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Mr. Miller: Does the hon. Gentleman realise that existing legislation is costing the taxpayer a small fortune? He heard me intervene on my right hon. Friend the Minister. Did the hon. Gentleman know that the exercise conducted by the Department for Work and Pensions last year involved in excess of 500 public servants from seven or eight Government Departments? Surely he thinks that we need some consolidated legislation to stop that happening in future.

Mr. Wilshire: I find that an interesting point of view but all I can say is that, if the hon. Gentleman is trying to suggest that what is being proposed tonight is a money-

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saving exercise, the Minister would have told us that. However, the Minister did not suggest any such thing, so I can only assume—

Alun Michael: I am sorry but the hon. Gentleman obviously has not listened to what I said because I referred to the savings to the Exchequer from proper enforcement. He seems to be making an extremely mealy-mouthed attempt at justifying opposition to the Bill. If he opposes the Bill, if he opposes the money resolution, which is in typical terms for a money resolution of this sort, and if he opposes the Government supporting a private Member's Bill on this issue, why does he not have the honesty to say so?

Mr. Wilshire: I have made my position perfectly clear. The Minister makes my point for me. He says that there will be savings from proper enforcement, which is exactly the point that I was making to the House. He did not say that there are savings to be made by scrapping existing legislation.

Ian Stewart (Eccles) (Lab): Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that there is a difference of opinion among Conservative Members about regulation? Labour Members accept that minimal—yet appropriate and relevant—regulation is important. When regulation is relevant, as the Bill is, does it not cost? Surely the Opposition should finally say, "Actually, it is the right thing to do".

Mr. Wilshire: As I said at the outset, I would be more than willing to debate that with the hon. Gentleman and to explain to him why he is wrong, but that would be to debate the terms of the Bill, not those of the money resolution. I do not want to fall foul of you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, so if the hon. Gentleman would like to meet me in Strangers Bar after the debate, I shall have a go at sorting him out and explaining things to him. For the time being, however, I must ask him to bear with me.

We must consider the whole question of using existing legislation. Although such legislation exists, we are told that it has not been used properly and that if it were used properly, it would avoid delay. However, there is another reason why we should use existing legislation, because I assume that the House has authorised the spending of taxpayers' money on it. Rather than wasting expenditure on existing legislation, we should ensure that we get proper value for money from the original money resolutions passed by the House.

Ian Stewart: Does the hon. Gentleman accept that rather than sorting each other out, we need to sort out the problem with gangmasters? Does he accept that no matter what Government are in power, sorting out such problems costs money? The money resolution is important to ensure that something effective is done while there is such a problem in this land.

Mr. Wilshire: I understand what the hon. Gentleman says, but he is again debating the Bill, which is not what we are here to do. We are here to get answers from the Minister about how much money will be involved, what he wants to spend it on and what changes he wants to make.

Andrew George: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Wilshire: No, I will not. Before the end of the debate, I hope that the Minister will give us the answers.

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9.57 pm

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con) rose—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I call Mr. Eric Forth. [Interruption.] Order. It is customary for hon. Members who wish to catch the eye of the Chair to rise in their place. Only one right hon. Member rose in his place, so I have called the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth).

Mr. Forth: I want to follow on from the theme with which my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire) initiated his speech. I have armed myself with quotations from the other day's Second Reading debate to try to illustrate with great clarity the confusion in the Minister's mind—and thus, sadly, in ours—about the substance of what we are considering.

On Second Reading on 27 February, the Minister said, "There are a variety"—well, I shall stop right there because that is typically bad grammar from today's ministerial team. I would prefer the phrase, "There is a variety", but I am a bit old-fashioned about such things. The Minister said:

He went on to say:

I cite the Minister's quotes from Hansard to illustrate the fact that we are being asked to agree to a money resolution despite the fact that the Minister does not know what Bill will emerge from Committee, which reinforces the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne. I shall return to further quotes from the Minister in a moment, if I may, but rather than quoting from the Hansard report of Second Reading, I shall now give a few examples of what the Minister said in this debate. He said that robust cost estimates will be prepared—note that they have not been prepared, so there are no robust cost estimates to support the money resolution. He then said that there will be set-up costs, which he also confirmed in an intervention on my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne. The Minister also said that there will be no significant net increases in Exchequer costs, which my hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. Fallon) emphasised. Finally, he said that the costs will be offset by increases in tax revenues. So a confused picture is emerging. All those different statements take us in a completely different direction with regard to the costs that the Bill will incur.

Let us consider one or two of those statements because they are contradictory. When the Minister said that there will be no significant net increases in Exchequer costs, he was implying that the revenues will be met by the licensing regime, of which we do not have any detail, although he assumes that that will emerge from the Standing Committee. We do not know what the charges will be, as my hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale) said. We are in the invidious position of being asked to agree a money resolution without knowing the set-up costs, although the Minister

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hinted that he had a fairly good idea of the set-up mechanism, but without a costing, because the robust cost estimates will be prepared. He is telling us either that he knows the costs, but will not reveal them, or that he does not have a clue about the costs, but wants us to agree to the money resolution anyway.

Mr. Fallon: I hope that my right hon. Friend is not going to give the Minister the benefit of the doubt. He clearly told the House that there will be no significant net costs, and we have to take his word for that. We have to assume that he has made some measurement of the costs because he has led the House into believing that the net costs of the set-up of the whole new regime, before the annual enforcement, will not be significant. Therefore, he must know roughly what they will be.

Mr. Forth: You would think so, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My hon. Friend makes a good point, but it is more complicated than that. As the hon. Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale (Geraldine Smith) frequently says, the key is enforcement. If we are to believe that the Bill or, indeed, any other measure will be truly effective, the key to that is the effectiveness of enforcement, as hon. Members said on Second Reading, but we do not know how much money in the resolution will be guided towards enforcement or set-up, and how much may be offset by the costs of the licensing regime because the Minister is coy about that as well.

Here is the question: will the licensing charges be set at a level to cover all the set-up and enforcement costs, or will they be set at a reasonable level, as my hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet would prefer, so that the activities can continue to be viable, but perhaps not cover all the costs? There is a dilemma that the Minister has been unable to resolve. He is saying, "Trust me. We'll go into Committee. I'll do deals with the Bill's promoter", and the scheme will emerge in some as yet unknown form for debate on Report and Third Reading, which we all look forward to very much because that will be key to everything. In the meantime, the money resolution remains formless and shapeless. We have no idea where the emphasis will be laid when the Minister juggles, as he has had to do up to now, between covering the costs, presumably keeping faith with the restraints that the Exchequer has laid on the matter—

It being forty-five minutes after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, Mr. Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair, pursuant to Standing Order No. 52 (1) (a) (Money resolutions and ways and means resolutions in connection with bills).

Question agreed to.

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