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The Bill that became the Criminal Justice Act 2003 was the size of a London telephone book, yet it was barely looked at either on the Floor of the House or in Committee. It then had to be dealt with far more thoroughly in the other place. That cannot be a sensible way for a sensible Government to produce sensible legislation.
Margaret Beckett: I have heard such moans from Conservative Members on a number of occasions. Anyone who has been here for a long timeI do not recall when the hon. and learned Gentleman was first electedwould acknowledge that the procedures that this Government introduced in the Parliament that ended in 2001 to improve the handling of legislation have unquestionably done that. I remind him that some very senior Conservative Members who are extraordinarily respected on both sides of the House have long expressed the view that the processes of the House, by which we used not to examine many parts of Bills, were wholly undesirable. They felt that to have a structure that facilitated scrutinyto a greater or lesser extent, depending on the seriousness of the chunk of the Bill in questionof all elements of the legislation was a huge improvement. It is ridiculous of Conservative Members to pretend otherwise. I sat on the Opposition Benches when the Conservative Government whom the hon. and learned Gentleman supported introduced a whole new section into a social security Bill, to get rid of widows' pensions, after a guillotine. I really do not want to hear these criticisms from the Conservatives, because they are totally unjustified.
I am happy to be criticised when that criticism is justified and based on fact. For the right hon. Lady's information, I got into the House in 1992. I accept that the history of this Parliament is not a history of perfection. It does not matter whether we are talking about a Conservative Government or a Labour Government; both can be criticised for curtailing debate, because they sit in the Chamber and want their
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business to get through,. However, the way in which the guillotine process has been extended during recent years is wholly unforgivable and represents the destruction of our parliamentary processes and the undermining of our democratic system.
The right hon. Lady, as a member of the Government since 1997, has no doubt had plenty to do, in her various Departments, throughout the country and on the world stage. I, on the other hand, have had the opportunity since I left the Front Bench four years ago to spend more time in the Chamber, more time studying the Order Paper, and more time in Standing Committees than perhaps she has. I can tell her that it is not just my experience but that of people across the Chamber in all parties that we are dissatisfied with the way in which legislation is pushed through the House. Of course, she has a mandate to get her business through. Fair enough. But she ought to have the self-confidencewhen I say "she", I mean the Government as a wholeto allow Parliament to do its job, and to listen to people such as the hon. Member for Leyton and Wanstead and me. She might not like what I have to say, and she might disagree with my arguments, but the House is not and should not be a sausage machine. It should be a place in which legislation is considered, and in the last part of the last Parliament, it manifestly was not. It became an embarrassment, and if she does not know that, she should do.
John Bercow: Does my hon. and learned Friend recall that, in the last Parliament and the one that preceded it, it was commonplace for the Government to table large numbers of amendments and new clauses to their own legislation on Report? When Conservatives and other Members complained that there was not enough time to debate them, it was common for Ministersnot a Minister of the experience and celebrity of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, but a number of her colleaguesto say that the matters involved had been debated at considerable length in Committee. That is all very well, but for those of us who did not have the great privilege to be chosen by the Whips to serve on those Standing Committees, it was a very unsatisfactory explanation.
Mr. Garnier: In so far as my hon. Friend's point is a point that I have already made, I agree with it. As for his criticism of the way in which Report stages were dealt with, I agree with that as well. Surely, if the House is to deal with legislation properly, the Report stage is the best time for all of us to have an opportunity to study it.
Mr. Garnier: My hon. Friend is Chairman of the Procedure Committee and a man of immense parliamentary experience. I note that he is temporarily perched on the Front Bench. As he says, Report is the only opportunity for the House to study legislation and look at amendmentsprimarily those tabled by the Government, who have forgotten to include them in the original Bill, yet
May I finish my sentence first? I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield
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(Sir Nicholas Winterton) listens to everything that we all say. We were given an hour or an hour and a half to deal with great chunks of amendments and new clauses, and I do not know that that is a sensible way in which to go about our business.
Margaret Beckett: I am grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman. I do not intend to detain the House with any further interventions on this matter, but I feel that Members ought to be more aware of the history of the Government whom they supported. I sat on the Opposition Benches for 18 years while literally 400 or 600 amendments were pushed into legislation and when I became Leader of the House, I made it my goal to ensure that legislation was ready to be introduced before it came to the House instead of being written as it went through the House. That was a complete culture change.
Mr. Garnier: Let me introduce a culture change for the right hon. Lady. I thought that she campaigned on the slogan "Forward not back". Let us see if we can move forward in the forthcoming Parliament, and try to improve, in a consensual way, the procedures by which we consider legislation. If she plays her part, I will play mine. I will not engage in "Your Government were worse than my Government, your history is worse than my history, your Government's record is worse than my Government's record" tactics.
Mr. Garnier: Exactly. What more can I offer the right hon. Lady, especially as I now want to talk about Nottingham East Midlands airportbriefly, Mr. Deputy Speaker, because I know that plenty of other Members wish to speak, some for the first time.
Nottingham East Midlands airport serves the east midlands region which contains my constituency and the right hon. Lady's. It seems to me that the Government need to get a grip on it. It is owned by the Manchester Airport Group, whose shareholders are 10 local authorities in and around the city of Manchester. Her constituents and mine have no purchase on the managing of the company or the consequences of its business activities for them. Her constituency may be a little nearer to the airport than mine, but both are affected by the noise and air pollution that it causes.
As I said in the last Parliament, I am a Conservative and a capitalist. I wish to see businesses thrive, but I wish to see them thrive only as long as they are well behaved towards their neighbours. No trucking company that proposed to drive trucks through my constituency every 90 seconds throughout the night would be allowed to do so without comment from a Minister, and indeed without action by a Minister to control that activity for the benefit of the community. But because this traffic takes place at night and in the sky, it is not susceptible to the control of local planning authorities, and because
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the airport is not designated under the Civil Aviation Act 1982, it is not susceptible to the control of the Secretary of State for Transport. As the guardian of public policy on the environment, the right hon. Lady must ask the Secretary of State for Transport to wake up, because my constituents and hers cannot sleep at night and will not be able to sleep at night as a consequence of the increased night flights.
From 12 May, the new routes took effect. There is an out-bound route and an in-bound route over my constituency in south and south-east Leicestershire. We were told by Nottingham East Midlands airport and by the Civil Aviation Authority, which gave permission for those new routes, that we should not worry because those flights, both in and out, would be far too high above the land of my constituency for people to notice or to be disturbed by them.
On 17 May, a local resident happened to be in his garden and noticed, during an eight and a half hour period, seven flights, all below 4,000 ft. The CAA says that all those flights should have been above 8,000 or 9,000 ft. What will the Government do to ensure that, if we have been sold a false prospectus, someone should be held to account? What will the right hon. Lady do to ensure that public authorities, be they airports or the CAA, tell the truth? What will she do to encourage an atmosphere in which my constituents can trust those whose acts have consequences for their lives, properties and environment?
I will not labour the point. I have made it before and I shall make it again but perhaps not today. I urge the right hon. Lady to take a careful look at what NEMA, as it is called, is doing, what it proposes to do and whether it respects the rights and interests of her constituents and mine. My view is that it could not care less about them and that its so-called independent consultative committee, whose chairman is paid a salary by the airport, is not the proper monitoring authority to control aircraft pollution and noise.
The civil aviation Bill that is promised in the Queen's Speech will, apparently, allow airports to fine miscreant airlines that abuse the rules and regulations on pollution and noise. Would you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, expect East Midlands airport to fine its customers and thus to discourage them from using the airport? It will take a lot of convincing to persuade me that the civil aviation Bill will have the desired effect of making airlines behave themselves when they do not fly down the requisite routes and ensuring that East Midlands airport behaves as a good neighbour. I hope that the Secretary of State will help me, as I wish to help her, in ensuring that NEMA behaves itself.
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