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Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): The Question is, That the debate be now adjourned.

6.46 pm

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.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Clearly, the Minister decided not to give way, and that is entirely at his discretion.

Peter Bottomley: I withdraw my criticism of the Minister for not giving way, but had he done so, we might not be debating the Adjournment motion now.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I am sorry, but I must refer the hon. Gentleman to the fact that the Minister has sat down and has concluded the debate.

Peter Bottomley: On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I was making a speech on the motion before the House. If I can move from my point of order to my speech, that would be appropriate.

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Madam Deputy Speaker: The hon. Gentleman cannot debate the original motion.

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.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I proposed the Question that the debate be now adjourned.

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.

Peter Bottomley: As a matter of record, the hon. Gentleman entered the Chamber half an hour after I did this evening. I saw him walk in.

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

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ensure that it does not happen again. [Interruption.] Another Government Front Bencher is trying to intervene. I shall give way to the hon. Member for Lewisham, East (Ms Prentice) if she wishes to intervene. If not, it is better that we continue the debate on whether the Question should be put. An undesirable precedent has been set, and in terms of the Minister's speech, he would have done rather better to be less flattened by the intervention of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Garnier).

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 time—he is expected to continue to 7 o'clock—and 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 interventions—he did not turn down only my attempts to intervene—and 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—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. The motion now under discussion is that the debate should be adjourned and not the substance of the earlier debate.

Peter Bottomley: The reason why the debate should not be adjourned is that the Minister has not answered the questions that should have been answered.

Anne Picking: I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I just wondered whether he would follow the Minister's example and cut his contribution short.

Peter Bottomley: That is a tempting request, and I shall probably give it good consideration.

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.

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Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby) (Con): Did not the Joint Committee on Human Rights find that there is a need for a referendum and that that should be followed?

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.

Debate adjourned.—[Paul Clark.]

Debate to be resumed tomorrow.


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 145(Liaison Committee),

Question agreed to.


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 117(Standing Committee on Regional Affairs),

Question agreed to.



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