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Mr. Speaker: Before any hon. Member rises to speak, I remind the hon. Gentleman that a memorandum is available in the Vote Office. Also, I must correct him in one respect: it was not the Government who brought this matter forward, but the House of Commons Commission, of which I am Chairman. I remind the House that I made a statement on this matter. One of the purposes of the temporary screen is to allow the public to be present, while affording us the protection that we desire. It is entirely up to the House as to whether it meets in private. The hon. Gentleman will know that I must put any motion to that effect before the House immediately. However, he will recall that not so long ago I had to clear the Public Gallery for a day because of misbehaviour. That was a sad day, for me and for the House.

Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth): the present circumstances of the terrorist threat are different from any previously experienced in our country's history. This is a very different scenario. There are questions to which I want detailed answers, but it is not appropriate for me to ask them, or to require the Leader of the House to answer them, in an open forum. We may feel that our democracy is under
22 Apr 2004 : Column 458
challenge, but the security available to hon. Members, the staff of the House and visiting members of the public must have primacy.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Speaker: I call the Leader of the House.

The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Peter Hain): I am grateful, Mr. Speaker, and I hope that what I have to say will help the hon. Members for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth) and for Tiverton and Honiton (Mrs. Browning). As they both know, this matter went before the House of Commons Commission. As I hope to explain shortly, it was also referred to senior Privy Councillors. The consensus to go ahead was reached on an all-party basis. I shall certainly aim to answer as many questions as I can, and I will make very clear, in graphic terms, the security advice that we received. I think that that should be done in open session. It is important both that people understand why the House is taking this decision, and that the House has the opportunity to explain matters to the public. We should not shut them out.

Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire) (Con): Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. First, I confirm that the Commission decided the matter. The shadow Cabinet was not consulted, and neither was the Cabinet, I believe. The matter was dealt with on an all-party basis in the Commission. Secondly, I agree that, given the interest that people have in this matter, we should hold our debate in such a way that they are able to know the arguments being deployed.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I am reluctant to take further points of order on this matter. If certain hon. Members feel that we should meet in private, the best way to proceed is to settle the matter now; otherwise, we are in danger of pursuing the debate by means of points of order.

Mr. Howarth: May I first thank you, Mr. Speaker, for correcting me and advising that this is not a Government but a House of Commons Commission matter? As my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) said, it has been discussed by a very small number of hon. Members. Therefore, to assist the House and expedite the debate, I propose that we sit in private. We should be able to speak freely, without fear of betraying information that should not be in the public domain.

I beg to move, That the House sit in private.

Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 163 (motion to sit in private):—

The House divided: Ayes 15, Noes 211.

Division No. 137
[1:34 pm


Amess, David
Banks, Tony
Browning, Mrs Angela
Chope, Christopher
Evans, Nigel
Gale, Roger (N Thanet)
Gray, James (N Wilts)
Hendry, Charles
Robathan, Andrew
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob (Castle Point)
Stanley, rh Sir John
Turner, Andrew (Isle of Wight)
Winterton, Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Sir Nicholas (Macclesfield)

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Eric Forth and
Mr. Gerald Howarth


Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allan, Richard
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale & Darwen)
Arbuthnot, rh James
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Bailey, Adrian
Barker, Gregory
Barnes, Harry
Barrett, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beggs, Roy (E Antrim)
Bell, Sir Stuart
Benton, Joe (Bootle)
Berry, Roger
Betts, Clive
Blizzard, Bob
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brown, rh Nicholas (Newcastle E Wallsend)
Bryant, Chris
Burden, Richard
Burnside, David
Burstow, Paul
Byers, rh Stephen
Cairns, David
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies (NE Fife)
Carmichael, Alistair
Cawsey, Ian (Brigg)
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Sir Sydney (Chipping Barnet)
Chidgey, David
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Conway, Derek
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cotter, Brian
Cranston, Ross
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
David, Wayne
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, rh John
Dismore, Andrew
Djanogly, Jonathan
Doughty, Sue
Dowd, Jim (Lewisham W)
Drew, David (Stroud)
Drown, Ms Julia
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Field, rh Frank (Birkenhead)
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Foster, Don (Bath)
Francois, Mark
George, Andrew (St. Ives)
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Goggins, Paul
Green, Damian (Ashford)
Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Greenway, John
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Hague, rh William
Hain, rh Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Hancock, Mike
Hanson, David
Harris, Dr. Evan (Oxford W & Abingdon)
Harvey, Nick
Hawkins, Nick
Heald, Oliver
Heathcoat-Amory, rh David
Hendrick, Mark
Heppell, John
Hermon, Lady
Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N & Sefton E)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead & Highgate)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W)
Kaufman, rh Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham)
Keetch, Paul
Kelly, Ruth (Bolton W)
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S.
Kidney, David
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Kirkwood, Sir Archy
Knight, rh Greg (E Yorkshire)
Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lamb, Norman
Laws, David (Yeovil)
Lazarowicz, Mark
Linton, Martin
Llwyd, Elfyn
Loughton, Tim
Love, Andrew
Luff, Peter (M-Worcs)
Luke, Iain (Dundee E)
McAvoy, Thomas
McFall, John
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McIsaac, Shona
Mackay, rh Andrew
McKechin, Ann
Mackinlay, Andrew
Maclean, rh David
McLoughlin, Patrick
McWilliam, John
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John (Bassetlaw)
Maples, John
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
May, Mrs Theresa
Merron, Gillian
Moore, Michael
Morgan, Julie
Morley, Elliot
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Norris, Dan (Wansdyke)
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
O'Hara, Edward
Organ, Diana
Pickles, Eric
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter (Burnley)
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pope, Greg (Hyndburn)
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prisk, Mark (Hertford)
Prosser, Gwyn
Pugh, Dr. John
Quinn, Lawrie
Randall, John
Reid, Alan (Argyll & Bute)
Robertson, Hugh (Faversham & M-Kent)
Robertson, John (Glasgow Anniesland)
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Ryan, Joan (Enfield N)
Sanders, Adrian
Sarwar, Mohammad
Sedgemore, Brian
Selous, Andrew
Shaw, Jonathan
Simon, Siôn (B'ham Erdington)
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Soley, Clive
Spring, Richard
Steen, Anthony
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Stunell, Andrew
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Swayne, Desmond
Swire, Hugo (E Devon)
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Thurso, John
Tipping, Paddy
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Tyler, Paul (N Cornwall)
Tyrie, Andrew
Vaz, Keith (Leicester E)
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Ward, Claire
Webb, Steve (Northavon)
Weir, Michael
Whittingdale, John
Willetts, David
Williams, rh Alan (Swansea W)
Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)
Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Willis, Phil
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D. (Gt Yarmouth)
Wyatt, Derek
Younger-Ross, Richard

Tellers for the Noes:

Paul Clark and
Charlotte Atkins

Question accordingly negatived.

22 Apr 2004 : Column 460

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You may not be aware that during the Division, Whips from both sides of the House were seeking to organise, instruct and guide Members on how to vote. As I thought that we had already established that this was strictly a House of Commons matter, is there anything you can do, Mr. Speaker, to protect innocent MPs from being badgered by Government and Opposition Whips on a House of Commons matter? Surely, something must be done to protect the House and its Members from such gratuitous intervention.

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