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LEADER OF THE HOUSE

The Leader of the House was asked—

Private Members' Bills

33. Hugh Bayley (City of York) (Lab): Whether he has examined the feasibility of increasing the time allocated to consideration of private Members' Bills in the current Session. [140763]

The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Peter Hain): Many Members, and outside commentators, have proposed alternatives to the current system for private Members' Bills. The Procedure Committee has recently reported on this matter. The Government will consider its report carefully.

Hugh Bayley : I have been a Member of the House for almost 12 years, yet I have never been fortunate enough to have my name come up in the ballot for private Members' business. Private Members introduce important legislation. My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Pound) introduced a Bill on high hedges and my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton, South (Mr. Tynan) introduced important legislation on fireworks this year. It appears that the House has the opportunity, given the new hours, to provide more time for private Members' business. Will my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House talk to the Procedure Committee to see whether more time could be made available so that people such as me might also be able to put legislation before the House?

Mr. Hain: I share my hon. Friend's desperate plight of never having had a private Member's Bill as a Back Bencher and I agree that such Bills are important. I am keen to uphold the rights of Back Benchers in this respect. He mentioned Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I asked for work to be done on that point. If we take the 13 sitting Fridays and convert them into hours on, say, Tuesdays, we require 22 evenings to achieve the rough equivalent of those Fridays. The Procedure Committee, to which he referred, looked at that, but did not recommend it. However, when we conduct the review of sitting hours, which we are obliged to do before the end of this Parliament, we shall be able to return to the matter.

Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire) (Con): Is not half the trouble the large number of Government

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handout Bills each year, which squeeze genuine private Members' Bills? This year, the Government, in breach of convention, have not included in the Queen's Speech eight Bills that they wish to introduce. We have to go through a ludicrous game whereby I ask the Leader of the House, "Is this Bill coming forward?" If he can identify it, we find out whether a Bill is going to go ahead. So far, I have managed to find three.

Has that ludicrous situation arisen because the Leader of the House and his colleagues want to propose as handout Bills the Government Bills that they feel they cannot fit into the timetable? If so, will not that squeeze genuine private Members' Bills from Back Benchers even more than usual?

Mr. Hain: Not everything is mentioned in the Queen's Speech. None of the Bills additional to those listed in normal fashion by Her Majesty the Queen is a private Member's handout Bill. The hon. Gentleman seeks to deprecate the Government's record in this matter, but 13 private Members' Bills received royal assent in the previous Session. That is a pretty good achievement. Hon. Members are able to choose which private Member's Bill to take forward. Many choose to exercise their right to take forward a handout Bill that they feel pretty confident they can get on to the statute book, but it is equally their right to propose some other provision.

Mr. Stephen Pound (Ealing, North) (Lab): I appreciate that some private Members' Bills are off the shelf, and that others are off the wall. However, the excellent private Member's Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Wiggin), which would have allowed motor cyclists to ride in bus lanes, represented the House at its finest. Does my right hon. Friend accept that private Members' Bills are a unique contribution to the tapestry of the nation, and that they should be encouraged, even when—heaven forfend!—they are a tad inconvenient on occasion?

Mr. Hain: I strongly endorse the sentiments so eloquently expressed by my hon. Friend, who I know is an enthusiastic motor cyclist. I am sure that everyone will listen carefully to his plea.

Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall) (LD): Does the Leader of the House agree that we should have fewer private Members' Bills, but that they should be given a much greater chance of success? In the 21st century, is not it totally irrational to subject such Bills to the luck of the draw, the raffle, or the bran tub that is sitting in the No Lobby today? Should we not have sensible criteria for such Bills, including the requirement that any proposal has support in all parties?

Mr. Hain: I should be happy to listen to any practical suggestions that the hon. Gentleman might have. As he knows, the Procedure Committee has considered the matter, and its report is available to the House.

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BILLS PRESENTED

Horserace Betting and Olympic Lottery

Secretary Tessa Jowell, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Secretary Blunkett, Mr. Secretary Darling, Mr. Secretary Reid, Ms Secretary Hewitt, Mr. Secretary Clarke, Mr. Secretary Murphy, Mr. Peter Hain, Mr. Paul Boateng, Mr. Richard Caborn and Estelle Morris presented a Bill to make provision for the sale of the Tote; to make provision for the abolition of the horserace betting levy system; to make provision for the establishment of National Lottery games designed to raise money in connection with the hosting by London of the Olympic Games in 2012; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Wednesday 3 December, and to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed. [Bill 8].

Employment Relations

Ms Secretary Hewitt, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Secretary Smith, Mr. Secretary Darling, Mr. Peter Hain, Mr. Secretary Murphy and Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe presented a Bill to amend the law relating to the recognition of trade unions and the taking of industrial action; to make provision about means of voting in ballots under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992; to amend provisions of that Act relating to rights of members and non-members of trade unions and to make other provision about rights of trade union members, employees and workers; to make further provision concerning the enforcement of legislation relating to minimum wages; to make further provision about proceedings before and appeals from the Certification Officer; to make further provision about the amalgamation of trade unions; to make provision facilitating the administration of trade unions; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Wednesday 3 December, and to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed. [Bill 7].

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Points of Order

12.32 pm

Mr. Richard Spring (West Suffolk) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Has the Foreign Secretary given you notice of his intention to come to the House to make a statement about his White Paper on a strategy for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, as foreshadowed in his remarks in the House last week? Is it not ironic and shameful that, in the very week that the big conversation was launched, the same facility was not extended to Members of the House? Considering the vital importance of Britain's foreign policy, do you agree that simply issuing a written statement is gratuitously insensitive and offensive to Parliament and to the skill and dedication of our diplomats abroad?

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Gentleman rightly noted that there was a debate last Thursday, which was opened by the Home Secretary. Therefore, what has been done today does not constitute a breach of the rules of the House.

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Orders of the Day

Debate on the Address

[Fourth Day]

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [26 November],


Question again proposed.

Home and Constitutional Affairs

Mr. Speaker: I inform the House that I have not selected the amendment tabled by the Scottish National party and Plaid Cymru.

12.33 pm

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Blunkett): Mr. Speaker, let us engage in the big conversation this afternoon. Over the past day or two, I have been battered and bruised. I have even been stitched up, but I am unbowed. After walking into a ladder on Friday night, I learned that, in the game of snakes and ladders, we should be more afraid of the ladders than the snakes.

The Queen's Speech is about preparing Britain for the future. It is about anticipating, and not merely responding to, the events and challenges of the future. It is about modernising for an era to come rather than simply reacting to the issues of the moment. It is about being bold in changing, rather than just tinkering with, the challenges that we face. It is about legislating because we need to for the future, rather than picking Bills that have been on the stocks for a long time. Whether changing for the better the way that we protect victims and witnesses or protecting our borders, it is about ensuring that government works in the interests of people.

The Queen's Speech is as much about building trust in our communities, or mobilising them to be part of the solution themselves, as it is about the legislation itself, for we all know that legislation is only part of the picture. Ensuring that the framework, powers and resources are in place is important, but the speech is actually about changing the culture. We need a culture of respect and accountability, in which people are prepared to respond and take on challenges—to be self-interested in the way they look after their family, but self-determining in a way that engages with the wider community. In other words, we are interdependent. We are mutually responsible for each other, and we gain strength by achieving that, rather than being individuals fighting alone. That is the spirit of the home affairs and constitutional affairs sections of the Queen's Speech.

The Under-Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Mr. Leslie), will be holding the fort gallantly on

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constitutional affairs at the end of the debate, but I can say now that the dramatic changes and wide range of Bills on constitutional matters that we are introducing are indicative of a Government who are prepared to take on the challenges of the future. In home policy, building on the foundations that we have already put in place, we are laying out the measures that will build the trust and confidence, and the ability of communities to respond, that I have mentioned.

We have already taken enormous steps: 12,000 extra police officers over the last three years, the introduction of more than 2,000 community support officers, the development of the street warden scheme, the massive expansion by 10,000 of the number of civilian workers in the police service, the introduction of DNA and forensic services in a way never before envisaged—


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