: 29the far south-west to the far north, we have launched a combined operation and fought a valiant fight. To the Minister, I say that more is to come, not only here, but in another place.
The Chairman: It is my turn to express my appreciation. The Attendants have served and protected us extremely well, and I thank the Hansard reporters who always ensure that the occasional solecism from the Chair, which may not be noticed by the Committee, turns out correctly in the Official Report. I made one not long ago and the Hansard writer would have noticed it and ensured that it came out right. The Clerks are an unceasing source of efficient support and guidance.
No one has mentioned those on my right, who are traditionally seen but not heard. I have been impressed with the discreet way in which advice has been extradited to the Committee. Finally, members of the Committee—
Mr. Burnett: In fairness—I am sure that the hon. Member for Surrey Heath will confirm it—the Minister did convey his thanks to his colleagues.
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The Chairman: I was coming on to members of the Committee. I congratulate the Minister on conducting proceedings with great panache, and the same applies to the chief spokesmen for the Opposition parties. The hon. Member for Surrey Heath was absolutely right when he said that our proceedings have been unfailingly courteous, which is important when such serious matters are being debated. When not dripping with courtesy, our proceedings were at least good-humoured, which made my job much easier.
At the end of our proceedings, I do not know whether we have a cast-iron, copper-bottomed commitment, which sounds like a masterpiece of the tinker's craft, but it is time to conclude.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill, as amended, to be reported.
Committee rose at fourteen minutes past Four o'clock.
The following Members attended the Committee:
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