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Charles Hendry accordingly presented a Bill to make provision for the mental health and special learning needs of convicted prisoners; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 14 July, and to be printed [Bill 82].
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Charles Clarke): I beg to move,
'3. Proceedings on consideration shall be taken in the order shown in the first column of the following Table and shall be brought to a conclusion (so far as not previously concluded) at the times specified in the second column.
|Proceedings||Time for conclusion of proceedings|
|Amendments relating to Clause 23, new Clauses||Three hours after the commencement of proceedings on consideration.|
|Amendments relating to Clauses 1 to 22, remaining proceedings on consideration||Three hours after the commencement of proceedings on Amendments relating to Clause 1.'|
I know that Opposition Members object frequently to every programme motion, but I suggest that even they would find it hard to fault this one. The effect of this programme motion is to increase the amount of time that the House will have to consider this Bill on Report.
The House will recall that the programme motion passed after Second Reading allocated us six hours in total for Report. However, any votes in the middle of that would have eaten into that six hours. Without wishing to reveal any secrets or pre-empt later debate, the considered and careful judgment that I have reached is that it is unlikely that the House will reach complete agreement today without any Division.
Accordingly, the motion provides that we begin on amendments to clause 23 and the new clauses that have been tabled. We have three hours for that part of our proceedings. Once that concludes, any votes that are necessary will take place, and they will not cut into the House's remaining time. Once all the votes have taken place, we will then have a further three hours on the remaining groups of amendments, followed by whatever Divisions are required. I hope that the whole House will recognise the benefits of that.
Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con): I will not seek to divide the House on the programme motion, but I should point out to the Home Secretary that although we welcome the concession that has been made, the practical reality is that we still have far too short a time to consider the amendments tabled for this afternoon. Even at this late stage, I hope that he might consider taking advice on whether further time can be made available. Let me explain why.
We will start with a debate on the period of detention, which is a subject of considerable controversy. Given the way in which the procedures of the House operate, and the fact that the Government have tabled amendment No. 55, which changes the period from three months to 90 days, anyone wishing to have the 28-day amendment considered must first vote on Government amendment No. 55. We will therefore have to have two votes, whereas one on the 28 days alone might have been necessary otherwise. I am not clear as to why that has come about, except to provide a
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delay mechanism in the time that the House has for consideration. As a consequence, the reality must be that new clause 8 on stop and search, which was tabled by a Government Back Bencher, and which, I believe, merits the consideration of the House, is most unlikely to receive any consideration whatever. In the context of trying to build consensus, that must be highly regrettable. There is no reason why that should have to happen.
When we move on beyond the three-hour break, when we will probably have had a couple of votes, and the stop and search matters will not have been considered, we will have five groups of amendments to consider, all of which are of importance, and three hours in which to do it. We might well have time to deal with the offences under clauses 1 and 2, which remain controversial because the Government concessions do not appear to change radically the way in which indirect incitement to terrorism can still be committed negligently. If we have a full debate on that subject, however, which greatly exercised the Committee last week, there must be a danger that we will never get to the glorification clauses, which, as we know from last week, were the subject of enormous controversy. If the Home Secretary wishes to avoid the suspicion that the Government are trying procedurally to close down the debate on those clauses, it would be wise to give us more time. Without filibuster in any sense, we will have difficulty in reaching those clauses.
I worry, and I shall judge the matter by what happens this afternoon, that we might see a procession of Government Back Benchers put up to prolong the debate on offences under clauses 1 and 2, so that debate is prevented on the question whether a glorification element in incitement to terrorism should remain in the Bill. That would be a scandalous state of affairs. I look to the Home Secretary to provide guidance, as the debate takes place, to ensure as far as is possible that that does not happen.
John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): My hon. Friend will agree that it is important that our proceedings today should be intelligible to the country at large. Given that we have no fewer than 60 amendments and new clauses to consider, and only six hours in which to do so, the arithmetic is obvious. Does my hon. Friend agree that having fewer than 10 minutes for the consideration of each amendment is a travesty of parliamentary scrutiny, and that if the public knew what was taking place, they would be appalled by it?
Mr. Grieve: I entirely agree. Even if Members act with reasonable expedition, the second part of the motion in particular is flawed in terms of allowing scrutiny.
Even after the glorification amendments, there are important amendments dealing with the endorsements of publications and the defences that may exist, issues that were of great concern to the House last week. There is also the question whether there should be any defences in relation to training for terrorism: there are currently none. Last but not least, although last week the right hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Denham)in a very powerful speechexpressed concern about our
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failure to define terrorism correctly, that is the last item that we shall have time to consider today, and the reality must be that we shall never reach it at all.
Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): I do not disagree with anything that the hon. Gentleman is saying, but does he agree that if the House cannot debate these matters adequately, that will encourage even closer scrutinyif such is possiblein the other place, and the inevitable amendments? Such scrutiny, however, should be carried out by the elected House and not the unelected House.
Mr. Grieve: I do agree. As I said to the Home Secretary last week, the controversial nature of the Bill makes it immensely desirable that, if at all possible, this House should reach an agreed position so that we can all vote for the Bill on Third Reading tomorrow. But to do that we must debate, and if the debate is curtailed so that important parts of the Bill are never considered at all, that will place those who wish to consider them in great difficulty. As the Home Secretary knows, because the Bill is so controversial, there must be a risk that the other place will take over the responsibility that we have shirkedand that we shall find ourselves involved, as we have too often in the past, in late-night spats as we try to sort out the differences between this House and the other place. Let me say sincerely to the Home Secretary that I think that that can be avoided, or largely avoided, if there is sufficient time, but I do not think there is at present.
Sir Robert Smith (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (LD): The hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) said that it would not be our fault if there was ping-pongthat it would be the fault of the other place. As my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) pointed out, however, if we had not debated the Bill adequately that would be our fault. It was clear in Committee that the provisions relating to offences committed abroad were an extremely controversial part of the drafting, and would merit discussion and refinement on Report. The other place will have to consider the provisions if we fail to do so.
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