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Loans to Ireland Bill (Allocation of Time)

Volume 520: debated on Wednesday 15 December 2010

The amendment has not been selected, but there will be an opportunity for a debate, and if necessary a vote, on the main motion.

I beg to move,

That the following provisions shall apply to the proceedings on the Loans to Ireland Bill:


1.–(1) Proceedings on Second Reading, in Committee, on consideration and on Third Reading shall be completed at today’s sitting in accordance with the following provisions of this paragraph.

(2) Proceedings on Second Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion three and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order.

(3) Proceedings in Committee, on consideration and on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption or six hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order, whichever is the later.

Timing of proceedings and Questions to be put

2. When the Bill has been read a second time—

(a) it shall (despite Standing Order No. 63 (Committal of bills not subject to a programme order)) stand committed to a Committee of the whole House without any Question being put;

(b) proceedings on the Bill shall stand postponed while the Question is put, in accordance with paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 52 (Money resolutions and ways and means resolutions in connection with bills), on any financial resolution relating to the Bill;

(c) on the conclusion of proceedings on any financial resolution relating to the Bill, proceedings on the Bill shall be resumed and the Speaker shall leave the Chair whether or not notice of an Instruction has been given.

3.–(1) On the conclusion of proceedings in Committee, the Chair shall report the Bill to the House without putting any Question.

(2) If the Bill is reported with amendments, the House shall proceed to consider the Bill as amended without any Question being put.

4. For the purpose of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph 1, the Speaker or Chair shall forthwith put the following Questions (but no others)—

(a) any Question already proposed from the Chair;

(b) any Question necessary to bring to a decision a Question so proposed;

(c) the Question on any amendment moved or Motion made by a Minister of the Crown;

(d) any other Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded.

5. On a Motion so made for a new Clause or a new Schedule, the Chair or Speaker shall put only the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill.

6. If two or more Questions would fall to be put under paragraph 4(c) on successive amendments moved or Motions made by a Minister of the Crown, the Chair shall instead put a single question in relation to those amendments or Motions.

7. If two or more Questions would fall to be put under paragraph 4(d) in relation to successive provisions of the Bill, the Chair shall instead put a single question in relation to those provisions.


8. Paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 15 (Exempted business) shall apply so far as necessary for the purposes of this Order.

9.–(1) The proceedings on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour after their commencement.

(2) Paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 15 (Exempted business) shall apply to those proceedings.

10. Standing Order No. 82 (Business Committee) shall not apply in relation to any proceedings to which this Order applies.

11.–(1) No Motion shall be made, except by a Minister of the Crown, to alter the order in which any proceedings on the Bill are taken or to re-commit the Bill.

(2) The Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

12.–(1) No dilatory Motion shall be made in relation to proceedings to which this Order applies except by a Minister of the Crown.

(2) The Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

13. The Speaker may not arrange for a debate to be held in accordance with Standing Order No. 24 (Emergency debates) at today’s sitting before the conclusion of any proceedings to which this Order applies.

14.–(1) Sub-paragraph (2) applies if the House is adjourned, or the sitting is suspended, before the conclusion of any proceedings to which this Order applies.

(2) No notice shall be required of a Motion made at the next sitting by a Minister of the Crown for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.

15. Proceedings to which this Order applies shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.

16.–(1) Any private business which has been set down for consideration at 4 pm at today’s sitting shall, instead of being considered as provided by Standing Orders, be considered at the conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill today.

(2) Paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 15 (Exempted business) shall apply to the private business for a period of three hours from the conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill or, if those proceedings are concluded before the moment of interruption, for a period equal to the time elapsing between 4 pm and the conclusion of those proceedings.

I do not wish to detain the House too long in moving the motion. It seeks the approval of the House to consider all stages of this important Bill in a single day. With the co-operation of the House, the Bill will make a major contribution to the United Kingdom’s declared international commitments.

Why do we need to expedite the Bill? The loan to Ireland is novel and large, and the Bill is needed to give the Treasury the necessary authority to advance funds to Ireland. The loan agreement will require the Government to obtain all necessary authorisations before the first draw-down on the loan can be made. The international package is to be discussed at the International Monetary Fund tomorrow, and it is important that the Government, the IMF and the other lenders can be sure that legislation will be passed so that they can assess the adequacy of the total support package, hence the desire to proceed as quickly as possible today. Passing the Bill will also provide certainty to financial markets that the UK’s funding package will be in place. It is in no one’s interest to create further instability.

I do not think that anybody wants to waste time on the timetable motion unless necessary, but if my hon. Friend were to provide an assurance that the Bill can and will be used only for a single bilateral loan to Ireland, and that it will not be used for any other purpose, that might help it on its way.

I do not wish to pre-empt the remarks that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will make on Second Reading, but I can provide that assurance to my hon. Friend.

The Bill is needed to provide statutory authority for the Treasury to pay out the funds involved. Any loan agreement is contingent on obtaining that necessary authority. In improving the overall package of financial assistance to Ireland, our international partners need to be sure that the UK will have the necessary legislation in place to allow it to fulfil its part.

Will the Minister clarify one point that confuses me? The Bill is entitled the Loans to Ireland Bill, but the explanatory notes, which I know are not binding, keep referring to, and imply that there is, a single loan. How many loans will there be to Ireland? Is there a limit?

As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor will say in his speech, the loan will be disbursed in eight tranches, if called on by the Irish Government. That is the reason why the title is in the plural rather than in the singular.

I was drawing my remarks to a close, because I am very conscious that every minute I spend at the Dispatch Box in this debate means a minute less on Second Reading, but I shall take one final intervention.

I, too, do not want overly to delay the House, but we are using an emergency procedure on a Bill that will not go through the same processes as other Bills. It is therefore all the more important that we ensure that we rarely use such a procedure. Will the Minister ensure that the Government do not use this procedure on future occasions, if similar arrangements have to be made for other countries?

It is important that there is proper parliamentary scrutiny of measures such as this. That is why we sought to agree the timetable through the usual channels, and to ensure that there is time to debate amendments and that the Bill goes through the normal process of scrutiny. Given that the Bill is shorter, it can be scrutinised in a shorter period of time without compromising scrutiny. That is why I believe that we can deal with it today. I urge the House to support the programme motion.

I have a lot of respect for the Minister; he is one of the most able in the House. [Hon. Members: “ Hear, hear.”] However, it was not his best speech.

The hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) made a point about emergency measures, but the Minister did not call the Bill an emergency measure—he just said that it is an important Bill and that it be would rather nice to get it through quickly. It is absolutely true that the Bill is not an emergency measure and there is no such urgency for it. However, it is not the duty of the House to say to the Executive, “It will be jolly nice to get the Bill through quickly.” We are here to scrutinise the Bill. It matters not what team Back Benchers are on: they are here to hold the Government to account. I said that as an Opposition Member and I shall say it as a Government Member. The Minister remarked that the longer he spoke, the more he would eat into time on Second Reading, but the Government designed the allocation of time motion in that way. When we were in opposition, we said that that such remarks were appalling, and they are also appalling in government.

This motion contains one of the most draconian guillotines we have ever seen in Parliament. It contains 16 separate restrictions on debate, it is longer and has more words than the Bill itself, and it is designed purely to restrict debate and to remove the right to vote on amendments in Committee. I am afraid that it is as bad as those we used to see under the previous Government. It is rubber-stamping at its finest. The motion proposes to rush through legislation at a speed that would win approval in North Korea and to take Parliament for granted.

This is not my first time scrutinising a Government who are trying to rush a Bill through Parliament. Coincidentally, the circumstances of a debate on a Northern Ireland Bill on 4 March 2009 were very much the same, in so far as the Government tried to rush through a Bill in one day when, as now, it was not necessary to do so. Therefore, I feel that we have come full circle. Here we are with a different Government—a coalition Government—who are trying to rush through another Bill.

As a trained chartered accountant, I am rather partial to my numbers. Therefore, I would like to read out a few. Three and a half hours is the amount of time that Parliament is being given for the Second Reading debate of the Bill; £3.25 billion is the minimum amount that the Bill proposes to give the Republic of Ireland; and zero is the probable chance that the House of Lords will be able to scrutinise it, because it will most likely be certified as a money Bill. Let me expand on those three figures. Three and a half hours for Parliament to debate a Bill on Second Reading—actually, I should have said that three and a half hours is the maximum time that we are being given, because the time starts from the moment that the allocation of time debate starts. If the allocation of time debate runs its full course and there is a Division, the time for a Second Reading debate on a Bill that proposes spending £3.25 billion will be a maximum of 15 minutes. The Chancellor will not have cleared his throat in 15 minutes. In other words, we will be spending £216 million a minute during that debate.

One could argue that none of these things matters—we saw it all the time in the previous Parliament—because we have the backstop of the other place, which cannot limit debates, and Members can scrutinise the Bill clause by clause and vote on amendments. Unfortunately, that is not the case with this Bill: because it will be certified as a money Bill, there will be limited time for debate in the other place. We therefore do not have the backstop, so it is up to this House to scrutinise the Bill properly. This is a most draconian guillotine motion and is entirely unnecessary, and I intend to try to divide the House on this most important matter. Whether one is for or against the principle of the Bill—or, indeed, whether one is indifferent to it—we as parliamentarians must demand proper time for debate.

It is important to set out the reasons why all stages of the Loans to Ireland Bill should not take place on one day. Let us consider the circumstances under which the Government can legitimately push their legislation through all its stages in one day. I understand that in national emergencies, such as those relating to terrorism, the swift progression of a Bill through Parliament is needed. However, the Loans to Ireland Bill is not one of those Bills. Since 1997, only a handful of Bills have been pushed through the Commons in one day alone. The last one was the Northern Ireland Bill in 2009, which I referred to a few moments ago, but let us look at the typical Bill that has gone through in one day and the precedents that this motion creates.

On 4 April 2001, the Elections Bill went through all its stages in one day, owing to the national crisis caused by the foot and mouth epidemic. Clearly that is not a reason for the Loans to Ireland Bill to go through in one day. On 2 September 1998, Parliament was recalled from its summer recess to pass all stages of the Criminal Justice (Terrorism and Conspiracy) Bill, as an urgent response to the terrible Omagh bombing. Again, that does not apply to today’s Bill. On 19 February 2008, the Banking (Special Provisions) Bill was passed in relation to Northern Rock, and therefore needed to be rushed through the Commons. The House sat until midnight on that day, which I understand was because of market sensitivity. Again, that does not apply to today’s Bill. None of those exceptional circumstances applies to the Loans to Ireland Bill. If this guillotine motion goes through, the Government will have set a dangerous precedent for curtailing debate and excluding proper parliamentary scrutiny on controversial issues.

I was intrigued to hear the hon. Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin) say in his intervention on the Minister that we should not waste any more time on the motion than is necessary. Does the hon. Gentleman agree with his hon. Friend, and is he as intrigued as I am to know under what circumstances time wasting would indeed be necessary?

This Government have put us in a Catch-22 situation, which the previous Government used to put us in too: time for debating guillotine motions is taken out of time on Second Reading. That never used to happen; it was something that the previous Government got into the habit of doing. That means that all these people on the Government Benches want me to shut up, so that we can get on with Second Reading. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] Well, my colleagues behind me are going to be disappointed. The newer Members of this Parliament are going to learn—I know that they are keen on this, because they want parliamentary scrutiny, not rubber-stamping—that there is a simple way for all my colleagues on the Government Benches and for Opposition Members to get into the debate, which is to defeat the guillotine motion in a vote.

We may have heard one or two “Hear, hears”, and I am certainly someone who wants to speak on Second Reading, but let me make clear my appreciation for what my hon. Friend is doing. Any responsibility for the curtailment of time for Back Benchers should rest squarely where it belongs, which is with those on the Treasury Bench.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his support. If we do not get it right today, this coalition Government and future Governments will use the same trick again and again.

What I am doing is not a wrecking manoeuvre; nor is it about stopping the Bill from making progress. All we need to do is defeat the guillotine motion now, and then there will be a full Second Reading debate, followed by the Committee stage and Third Reading. The current situation is an abuse of Parliament and its democracy. Normal rules are being abandoned so that the Government can get things through on the nod. Surely I am not mistaken that the only possible reason for proceeding today would be if the Minister had written a cheque for £3.25 billion last night and handed it to the Irish Government. Then I might be inclined to agree that we should get on with things today. However, the Minister does not seem to be leaping to the Dispatch Box to confirm that.

One argument for pushing the Bill through could be the lack of space in the parliamentary calendar and an inability to spare any more time to debate it, but we all know that that is not true. Even with recess upon us, we could have abandoned the Backbench Business Committee debate tomorrow—Thursday—and had the Committee stage and Third Reading instead. However, if that was not the flavour of the will of the House, we could have used Monday, for which a general debate is listed. If the general debate were abandoned, Government business would not be lost, and the debate could be rescheduled for another time. Alternatively, if there really is an emergency and the Bill really does need to be progressed now, let the House sit this Friday until the business is complete.

Parliament could be allowed a full day on Second Reading, which would occur after the allocation of time motion were defeated, and the Government could then choose Thursday, Friday or Monday for Committee and Third Reading. That would in no way hold up progress; nor could it be interpreted as letting our friends in Europe down. Indeed, the idea that they do not take our word for it that the Government are serious is also, I have to say, not believable. If the Government say that they are going to give £3.25 billion to Ireland in a loan, they know that that is what will happen, so that argument is just an excuse to push the Bill through in one day.

Clearly the issue at hand is not whether the Government will give £3.25 billion to Ireland. However, the Minister did not necessarily make it clear in his response to the hon. Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin) whether money would be going just to Ireland, or to Portugal or Spain in future too. Could the hon. Gentleman give us his views on that?

Mr Speaker, you would rightly tick me off if I answered that question. That is a matter for the Second Reading debate, because it is to do with the issues in the Bill. I am expressing no view on that at the moment. However, unless we have adequate time to discuss those issues, the hon. Gentleman’s point might not be clarified.

Lack of parliamentary time cannot be an excuse for this motion. The advantage of splitting the debate over two days is that it would allow a proper debate on Second Reading today. I believe that many Members would like to take part in such a debate. It would also allow amendments to be tabled in the normal way, and enable us to have a proper debate in Committee, with time for a debate and votes on each of the amendments. There would also be time for a Third Reading debate.

I understand that the Government have tabled a manuscript amendment today, although I have not seen it. That amendment has been tabled without allowing Members the time to consider it. That just shows the weakness of this procedure. If the allocation of time motion were defeated, we would have a full Second Reading debate and the Government would have to rearrange their business to provide for the Committee stage and Third Reading. The loan would still go through, but the Bill would have been properly debated and, if necessary, amended. Defeating the allocation of time motion would not wreck the Bill; it would simply give more time for proper scrutiny so that the Bill could be improved. We have already seen that the Government have tabled a manuscript amendment. What will happen if, during the 15 minutes of the Second Reading debate, a Member decides that they want to table an amendment? They just will not have time to do it.

How does the motion fit in with the principles behind parliamentary sittings? The present timetabling of our sittings is broadly based on the Jopling reforms and encompasses three principles. It is against those three principles that we should judge the Bill today. The first is that the Government must be able to get their business through, and, within that principle, ultimately control the time of the House. Secondly, the Opposition must have the opportunity to scrutinise the actions of the Government and to improve or oppose legislation as they think fit. Thirdly—this is of more interest to me—Back-Bench Members on both sides of the Chamber should have reasonable opportunities to raise matters of concern from their constituents. A number of my constituents have contacted me with concerns about this Bill.

A major role of Members of Parliament is to scrutinise and review legislation. It is a well-known fact—I doubt that anyone in the House would disagree with this—that the better the scrutiny, the better the Bill. It is also a major role of Members of Parliament who are not members of the Executive to hold the Executive to account, whichever party or parties make up that Executive. That is one of the most important roles we have as Members of Parliament. This motion removes that role. It is appalling that the coalition Government should try to stifle that essential function. I have long campaigned for more transparency and debate in Parliament. I strongly believe in strengthening the role of the Back Bencher. The erosion of parliamentary power to scrutinise legislation has been a long-adopted approach by successive Governments. This motion, I am afraid, is a step too far. Individual Members of Parliament attach a great deal of importance to scrutiny and accountability, and problems arise when the Executive try to deny us that right.

The Government have declared that amendments must be tabled before Second Reading, which is ludicrous. They ask MPs to table amendments before we have had a chance to hear what the Minister has to say. How can MPs properly table amendments when they have not heard the details and the arguments? Despite that difficulty, 11 amendments have already been tabled. The Government were forced to produce a three-page document—I have it with me—of amendments, and another five-page document on their justification for rushing the Bill through. These documents were produced only in the last few days. How can they, and the amendments, realistically be scrutinised if the Bill goes through all its stages today? It is just not possible.

The House of Lords got rather fed up with the Commons bouncing it, so it has now come up with a procedure whereby the Government have to answer a number of questions—I think it is eight—before they can get a Bill such as this through. Those questions are printed in the explanatory notes to the Bill. Let us look at some of them for a minute, and see whether the answers hold up to scrutiny.

The first question is: “Why is fast-tracking necessary?” The notes go on to explain that the proposal is for a bilateral loan, and that the timing of the UK’s proposed loan is currently unclear. They state:

“It is necessary to fast-track the Bill so that the UK’s international partners can be confident that the bilateral loan will be implemented.”

That is an absolutely hopeless answer to the question. It does not tell us why the Bill is being fast-tracked. It is ridiculous to suggest that our international partners would think that, because we had not taken another day or two to debate the Bill, the Government were not going to proceed with the loan.

The next question is:

“What is the justification for fast-tracking each element of the Bill?”

Again, there does not seem to be an answer. The notes state:

“The Bill is a short Bill, with few substantive provisions other than to provide for sums required by the Treasury”.

Yes, the Bill is short because many of the provisions deal with statutory instruments and affirmative resolutions. It is an important Bill, but it is short because many of the provisions do not go into detail. That is exactly why we need a proper Second Reading debate. I do not think that the Government have answered that question either.

The next question is a good one:

“What efforts have been made to ensure the amount of time made available for parliamentary scrutiny has been maximised?”

The answer is:

“The Bill is being published on the same day it is introduced and arrangements are being made for amendments to be accepted in advance of second reading in the House of Commons.”

How on earth does that answer the question about making time available for parliamentary scrutiny? It is like the Prime Minister being asked a question at Prime Minister’s questions and giving an answer to a completely different one. It might be a good answer, but it is not the answer to the question that was asked.

The next thing that the Lords want to know is this:

“To what extent have interested parties and outside groups been given an opportunity to influence the policy proposal?”

The answer talks about our European Union colleagues, but the key is in the last sentence, which states that

“there has been limited opportunity to give interested parties and outside groups an opportunity to influence.”

By the Government’s own admission, they have failed in regard to that question.

The next question asks whether the Bill includes a sunset clause. The Government can argue, with some justification, that it does, because it stipulates a period of five years. It does not tell us when the loans are to be repaid, but it places a five-year limit on the period in which they can be made. That is not what is normally understood by a sunset clause, however. Sunset clauses normally stipulate that in, say, a year’s time, Parliament will look again at the legislation to see whether it is correct.

The next question is:

“Are mechanisms for effective post legislative scrutiny and review in place? If not, why do the Government judge that their inclusion is not appropriate?”

The answer states:

“The Bill provides for regular reports”.

On that one, I will give the Government a tick. So far, they have passed one of the six tests. The next question is:

“Has an assessment been made as to whether existing legislation is sufficient to deal with any or all the issues in question?”

The Government do not really answer that one. They say:

“Statutory authority for such expenditure is required in accordance with the Concordat of 1932 between the Government and the Public Accounts Committee.”

I am unclear as to what that means, but it does not seem to answer the question that has been asked. The final question is:

“Has the relevant Parliamentary committees been given to opportunity to scrutinise the legislation?”

The explanatory notes were drawn up in such haste that the spelling of the question was incorrect, but the simple answer to it, as I hope my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr Cash) might confirm, is that no such scrutiny has taken place.

In concluding my opening remarks, I want to say a few words about what I think is wrong. Let me state to the House how this mother of Parliaments should work in relation to timings of debates. The driving principle of reform should be the redistribution of power—from the powerful to the powerless. That means boosting Parliament’s power to hold the Government of the day to account. The House of Commons’ historic functions were to vote money for Governments to spend, and to scrutinise laws. It now barely bothers with the first, and does the second extremely badly. There was a time when legislation that had been formulated after months of civil service and ministerial deliberation was sent to the House of Commons which would pore over it, shape it and send it back, get it back, look at it again and improve it some more—Bill by Bill, clause by clause, line by line. Every piece of legislation would be put under intense scrutiny. Is it legally sound? Will it be effective? Is it worth the cost?

Let us compare that with today. Let me take Members on the journey of a piece of legislation as it passes through the modern House of Commons. It is likely to have been dreamt up on the sofa of No. 10. A Bill is drafted and it is sent to the House for a couple of hours of routine debate among a few MPs. Then the bells ring, the whips are cracked and suddenly, out of nowhere, all the Members turn up to vote. More often than not, they do not even know what they are voting for. The Bill limps through. Then it goes into Committee. The Committee’s duty is to look at the detail clause by clause, but it is packed full of people that the Whips have put there. So, surprise, surprise, the Government rarely lose a vote on any of the individual points of detailed scrutiny. Then it is back to the House to do it all again—debate, bell and then vote to wave the legislation through.

Every Bill now has a programme motion setting out how much time can be spent scrutinising and debating each part. There are automatic guillotines, and the time allowed for scrutiny is set in advance, before anyone can see whether or not a particular issue is contentious or complex. Watching a Minister in the Commons drawing out one point for an hour to fill the time, to an audience of dozing Back Benchers—that is not accountability. How can the mother of all Parliaments turn itself into such a pliant child?

Unfortunately, I cannot claim credit for that last section of my speech. It was in fact from a speech on fixing broken promises delivered on 26 May 2009 by my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr Cameron). I do not think that Ministers on the Front Bench today want to upset the Prime Minister. So they have an opportunity, before the conclusion of the debate, to say that they will withdraw the allocation of time motion, and that we will have proper debate.

For many years I have sat on the Back Benches imploring others to give more time for Parliament to scrutinise legislation. I believe that to be the fundamental role, not only of the Back Bencher, but of Parliament itself.

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me the opportunity to say just how much I stand behind the Prime Minister in his remarks, which my hon. Friend has so generously shared with the House. However, does my hon. Friend agree that if this bail-out is necessary at all, it is an emergency?

My hon. Friend is tempting me to enter the debate, which I am not going to do, and as time is short, I shall conclude my remarks.

Time is all we have as Back Benchers, and if that is taken away from us, so is power. I urge all parliamentarians in the House to vote against the guillotine motion.

I shall be brief. I want to commend the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) for his absolute consistency. The speech that he has just delivered is one that he would have delivered, and perhaps did deliver—certainly the gist of it—many times when he sat on the Opposition Benches. The points that he raises are extremely important in the general context of how Parliament operates.

I do not want to say a great deal about the Bill because we shall come to Second Reading shortly, but I will say this. We are used to having Northern Ireland business rushed through—sometimes for good reasons, sometimes for not so good reasons. I have had various discussions with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and others relating to important matters that we believe require legislation, not least an issue that was extremely important during the run-up to the general election—the fact that Members of this House who do not take their seats continue to claim lots of money for parliamentary purposes—and we were told that time would be made available to debate that, and for the House to have its say. We were also told that legislation on the issue of dual mandates would appear. Yet I am now told that the Government cannot do any of that because “there isn’t any time”.

The only point that I want to raise is this. The hon. Member for Wellingborough has spoken at great length, but the bottom line is that the Government will do what they will. The notion that “there isn’t any time” to do the necessary things and important things that have been laid out by the Government in relation to Northern Ireland is simply not tenable, given the fact that here we are today, setting time aside to rush through all stages of a Bill—I will not get into the merits of it; we will come to those—in one day. I say to the Government, especially the senior Members on the Treasury Bench, that they should reflect on the fact that we are being told that other important things cannot be done. It is clear that they can be done and should be done, and I urge the Government to take action as soon as possible.

There is one element of the guillotine motion that I particularly resent. That is the provision that if a group of amendments is being discussed when the guillotine falls, it will not be possible to vote on any more than the question that was before the House at that time, whereas under a traditional programme motion it would be possible, with the leave of the Chair, to vote on more than one of the amendments in the group.

My hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury says he thinks it is reasonable that we should have the opportunity to give the Bill proper scrutiny. In my submission, scrutiny includes having the opportunity to test the view of the House on amendments before it. My concern is that if all the amendments are grouped together, and if the debate on that group carries on until the guillotine falls, it will only be possible to vote on one narrow amendment—amendment 3—although of course the guillotine motion allows the Government amendment to be voted on as well, because those are the biased terms in which the motion has been drafted.

The Bill is a very significant measure. I have had letters from constituents asking, “How is it that we can afford to lend £3.25 billion to Ireland when the Government are saying that they cannot do anything to make more money go to small businesses that are crying out for loans?” That is the sort of question that our constituents are asking, and I would have hoped that the Government would be more co-operative with the House by providing a bit more detail in the Bill.

We have heard that the Chancellor will be telling us in due course about the terms of the loan, the interest rate and the repayment schedule. Why could not those details have been included on the face of the Bill, to enable us to make an assessment and decide whether to table amendments? If the Government are really saying, “This is so desperately urgent that we need to do it straight away,” why were they not prepared to co-operate with the House a bit more and give us the maximum amount of information to enable us to deal with it in a constructive way today?

I am very concerned, and my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) has articulated the wider constitutional implications. We know that the other place was very concerned about the fact that the Government were taking forward a lot of emergency measures without giving the opportunity for proper debate and consideration—and that applied not just to money Bills but to other Bills too. This is a money Bill, so it will not be possible for the other place to consider it in detail. That responsibility falls fairly and squarely on this House.

We got a guarantee from the Government that if there was going to be fast-tracking or emergency legislation, the justification for it would be set out in the explanatory notes. I do not think the justification given in these explanatory notes is a justification for what the Government are trying to do today.

If this Bill were to be considered tomorrow or on Monday, we would have more time to debate it. Incidentally, we would also be able to consider what the Members of the Irish Parliament are saying on this very subject in their House today. If, for example, many of them were to say that they would not wish to repay the loan given to them by the United Kingdom, I would have thought that would be a very material consideration in our debate on the matter, but this motion denies us the opportunity to consider the implications of what transpires today in the Irish Parliament. I suspect that is not an accident; I suspect it is by design. That is why I will vote against this guillotine motion.

I wanted to intervene on my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to ask for a further assurance. I am minded to support my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) by voting against this motion in the Lobby if there is a Division. However, I might refrain from doing so if my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary were to rise to his feet and assure me that the measures in the Bill could not be used to lend to Ireland through another international institution, such as the European Union. I would be grateful for that assurance.