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16 May 2006 : Column 879

Mr. Walker : The Minister said “no less than five years”. Did he mean to say that he would report back after no more than five years?

Mr. McFadden: As I understand it, the assurance given in Committee was that a Minister would report back after no less than five years, and I am happy to repeat that today.

Mr. Heath rose—

Mr. McFadden: I would like to make some progress.

The Government also believe that all Departments should keep their legislation under review. That is why the Government set up the panel for regulatory accountability, and why there are regulatory reform Ministers in each of the main regulatory Departments—and a Better Regulation Commission keeping an eye on them all.

Mr. Walker: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. McFadden: I am afraid that I would like to make some progress.

Departments are currently reviewing their regulations and drafting simplification plans, which include measures to reduce administrative burdens on business. Those will be published in the pre-Budget report later this year. The Better Regulation Commission will review the simplification plans that Departments and some independent regulators are preparing. The review will occur while the plans are in final draft form and before they go for clearance by the panel for regulatory accountability. The important thing is that Departments are already obliged to report on their better regulation work as part of their annual reports. They have been required to do that for the past two years. We would expect departmental Select Committees to report on those annual reports as appropriate.

Mr. Djanogly: Is not the Minister rather missing the point? The Bill is being introduced because the reports and the procedures have not been working to date. That is why we need new procedures.

Mr. McFadden: I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the reason behind the Bill is that we must make greater progress than has been made under the 2001 Act. My point is that the Bill will not be the only measure, and that efforts are being made to achieve simplification. Although I agree that we should be open to reviewing orders, I believe that it would be unnecessarily prescriptive, and indeed unnecessary, to include that provision in the Bill.

As hon. Members will be aware, one of the main aims of the Bill is to provide a power to remove unnecessary burdens. To include yet another requirement in addition to those that I have already discussed could be argued to be contrary to the spirit and the purpose of the Bill—as I am sure at least some hon. Members will agree.

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Mr. Andrew Love (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op): As a former member of the Regulatory Reform Committee, I agree with my hon. Friend about the prescriptive nature of new clause 2. However, with the increasing prominence of the idea of deregulation, if we are to show the political will to achieve deregulation and if we are to avoid the culture of Whitehall overcoming what we are trying to achieve, regular transparent reports to Parliament are a necessary reality.

Mr. McFadden: My hon. Friend makes a sound point. There must be a culture in Departments whereby that is a priority—a point made with great force yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston.

New clause 7 is a sunset clause. It would be inappropriate at this moment to set an arbitrary date for the expiry of part 1 of the Bill. Such a sunset clause would set a date on which the Act would certainly come to an end. The safeguards in the Bill and the rigorous parliamentary scrutiny that any proposal will undergo are robust. It would not be wise for us to introduce the uncertainty that a sunset provision would bring—although I am sure that we all relish the thought of going through this process again in five years.

5.15 pm

Mr. Heath: Of course we would love to have another go, because this has been such fun. May I bring the hon. Gentleman back to the reporting procedure? He is the Minister responsible not only for this aspect of deregulation but for better government practice. I made a suggestion yesterday—when speaking to amendment No. 75, I think—that was not really responded to: irrespective of statutory requirements, it would be good practice for Ministers who wish to introduce orders under the procedure to explain why they cannot use primary legislation to achieve the same effect. That would be a way of preventing Ministers from adopting a lazy attitude and thinking that the procedures in the Bill would provide an easy way of legislating, although they could draft a perfectly proper Bill, and ought to be using primary legislation.

Mr. McFadden: Some people who have examined the procedure that will emerge when the Bill is enacted do not think that it will be an easier process than primary legislation. It might be a more appropriate procedure on occasions. There may well be more consultation and debate on, and scrutiny of, some regulatory reform orders than would be the case for individual clauses in primary legislation, so we should not be prescriptive.

In Committee, the former Minister spoke of the need for a culture change across government. The approach that we need to take is one of partnership, with regulators and the regulated working together. What message would we be sending the business community, charities, the voluntary sector and public sector organisations affected by the Bill if we said that the deregulation scheme that it created would be killed off automatically after five years? I return again to the comment made by my hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston about the pressures on Departments. Departments will be less likely to invest a
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lot of resources in pursuing reforms if they might not prove possible in the end. The culture change that we want should offer certainty about, and confidence in, methods of delivery.

People should be able to rely on primary legislation. They should know that if the Bill is passed, it is there to last. We want to avoid a situation in which those who are regulated by an order do not have confidence in its provisions. I hope that the orders will deliver wide-ranging reforms, as has already happened under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

Mr. Heath: The Minister is straying into exactly the fallacy against which I warned earlier. The Conservative new clauses would bring no uncertainty to orders that have already been made, but would simply mean that the order-making process would have to be reviewed. The Minister’s remarks are thus completely irrelevant to the proposition before him.

Mr. McFadden: We have said that there should be a review in no more than five years. However, we are not prepared to sign up to a sunset clause that would automatically bring the Bill to an end. We want Parliament to pass a power in which it has confidence, and that being the case, it should have confidence in that power for the future.

As I said, the Government have given an undertaking that a Minister of the Crown will report to the House on the operation of the Bill within five years of enactment. There is nothing in new clause 7 to ensure that orders made under part 1 would remain in force, if that is the intention. If they did not, everything done by means of them, including amendments to primary legislation, could be repealed. I can only assume that the intention is for existing orders to remain in force. However, unless there is an express provision to that effect, we cannot be free from doubt. That is why we had a “saving” provision to make it completely clear that when we repeal the 2001 Act, orders made under it will continue in force. Similar amendments were tabled when the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 and the 2001 Act went through Parliament, and, specifically, the Conservative Administration resisted them during the passage of the 1994 Act.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke (Rushcliffe) (Con): Can we just clarify one thing? The Minister contradicted himself in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Mr. Walker), but I hope that he eventually corrected his slip of the tongue. On the undertaking to report to the House, the Minister confirmed that the report would appear in “not less” than five years. He seemed to be reassuring us that nothing would be embarked upon with undue haste—but my hon. Friend was trying to press him to say that he was undertaking that a report would be given in not more than five years’ time. The Minister appeared to return to that idea later, but will he clarify what he meant?

Mr. McFadden rose—

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Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. May I just clarify the fact that that was an intervention on the Minister and that the Minister has not quite finished? Is that right?

Mr. Clarke: It could be taken as a speech, in reply to which the Minister could apply for leave to speak again.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I think that we will take it as an intervention.

Mr. McFadden: I am happy to confirm that the commitment is to report within five years.

Mr. Love: I was a little disappointed by the Minister’s comments on new clause 2. As I said, although I do not propose to support it, because its terms are too prescriptive, there is considerable merit in the recommendation by the Select Committee on Regulatory Reform for regular parliamentary scrutiny of what the Bill achieves.

I have two major reasons, based on experiences for thinking that. First, I served on the Select Committee for about two to two and half years, although it felt a great deal longer. One of the things that would have made our work much more effective was greater transparency with regard to the lack of political will in Departments to achieve the objectives set out in legislation.

There is no doubt that one way to gain the attention of politicians and civil servants is to have transparency and a regular report to Parliament that allows us, the media and the public to know what is going on. That is important because deregulation has become a much higher political priority for everyone. We are constantly chided by the Opposition for our failures in deregulation, and we continually make commitments to do better. Looking back at the historical record, it is clear that previous Governments have not done that well, either; we all remember the “bonfire of the regulations” in the early 1990s. It behoves all of us in Parliament to create the conditions whereby we can succeed. The Bill does many things, but it does not achieve proper parliamentary scrutiny—I am talking about scrutiny in this Chamber—of what is being achieved.

The second consideration, as I said in an intervention, is the culture of Whitehall. It is undoubtedly the case that the priority both for politicians and for civil servants is creating new regulations and new laws. One becomes a Cabinet Minister by passing laws; one becomes a permanent secretary by assisting Ministers in passing laws. We need to try to create incentives to do away with laws as well as to create them. This measure is a small mechanism, but it is probably the only way in which we can change the culture of Whitehall and create a better opportunity to do away with regulation.

Mr. Harper: The hon. Gentleman spoke about how Ministers’ performance is assessed. To achieve a culture change, we must shift our focus from the introduction of new Bills and legislation to deregulation and the removal of burdens from business. We must focus, too, on sound administration, and on paying attention to
16 May 2006 : Column 883
the need to get the operation of Acts of Parliament correct before rushing to introduce yet another Bill.

Mr. Love: I sympathise with the hon. Gentleman’s suggestion. I could add that much of the legislation passed by the House has not been properly thought through, as it has not been subjected to pre-legislative scrutiny and other mechanisms. Perhaps Parliament and the Government should consider passing not quite as much legislation, but making sure that the legislation that does proceed through the House is better thought through.

We should consider what straightforward measures we can take in the Bill to try to change the culture and make politicians and civil servants sit up and think before they carry on with their duties. I believe that an annual report to Parliament detailing progress under the Bill would assist that process a great deal.

Alison Seabeck (Plymouth, Devonport) (Lab): My hon. Friend makes a fair point. The Bill facilitates the sensible use of the order-making process, and we need to turn orders from the ugly ducklings of legislation into the swans. At the moment, the culture favours the introduction of Bills by Ministers and civil servants, but with the good use of orders we can change that culture.

Mr. Love: I agree.

The Minister has repeated an argument made in Committee that the requirement for an annual report to Parliament would impose an additional burden on Departments. I accept that that is generally true, but benefits would accrue from the work done by Departments to meet the priority imposed by Parliament, and thus help to change the culture. There is a great deal of merit in the proposal for an annual report. The report would be relatively straightforward to produce, but would give Parliament an opportunity to comment on the success of the Bill, or otherwise. We should remember that the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 and the Regulatory Reform Act 2001 both failed to achieve our objectives. If the Bill is to succeed, an amendment requiring an annual report would be helpful.

Mr. Harper: I am pleased that the new clause has been welcomed by Members on both sides of the House. In Committee, the Government said that they had the most ambitious deregulatory agenda in the world, so I would expect them to welcome the opportunity both to submit an annual report to the House setting out their achievements in reducing burdens on business and to discuss that with Members. Because Ministers would be forced to come to the House to report on progress every year, the proposal gives them a tool for insisting that civil servants take action. The Minister appeared to welcome new clause 2 in principle, when he said that the Government needed to report to the House more frequently than once every
16 May 2006 : Column 884
five years, but he did not give any concrete commitments. I must therefore insist on pressing new clause 2 to a Division.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 210, Noes 269.
Division No. 235]
[5.30 pm


Afriyie, Adam
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Alexander, Danny
Amess, Mr. David
Ancram, rh Mr. Michael
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Baker, Norman
Barker, Gregory
Baron, Mr. John
Barrett, John
Beith, rh Mr. Alan
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Beresford, Sir Paul
Binley, Mr. Brian
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bone, Mr. Peter
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Bottomley, Peter
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brake, Tom
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Brokenshire, James
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Browning, Angela
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burrowes, Mr. David
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Burt, Alistair
Burt, Lorely
Butterfill, Sir John
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Cameron, rh Mr. David
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clark, Greg
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Clegg, Mr. Nick
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Curry, rh Mr. David
Davey, Mr. Edward
Davies, Philip
Davis, rh David (Haltemprice and Howden)
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Dorrell, rh Mr. Stephen
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Evennett, Mr. David
Fabricant, Michael
Farron, Tim
Featherstone, Lynne
Field, Mr. Mark
Foster, Mr. Don
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francois, Mr. Mark
Fraser, Mr. Christopher
Gale, Mr. Roger
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
George, Andrew
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gidley, Sandra
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goldsworthy, Julia
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gove, Michael
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hammond, Stephen
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harris, Dr. Evan
Harvey, Nick
Hayes, Mr. John
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Heath, Mr. David
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hemming, John
Hendry, Charles
Herbert, Nick
Hermon, Lady
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holmes, Paul
Horam, Mr. John
Horwood, Martin
Hosie, Stewart
Howarth, David
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Hunt, Mr. Jeremy
Hunter, Mark
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Jones, Mr. David
Kawczynski, Daniel
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Kramer, Susan
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lamb, Norman
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Laws, Mr. David
Leech, Mr. John
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Lidington, Mr. David
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter

Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Maclean, rh David
MacNeil, Mr. Angus
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Mates, rh Mr. Michael
Maude, rh Mr. Francis
May, rh Mrs. Theresa
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Mercer, Patrick
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Milton, Anne
Mitchell, Mr. Andrew
Moore, Mr. Michael
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Mundell, David
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Oaten, Mr. Mark
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, Mr. George
Ottaway, Richard
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Price, Adam
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pugh, John
Randall, Mr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Reid, Mr. Alan
Rennie, Willie
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Hugh
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Rogerson, Mr. Dan
Rowen, Paul
Ruffley, Mr. David
Russell, Bob
Salmond, Mr. Alex
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Scott, Mr. Lee
Shapps, Grant
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Smith, Sir Robert
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs. Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swinson, Jo
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Taylor, Matthew
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Teather, Sarah
Thurso, John
Tredinnick, David
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vaizey, Mr. Edward
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Viggers, Peter
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve
Weir, Mr. Mike
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Willetts, Mr. David
Williams, Hywel
Williams, Mark
Williams, Stephen
Willott, Jenny
Wilshire, Mr. David
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Winterton, Ann
Wishart, Pete
Wright, Jeremy
Young, rh Sir George
Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Henry Bellingham and
Andrew Selous

Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Balls, Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Sir Stuart
Benton, Mr. Joe
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blunkett, rh Mr. David
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, Andy
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Chapman, Ben
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Ms Katy
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon

Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs. Claire
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Ennis, Jeff
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, Caroline
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gardiner, Barry
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Mr. Tom
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hood, Mr. Jimmy
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Howells, Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hutton, rh Mr. John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Lynne
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane
Khabra, Mr. Piara S.
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Knight, Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Linton, Martin
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
MacDougall, Mr. John
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCarthy, Kerry
McCartney, rh Mr. Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McFall, rh Mr. John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
McNulty, Mr. Tony
Meale, Mr. Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Mr. Alan
Miliband, rh David
Miliband, Edward
Miller, Andrew
Moffat, Anne
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Moran, Margaret
Morden, Jessica
Morgan, Julie
Morley, Mr. Elliot
Mountford, Kali

Mudie, Mr. George
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
Olner, Mr. Bill
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, James
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Reid, rh John
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, John
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Christine
Ryan, Joan
Salter, Martin
Seabeck, Alison
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, Alan
Singh, Mr. Marsha
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andrew
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, rh Jacqui
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stringer, Graham
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, David
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Touhig, Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Ussher, Kitty
Vaz, Keith
Waltho, Lynda
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Wills, Mr. Michael
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, Ms Rosie
Wood, Mike
Woodward, Mr. Shaun
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Tellers for the Noes:

Jonathan Shaw and
Mr. Frank Roy
Question accordingly negatived.
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