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Mr. Grieve: I agreeall the more so because it seemed to me during last week's debates that we were moving towards the possibility of agreement. Members of the other place do bother to read Hansard, and if they see that important matters raised in Committee[Interruption.]
If Members of the other place see that important issues raised in Committee and postponed until Report because the Government said that they would respond positively have not been debated at all, not only will that send a pretty dreadful signal to the public and the electorate of our country about the way in which we conduct our business, but it will make it inevitable that Members of the other place will try to second-guess and look again at what has happened here.
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We will not divide the House, because I want to get on, but even now I urge the Home Secretary to consider whether we cannot have more time. I also seek an assurance from him that we will do our level best to get through all the groups of amendments.
Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD): I took exception to very little that was said by the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve). Like him, we consider the timetable motion defective, but like him I see no reason for us to divide the House on it. I accept the Home Secretary's point that some small measure of protection for the business has been made available, and that small amount of extra time is indeed welcome. Nevertheless, without second-guessing the way in which today's business will proceed, I think it very likely that we shall not go beyond the first string of amendments before the first knife falls after three hours. As the hon. Member for Beaconsfield pointed out, that will leave the stop-and-search provisions proposed in new clause 8 entirely undiscussed. Surely that is too important a subject to leave this House without any proper discussion being placed on the record.
I also think that a great deal of important business will remain undiscussed under the second group of amendments. The House will have to choose between holding its tongue and restricting its comments on clause 1 and the question of intention if we are to secure any meaningful discussion on the crucial question of glorification. As a result, questions as fundamental as the definition of terrorism itself will almost certainly be left undebated. As a result of that, the only meaningful scrutiny will be carried out in the other place. If the Government are content to proceed in that way, they cannot then complain that the unelected House has interfered with or changed the Bill when it makes the amendments that are inevitable.
The programme motion strikes me as an exceptionally inappropriate way for the Government to order our business. I hope that, even at this stage, they may see sense and allow further time tomorrow if necessary.
Mr. Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe) (Con): I do not wish to be churlish, and I congratulate the Home Secretary on producing a programme motion that is an improvement on the previous position. I certainly will not vote against it, and I am happy to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on having listened to the complaints that we made before the general election about the time allocated to a similar Bill. He has tried to respond according to the standards of today's practice, and the House is in his debt to that extent.
It is, in fact, the standards of today's practice on which I wish, briefly, to comment. As well as trying to avoid being churlish in the HouseI hopeI try to avoid overdoing the "senior Member of the House" bit, and lamenting the fact that things are not what they were. But things are dramatically different from what they were, and I cannot hold my tongue on this occasion.
I believe that if such a controversial Bill involving such changes in individual liberty had been produced 10 years ago by a Conservative Government with such
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a timetable, there would have been a major row. Twenty years ago, such an allocation of time for a Bill of this kind would have been regarded as laughable, and it would not have been entertained by the usual channels during the Thatcher Government. Thirty years ago, if a Conservative Government had proposed a Bill of this kind, several days of debate would have been allowed before any guillotine curtailing debate would have even been contemplated. Had anyone tried to force through a guillotine of this severity, I should have expected the sitting to be suspended as Labour Members caused disorder and began to run away with the Mace, or something of the kind, to give visual expression to their constitutional outrage.
There is a serious point behind all this. I think that the House is becoming accustomed to a shortness of debate and a lack of scrutiny of legislation that is on the verge of becoming ridiculous, given the complexity of this Bill. I see no reason whatever why the House should have to rise shortly after 7 pm today and at a similar time tomorrow. The suspension of the rule to allow us at least to sit on through the evening until such time as the Government's business managers decide to try to call a vote to end the debate would constitute a very elementary extension of debating time, which would cause merely minor inconvenience to a few Members and no real affront to the House.
I also agree with the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) that the present situation underlines the case for not tampering with the powers of the House of Lords. I strongly believe that the House of Lords should be reformed; it lacks legitimacy and we need a much stronger Upper House. If this House is to continue to deal with matters of this importance in such a cursory fashion, it becomes all the more important that the whole Bill be properly scrutinised, and that the Lords force us to look again at, and to discuss in more detail, some of the other very serious aspects of this Bill.
Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke), although I recall that it was the noble Lord Heseltine who had a fondness for wielding the Mace. Apart from that[Interruption.] Ron Brown played a secondary role in Mace-wielding. I never wielded it at all, as I remember, but never mind.
I support the comments of the hon. Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve), and I have a very specific reason for being concerned about this programme motion[Interruption.] During last week's debateat which I seem to remember the hon. Member for East Renfrewshire (Mr. Murphy) was not even presentthe Home Secretary was forced to concede, by letter to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael), that
Understandably, many Scottish colleagues who are interested in whether the senior Scottish law officer has been consulted on these matters wanted to pursue the same question today in respect of stop-and-search, glorification and the commission of offences abroad. If this timetable renders reaching these crucial matters impossible, the right of Scottish Members to find out whether the Lord Advocate has been consulted on them, and how this Bill interrelates with Scottish criminal law, will also be curtailed.
Of course, the Home Secretary would be straying out of order if he gave us that information in discussing other amendments to, and clauses and passages in, the Bill, but I fear that this timetable will make it simply impossible to pursue the entirely legitimate questions of whether Scotland's senior law officer has been consulted on any of the Bill's crucial parts, and whether the Home Secretary was in blissful ignorance of the Lord Advocate's advice on glorification, the commission of offences abroad and stop and search, as he candidly admitted he was in respect of 90-day detention.
In terms of the protection of the House, this programme motion deals with key matters. In terms of the protection and legitimate rights of Scottish Members, and our ability to question what bearing Scottish criminal law has on these proceedings, this motion is far too strict.
Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): I have yet to be able to take part in debates on this Bill because of other duties in the House, and I shall be very brief.I want to endorse most strongly everything said by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Clarke). During Question Time today, the Prime Minister left the House in no doubt that he believes this to be the most important issue that the House currently faces. I agree. I want to treat the votes in this debate as free votes. I want to try to vote in what I consider to be the national interest, regardless of party, and I know that many Members in all parts of the House take a similar line, whatever view they may reach on the question of 90 days, 28 days and the other issues before us[Interruption.]
However, if the Prime Minister truly believes that this is the most important issue[Interruption.] The Home Secretary is busy talking at the moment and it would be quite a good idea if he listened. If the Home Secretary genuinely wishes to create a consensushe has tried to listen on certain occasions, and this programme motion is a modest advance on what we had beforeit is an insult not just to this House but to the people whom we represent to deny this House the opportunity adequately to discuss crucial aspects of this Bill that will affect, in one way or another, directly or indirectly, a vast number of our constituents. We are likely to take decisions today that could have a profound effect on the structure of our society, our criminal law and many other things. We should be able to debate these issues, as we could in former days, at not inordinate but adequate length. There is absolutely no opportunity afforded in this programme motion to debate issues such as glorification and stop and search at adequate length.
Even at this very late stage, I appeal to the Home Secretary, through you, Mr. Speaker, the defender of the interests of this House, to stop sidelining Parliament
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and to allow this Housewhich has, or ought to have, primacy within Parliamentadequately and properly to scrutinise, so that the other place can then concentrate more properly on what it ought to deal with: the detail and minutiae. As it is, we are giving the House of Lords the duty and obligation to examine matters that we have addressed for not even half a minute. That is disgraceful.
Over the past eight years, we have seen a progressive sidelining of Parliament and an over-mighty Executive seeking to use their muscle. Yes, I accept that the Prime Minister believes that he is acting in the country's interest. I am one of those who have never impugned his good faith on these issues, but I say through the Home Secretary to the Prime Minister, who is not here, that he is not behaving as a Prime Minister who honours parliamentary democracy ought to behave. He should recognise that in a parliamentary democracy, a fragile thing that our forefathers fought for[Interruption.] Indeed; our foremothers also fought for it. The Prime Minister should recognise that in such a democracy, it is crucially important that we, who between us represent all the people of this country, should have adequate opportunity to debate the crucial issues of the day. This programme motion does not give us that opportunity.
I fully accept why my hon. Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Grieve), who has handled this matter with great sensitivity and skill from the Front Bench, is not going to seek to divide the House. I certainly will not seek to do so from the Back Bencheseven though we should dividebecause we need to move on to the issues of substance. The fact that we cannot move on to all those issues is not only regrettable, but a blot on the Government's democratic integrity. I again appeal to the Home Secretary, even at this late stage, to let the House sit until at least 10 o'clock tonight, thereby giving us another three hours over and above what the Order Paper allows.
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