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4.56 pm

Mr. Alan Reid (Argyll and Bute) (LD): My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (David Howarth) is right in his criticism of the process that this Bill has gone through. Procedurally, it has been a shambles. I served on the Committee and vast rafts of amendments were not debated. I sat here through the entire Report stage and, again, rafts of amendments were not considered. I tried to speak on Third Reading, but we ran out of time. There have also been huge gaps between different stages of the Bill.

My concern about the carry-over motion is that it specifies 29 October. I know that the Minister, in response to my intervention, said that the Government's intention was to get the Bill on the statute book before the parliamentary recess. In that case, why does not the motion simply give the last day before the parliamentary recess-21 July? Why does it specify 29 October?

Clauses 14 and 15 introduce important new rules about election expenses that come into effect on 1 January 2010. Between Royal Assent and 1 January, the Electoral Commission has to conduct a consultation exercise and then issue guidance. The two months between 29 October and 1 January would not be long enough for that to happen. I would have been happy to vote for the motion had it specified 21 July, but as it says 29 October, I will oppose it.

4.58 pm

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): It is a pity that the Government wish to rush through what could turn out to be a bungled and unsatisfactory piece of legislation. Given the problems that candidates for the deputy leadership of the Labour party got into under the law that the Government introduced before, one would have thought that the Government would have
13 July 2009 : Column 47
seen the need for simpler and clearer legislation and for more time to prepare it so that everyone could buy into it, understand it and comply with it. I am sure that right hon. and hon. Members wished to comply with the earlier legislation, but they got into difficulties because it was complicated and not fully understood. That legislation had not been thought through or debated sufficiently so that all could grapple with its complexities.

I have the same worry, only more so, about this Bill, because it has a troubled history. We now learn that consensus has broken down between the main parties on this issue, but the Bill requires consensus and agreement because it relates to the methods of election of people of all parties and none to this House. Surely it requires as much time as Parliament thinks it needs or deserves to try to reach sensible agreement. It is not satisfactory to have a whole set of new proposals put before the House at the last minute.

I cannot understand why we need 80 days off this summer, but that is the Government's wish. If they are sticking with their 80 days off, there clearly is not time to do this Bill properly. They have an easy answer-they could put on another couple of days next week and get this thing done properly. I do not see the Minister rising to offer to do that. I find it very difficult to explain to constituents why there is not enough time to make our case or to do our job when we are then forced to take an 80-day break when some of us would be happy to work longer to see things through properly.

If we must have this kind of legislation, the Government should let us have the time to debate it. Indeed, why cannot we go longer this week if colleagues already have holidays planned for next week? We could sit later on Wednesday or Thursday to accommodate the need to consider these measures carefully. I think that it is a great tragedy that the Minister will not rise from his seat and offer us that- [ Interruption. ] Does the hon. Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane) want to intervene?

Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd) (Lab): No, sorry. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman was going to finish.

Mr. Redwood: I thought that the hon. Gentleman was keen to disagree-I am delighted that I have the agreement of the Labour Back Benchers. They do not wish to intervene and tell me that I am wrong to want more time to discuss these matters. Please will the Minister reconsider, will he see that this has broken any chance of consensus and will he grant us more time? There is plenty of time this week or next week.

5 pm

Chris Ruane (Vale of Clwyd) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend the Minister guarantee that there will be sufficient time to discuss the important issue of politically motivated leaders of local authorities who deliberately try to keep registration at a low level? The Minister will recall that I have given the example in previous debates of the Liberal leader of Islington local authority, who, when approached by the Labour group to have a registration drive before an election, was adamantly opposed to that idea because that was how Liberals won elections. Will there be sufficient time to discuss these important issues?

13 July 2009 : Column 48
5.1 pm

Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Ind): I am not at all surprised that the Conservative party opposes the Bill. I want to see it come on to the statute book as soon as possible so that we can get more transparency on the funding of political parties and of elections in particular. I know that this Bill will cause problems for the Conservative party because it currently abuses the system. It acts in a way that the public perceive as totally improper in funding campaigns with tens of thousands of pounds even before the starting point of the election is reached. That is an abuse of the system. I want to see that stopped, and that is why I will be supporting the Government.

Mr. Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con): Did the hon. Gentleman also think that it was an abuse when the incumbent Government decided to add £10,000 on top of already generous allowances so that Labour MPs in particular, who have the majority here- [ Interruption. ]

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order.

Mr. Stuart: So that Labour MPs in particular, who have the majority in this House, were able to spend public money promoting themselves to the electorate.

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. The motion under discussion is the carry-over motion. Can we please keep to that motion in the time that is available?

Bob Spink: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I shall abide by your wishes and not be distracted from the motion that we are discussing. I am astounded that the Conservative party, of all parties, should seek to raise today, in this debate, the question of the abuse of Members' allowances. What brass neck they have.

I want to see the Bill brought forward and that is why I will be supporting the carry-over motion, although I want to see levels of reporting reduced to lower sums so that we have even greater transparency. I also want to see even greater restrictions on spending on elections. I do not want to see this country going down the same route as America on election funding.

5.3 pm

Mr. Wills: As always, we have had a very interesting little exchange on these matters, but the contributions from Opposition Members have been unusually baffling and illogical. Of course, I agree with the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mr. Reid). He is quite right that we need to get this done as quickly as possible, but the contributions that we have heard from both Opposition Front Benchers demonstrate exactly why we need to allow a little bit of time for the Opposition to get their act together.

Mr. Francis Maude (Horsham) (Con): Does the right hon. Gentleman realise quite how offensive it is to suggest that the Opposition need time to get our act together, when the Government, on a matter of huge difficulty, which is the legislative equivalent of brain surgery, have produced six pages of amendments on the morning that these matters are to be debated in the House? To suggest that the Opposition need time suggests a lack of self-awareness that beggars belief.

13 July 2009 : Column 49

Mr. Wills: With great respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I certainly would not want to cause any offence whatsoever, but if he had borne with me just a little, I would have explained precisely why the Opposition need to get their act together. I do not wish to cause him offence, but if he listens to me, I will explain exactly why I said that.

These amendments were debated at some length in the other place. I respectfully point out to Opposition Front Benchers that consensus is a matter not just of two Front-Bench teams reaching agreement, but of the whole House reaching agreement in so far as possible. We also need to take proper recognition of the sentiments in the other place.

In the other place, as the right hon. Gentleman will be aware, a very large number of Conservative peers take the Conservative Whip-200 or so. I wonder whether he can remember how many of them voted against the amendments that the other place passed. I will remind him: it was 40. He will be aware that a significant number of Cross Benchers also voted in favour of the amendments. We have to take account of the sentiment of the other place, and I am surprised that Opposition Front Benchers do not wish to do that. We believe that it is right and proper to do so. We are conscious of the time frame. These issues have been debated. We think that there is sufficient time to debate that.

I reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane) that we will have time in later debates to discuss the matter that he has raised, and I will do so in relation to the appropriate clauses.

I am baffled by the contribution of the hon. Member for Cambridge (David Howarth). On the one hand, he seems to be calling for a strict deadline to be imposed on the Bill; on the other hand, he has been vituperative in his criticism of us for not allowing sufficient time to discuss the Bill. As so often, I am afraid, the Liberal Democrats are facing both ways.

David Howarth: The problem is that very short debates were followed by very long intervals without debates, and that happened in both Houses. Why did the Government take so long to get the Bill to Third Reading in the House of Lords?

Mr. Wills: With all respect to the hon. Gentleman, we have discussed all these issues at very great length. [Hon. Members: "Oh!"] We have, and as hon. Members on both sides of the House want to get on to discuss the Bill's substance, I beg to hope that the House will now agree to the motion.

Question put.

The House proceeded to a Division.

Madam Deputy Speaker: I ask the Serjeant at Arms to investigate the delay in the No Lobby.

The House having divided: Ayes 283, Noes 196.
Division No. 198]
[5.07 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Alexander, rh Mr. Douglas
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Janet
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Austin, John
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Balls, rh Ed

Banks, Gordon
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Benn, rh Hilary
Benton, Mr. Joe
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, rh Hazel
Blunkett, rh Mr. David
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Bradshaw, rh Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Des
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, rh Andy
Byrne, rh Mr. Liam
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, rh Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, Mr. David
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Darling, rh Mr. Alistair
David, Mr. Wayne
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Durkan, Mark
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Ennis, Jeff
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fisher, Mark
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gilroy, Linda
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harris, Mr. Tom
Havard, Mr. Dai
Healey, rh John
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hood, Mr. Jim
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howells, rh Dr. Kim
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hutton, rh Mr. John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, rh Alan
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Ann
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Khan, rh Mr. Sadiq
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Knight, rh Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, rh Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew

Lucas, Ian
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
McFadden, rh Mr. Pat
McFall, rh John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGuire, rh Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McNulty, rh Mr. Tony
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Miliband, rh David
Miliband, rh Edward
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Morden, Jessica
Mudie, Mr. George
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, rh Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, rh Mr. Mike
O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Olner, Mr. Bill
Osborne, Sandra
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Prescott, rh Mr. John
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, rh James
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Reid, rh John
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Roy, Mr. Frank
Roy, Lindsay
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Christine
Seabeck, Alison
Sharma, Mr. Virendra
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, Alan
Singh, Mr. Marsha
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andy
Smith, rh Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Spink, Bob
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, David
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Ussher, Kitty
Vaz, rh Keith
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Joan
Waltho, Lynda
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Wicks, rh Malcolm
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Wills, rh Mr. Michael
Wilson, Phil
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Ayes:

Ms Dawn Butler and
Mr. John Heppell

Alexander, Danny
Ancram, rh Mr. Michael
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Barrett, John
Beith, rh Sir Alan

Benyon, Mr. Richard
Beresford, Sir Paul
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Breed, Mr. Colin
Brokenshire, James
Brooke, Annette
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Bruce, rh Malcolm
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burrowes, Mr. David
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Butterfill, Sir John
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Cameron, rh Mr. David
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clark, Greg
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Curry, rh Mr. David
Davey, Mr. Edward
Davies, Philip
Davis, rh David
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Dorries, Nadine
Duddridge, James
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Featherstone, Lynne
Field, Mr. Mark
Foster, Mr. Don
Fox, Dr. Liam
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Mr. Roger
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gidley, Sandra
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gove, Michael
Gray, Mr. James
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Hague, rh Mr. William
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hammond, Stephen
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harris, Dr. Evan
Harvey, Nick
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Heath, Mr. David
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hemming, John
Hendry, Charles
Herbert, Nick
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Horam, Mr. John
Horwood, Martin
Hosie, Stewart
Howard, rh Mr. Michael
Howarth, David
Howell, John
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Hunt, Mr. Jeremy
Hunter, Mark
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Jones, Mr. David
Keetch, Mr. Paul
Key, Robert
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Kramer, Susan
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Lait, Mrs. Jacqui
Lamb, Norman
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Laws, Mr. David
Leech, Mr. John
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lidington, Mr. David
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Llwyd, Mr. Elfyn
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Maclean, rh David
MacNeil, Mr. Angus
Main, Anne
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Maples, Mr. John
Mason, John
Mates, rh Mr. Michael
Maude, rh Mr. Francis
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Mercer, Patrick
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Milton, Anne
Mitchell, Mr. Andrew
Moore, Mr. Michael
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Mulholland, Greg
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Neill, Robert
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
Oaten, Mr. Mark
Osborne, Mr. George
Paice, Mr. James
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Price, Adam
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pritchard, Mark
Pugh, Dr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Reid, Mr. Alan
Rennie, Willie
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Angus
Robertson, Hugh
Robinson, Mrs. Iris
Robinson, rh Mr. Peter
Rogerson, Dan
Rowen, Paul
Ruffley, Mr. David
Russell, Bob
Sanders, Mr. Adrian

Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs. Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Mr. Richard
Stanley, rh Sir John
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swinson, Jo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Teather, Sarah
Thurso, John
Timpson, Mr. Edward
Tredinnick, David
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Viggers, Sir Peter
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
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, Mr. Roger
Williams, Stephen
Willis, Mr. Phil
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Wilson, Sammy
Winterton, Ann
Wishart, Pete
Young, rh Sir George
Younger-Ross, Richard
Tellers for the Noes:

Jeremy Wright and
Mr. Philip Dunne
Question accordingly agreed to.
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