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Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West) (Con): I do not think that the motion, which is debatable, should go through on the nod. The Minister was given plenty of time to give a speech, and would not take interventions. When he mentioned removing the Judicial Committee of the House of Lords from Parliament, I was going to ask him how many members of the Judicial Committee in the Lords believe in what he agreed to. If he withdraws from the Chamber before the debate is finished, I am perfectly happy that he should leave with the Home Secretary. However, it would have been good if he had mentioned two things in his speech. He should have told us, first, what the opinion of the Law Lords was, and he should then have talked about the referendum, which the British people have been denied, on the European constitution.
Peter Bottomley: One reason why I probably shall not be a success in the House is that I thought that I was debating the motion that the House should adjourn[Interruption.] I think that I am contributing to the debate, but if I need to turn it into a point of order, I shall do so. I should like to emphasise what the Whip was saying. He rose and moved the Adjournment motion.
Peter Bottomley: I was opposing that motion, Madam Deputy Speaker, and explaining why it was inappropriate for the Whip to move it and for the House to agree it without debate. Today, Back Benchers' speeches were limited to 10 minutes. The Minister had 35 minutes available to him. A number of Members[Interruption.] It is all very well for the Minister to start pointing, but he could have allowed the debate to continue. There are many more things that he could have said if he did not repeat himself. We could have used the time more effectively, and we still could if the Whip withdrew the motion so as to allow other Members to take part in the debate.
Keith Vaz: Some hon. Members were in the Chamber from the start of this debate, listening to the speeches. The hon. Gentleman was not. He has come in at 6.45 and is trying to get in on the debate, but he should have been here at the start, like everyone else.
Mr. Garnier: The normal expectation these days is that debates on the Loyal Address go as far as 7 o'clock. What information the Chair will have had at decision time in accepting the 10-minute rule on speeches is neither here nor there, but there is plenty of time for my hon. Friend, in a debate both on the Loyal Address and the motion put by the Whip just now, to which he is speaking, to make the points that he is properly making. The hon. Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz) has made a poor point in criticising him for entering the current debate late. He was present at the beginning, as he initiated it.
Peter Bottomley: It is certainly within the rules, Madam Deputy Speaker, for the Whip to propose the motion that you have put to the Chamber, but I think that it is unprecedented in a Queen's Speech debate for a Government Whip, presumably on instructions from more senior Ministers, to put such a motion during the ordinary debate. I do not think that I have seen in "Erskine May" a reference to that having happened. I suggest to the Minister that, when people have been trying to speak or intervene, the Government should announce that they will not do such a thing again. When the Leader of the House answers business questions later this week, I hope that he will say that he is sorry that this happened today and that he will try to
Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire) (Lab): I wonder where the hon. Gentleman was yesterday, when the debate ended an hour early. Why was he not here to speak on that closure and oppose that measure, as far more time was available on that occasion than tonight?
Peter Bottomley: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. The point that I am making is not that I wanted to speak yesterday, but that the Minister ended his speech early, before timehe is expected to continue to 7 o'clockand the Whip then moved that the motion be put to the House that we adjourn, so that the debate would end. It would have been better if the Minister had accepted interventionshe did not turn down only my attempts to interveneand if he had been more forthcoming, especially on the question of where the Law Lords and the court of final appeal should be. I would give way to him now if he could tell us how many Law Lords
We could have had better value, and we could still gain it from this short debate, which I do not think is likely to extend beyond 7 o'clock, unless I have misread the procedures. In fact, it might be helpful if I could have an indication whether I could speak beyond 7 o'clock, or whether the stumps will be drawn on this debate.
The crucial points in this debate on the adjournment is whether we will get straight answers from this Minister and others about the important issues of constitutional affairs that have been part of today's debate. I argue that this would be a good time to question whether we should be having a referendum, for example. That is the sort of discussion that could take place if the debate were not ending. If it did not finish during the next three or four minutes, we could say what evidence was given to the Government by the Law Lords on the point that the Minister made about separation. If the Law Lords had given their views in public, the Minister would be able to tell us about them.
Peter Bottomley: That point could have been put to the Minister if the debate had continued, which is a good reason for the House not to accept the motion. It might be helpful if the Government indicated whether they want to force a vote on the issue or are too keen to get shot of difficult debates on a referendum on the European constitution and other constitutional matters. I hope that they now regret trying to terminate the debate in such a cavalier way. They should be prepared to listen to argument in this House, where one of the courtesies is that Ministers listen to debate and allow Members to continue for as long as they remain within the procedures of the House.
For those reasons, and for others that I have not enumerated, it is undesirable for the Government to try to draw stumps when it is clearly the wish of a significant part of the House that the debate should continue until the expected time, which is about three minutes away.
(a) the Matter of the English regions and referendums on elected regional assemblies, being a Matter relating to regional affairs in England, be referred to the Standing Committee on Regional Affairs;
(b) the Committee do meet at a quarter-past Two o'clock on Thursday 11th December at Westminster to consider the Matter referred to it under paragraph (a) above; and the proceedings at the meeting be brought to a conclusion at a quarter-past Five o'clock.[Paul Clark.]
(a) the Matter of the Government's Legislative Programme as outlined in the Queen's Speech as it relates to Wales and Public Expenditure in Wales be referred to the Welsh Grand Committee for its consideration;
(b) the Committee shall meet at Westminster on Tuesday 16th December at five minutes to Nine o'clock and between Two o'clock and Four o'clock to consider the Matter of the Government's Legislative Programme as outlined in the Queen's Speech as it relates to Wales and Public Expenditure in Wales, under Standing Order No. 107 (Welsh Grand Committee (matters relating exclusively to Wales)).[Paul Clark.]