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UK Borders Bill

Volume 458: debated on Monday 19 March 2007

Queen’s recommendation having been signified—

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the UK Borders Bill, it is expedient to authorise the charging of fees.—[Mr. Liam Byrne.]

I do not wish to detain the House long, and certainly not for the 45 minutes allotted for this debate. Having said that, I am a little surprised that the Minister moved the motion formally without any explanation of why the Government have introduced an additional Ways and Means motion for this Bill.

Before my hon. Friend leaves the subject of the 45 minutes that is allowed for this debate, he might reflect on the fact that that is 45 minutes more than will be allowed for the regulations that appear later on the Order Paper and will be voted through on the nod.

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. The most extraordinary thing about the procedure this evening is that it does not allow for debate on a matter that Members on both sides of the argument wish to debate on the Floor of the House. However, I would be out of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker, were I to continue that strain of argument.

I find it extraordinary that yet again the Government are making proposals that were not included in the original Bill and were not therefore the subject of a Ways and Means resolution on Second Reading. As I understand the Government’s new clause, which is yet to be debated in Committee and has not been introduced at the appropriate stage in the Committee’s proceedings, the intention is to allow the Government to introduce fees and charges for those who are seeking to emigrate to this country that are beyond full cost recovery, in the certain knowledge that people are in no position to argue with the imposition of such fees and charges.

It would be wrong to debate the substance of the new clause this evening—that will have to be done in Committee—but it is not proper for this House, which prides itself on its ability to scrutinise when given the opportunity to do so, to allow to pass without any comment whatsoever a Ways and Means resolution that allows the Government, yet again, to ride roughshod over the House’s ability to scrutinise its business properly. The new clause should have been introduced in the original Bill, but it was not. The Minister gave no explanation and simply put the motion before the House formally. That is no more a proper way of doing business than is the way in which we will consider the later piece of business. The least that the Minister can do is to explain why we have this motion before us tonight.

I am grateful for the chance to respond to the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath). The powers contained in the new clause are not especially radical. We have the power to cost-charge—that is in the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006. Neither is the power to over-cost charge especially new, because we have that in section 42 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004. We are trying to bring to bear a degree of flexibility and intelligence in how charges are set. That principle was widely welcomed in the statutory instrument debate that we had last week. This motion will allow us to ensure that there is a full and proper debate in Committee on the new clauses that we propose in advance of Report and Third Reading. I am sure that the hon. Member for Rochdale (Paul Rowen), who is representing the Liberal Democrats on that Committee, will forensically interrogate our proposals. On that basis, I commend the motion to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Have you had a request from a Minister to explain the extreme and unseemly haste with which the sexual orientation regulations have appeared on the Order Paper tonight? Have you received a request to explain the almost unprecedented shortness of time between laying the regulations on 12 March and their being in Committee on 15 March, with members of the Committee appointed with less than 24 hours to consider their merits? The Lords Merits Committee advertised a seven-day consultation period, and then sat on the sixth day, thereby cutting out some of the representations that would have been made. Given that there was no sitting on Friday, the regulations have appeared on the Order Paper within two days of consideration. Have you received any requests?

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Over the weekend, several constituents raised concerns about the impact of the details of the regulations. I have not yet had time to explore with Ministers their precise consequences because of the unseemly haste to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) referred. What channels are open to me before we vote on the regulations in a few minutes to explore the precise consequences with Ministers? Could not a Minister have come before the House and made a statement to enable hon. Members to scrutinise the regulations rather better?

Order. We cannot have too many points of order as a surrogate for a debate on the matter. Let me try to deal with the points that have been raised.

The right hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Miss Widdecombe) asked whether I had received any representations or requests. The answer is no. In answer to the right hon. Lady and the hon. Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Peter Luff), the Chair has no power to determine what is on the Order Paper. I can only preside over what has been included in it. I understand that all is procedurally correct and we must proceed on that basis.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I entirely accept what you say, as does every hon. Member, but, because the procedures are so unfortunate, will you ask Mr. Speaker to ask the Procedure Committee to examine the manner in which the House deals with such matters in future?

The hon. Gentleman has great experience in the House. He knows that it is perfectly in order for him to write directly to the Procedure Committee if he wants a generic point to be considered.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As I suspect you know, the matter was raised at business questions on Thursday. A clear request was made to the Leader of the House for the regulations not to go through until the House had had an opportunity to debate the subject, at least on the Easter Adjournment. Given that the regulations will be railroaded through this evening, will you be kind enough to ask Mr. Speaker to ensure that time is made available on the Easter Adjournment to debate the matter, notwithstanding the fact that the regulations will have gone through?

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If you convey any remarks to the Speaker, perhaps you will also tell him that, in Committee, the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) revealed—I was there—that Government Front Benchers had offered more time but that Tory Front Benchers had refused to take it. The Tory Front-Bench spokesman voted with us and the Tories split two ways. Three voted with us, including the Tory Front Bencher, and two voted against. The idea that the matter has not been dealt with is farcical.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As a Member who supports the regulations, as do most Liberal Democrats, we nevertheless share the concern about the way in which the matter has been rushed through. Given that the details have never been debated in primary legislation and require discussion by many hon. Members who have different views, can the House decide now—even though I generally disagree with Conservative Members and agree with the Government on the matter—to provide debating time, or is there no way in which we can do that at this late stage?

I have to tell the hon. Gentleman and the House that there is no further scope for debate at this point. The procedures of the House have been followed correctly. Even if some hon. Members are unhappy about what has happened, nothing incorrect has taken place and we should now proceed to deal with the business on the Order Paper.

Yes, it is. My understanding is that motion 10, about which the previous points of order were made, applies to England, Wales and Scotland, but not to Northern Ireland, which has separate regulations. However, it covers some matters—for example, adoption—which are devolved to Scotland. My Adjournment debate on the subject showed that, when the matter was considered in Scotland, the Scottish Government gave assurances that negotiations would be held between the Scottish Executive and the Government here. No report has been given to the House about the outcome of those negotiations, yet we are expected to vote tonight.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. No Back Bencher has been able to make a speech about motion 10. Is it correct that the Government do not necessarily have to move it tonight?

That is not a question that the Chair can determine. The motion is on the Order Paper and I must assume that it is likely to be moved.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As one who supports the regulations, I would be delighted if the debate on the matter had taken place on the Floor of the House rather than in Committee, not least because it would help us win the next general election. However, can you confirm that, although Standing Order No. 118 states that it is a for a Minister to decide whether the debate is held on the Floor of the House or in Committee, the practice and convention of the House is that, if Opposition Front Benchers had called for it to be held on the Floor of the House, it would have been?

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You said that you expected motion 10 to be moved. Is not it the case that a Minister could choose not to move it tonight, but take account of what has been said in the Chamber and make a statement tomorrow, which would enable questions on the matter?

With the leave of the House, I propose to put together the Questions on motions 6, 7, 8 and 9.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(6) (Delegated Legislation Committees),


That the draft Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 (Renewal of Temporary Provisions) Order 2007, which was laid before this House on 29th January, be approved.

Northern Ireland

That the draft Northern Ireland Policing Board (Northern Ireland) Order 2007, which was laid before this House on 6th February, be approved.

That the draft Foyle and Carlingford Fisheries (Northern Ireland) Order 2007, which was laid before this House on 19th February, be approved.

That the draft Policing (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Northern Ireland) Order 2007, which was laid before this House on 7th March, be approved.— [Kevin Brennan.]

Question agreed to.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(6) (Delegated Legislation Committees),

Sexual Orientation Discrimination

That the draft Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, which were laid before this House on 12th March, be approved.—[Kevin Brennan.]