Session 2010-11
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Legislation (Territorial Extent) Bill

Legislation (Territorial Extent) Bill

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chair: Mr Roger Gale 

Baldwin, Harriett (West Worcestershire) (Con) 

Bryant, Chris (Rhondda) (Lab) 

Chope, Mr Christopher (Christchurch) (Con) 

Connarty, Michael (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (Lab) 

Gray, Mr James (North Wiltshire) (Con) 

Green, Kate (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab) 

Harper, Mr Mark (Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office)  

Hart, Simon (Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire) (Con) 

Hinds, Damian (East Hampshire) (Con) 

Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall) (Lab) 

Hunt, Tristram (Stoke-on-Trent Central) (Lab) 

Lloyd, Stephen (Eastbourne) (LD) 

Paisley, Ian (North Antrim) (DUP) 

Reynolds, Jonathan (Stalybridge and Hyde) (Lab/Co-op) 

Stewart, Bob (Beckenham) (Con) 

Stewart, Iain (Milton Keynes South) (Con) 

Sarah Davies, Committee Clerk

† attended the Committee

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Public Bill Committee 

Wednesday 30 March 2011  

[Mr Roger Gale in the Chair] 

Legislation (Territorial Extent) Bill

9.30 am 

The Chair:  Before we begin consideration of the Bill, I must make a few housekeeping announcements. Members may remove their jackets if they wish to do so. Will all Members please ensure that mobile phones, pagers and the like are switched off or turned to silent during the Committee? Pending the debate on the report of the Procedure Committee and resolutions of the House, other electronic devices are not permitted at all, contrary to popular belief. Food and drink, other than water, which should sustain life for the remainder of this sitting, are not permitted in the Committee Room. 

There is a sittings motion to consider. 

Harriett Baldwin (West Worcestershire) (Con):  I beg to move, 

That, if proceedings on the Legislation (Territorial Extent) Bill are not completed at this day’s sitting, the Committee do meet on Wednesdays when the House is sitting at half-past Nine o’clock. 

I know that it is a formality to say how pleased I am to be serving under your chairmanship, Mr Gale, but in this case I am genuinely delighted that a neophyte such as myself is serving under such an experienced Chair. 

Let me explain why I propose that the Committee should sit more than once. The Bill is unusual in being the first private Member’s Bill that has managed to get to Committee without Government support. On Second Reading, the Government requested that the Bill be withdrawn, the House divided on the matter, and we now find ourselves discussing the Bill in Committee. As the Bill is controversial, the advice from the Clerks is that the sittings motion should provide for more than one sitting. 

The other unusual feature of the Bill is that it has come to Committee sooner than I and others had expected, given our positions in the queue of private Member’s Bills. Yesterday, there was a debate in Westminster Hall— 

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab):  Oh, you heard about it. 

Harriett Baldwin:  Absolutely, I have read it in great detail. Given that 17 Members spoke—sadly, I was unable to attend the debate because I was serving on the Welfare Reform Bill Committee, but I would have tried to speak otherwise—[Interruption.]  

The Chair:  Order. 

Harriett Baldwin:  It is clear that the West Lothian question, which was discussed in that debate, is a controversial one in the House, so although I would be happy to vote to take the Bill back to the Floor of the

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House today, I think that the matter is sufficiently controversial that it might be prudent to agree that we sit at least once more, on the Wednesday after the recess, at the same time. 

Chris Bryant:  As the hon. Lady mentioned, Mr Gale, one is meant to say that it is a great delight to sit under your chairmanship, and she went on to say that she was not even fibbing because it is a genuine delight. I will not say anything more than that it is a delight to sit under your chairmanship, not least because I know that you are a special police constable, so if there are any threats of violence from the opposite side you will be able to deal with them adequately, both in your capacity as Chair and as a special constable. 

The hon. Lady has said that we need more than one sitting. There is at least one other Welsh Member in the Committee who might hope that any further sittings are on the same day as the Welsh Grand Committee, which is meeting as we speak, and that they might therefore be prevented from going to the Welsh Grand Committee. I honestly cannot see why we should need more than a single sitting for this three-clause Bill. The hon. Lady says that the matter is massively controversial. Although there are people who disagree with the thrust of the direction of her whole project, if I might put it that way, I note that yesterday only one Liberal Democrat bothered to turn up for five minutes for the debate on the West Lothian issue, and only three Conservatives turned up, two of whom did not make speeches and did not stay for the whole debate. There is remarkably little appetite for the hon. Lady’s proposal. 

Mr James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con):  Am I right in interpreting the hon. Gentleman as saying that he would judge the importance, or lack of it, of the West Lothian question on the basis of the number of Members of Parliament who turned up for a Back-Bench debate in Westminster Hall? I put it to him that the issue has been bubbling around in this Palace for some 30 or 40 years and is one of the most important issues in the constitutional consideration of the United Kingdom. To dismiss it as he has is to belittle an extremely important Bill. 

Chris Bryant:  Even the hon. Lady does not think this is a very important Bill. 

Harriett Baldwin:  It is to me. 

Chris Bryant:  If the hon. Lady looks back at her speech on Second Reading, she will see that she viewed the Bill as a building block towards a greater enterprise, if I am not mixing my metaphors. 

The hon. Gentleman says that the matter has been a major issue in constitutional debates for decades—I would suggest for longer than the 40 years that he suggested. Often, one can determine the significance of a matter on the basis of the number of people who attend a Westminster Hall debate on it. The vast majority who attended the debate yesterday were Labour Members, especially Welsh MPs, rather than Conservative Members. I am not sure, therefore, that there is the appetite for the Bill that some suggest. The hon. Gentleman could have proved me wrong yesterday by turning up for the debate, but unfortunately he chose not to do so. I am sure that he had something far more important to do. 

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Mr Gray:  I am grateful— 

Chris Bryant:  I have not given way yet, so the hon. Gentleman can reserve his gratitude for a moment. 

Mr Gray:  I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. Yesterday, I was chairing the Welfare Reform Bill Committee, on which the hon. Lady was serving, in Committee Room 14, and, therefore, sadly, I could not have attended the debate. However, I have taken an extremely active part in debates on the West Lothian question over the years. Indeed, as shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, I got the sack on the issue of the West Lothian question, so I am committed to the issue big time. 

Chris Bryant:  I am sure the hon. Gentleman was unfairly sacked, because his party is very tough on sensible people, and that is why we end up with Ministers such as the one we will hear from later today. The Conservative party would be much better served if the hon. Gentleman had remained holding that portfolio. Unfortunately, however, he chose yesterday to chair another Committee, and lots of other Members chose to do other things, so the argument that I think the hon. Lady wants to advance later this morning was not really put. Even the Minister did not put the argument much; he basically said, “There is a terrible problem here. Let’s set up a commission,” which, as far as I can see, is broadly the Government’s position. 

Whether the Committee needs further sittings might also be determined by how controversial the issue is. The hon. Lady is absolutely right that this is the first private Member’s Bill that has got through the first hurdle without Government support. Unfortunately, I must confess to the Committee that it is partly my fault that the Bill has progressed, because if I, the Whip and a couple of other Members had not voted for it, the Division would not have been quorate. I am kicking myself for being prevented from attending the Welsh Grand Committee this morning by virtue of the fact that I voted and allowed the hon. Lady’s Bill to go through. All that I will say is that it is important that we change all the rules in relation to private Member’s Bills. It is ludicrous that more Bills cannot get through Second Reading, that there is not a proper system, that the process of talking out is used, and so on. 

I see your querulous sucking of teeth, Mr Gale, so all that I will say is that I cannot believe that the Committee needs more than one day’s sitting, and we will oppose the motion. 

Michael Connarty (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (Lab):  It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gale, but unfortunately this is not the Committee I would wish to serve on. Although I am now the Member for West Lothian, and have succumbed to the urgings of the hon. Lady to volunteer to be on the Committee, I have just left a much more important Committee next door that is discussing flight passenger name records in the European Union—a subject that probably no one knows anything about, but one that is very important in countering terrorism. 

The Bill is probably controversial among those who hang about this funny place talking about matters that are of interest to parliamentarians and their own work, but of no relevance to their constituents—as I told Tam

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Dalyell when he raised the West Lothian question when I was the leader of the council in an adjoining county. It was very much Tam’s way to view this issue as important because he was a House of Commons man. His constituents did not necessarily have any interest in the matter—to be frank—and they did not see it as relevant, but if they needed to go to a London hospital for an operation that was not done in Scotland, they did not see why health should not be discussed north and south of the border. It is a preoccupation of a small coterie of people in this very strange organisation. 

Iain Stewart (Milton Keynes South) (Con):  The hon. Gentleman represents a constituency in Scotland. The issue may not be at the top of his constituents’ agenda, but as a Scot who sits for a seat south of the border, I can assure you that many of my constituents raise the issue because they feel that England is unfairly treated now in the constitutional arrangements of the country— 

The Chair:  Order. First, the hon. Gentleman does not need to assure me on that point, whoever else he needs to assure. Secondly, this has very little to do with the sittings motion. 

Michael Connarty:  I therefore support the argument that this Bill does not deserve or require more than one sitting. It is important that it is got out of the way quickly. People can have their canter round the course, and they have been doing so for many years and for many reasons—mostly political. It is always good to have an enemy outside to point at as being behind the problems that may occur in constituencies. I always think that it is better to focus on solutions in the constituencies rather than pointing fingers at other people. 

This Bill is about continuing the controversial attempt to say, “It’s the Scots’ interference in the politics of this place with their issues and opinions that is the problem.” Because we represent certain constituencies, it is argued that we should not be allowed to vote on certain matters, and I find that deeply offensive. My brother lived—and, sadly, died—in Gosport, England. His health service was as important to me as the health service of my constituents. And as I have said, some people travel to Scotland for operations that are not done elsewhere, and some people travel to England for the same purpose. 

I worry that if we have very many sittings on this Bill we will just hear an airing of grievances without a focus on what the Bill purports to do— 

The Chair:  Order. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that under my chairmanship there will be no long airing of grievances. The Committee will stick to the Bill. 

Michael Connarty:  To stick to the Bill, it is a minor flourish—I am worried about using pejorative words—based on a grievance approach to politics. I suggest that our constituents should be persuaded to give up that approach and look for a positive purpose in politics. One sitting will be enough to air those grievances. 

Mr Gray:  I rise briefly in support of the programme motion, which is enormously sensible for reasons that have been amply demonstrated by the contributions

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from the Opposition. They have variously belittled the West Lothian question as laughable and a matter for joking, and they have pointed out how few people turned up yesterday for the Westminster Hall debate, which they claim proves how unimportant it is. The hon. Member for Linlithgow and East Falkirk suggested that it was a matter of no concern to our constituents and that we must focus on important matters that are of interest to them. None the less, he fell into the trap—set by that great man, Tam Dalyell—when he said that he should have an interest in the national health service in England as well as in Scotland because his brother tragically died in Gosport. That may be the case, but my mother lives in Dunblane in Scotland and is currently in the hands of the national health service in Stirling royal infirmary and, as an English MP, I have no say of any kind over the NHS in Scotland— 

The Chair:  Order. I suspect that in the course of the debate in this Bill there may be a fleeting moment when it is opportune to discuss the West Lothian question, but now is not that moment. Please resist the temptation: we are talking about the sittings motion. 

9.45 am 

Mr Gray:  Indeed so, Mr Gale. The point that I was making is that this is not a peripheral issue or one that we should deal with quickly. It is not an issue that we can just vote on now and hope that it goes away. Nor is it only of interest to us here at Westminster. It is actually an extremely important issue of great concern to people across the nation and addresses the way in which our nation is run. To dismiss it as somehow unimportant or uninteresting, or needing to be dispatched quickly, is wrong. My hon. Friend the Member for West Worcestershire has done the nation a great service by introducing an imaginative new approach to the West Lothian question and it deserves detailed consideration. If there were to be a further sittings motion that required us to sit on even more occasions, I would certainly support it. 

Chris Bryant:  Without this sittings motion, today would be the only occasion on which we would sit. Nobody has presented a single amendment, so all we have to discuss is the three clauses of the Bill. It is a very simple measure. We are not dealing with the whole of the West Lothian question: we are dealing only with what is in the Bill. I cannot see how debate on that can possibly last for more than a single sitting. 

Mr Gray:  The hon. Gentleman says that, but if he gave two seconds of thought to it he would realise that the contents of the Bill would affect every piece of legislation of any kind to go through this House, because the House authorities and the Speaker would be required to signify whether they had Scottish, Welsh or Irish implications. Those are matters that we will tease out in future debate. I intervened in the debate on the sittings motion because I was unhappy about the way in which Opposition Members chose to belittle an important Bill. I strongly support the sittings motion and will volunteer to serve on as many Wednesday mornings as the Committee sits. 

Question put.  

The Committee divided: Ayes 8, Noes 3. 

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Division No. 1 ]  


Baldwin, Harriett   

Gray, Mr James   

Harper, Mr Mark   

Hart, Simon   

Hinds, Damian   

Lloyd, Stephen   

Stewart, Bob   

Stewart, Iain   


Bryant, Chris   

Connarty, Michael   

Reynolds, Jonathan   

Question accordingly agreed to.  

Harriett Baldwin:  It was fascinating to observe how the Bill, despite the fact that I said on Second Reading that it was a fairly minor and unobjectionable piece of legislation, stirs up much controversy. As we consider clause 1, I wish to draw to the Committee’s attention— 

The Chair:  Order. I understood that the hon. Lady wished to make some opening remarks. If she wishes to talk about clause 1, I had better put it formally. 

Clause 1 

Duties of the Secretary of State 

Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill. 

Harriett Baldwin:  I appreciate your wisdom in this matter, Mr Gale. I was speaking in prelude to that discussion, and I wished to point out that, on Second Reading, the Minister said that if the Bill were to go into Committee, he looked forward to working constructively with me to improve it. In addition, the hon. Member for Rhondda said that if the Bill passed its Second Reading, the Opposition would wish to scrutinise it robustly and seek to amend it. As the hon. Gentleman noted earlier, no one has tabled any amendments. I suggest that before we discuss clause 1— 

Chris Bryant:  On a point of order, Mr Gale. I thought that we were discussing clause 1 now. 

The Chair:  Technically, the hon. Gentleman is right. It is a formality and I have proposed the question on clause 1. The hon. Lady has the floor and if she wishes to make a proposition to the Committee in the course of her remarks, she may do so. 

Chris Bryant:  I am not questioning your view, Mr Gale, but I would like some clarity. I presume that it would now not be possible to table any amendments to clause 1 as we have started consideration of it. 

The Chair:  That rather depends on what happens in the next few minutes, and I cannot advise on that at this stage. It would not be possible, were the Committee to continue to sit, to table amendments to clause 1 for debate this morning unless the Chair decided to take a manuscript amendment. But that is hypothetical, because no manuscript amendment has been submitted to me.

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I cannot adjudicate on something that has not happened. We have to let the hon. Lady have her say and see where we go from there. Leave it in my safe hands. 

Harriett Baldwin:  Probably the safest thing that I can do now is seek to adjourn the Committee. 

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I beg to move, That the debate be now adjourned. 

Question put and agreed to.  

9.51 am 

Adjourned till Wednesday 27 April at half-past Nine o’clock.