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Mr. Michael Weir (Angus) (SNP): The Leader of the House might be aware of reports in Scotland this morning that the Ministry of Defence is planning another disgraceful assault on the local ties of Scotland's regiments by forcing the closure of individual regimental museums, which would cause great anger among veterans. Will he ensure that a Minister comes to the House to make a statement on the proposals for the future of those individual museums?
Mr. Hain: I am not aware of the detail of the hon. Gentleman's question, but no Minister in the Ministry of Defenceespecially not the Secretary of Statewould make a disgraceful assault on any part of the armed services or their heritage. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will want to withdraw that comment, on reflection, and I am equally sure that the Secretary of State will take notice of what he said.
Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I share with you the latest vivid example of how the Government are making a mockery of Parliament? As you know, the Road Safety Bill is currently being considered in Committee. As a result of a Government guillotine, its consideration must be completed by 5.30 pm today.
The Halliday review, which was commissioned by the Government into road traffic offences involving bad driving, is highly relevant to what the Committee is discussing. Last week, I described the frustration felt by the Committee that the report had not yet been published. I asked the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Mr. Jamieson), when we would see the outcome of the review. He said:
That is exactly what I did, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I tabled a question for priority written answer on Tuesday 1 February, but instead of receiving a substantive reply, I received a holding reply that gave me no information at all. I have still not received a substantive reply. However, at 9.30 am todayfive minutes after the Committee sitting starteda copy of the report on the Halliday review was placed in the Library, thus conveniently timed to prevent the debate of its contents in Committee. It is inconceivable that Home Office Ministers did not know on Tuesday that the document would be published today as it is glossily printed and the press were told about it yesterday. Will you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, ask Mr. Speaker to obtain an apology from the Home Office for what has happened?
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): The Home Secretary gave notice to the House of a written ministerial statement to be made today about the road traffic offences review. That statement, which announces the publication of the document to which the hon. Gentleman refers, was received by the House of Commons at 9.30 am, as he says. I understand that copies of the document have now been made available to the Standing Committee. However, I say to the House that it is the responsibility of Ministers to ensure that papers that are relevant to a Committee's deliberations are available to all Committee members at the appropriate time. I hope that this example of the kind of thing that goes wrong will not happen again.
Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall) (LD):
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will have noted during the business statement that we had no indication of the business that would be allocated for Thursday 24 Februarythere was a gap. However, in response to protestations from hon. Members on both sides of the House about the necessity for an urgent debate on the middle east, the Leader of the House said that there was no room in the programme and that urgent business was being advanced. He also refused my request to reschedule the debate on the Identity Cards Bill, which has obviously been given time next Thursday that is too
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restricted. Since the Leader of the House is still in the Chamber, will you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, give him the opportunity to explain why we have no business scheduled for that day, although we are being told that everything is so important and urgent?
Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As the Leader of the House said during business questions, I have called on many occasions for a full debate on foreign affairs so that we can discuss matters relating to Africa and the middle east. Can the Leader of the House use the opportunity of that Thursday to give us such a debate? There have been considerable developments in both regions since the last time they were discussed by the House, and it is our duty to hold the Government to account on such important matters.
Mr. Hain: Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am grateful for the point of order, although I was wondering whether business questions were being extended by hon. Members seeking to raise matters that they had missed.
I had hoped to be able to announce consideration on that Thursday of a Northern Ireland Bill, but was unable to do so as it has been bogged down in discussions between the usual channels in the House of Lords. It is intended to introduce the Bill as soon as possible, so there is no scope for the debate sought by the hon. Gentlemen, which in principle I would like to secure.
|Proceedings||Time for conclusion of proceedings|
|New Clauses, amendments and new Schedules relating to Clause 122 and Schedule 10; new Clauses, amendments and new Schedules relating to blasphemy.||One and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on consideration.|
|New Clauses, amendments and new Schedules relating to the use of intercept evidence in legal proceedings.||Two and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on consideration.|
|New Clauses, amendments and new Schedules relating to the protection of organisations from economic damage or other interference with their activities.||Three and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on consideration.|
|New Clauses, amendments and new Schedules relating to the status and powers of staff of the Serious Organised Crime Agency.||Four and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on consideration.|
|New Clauses, amendments and new Schedules relating to behaviour in vicinity of Parliament Square; remaining proceedings on consideration.||Five and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on consideration.|
Mr. Andrew Mitchell (Sutton Coldfield) (Con): I am astonished by the brevity with which the Minister has started this important debate. Our debates on programme motions often have the qualities of a choreographed Greek chorus, with outrage expressed by the Opposition about the nature of the motion and the Government saying that their predecessors behaved in precisely the same way, but I submit that today's motion is an outrageous abuse by the Executive of their programming powers. I shall explain why I think so and invite colleagues on both sides of the House to vote against the motion.
The Bill, whose Report stage is next Monday, was described by the Government during the debates on the Gracious Speech as a "flagship Bill" and Ministers have made it clear that they attach the greatest possible importance to the legislation. The Minister will confirm that the Opposition have behaved in a classically responsible manner when discussing the Bill on the Floor of the House. On Second Reading we set out those
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aspects that we supported and those about which we had reservations. Furthermore, no programme motion was required in Committee: we agreed with the Government through the usual channels that eight sittings would be acceptable, although we would have liked more. We said that, in so far as it was within the power of Her Majesty's Opposition to report the Bill at 7 o'clock on the appropriate evening, we would do so, and the Bill was reported within 90 seconds of that time. Almost all the key clauses were discussed, and the Opposition's approach was at all times constructive.
We asked for two days on Report precisely to prevent what is now about to happen on Monday. The first knife in the proposed motion will fall one and a half hours after the debate starts on the provisions dealing with religious hatred. Those provisions might be acceptable to the House, and with good will on both sides we might be able conclude our discussions on that topic within the allotted time.
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