The First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means took the Chair as Deputy Speaker, pursuant to the Standing Order
Mr. Greg Knight (East Yorkshire) (Con): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. You have probably noticed in the press today that there is likely to be a decision announced on whether to build about 500,000 homes across the east of England. If that decision is to give the go-ahead to that building, I wondered whether you had had any indication that the Deputy Prime Minister is due to come to the House to make a statement. If the go-ahead is given to building these homes, which will blight many houses in the UK, it is important that the Deputy Prime Minister should be prepared to put himself before the House and subject the decision to parliamentary scrutiny.
Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether you can help me. On Tuesday, on Second Reading of the Civil Partnership Bill, I asked the Minister about the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. The Minister assured me that she had written in extenso in response to the concerns expressed. I have been seeking, through the Library, to get a copy of what the Minister said in response. The Library, despite waiting all day yesterday, had not been able to get a response from the Minister. Today is the last day for the tabling of amendments to the Bill if they are to be in order for consideration in Committee on Tuesday.
I wonder whether you can advise me, Madam Deputy Speaker. My understanding is that if a document is referred to by a Minister in the House, that document should be made available immediately to Members, and especially so when the document is highly material to a very contentious Bill.
The material allegations in the petition are as follows: first, it represents the ongoing national petition, which currently has gathered 111,000 signatures from the fishing communities of Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales; secondly, it marks the day when my Fisheries Jurisdiction Bill will not be considered in the House through lack of time, disgracefully, but will be re-presented in the new Session, so forcing a debate on a vital issue; thirdly, the petition comes immediately after the European Commissioner has made it clear that the new regional advisory committees will have no management role over fisheries, and therefore will be unable to improve the situation of our fishing communities; fourthly and finally, it comes after the Government have failed to take the opportunity of renegotiations on the European constitution to improve the situation of our fishing communities, following on from previous Conservative Governments who considered these communities to be "expendable" in terms of Britain's wider European interests.
The petition of the Cod Crusaders' Community campaign declares that the European Union common fisheries policy has failed to conserve fish stocks and that it has caused untold hardship for fishermen and their local communities . . . The policy has proved ineffective and inadequate in the conservation and management of fish resources, has resulted in bankruptcies, the uprooting of individuals and families, and the destruction of thriving communities with centuries-old Cultural traditions and Communal lives.
There should be an obligation to the . . . future generations and therefore assurances should be made to safeguard the fishing industry for our children to follow in the steps of their forefathers.
The petitioners therefore request that the house of commons urge the Government to restore . . . Sovereign Waters to National Control and free them from European bureaucracy.
And the petitioners remain, etc.
To lie upon the Table.
Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 163 (Motion to sit in private):
The House divided: Ayes 0, Noes 25.
Lords amendments considered.
A New Clause
Lords amendment: No. 1.
Mr. Knight: I congratulate the Bill's promoter, the hon. Member for North Durham (Mr. Jones), on getting into the home straight. He is nearly home and dry. That in itself is an achievement. In all the time I have been in the House, I have never had the good luck to be in the top 20 of the ballot for private Member's Bills. I was, however, on one occasion able to amend the law when I was a member of the Committee amending licensing legislation. I suggested that the 10-minute drinking-up time be increased to 20 minutes. Much to my astonishment, the Conservative Minister said that there was no answer to my arguments and he accepted the amendment. So if I am remembered for nothing else, I am the person who gave people 20 minutes to drink up in pubs at closing time.
Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): My hon. Friend is rightly unstinting in his praise of the hon. Member for North Durham (Mr. Jones). Does he not think that it is especially to the credit of the hon. Gentleman to have done so well given that he is, in parliamentary terms, something of a virgin, having been elected only at the last general election?
I welcome Lords amendment No. 1 because it improves the Bill. I commend my amendments (a), (b) and (c) because they would improve it even further. However, I have a query on the rather strange wording of the Lords amendment. Proposed new subsection (1) states:
"Where a shop which is prohibited by section 1 from opening on Christmas Day is located in a loading control area, the occupier of the shop must not load or unload, or permit any other person to load or unload, goods from a vehicle at the shop from before 9 a.m. on Christmas Day".
So far, so good. It was as a result of pressure from Opposition Members that the Bill's promoter agreed to the amendment being made in the other place. However, the proposed new subsection goes on to say:
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"in connection with the trade or business carried on in the shop".
I am baffled as to why those words are necessary. Do they mean that if the owner of a large shop wants to bring in demolition contractors at 6 am to knock about the inside of his shop because he is redesigning it, they would be exempt from the provision? If that is the case, the words run a coach and horses through what we are trying to achieve. We want to ensure that people who live near a large shop do not suffer noise nuisance before 9 am on Christmas day. Why is that peculiar phrase included in proposed new subsection (1), which would be more effective without it? I hope that my fears can be allayed, because it seems that the owner of a shop could carry out redevelopment work at an earlier hour on Christmas day.
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