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Business Of The House (Railways Bill)

Volume 335: debated on Monday 19 July 1999

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10.29 pm

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have been a Member of the House for some time, and I cannot recall ever dealing with a motion such as the next one to come before us. Is it possible to share with the House the precedents for that motion? If there are none, what consideration has the Select Committee on Procedure given to the procedure that we shall shortly follow?

The hon. Gentleman has been here a long time, and so have I. I can assure him that the motion would not be on the Order Paper unless it were in perfect order.

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. I was not suggesting that the motion was out of order, but asking whether there were any precedents for it. If there are none, and the procedure is new, has it been considered by the Procedure Committee, or have the Government sprung it on the House with only one day's notice?

It is for the House to decide what it wishes to do with the motion on the Order Paper, and for the hon. Gentleman either to put his arguments for or against it to the Minister who will reply to it.

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. Am I right to think that we can debate the motion?

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. Standing Order No. 63(2) says that the motion may be moved without notice. If that is so, is it permissible to move an amendment without notice?

I have not read the Standing Order, and the hon. Gentleman gave me no notice of his point of order. I should require notice of any amendment, in the usual way.

Does the Minister for Transport wish to move the motion formally?

No, Madam Speaker; I should like to speak to it.

10.31 pm

I beg to move,.

That
(1) notwithstanding Standing Order No. 63 (Committal of bills), the Railways Bill be referred to the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee; and
(2) the Committee shall consider the provisions of the Bill and report thereon by 12th November 1999.
I am delighted to return to the Dispatch Box, and I hope that all the problems on the other side of it have now been nailed down. We have had a full Second Reading debate and many Members have displayed their interest in an important Bill that will create a proper framework for the operation of the Strategic Rail Authority. Members have many views, and many want additional information. Several options for pre-legislative scrutiny of Bills have been presented to the House in discussions of new procedures for modernisation of the business of the House. The motion deals with such pre-legislative scrutiny.

Referral to the Select Committee on the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs is part of our modernisation process, one more procedure that we are adopting to ensure that our legislation is of the highest possible quality. We are recognising that legislation can be improved by proper consideration. Many organisations have supported the Bill, and we are anxious to ensure that all views are taken into account.

After November, when the Select Committee on the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs has completed its consideration of the Bill, may it suggest amendments? Will there be another Second Reading? Will there be a new Bill if the Select Committee recommends changes?

The procedural motion before us relates to the Select Committee's activities. It is not for me to tell the Chairman, my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), how to conduct the Committee's deliberations. The hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles) suggested earlier that my hon. Friend would not find it possible to bring back a report from her Committee by 12 November, the date suggested on the Order Paper. The hon. Gentleman was sure to make that point when my hon. Friend was not in the Chamber.

To have done otherwise might not have been the wisest move that the hon. Gentleman has ever made.

As the Minister has mentioned the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), may I speculate that the Government wish to introduce the novel procedure of involving the Select Committee on the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs in further scrutiny only as part of a deal by which the hon. Lady agrees not to threaten or attack the Bill so long as the Select Committee is allowed to consider it?

That is a very serious allegation against the Chairman of the Select Committee.

I must make it absolutely clear—because that is an offensive suggestion—that my Select Committee was asked whether it would be prepared to consider the matter. I have been known to threaten the Deputy Prime Minister, but I have certainly not threatened him about railways for some time. If there were any question of a Select Committee Chairman using that form of rather ignorant blackmail, I assure the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) that it would have to occur on his side of the House because this side of the House does not do that.

My hon. Friend has made a very important point. I think it is regrettable that the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins), who was not even in the Chamber during the previous debate, should make those allegations.

The Select Committee will discuss complex issues that are of considerable interest. The hon. Member for Croydon, South (Mr. Ottaway) admitted as much when, on 25 March 1998, he said:
"Such a complex privatisation needs constant fine tuning. The previous Government would have concluded that a strategic rail authority was necessary during this Parliament."—[Official Report, 25 March 1998; Vol. 309, c. 452.]
The opportunity for the Select Committee, under the expert chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich, to examine the Bill in detail and to hear evidence from witnesses will add considerably to our knowledge and to the process of democracy.

The Minister is entirely correct about the timing of my remarks about the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), whose intervention indicates the wisdom of my actions. Why is the November date so important? Has the Minister received any sign from the Chairman of the Select Committee when the Committee will meet to consider the matter?

They are matters for the Select Committee. The hon. Gentleman will be aware of the spill-over at the end of this Session that will allow the Select Committees to do additional work. The Select Committee has already done considerable work in closely related areas. Only last Monday, we debated in some detail several points related to the Bill as part of our consideration of the estimates.

I believe that the Second Reading debate earlier this evening will send a clear signal to the rail industry about the will of Parliament. It will also give the Select Committee an idea of some of the anxieties of hon. Members, not least that expressed by the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Howarth) about plastic hanging baskets.

That is a completely pathetic remark from the former sidekick of Robert Maxwell.

Order. I do not think that that is a helpful remark—and it is not the first unhelpful remark that I have heard. The House would do better to discuss this motion on its merits. The House must consider different and new procedures from time to time and they should be considered on their merits. The House will make better progress if it adheres to that principle.

I agree entirely, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If the Minister grows up, we might get somewhere. The Minister has not dealt with the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing, West (Mr. Bottomley). If the matter goes to the Select Committee—its formidable Chairman, the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), will clearly ensure that the Committee runs independently of the Government—and the Committee hears evidence from a variety of people, that will take some time. If the Committee recommends changes to the Bill, will the Minister bring it back to the House? Will the Bill receive another Second Reading to consider the amendments made in Committee? Will those amendments be tabled on Report? Will there be a Standing Committee stage? Will the Minister explain the precise procedure?

We have to await the decisions and recommendations of the Select Committee. The House itself will also have to take decisions on those matters. I have respect for the procedures of the House; when I hear the interjections of some Opposition Members, I sometimes wonder whether they share that respect. Indeed, by attempting to introduce modernisation procedures, we want to get away from the type of yah-boo interventions that we have heard this evening.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If the Government do not propose changes to the Bill during the next Session, will the House require a new Second Reading of precisely the same Bill—or is that a matter of procedure that has not yet been invented?

Order. We shall have to await events. Perhaps the Minister may be allowed to explain, as far as possible—[HON. MEMBERS: "She will not."] The Minister has yet to be fully heard. There is no point of order on that matter on which the Chair can rule.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is the motion a continuation motion?

Yes, of course, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

If this is not a continuation motion, there would have to be a Second Reading in the next Session. The only thing that can obviate a Second Reading is a continuation motion. Either this is a continuation motion and the Minister has not told us, or it is not a continuation motion and she has not told us. If she will not tell us, the House cannot come to a conclusion on the motion, because we do not know what it means. That point of order is appropriate to Members on both sides of the House. If the Minister can tell us, that will be helpful; if she cannot, we need advice from the Chair on whether this is a continuation motion.

Order. The hon. Gentleman must accept the fact that I have already ruled on that question. He told me that he was making a fresh point of order, but it is not a fresh point of order. I have already ruled on his point of order—this is not a continuation motion. The motion should be dealt with on its merits. I call Mrs. Liddell.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Further to your ruling that this is a committal motion, will you clarify whether it is a committal motion under Standing Order No. 63, or—

Order. The hon. Gentleman raised a point of order earlier and it was dealt with by Madam Speaker. There is nothing further that I can add.

Order. Madam Speaker has already ruled on that point of order. There is nothing more that I can say. I call Mrs. Liddell.

On a different point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May the House be told whether the word "notwithstanding" on the Order Paper means that Standing Order No. 63 does not apply to the motion that we are debating?

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The purpose of the motion is to commit the Bill to the Select Committee for consideration. Some of the posturing that we have seen this evening is the kind of gesturism that brings the House into disrepute with the general public. The public want progress on the establishment of the statutory underpinning of the Strategic Rail Authority. Indeed, several of the organisations that have commented on the SRA proposals have made it plain that they recommend to the House the advantages—

No, I have no intention of giving way at present. The hon. Gentleman was not in the Chamber earlier.

The Bill sets out the powers that the Government plan to give to the SRA. It will set the context in which the shadow SRA—which has to use existing powers—will negotiate with the industry. For the past two years, we have held consultations with the railway industry and we are now in a position to introduce the Bill. The Transport Sub-Committee has shown a close interest in railways issues and we look forward to receiving the Committee's advice.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It would help the House considerably if we knew the basis on which we were proceeding. You have helpfully advised the House that the matter does not fall under the terms of Standing Order No. 63(2), but it would help if you could advise us under which Standing Order we are proceeding.

This is a committal motion on the Order Paper which has to be debated on its merits. It is perfectly in order for the Government to table a committal motion of this sort. It is accepted that we are trying new procedures: this is a procedure put before the House by the Government and it should be debated on its merits.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If it does not come under Standing Order No. 63(2), presumably the matter must come under another Standing Order. So that we know the basis on which we are proceeding, all I seek is your guidance as to which Standing Order the matter is being considered under.

Let me try to help the right hon. Gentleman. It does not have to come under a Standing Order. I have ruled that the matter does not come under the particular Standing Order that has been quoted. The motion falls to be determined on its merits. The Government are entitled to put a motion before the House, and the House is entitled to debate that motion.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. That ruling is extremely helpful as it means, without contradiction, that there must a Second Reading in the next Session. If that is the basis on which we are having this debate, it makes it far easier.

That is not a matter on which the Chair can rule—it is a matter to be elicited in the course of debate.

Order. I have nothing further to say on the matter, Mr. Bottomley.

Yes. If it is up to the Minister to decide whether there is to be a Second Reading next Session, or if she has the freedom to say that there will not be, that needs to be stated clearly. If the rules of the House are that Second Reading takes place in the Session in which the Bill is considered if there is no continuation motion, the Minister, following your ruling, needs to say that yes, of course there will be a Second Reading in the next Session. Will she say that?

The hon. Gentleman is in danger of being disorderly. I have already ruled on that matter. What the hon. Gentleman seeks is not something that I can say from the Chair, but a matter to be elicited from the Minister. We are debating the motion on its merits.

You have made the matter perfectly clear, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I commend the motion to the House.

10.47 pm

Somehow, I doubt whether this is the Minister's finest hour at the Dispatch Box.

The Government's legislative programme is rapidly descending into farce. Novel—to put it mildly—procedures are being introduced on the Floor of the House that have not even been considered by the Modernisation Committee. In its first report, "The Legislative Process", the Committee refers to pre-legislative scrutiny of draft Bills, and that is what we expected to happen in this Session. In the Queen's Speech, it was announced that the Railways Bill would be published in draft form and that it would be subject to some form of consultation. It would have been open to the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) and her Select Committee to study that draft Bill.

In fact, the Select Committee carried out a study on the subjects pertaining to the Bill, and its report has been useful in informing the debate on Second Reading. Therefore, having had a Second Reading debate and in the light of the Committee's report, it seems superfluous to send the Bill to the Select Committee. It has already taken evidence on all the issues involved and reached a view which has been expressed in a report; the report has been given to the Government; and the Government have responded. It seems ludicrous that the Bill should come forward for Second Reading and then be referred to the Select Committee in the form approved by the House on Second Reading.

Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be far more logical if the Bill—the Select Committee having previously had its say and the Bill having received Second Reading—were now to go to a Standing Committee? Of course, there is no time for a Standing Committee, so the Government are trying to rush the Bill through the House and get around our procedures by means of an obscure and unheard of mechanism.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. Why is the Bill being treated in this way?

The hon. Gentleman says that it is innovation, but parliamentary procedure should not be made up on the hoof to suit the Government's political convenience. That may be what modernisation in its fullest sense is about, but the hon. Gentleman's party and his Government are displaying a certain contempt for the way in which we do things in the House. If a draft Bill were being sent to the Select Committee, we would be following procedure that has at least been considered by the Modernisation Committee, if not overtly approved by the House, but this method of proceeding is unprecedented, has not been discussed and is simply for the convenience of those on the Treasury Bench.

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the report that recommended the setting up of departmental Select Committees in 1979 also recommended pre-legislative scrutiny and that this very procedure was suggested as one of the ways forward that far back? The fact that the previous Government did not dare to use it does not invalidate it.

The hon. Gentleman knows that there are Conservative Members on the Modernisation Committee and that they have shared in the deliberations on pre-legislative scrutiny. This Bill is no longer pre-legislative; it has begun the legislative process. Under such circumstances, it should be referred to a Standing Committee. If the hon. Gentleman is saying, "Oh, isn't it a shame that we didn't consider this Bill before, so that it could be sent to and dealt with by the Select Committee in good time before Second Reading", I would agree with him. However, his Government have spent more than two years fiddling around with railways policy instead of producing the policy in which we thought the Labour party believed when it was elected.

The Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions
(Mr. John Prescott)

What did the Tories do?

We produced a policy for the railways which doubled rail investment. The right hon. Gentleman had 18 years in opposition to think of a railways policy. He changed it at the last minute and has been left in this mess.

The Minister for Transport talked about trying to reflect the will of the House, but this procedure is about the frustration of the will of the Secretary of State, who failed—[Interruption.] I know that the right hon. Gentleman does not want me to proceed because he finds it embarrassing. He failed in his first Session to secure any transport legislation. He failed in the second Session to get any transport legislation, except for the provisions in the Greater London Authority Bill. This motion is a last resort to try to salvage his battered reputation as a result of failing to secure any space in the legislative programme until next year.

Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will return to the terms of the committal motion, and perhaps not be goaded into going beyond them.

I fully accept your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker, although I hope that you agree that it is fair that, when considering such a novel procedure, we should be able to discuss what motives might lie behind the Government's tabling of this motion.

Apart from the issues that my hon. Friend is discussing, does he agree that it is insulting to the independence of Select Committees to require one to consider the Bill and to finish its work by 12 November? Although it might finish independently by the 12 November, its members might find something terribly interesting and significant on which they want to express other views, or come across issues from the evidence that they gather on which they want to work a great deal longer. Why on earth are the Government doing this? They are virtually guillotining the work of Select Committees—

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend, who alighted on some significant points. Will the Select Committee, for example, have the proper time to do a proper job of scrutinising this extensive Bill? Moreover, the Select Committee has already taken evidence on the Bill's provisions, so that any future work will simply duplicate what it has already done. Conversely, I have learned in my conversations with the companies involved in running the railways that they have strong views on the Bill's provisions, which contain some surprises. The companies will want to raise some significant issues.

To do a proper job, the Select Committee would have to take detailed evidence on the Bill, clause by clause, from each of the parties from which it has already taken evidence. If the Committee were not to do so, it would be questionable whether it could address all the issues raised in clause 17—which the Secretary of State claims provides powers to force companies to make investment—or the complicated issue of allowable returns on investment.

The Bill raises some very complicated issues, and I very much doubt whether, in the time available, the Committee would be able to address them. Moreover, would the Select Committee's consideration of the Bill constitute real scrutiny? Given that the Committee has already expressed a view on the Bill's provisions, it is no longer independent in that respect, but has a pre-determined view of the matter—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh?"].

Forgive me if I invite the Secretary of State to comment on that issue. Would he be happy to refer his precious strategic Railways Bill to the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee if he were not confident that it would emerge with a glowing recommendation that everything is all right?

I am quite prepared to recognise the independence of the Select Committee—which is composed of hon. Members from both sides of the House—and to leave the Bill to its good judgment. Regardless, most of the powers mentioned by the hon. Gentleman already exist in legislation that was passed by the previous Administration.

As I have already asked the right hon. Gentleman, what is the point of passing a Bill with no new powers? None the less, I think that the Bill contains new powers, such as to compel investment and to make the gift of franchises—[Interruption.] If the Bill contains no new powers, why on earth is the Secretary of State wasting the House's time on debating it? If he has all the powers he needs to run the railways, why does he need the Bill? However—I saw a frown momentarily cloud your visage, Mr. Deputy Speaker—I do not want to debate the Bill's substance.

Surely there is another crucial point: referring the Bill to the same Select Committee, with the same membership, that considered it in its pre-legislative form would deprive all the other hon. Members hoping to serve in Standing Committee of a chance properly to consider the legislation. It is another example of Government dictatorship, and does not demonstrate much of the inclusive society that we hear about.

My right hon. Friend hits on the real point. If the Government want genuine debate and scrutiny, they should send the Bill to a Standing Committee, so that, even if we do not finish scrutinising the Bill before the Session ends, there will be proper debate on it. Conversely, we can more or less tell what will happen to the Bill in the Select Committee, as it has a pre-determined view on the Bill's provisions. We already know what with what provisions the Committee agrees or disagrees.

The traditional way of dealing with this type of business is to send it to a Standing Committee. Without the formal cross-examination of Ministers by Opposition spokesmen, we shall not be able to expose the Bill's flaws.

Will the hon. Gentleman explain why he and other Conservative Members now seem to be against the procedure, whereas his colleagues on the Modernisation Committee gave it such enthusiastic support?

We oppose it for two reasons. First, if such consideration were part of a Bill's orderly progress through the House, we should have considered it much more favourably. However, the procedure being proposed is but a patchwork job to try to save the Secretary of State's reputation. I could even talk the right hon. Gentleman through the various events that led him to this particular sorry pass.

Secondly, the Modernisation Committee was considering pre-legislative scrutiny. It did not envisage that a Bill that had already received a Second Reading should pass to a Select Committee. The Committee report refers to
"committal of appropriate bills to a Special Standing Committee … or committal of appropriate bills to ad hoc Select Committees; or splitting a bill on committal between the floor of the House and a Standing Committee".
That is paragraph 95. At no point is it suggested that, after Second Reading, the Bill should go to a Select Committee. This is a novel way of proceeding.

The hon. Gentleman should also read paragraph 19 and the paragraphs that follow it. Paragraph 19 deals with pre-legislative scrutiny. It was said in Committee that the procedure offered a number of innovative ways in which the House could give consideration to a better form of legislation. If the previous Government had adopted that approach, they might not have ended up on the Opposition Benches quite so quickly.

That is a nice little try, but I expect better of the hon. Gentleman. Paragraph 19 reads:

"In paragraph 5 we pointed out that the House has hitherto had very limited opportunities to scrutinise legislation in draft form."
It continues:
"The present Government's declared intention to build on its predecessor's policy of publishing a number of Bills in draft form provides a real chance for the House to exercise its powers of pre-legislative scrutiny."

The Bill has already had its Second Reading. We are naturally suspicious of a Government who already have an extensive record of abusing their position of dominance in the Chamber. They make up procedure as they go along to suit the political convenience of the Secretary of State, who has failed to persuade his colleagues in the Cabinet that his legislative programme merits consideration in the formal timetable. Paragraph 19 refers to draft Bills, as does paragraph 20. There is nothing about having a Second Reading and then referring a Bill to a Select Committee.

I endorse what my hon. Friend is saying about the appalling behaviour of those on the Government Front Bench. Does he agree that clear guidance should be given that no whipping in any circumstances should take place in the Select Committee? Does he agree also that some consideration should be given to whether leading counsel should be brought in—that has happened on other occasions—if it becomes impossible to determine the manner in which the evidence should be properly evaluated?

I have no doubt that the Government have every intention of following the proper procedures and that they will not be applying any undue influence or pressure on the Select Committee. However, I share with my hon. Friend—

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We do not have whipping in Select Committees.

I shall gladly give way to the hon. Lady if she wishes to make a point.

I share the anxiety of my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Mr. Cash) that a Committee already having expressed an extremely supportive view of the Government's policy will not provide arduous debate and scrutiny of a controversial Bill, which is attempting to undo the previous Government's privatisation of the railways. I emphasise that we have no objection to genuine, programmed pre-legislative scrutiny, but the motion is not that.

Thirdly, why do the Government require the Committee to report back on 12 November? It is unusual for any committal motion to specify a date on which the Bill must return to the House.

Does my hon. Friend agree that scrutiny, if it is to take place, has to be thorough? He will have heard the Minister say from the Dispatch Box that the deliberation will take place during the overspill period. Given the need to agree a report and make it on 12 November, the Committee might be able to hold only one or perhaps two evidence sessions. The rest of the time will be spent on drafting the report. Surely that is not proper scrutiny.

I share my hon. Friend's concern about the tight timetable. The requirement to report back on 12 November means that the spillover period will be busy for the Committee if it is to do a proper job—I do not doubt for a minute that that is what the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich will seek to do—but the deadline is tight, unless a mere re-run of the issues and evidence that it has already considered is to take place. In that case, the process would become rather superfluous and it would appear to be a face-saving measure rather than genuine scrutiny.

We have one real anxiety about this—[Interruption.] This is a serious issue. We know that the Government's legislative timetable is crowded and that Bills have been held up in this Session, particularly by Members of the other place who have been scrutinising Bills that have been guillotined in the House rather hastily. I should like the Minister to give an assurance that there will be no guillotining of the Railways Bill. We fear that the semblance of scrutiny during this Session—albeit of a Bill that will be introduced in the next Session—will give the Government an excuse to guillotine the Bill hastily in the next Session, denying the official Opposition and the other parties in the House proper opportunity to cross-examine Ministers on the Bill, clause by clause.

My hon. Friend mentions the possibility of a guillotine. Does he agree that the deadline of 12 November is just that—a guillotine on a procedure during the scrutiny of legislation?

I agree with my hon. Friend. In an attempt to squeeze more Bills into a crowded legislative programme, the Government are trying to have some scrutiny of the Bill undertaken in this Session so that they can curtail scrutiny in the next Session, rush it through and send it swiftly to the other place without proper clause-by-clause scrutiny being carried out in Standing Committee.

The Bill is important, but not excessively long. It should be possible to put it through Standing Committee in a reasonable number of weeks so that it can proceed with due and appropriate speed to the other place, but I fear that our co-operation and acceptance of such scrutiny as legitimate would become the pretext for a guillotine in the next Session. That would be unfair and unjust, which partly explains why we are unhappy about approving the motion.

I remind the House that this procedure has arisen from a turbulent period in the Government's internal politics, which has descended into the politics of personality. They originally intended to publish a draft Bill much earlier in the Session, but they were unable to do so because of internal disputes. During the week when the Secretary of State was attempting to get the procedure approved, the Prime Minister told the world that his back was scarred after his battles with the public sector. At another meeting, the Secretary of State was busy getting things off his chest. That was the week—

Order. The hon. Gentleman is entitled to give the background to his reasons for developing this particular argument on the motion, but he may not do so repetitively—which is what I am beginning to suspect.

We were expecting the announcement of the publication of the Bill on Tuesday 29 June. The press were briefed on that, but no announcement emerged in the Secretary of State's speech because, we understand, his plan for the Bill had been referred to the Ministerial Committee on the Queen's Speeches and Future Legislation for discussion on 5 July. That was a bad week for him. It was intended eventually—

Order. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has accepted the ruling that I gave a moment ago.

Of course, I defer to your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. However, the Government had intended to introduce the Bill on 14 July, rather than today.

The Government are not as watertight as the right hon. Gentleman would like to believe, but that is not a matter for discussion now, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The danger here is that the right hon. Gentleman may have succeeded in persuading the Leader of the House to co-operate with this procedure on the basis that the Government get an extra Bill into the next Session, which would not otherwise have been allowed. The right hon. Gentleman has a queue of legislation, which he has hitherto not been allowed to introduce. If we let the Government go ahead with this, it will be an excuse for a guillotine on a further occasion. We therefore oppose the motion.

11.10 pm

My total commitment to the House of Commons and its rights and procedures is reasonably well known. I believe in the Select Committee system because it is the one aspect of the House of Commons' work where Members of Parliament are prepared to work together to reach a consensus on the basis of evidence that is put before them.

I want to make it clear to those with any doubts that my Select Committee has not, through me or any other Member, sought to influence how the Bill should be dealt with, or responded to suggestions which, in my view, would be wholly improper. I strongly resent the suggestion that the procedure that the Government have chosen somehow implies that the Select Committee is not prepared to do a proper job of scrutiny.

It would be wrong of me to mention points that I raised in our earlier debate, but I hope that I have already demonstrated that there are areas of the Bill to and about which I would want to raise, if not objections, then certainly questions. I believe that the same applies to other members of the Select Committee.

I have no intention of giving way. This is a serious debate.

I am extremely concerned that the Select Committee's work should be called into question in a narrow, party political way. We intend—it has been discussed with members of the Committee—to set a realistic timetable. I understand that the pre-legislative Committee on the Food Standards Bill set the precedent of giving a date by which it intended the legislation to return to the Floor of the House.

We have also made it clear that we shall publicise our desire for any evidence on the Bill very widely, and we are ready to examine the views of anyone who wishes to express any reservations about, or support for, the legislation. However, we have made it clear that we shall do that in a way that will enable us to follow the normal Select Committee procedure and, if need be, call before us members of organisations or companies who wish to give oral evidence.

That is the normal way in which a Select Committee proceeds. It is clear that this Bill arises from the detailed work done by the Transport Sub-Committee, and that, therefore, any similarity that exists between this Bill and our report can hardly be regarded as surprising. We have also said that, given that the Committee's report differs, in some instances, from the Bill, we undertake to look not only exhaustively but also rapidly at the legislation as well as ensuring that the House is not short-changed by the behaviour of any Select Committee member.

As a result of an arrangement between the usual channels, a Liberal Democrat Member will be present on the Committee. Under no circumstances do I accept any criticism of the suggested referral to the Select Committee. I trust that it will be clear to those who read the account of our debate and regard it with an unbiased eye that the Select Committee will neither accept nor, under any circumstance, promote the suggestion that we intend to behave with bias or under duress from members of Her Majesty's Government. My Select Committee and I have demonstrated time and again our independence and ability to look plainly at the evidence that is given to us. Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition do themselves no good by presenting their case as they have tonight.

11.15 pm

Not for the first time, we have a storm in a tea cup that only the House of Commons could produce. I do not for a moment defend the way in which the Government have brought forward the motion, but I can at least give some direct report of what took place in the Select Committee on Modernisation, and of what was agreed by all parties that were represented in the Select Committee—including, of course, the Conservative party.

I respect the fact that the Conservatives on that Select Committee argued, as we all did, to try to reach a sensible conclusion on improving the way in which we handle the business of the House; but it is here in black and white—not just the paragraphs that have been referred to already, namely, 19, 20 and 21, which I do not intend to repeat, but paragraphs 22 and 23, which refer specifically to departmentally related Select Committees.

Even better than that, unusually for the House of Commons, the report produced a visual aid on the different ways in which we should handle the business of the House—some new, it is true, some that are not used enough, as the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) has said, and some that we use all too often, which are far too confrontational and which do not give us the opportunity to elicit some consensus.

The options are here. They include post-Second Reading referral; it was not only pre-Second Reading. There were, as I say, one, two, three, four, five, six different options. One is to refer to a Select Committee. That was agreed by the Conservatives on the Committee. The hon. Member for—I must remember—

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman is able to give voice to his support for the report. He will confirm that Conservatives on the Select Committee thought that it was worth developing the different options. That is what we are doing this evening. Under its usual arrangements, the House is agreeing by what means we will address the issue.

This evening, anyone would think that Select Committees were a weaker version—

No. We want to get on with the business.

Anyone would think that Select Committees were less effective at examining the issues. I do not think that that is the experience. All hon. Members know that Select Committees, because they can draw on the expertise of people from outside Parliament, can be far more effective at scrutinising what the Government can do than the normal, aggressive Standing Committee procedure.

It is here in black and white, I repeat. I respect the Select Committee of which the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) is the Chair. I respect its work and I am fully confident that, if it finds that there are great holes in the legislation—

I will not.

Conservatives served on the Modernisation Committee. Anyone would think that the crowd in here had no confidence in their own members on that Committee. I have confidence in them, and I have confidence that, if the Select Committee finds that there are major faults in the legislation, it will have to come back to the House and report on those faults.

One thing is important; I accept the point made by the hon. Member for Worthing, West (Mr. Bottomley). If the Select Committee proposes major changes, the Government will have to give an undertaking to hold the Second Reading debate again. I see no problem with that. However, it is clear that, if progress is made between now and Prorogation, it will be possible for the Government to table a motion for the continuance of the debate, post-Second Reading, in a Standing Committee in the new Session.

The options are here. They are very carefully designed to give the House maximum flexibility to be more effective in its primary job of scrutinising what the Government are doing.

If the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) had taken the trouble not just to read the report properly, but to listen to his colleagues who were on the Modernisation Committee, he would recognise that there were real advantages in the procedure, not least for the Opposition; that is the key point. The document is all about holding the Government to account. We will have the opportunity to do so. I suggest that we get on with it.

11.20 pm

I have no idea why the House is so tetchy. It is only 11.20 pm—one would think it was the early hours of the morning—and we are discussing matters of substance. I firmly support the Select Conunittee system, and also endorse the concept of a pre-legislation review; but any such review must be thorough, and there must be a clear understanding of the ground rules.

The hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) declined to give way to me when I wanted to clarify this point. Commenting on the use of Select Committees after Second Reading, the report said:

"They would almost certainly have to be ad hoc Committees, since the inevitable time constraints would make consideration by the departmentally-related Committees virtually impossible."
That is what we have. We have a time constraint—a deadline—imposed by the Government, which makes effective scrutiny virtually impossible.

I agree. Indeed, I feel that even more brutal language could be used. We have a guillotine here. The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) would not give way to me when I wanted her to give Parliament some idea of the time scale on which she would be operating. She said that she would advertise widely for people who might wish to give evidence to the Select Committee, and rightly so. No doubt she will have to appoint experts; no doubt those experts will have to be interviewed, shortlisted and so forth. I have had the honour to participate in such processes with the hon. Lady, and I know that they take time.

Until my hon. Friend the Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin) began to probe the Government this evening about the process—very skilfully—I had assumed that the Select Committee had issued a self-denying ordinance. I assumed that it had said, "The rest of you can go away on your holidays; we will stay here in the Palace of Westminster, and work through August, September, October and November."

The Committee has some very distinguished members, including my hon. Friend, who is clearly enthusiastic about that prospect.

Curiously enough, the Select Committee will start its deliberations almost two years to the day after it began to take evidence for the last report. I have a copy here. It sets out the evidence that was taken, in sections. The Committee's deliberations began on 29 October, and ended on 4 March. We need to understand how that process is to be truncated.

The hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) is right. Select Committees have an advantage over Standing Committees, in that they can take evidence. If they did not, what would be the point of sending a Bill to Select Committee? There would be no point in sending it to any body, unless something extra could be added. What would be the point of sending it to an ad hoc Committee, a mini-Committee, perhaps almost a hybrid Committee—a cross between a Select Committee and a Standing Committee—which would merely go through the process of a debate between members?

The task that my hon. Friend describes is indeed exacting. I wonder whether, in view of the need for consideration to be truncated, we can expect that the Select Committee—in order for its business to be completed in time—would have to start no later than 6 am? That, I think, would assuredly be so—and there could be no question, on any day, of a break for lunch.

I am a great admirer of my hon. Friend, but I sincerely hope, for all our sakes, that he never reaches the exalted office of Leader of the House because he would be a very hard taskmaster. I do not think that it is reasonable to expect people to come to the House to give evidence at 6 o'clock in the morning. My hon. Friend, by the use of an extreme example, clearly demonstrates how inappropriate the process will be.

A Standing Committee would meet at least twice a week. It would probably meet at 10 o'clock in the morning and would have the opportunity to sit through the evening. Is it, however, wholly reasonable to tell witnesses to turn up, but that the Committee might sit through the night because we want to hear various people? We do not just want people to turn up and give evidence; we want to have the opportunity to receive and consider written evidence, and we want to be able to cross-examine witnesses. Several key points need to be addressed. Can that really be done between 19 October and 12 November? I suggest to the House that the timetable is wholly unrealistic.

I told my hon. Friend the Member for North Essex that there is a possibility of holding one or two evidence sessions. It is unreasonable to expect evidence sessions to last as long as a Standing Committee sitting.

My hon. Friend was kind enough to inform the House that I am a humble member of the Select Committee under the admirable chairmanship of the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody). We have already spent months and months taking evidence exhaustively from all the people who could possible contribute useful information. Far from expecting this process to last until November, I think that we could get through the whole procedure in an afternoon.

I am confident that my hon. Friend intended that to be a helpful intervention. Before I became a member of the Transport Sub-Committee, I served for a while on the, then separate, Environment Committee. You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, also served on the former Committee. The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) was a very distinguished member of the latter Committee. When we were on that Committee, we held two sessions of evidence-taking—

Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman has gone far enough down memory lane. He should return to the committal motion.

My hon. Friend will be aware that the Bill consists not only of 20 pages of clauses but of some 50 pages of schedules. Does he believe that the Committee would be failing in its duty if it did not consider, in appropriate detail, the content of the schedules, given that there is such a density of them? Does not my hon. Friend consider that those schedules alone will require a considerable amount of time if the Committee is to give due consideration to their content?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. The degree of scrutiny that must take place will operate on two levels. First, it will be important to take evidence on specific issues that the Committee will have to consider. Secondly, the Committee will have to apply the evidence to the various clauses and schedules. I cannot believe that that will be a quick process. If scrutiny is to take place, I am firmly of the opinion that it must be thorough. There is no point in doing something as important as this, and not doing a proper job.

My only experience of pre-legislative Select Committees concerns the Social Security Committee, which has just finished discussing pension splitting on divorce. The scrutiny process was invaluable. In the tetchiness of tonight, we forget that this proposal could be of enormous use to the House's deliberations. Something as important as this should not be brushed off in a couple of evidence sessions—or, as my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman) suggested, in an afternoon. It grieves me greatly to disagree with my hon. Friend.

On pension splitting—a complicated matter—the Standing Committee looked at a weighty pre-legislative document on the subject, which was examined in enormous detail. The Committee recognised that that scrutiny carried enormous weight. A Standing Committee member considering the procedure that we are discussing would not say that it is an important matter—clearly, on the basis of one or perhaps two evidence sessions, it is not.

If we are to have pre-legislative scrutiny—or even the halfway house that we are discussing now—we should ensure that the process is not a matter of dispute from day one. The Government have made this a matter of controversy. If they had used the usual channels, if proper notice had been received, or if the newspaper stories about the Bill being published on 25 June were correct, the Government might have achieved consensus.

The way in which a Select Committee works is quite different from a Standing Committee.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the House could have been assisted in its deliberations this evening if we had been told precisely how the Select Committee was planning to work in this respect—but of course, the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) would not tell us, and would not take any interventions either?

Earlier, I expressed my extreme grief that the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich did not give way, as that would have been helpful. She seemed to think that there had been some kind of personal insult to her integrity, which I did not hear.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich should not be expected to shoulder the burden of blame, which manifestly rests with the Minister for Transport? Does he recall that, in the course of a risible apology for a speech half an hour ago, the Minister failed to disclose whether there would be a second Second Reading debate on the Bill, but gave the impression that whether there would be depended upon the efforts of the Select Committee—so we still wait, agog and with beads of sweat upon our brows, in eager anticipation of the discovery of what criteria will determine whether there is to be such a second Second Reading debate?

The controversy has been caused precisely by the way in which the Government tabled the motion. Frankly, we should know whether there is to be another Second Reading. A simple yes or no would suffice. My hon. Friend is a reasonable man and might have accepted a "maybe" or a "don't know", but the crushing silence is not acceptable. New procedures should not be made on the hoof but should be clearly laid down so that all hon. Members know exactly where they stand, or these debates will become more and more fractious.

My hon. Friend referred to the pass-the-parcel process going on between Ministers and the Select Committee Chairman. Select Committees have a different ethos. The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich is right to say that there is no whipping on Select Committees. If there were, the Select Committee process would come to a juddering halt.

There is no whipping, but plenty of leaking.

The crucial point was given away by my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman). I cast no doubt on the great integrity of the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), but members of the Select Committee will feel that they have done it all before and do not need to bother to go through all 30 clauses and 12 schedules, whereas a Standing Committee is charged with the duty of going through a Bill line by line and would do it with fresh faces. That is why this procedure is obscene.

There is some substance in that. There has been a change in the membership of the Select Committee since it considered the subject two years ago, but the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich acts as a respected and substantial sheet anchor. In this afternoon's debate, I counted no fewer than 18 matters of substance on which there are clear disagreements. There are issues that need to be worked out.

Are not there also implications for the Lords? Even if the Committee reports on 12 November and the House deals with the final stages of the Bill quickly, that leaves only five days for the upper House to complete its consideration.

That is absolutely right. It would risk patience if we suggested that this is all about saving the Secretary of State's face. To be less personal, this is about the Government saying that they are doing something. Remember that this was a flagship piece of legislation. It was the first subject that the Select Committee considered after the general election. The Secretary of State told us that he was committed to the legislation.

I was surprised when the Bill was not in the Queen's Speech, as I had expected it to be among the first measures that we would consider. Yet here we are at the fag-end of this Session, only a few days before the long recess, considering novel procedures following Second Reading. The Minister for Transport said that it was important to get a proper framework for the Bill.

Where is that framework? It should be presented to us tonight. We are supposed to work that framework out, strand by strand, to understand what is going on. If the Government had taken a little time to put the framework together, we would have understood their intentions.

The Minister said that this new scrutiny procedure would ensure that the Bill would be improved, but that would mean that amendments would have to be tabled by the Select Committee. The Select Committee would then come closer to being a Standing Committee. We are moving towards the formation of an ad hoc bridging committee between the two established forms.

We understand that this Select Committee will be outside Standing Orders. Is there any way for it to table amendments, or will it merely write a letter, as a postscript to its proceedings, for the Government's consideration?

I have no idea. That is the essential problem. However, it was the Minister who said that the Select Committee could improve the Bill, not I. I wrote her words down, as they were so startling.

I believe in pre-legislative scrutiny, but my support is being weakened by the way in which the Government have gone about this matter. The ground rules for the procedure need to be laid out. How often will the Committee meet, and for how long at a time? From whom will evidence be taken? When will the Committee deliberate on what it has heard?.

A Select Committee operates on the basis of consensus. There is no whipping. My right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Maclean) said that there is plenty of leaking. There are plenty of sackings and resignations, too, when people break the rules.

If we do not know the procedure, is there not a possibility that the Bill, after it has been enacted, will be struck down in court as bogus? That would mean that all the time devoted to the Bill—in the Chamber and in Select Committee, both in this Session and the next—will have been wasted.

That is possible. Our constitution is constantly changing, and the courts interfere more and more in our affairs. We are now signed up—

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but, with your indulgence, I should like to follow up my hon. Friend's point. If he is right, one matter that the courts will look at is our procedures, to ensure that they were properly observed. If we do not know what the procedures will be, how can we render the legislation judge-proof?

My hon. Friend will be aware that the Leader of the House said last Thursday that she hoped

"that the Transport Sub-Committee of the Select Committee on the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs will agree to consider the Bill"—[Official Report, 15 July 1999; Vol. 335, c. 580.]
We do not know whether the Select Committee has agreed to the procedure. The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), its Chairman, would say only that the Committee was independent.

That is true, but I began my speech by expressing the hope that hon. Members would not get tetchy in this debate. My hon. Friend should heed those words.

I hope that my hon. Friend will help me, as the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) was not willing to. I am confused. I thought that we were debating a reference to a Select Committee, but my hon. Friend mentioned a Standing Committee. Will he say what type of Committee we are debating?

I refer my hon. Friend to the motion, which specifies the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee. It is possible, in theory, that the Select Committee could refuse, but, as it has been set up by the House, it must be bound by the House to report to us by 12 November. Knowing the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich as I do, I have no doubt that she will keep to that timetable.

My hon. Friend has helpfully explained what the motion says, but may I press him a little further? Where do Sub-Committees come in? I see no reference to them in the motion.

I can help my hon. Friend on that point. My understanding of Standing Orders is that a Select Committee may refer a matter to a Sub-Committee. When I sat on the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee, it divided its time between environmental issues and those relating to transport. The entire Committee met on matters of joint interest, but the two Sub-Committees dealt with matters relating to specific areas. When the Bill was first considered, the Transport Sub-Committee dealt with it. That made the Liberal Democrats very unhappy, because they had no representative on that Sub-Committee.

My right hon. Friend is quite right. They have all gone.

When the Bill returned to the Select Committee from the Transport Sub-Committee, the Liberal Democrat representative was effectively precluded from moving amendments because he had not heard the evidence and had not been able to cross-examine anyone.

My hon. Friend is ever anxious to be generous to the Select Committee on the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs, but does he accept that he has not done justice to the inquiry made of him by my hon. Friend the Member for Spelthorne (Mr. Wilshire)? Although the Select Committee may be empowered to delegate to a Sub-Committee consideration of a relevant matter, surely it should at least apprise the House of its intention to do so.

That is the word. The Minister is obviously unfamiliar with it. During the drier parts of my intervention, he may wish to consult a copy of the "Oxford English Dictionary", and I assure him that he will find the word there.

Does my hon. Friend agree that it would be helpful if subsection (2) of the motion said that the Committee shall consider, or shall ask the Transport Sub-Committee to consider, the provisions of the Bill and report on them by 12 November 1999?

My hon. Friend is being a little hard. It is up to the Select Committee to determine how it considers the Bill. The motion already places restraints on when it may meet and sets an artificial deadline. The Committee should be able to deliberate in its own way.

The process will be straightforward in practice: the Sub-Committee will almost certainly consider the Bill, then report back to the Select Committee. The report of the whole Committee will come back to us, and so it should. I caution my hon. Friend against being over-prescriptive when it comes to Select Committees. The whole process could be brought into disrepute.

It has become apparent that the Committee has already made a decision. The hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody)—who, I am sorry to say, refused to take any interventions from those on the Opposition Benches—kept referring to "my Committee". However, as I understand it, she is Chairman only of the Sub-Committee and the full Committee is chaired by the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett). I do not quite understand. It seems that the hon. Lady has already determined that her Sub-Committee will consider the matter. Does my hon. Friend acknowledge that, before we agree to the motion, the House is perfectly entitled to receive an explanation of the exact procedure?

I am grieved to disagree with hon. Friends about this issue. However, I served on the Transport Select Committee under a Conservative Chairman and on the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee, and I never had the slightest doubt that the Committee belonged to the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich and that the rest of us were there at her pleasure. The hon. Lady has considerable expertise in this area. She scratches her brow. Perhaps she regrets the fact that she did not have the opportunity to lay the exact procedures before the House.

I believe that the hon. Lady could have allayed all our fears if she had said that there would be about 15 evidence sessions and that the Committee would be most careful and diligent in its consideration. She could have explained that, following the 15 evidence sessions, the Committee would consider the Bill and make broad recommendations about changes and improvements to clauses. If the hon. Lady had done that, hon. Members might be in a position to go to their beds tonight contented and not a little reassured. We must allow the Select Committee to decide the matter, but the Committee must determine how it will proceed.

On the matter of deciding how to conduct scrutiny of this sort, is it not a fact that officials who advise the Select Committees are completely different from those who advise the Standing Committees? The advisers to Select Committees are independent and they are joined by a general Clerk who backs up the Chairman. However, on Standing Committees, civil servants back up the Minister so that the final formulation of the legislation conforms to standard legislative practice. As the legislation is to become the law of the land, it must have the usual structure, and civil servants assist the Minister in that process.

I had not considered that point. Will parliamentary draftsmen be a part of this process? A Select Committee will examine this legislation. It has ideas about what it wants to achieve, but it will need advice from parliamentary draftsmen on how the Bill should be constructed.

I said earlier that there are two tasks ahead: the Committee must consider the issues and then examine the individual clauses of the Bill. However, there is a third element. The Committee will have to consider the practicality of the legislation: how good are the different clauses and how should they be changed to meet the demands arising from the two previous processes? That will be an extremely difficult task.

I am afraid that, in the final analysis, we revert to the question whether it will be necessary—as has yet to become clear—to hold a second Second Reading debate on the Bill. Does my hon. Friend agree that if, as a result of the consideration of the Bill's contents either by the Select Committee or by a Sub-Committee, amendments are proposed to the Bill and if the Government, in their infinite wisdom or un-wisdom, decide that the purport of those amendments is justified and wish to bring forward an amended Bill, it will be essential to hold a second Second Reading debate? It would be constitutionally disgraceful to do otherwise, as we shall then be dealing with a new Bill.

My hon. Friend is right. Had the Government not been using this occasion as a spinning exercise to demonstrate that they are all brothers and sisters together, we should probably be holding an Adjournment debate on the matter rather than debating procedure. Such a debate might have been longer than an hour and a half—it might have been held over a day in the way that we consider estimates. Having held such a debate, we could then say to the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich—

Order. We are not holding an Adjournment debate; we are debating the motion. The hon. Gentleman should direct his remarks to that.

In relation to the need for a second Second Reading debate, both my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young) and I questioned the Leader of the House on that matter on Thursday and suggested other business for this afternoon, on the ground that we would merely have to repeat the Second Reading of the Bill in the next Session. The right hon. Lady did not deny that point. She merely went on to suggest that scrutiny by the Select Committee would be helpful to the House in future Sessions.

That is correct. We had a good Second Reading debate; you chaired part of the sitting, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We held an informed and intelligent debate, but, because we were aware that we should be coming to motion No. 3 on the Order Paper, the debate did not have the feel of a normal Second Reading. Most hon. Members thought that we should have to go through the process again.

I support pre-legislative scrutiny, but we must understand which extra matters can be considered by a Select Committee. There are probably two. First, within the time frame, I hope that a Select Committee will be able to consider matters that could not be considered by a Standing Committee, because such matters would be outside the scope of a Standing Committee. The Select Committee could consider and take evidence on the budget; that would be crucial to understanding the importance of the measure. The Deputy Prime Minister suggested that the budget would be about £5 billion. Such evidence would lay out the scope of the SRA—we would not get that from a Standing Committee. A Standing Committee would not be able to undertake detailed analysis of the individual items in respect of the votes that make up the budget. A Select Committee would be extremely useful in undertaking that process.

Secondly, if a Select Committee were used properly, it could consider the question of subsidy. On Second Reading and in our debate on the motion, we were told about many of the comments that have been made by Sir Alastair Morton. We know that there are plans to change the subsidy and the formula for the subsidy. A Standing Committee cannot consider—

Order. The hon. Gentleman is again straying away from the motion before the House. He is also beginning to repeat himself. I should be grateful if he would not repeat himself; nor should he stray from the motion.

Of course, I accept your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. However, in relation to this important innovation, we must clarify whether the scrutiny that the Government are offering us is better than that which would be given by a Standing Committee. It might cause some displeasure among my right hon. and hon. Friends—I hope that they will be tolerant—but I have to say that, in this case, a Select Committee could provide better scrutiny, because the matter would be out of order in a Standing Committee. Those points have to be considered.

I had not intended to speak for long this evening, so perhaps I should come to my second point. In conclusion, I believe that, before we embark on the process engendered by the motion, the Government should, as a matter of courtesy to the House, lay out the ground rules. We should be told when the Committee will start to meet, how many evidence-taking sittings it will hold—

Order. The hon. Gentleman is repeating himself, yet again. If he cannot find fresh ground to move on to, he should very quickly draw his remarks to a close.

Order. The hon. Gentleman is repeating himself and not for the first time. I suggest that he brings his remarks fairly quickly to a close.

I am doing so, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I believe that the motion should be resisted on three grounds. If those three grounds are addressed by the Government tonight, it is possible that the motion will go through.

12.1 am

I listened with great interest to and was hugely impressed by the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Mr. Pickles). He provided such an olympian view of the subject before us that I hesitated before rising to my feet. If I understand the modernisation process at all, the point is that important constitutional changes should not be considered in the dead of night, when many hon. Members cannot be present in the Chamber. However, before the House is a motion of such monumental significance that, at the stroke of midnight, we are not yet halfway through our debate. It might be a small step for the sultans of spin to come up with the motion on behalf of the Government, but for many of us it is a giant leap in terms of the whole legislative process.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It might have escaped your notice that the Chairman of the Select Committee whose procedures we are debating has now left the Chamber. Is it not important that the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody) should be present to hear what the House has to say?

Whether or not hon. Members remain in the Chamber is entirely a matter for them, not for me. I call Mr. St. Aubyn.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way, as I feel sure that he is but at the start of a characteristically magnificent oration. However, perhaps he would care to comment on my fear that he is in danger of being a little too charitable to those hon. Members who have the opportunity to be present in the Chamber but who decline to be present. Does my hon. Friend agree that, if Members of Parliament can be present within the precincts of the Palace of Westminster at the relatively early hour of four minutes past midnight, even though we know that some of them have had a convivial evening within these precincts, there is no reason why they should not—

I know that I shall be proud to report back to my constituents that I paid due attention to every aspect of this debate which, as I said, may have monumental consequences for the House.

I have been a Member of Parliament for only a couple of years, but, in that time, I have been a member of the Standing Committees on four major Bills and served for more than two years on the Select Committee on Education and Employment. In that time, I have noticed some very important distinctions between the two types of Committee. It would not be necessary to dwell on them if the Minister had not failed to make clear the process that will follow the Bill going into what we might call its Select Committee phase.

I notice from the Order Paper that there are 62 Bills for consideration this Friday. Many Bills are given a Second Reading before they run off the rails. If this is such a Bill, much of our debate will have been unnecessary. We would be quite relaxed about the Select Committee having a second bite of the cherry in its consideration of the Government's ideas before a serious Bill is given a serious Second Reading at the beginning of next Session.

I want to address the fear—many Opposition Members regard it as a threat—of the Government proposing to put a Bill in the hands of a Select Committee, and then bringing it back to the House as if it had been through a Standing Committee. That is what this debate is about; that is why the Opposition are so exercised; that is why so many Members are hanging around the Chamber—they know that, many hours later, there will be a critical vote.

I have learned in my short time here to have much respect for the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody). She brings a rare distinction to proceedings, and I am sure that she will exercise her powers wisely. However, a Select Committee may decide its business by a majority, whereas a member of a Standing Committee may table amendments for consideration by that Committee that may not be supported by any other member of it. A single member of a Standing Committee may feel that there is a vital point to be considered that is relevant to the Bill and demand that his or her voice be heard, but a majority on a Select Committee may say "We do not think that point is relevant to this Bill. We will take a vote on it." Without any whipping or party pressure the majority will rule the matter out of order.

One of the benefits of the Standing Committee is that a Minister is present at all times from whom one can seek assurances. Although a Select Committee will deal with this matter, will a Minister be on hand to give assurances about the legislation?

My hon. Friend raises the very important role of Ministers on Standing Committees, which I am about to address. Before doing so, I shall mention several points that would be impractical for the Select Committee to consider on the ground that it has been given a remit to report by 12 November 1999.

I can foresee time and again that members of the Select Committee will want to raise important points that come within the ambit of the Bill and to reflect their constituents' genuine concern, yet the majority, quite legitimately, without exercising any partisan approach, will say, "We have been given only until 12 November to consider the Bill. We must move on; time is not with us." The matter will be allowed to fall by the wayside.

If a Minister is to be present in a Select Committee, surely the Opposition spokesman should be present, too. Once that happens, Select Committees will become highly politicised, which is not desirable.

I entirely agree that the genuine bipartisan nature of Select Committees is at risk. Consideration of this Bill, which is clearly controversial, will create tension. Anyone who has attended this debate will have sensed deep divisions in the House on how the matter should be dealt with. The bipartisan approach, which informs all proceedings of our Select Committee system, will be undermined by the new process that the Government are foisting on the House for purely party political purposes. Such a procedure, dictated by such a motive, cannot be good for the Select Committee system, which the House has come to revere.

There is more to the issue than the mere presence in Committee of Ministers—what about the presence of their civil servants? I have often noticed that, when Ministers are challenged in Standing Committee, they sometimes take their time in producing a substantive reply—thereby allowing their civil servants and other advisers a moment in which to pass a note to the Front Bench, consequently enabling Opposition Members to obtain the information that we are seeking. Although the information may come not from the mind, but merely the mouth, of the Minister, it is still highly valuable.

Even more important—this point goes to the heart of the matter, and was debated earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar and me—is the legal validity of a Bill considered in such a manner. In Standing Committee, Ministers make pronouncements on Bills to clarify points of law. In future, after this Bill is passed, becomes an Act and is challenged in the courts, on the precedent of Pepper v. Hart, a judge may refer to the Minister's statements on it in Standing Committee. Will the Minister say what will be the status of statements by Ministers to the Select Committee? Has she any authority to tell us what that status will be—or is the matter now, under our new regime and modernised constitution, one that will have to be decided by the courts?

Will my hon. Friend try to help me? Speaking as a member of the Modernisation of the House of Commons Committee, which produced the report that has already been mentioned several times in the debate, I am increasingly confused. My understanding was not that any pre-legislative scrutiny would replace a Bill's Standing Committee stage, but that the Standing Committee stage would remain. Is my hon. Friend telling the House that the Railways Bill will have no Standing Committee stage? If that is true, I have been severely misled in the Modernisation Committee's deliberations; and I should suggest to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the matter should be referred urgently to the House's Procedure Committee.

If you would care to rule on that point, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should more than welcome that. Like my hon. Friend, I find the whole process into which we are being invited to enter not only deeply troubling, but certainly contrary to the basic tenets on which we were elected to this place.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not now becoming apparent that we are in such confusion in these proceedings that it might be better for the House to suspend, so that we might obtain proper advice in answer to some of the questions that have been asked in the debate, but not yet answered? Now, even a question asked by an hon. Member as distinguished as my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton)—who wears so many hats with such distinction—cannot be answered. Is it not worth seriously considering suspending the sitting, so that we might more definitely discover the way ahead and be properly informed when voting on the issue?

I have heard nothing out of order in the debate, with which we should proceed.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I ask you directly whether it is appropriate for the House to proceed with a motion that would replace the House's current procedures—which entail that, when a Bill is introduced, it will have a First Reading, Second Reading and then a Standing Committee stage? I had understood that that is how the House operates. I had also understood that the Modernisation Committee's report—which I supported, and to which I was party—favoured various pre-legislative scrutiny, with which I also agree. My understanding was not that such scrutiny would replace the Standing Committee stage of legislation. If it does, it is a very serious change.

The motion before the House is quite clear. It is the motion that we are debating, and the one on which we shall have to decide.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sorry to trouble you again.

As a member of the Select Committee in question, I am entirely unclear whether we shall be scrutinising the Bill as if we were members of a Standing Committee or whether we shall be examining the principles in general, as we would do with any other matter that came before the Select Committee. If the Select Committee is to act like a quasi Standing Committee, I shall be subject to the Whip. I shall have to take advice from my party on what its line is on certain matters, and obviously it will be necessary to divide the Committee. If, however, it is to be a genuinely informative procedure, as is usual in Select Committee, my activities will be quite different.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I heard your previous ruling, but I am concerned about Standing Order No. 65, which refers to:

"All committees to which bills may be committed".
The previous occupant of the Chair ruled that the House has before it a committal motion. The Standing Order provides that those Committees to which Bills "may be committed"—
"or referred for consideration on report shall have power to make such amendments therein as they shall think fit".
Does that mean that, notwithstanding what has been said earlier, the Select Conunittee has the absolute power to take amendments, consider them, vote upon them, alter the Bill and send it back as if it were a Standing Committee?

I have already said that the motion before the House is clear. It is the motion that we have to debate and decide upon.

I sympathise with you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for the position in which you find yourself as a result of the motion. We have seen the entirely hopeless position of the Minister for Transport, who was inadequate in explaining the true import of the new procedure that is before us. We have heard—

I wish to clarify the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton), which is whether the proposal is an orthodox method of dealing with a Bill. A letter sent to my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir G. Young), the shadow Leader of the House, by the Leader of the House, states:

"The proposed method of referring a bill after second reading to an existing select committee for consideration and report is another option, though not one specifically contemplated by the Modernisation Committee."
I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield can take comfort from the fact that he has not been misled by any proceedings in the Modernisation Committee. It is the Government who are choosing this moment to innovate by introducing a new procedure without consulting the Modernisation Committee.

I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend for clarifying the situation in a way that I hope causes great embarrassment to those on the Treasury Bench. This way of proceeding is yet another example of the Government trying to usurp the historic authority of this place. As I understand it, a Standing Committee is delegated by the House to undertake a role which historically was performed by the House as a whole. In the past, Bills were considered by the entire House. Now, far from that power being delegated to a Committee comprised of those who are particularly interested in a Bill, having expressed an interested in it on Second Reading, for example, it is to be delegated to a Select Committee which was appointed with an entirely different purpose in mind.

The deliberations of that Committee and the decisions that ensue, whatever we may do with them, will be fundamentally flawed. They will be tainted and they will not lead to valid laws. We were not elected to this place to agree to laws in such a way. If that is the position, we have no business passing the motion that is before us. You have made it clear, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the procedure does not come under Standing Orders. If it fails to do so, are we to see the introduction of new retrospective Standing Orders between now and the beginning of the next Session? What is the procedure by which the Government hope to create a valid exercise tonight when I think that we have proved it to be invalid?

I agree with my hon. Friend. I suggest that, on 13 November, he will find that there will be a motion on the Order Paper stating, "Now that the Committee has considered the Bill, it will be carried forward into the next Session", as if it had passed all its stages in the House.

If that were to be the case it would be a disgraceful abuse of the procedures of the House. That would be quite wrong and the Bill, which is already deeply suspect for political reasons and considered to be deeply flawed by many hon. Members who have spoken in the debate, would have yet another burden to carry into the further stages of its consideration.

Let us not forget that the Bill is supposed to generate tens of billions of pounds of new investment, even though it threatens those who will make that investment with unlimited fines and with being forced to make additional investments according to investment criteria dictated by Ministers, not by markets.

Order. The hon. Gentleman's comments are a long way from the motion before the House.

The point I am trying to get at is that the powers being claimed by the Bill are quite extraordinary. It is therefore not only possible, but more than likely, that those powers will be challenged in the courts and it is therefore even more important for us to consider the validity of the process by which the Bill will pass through the House.

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House divided: Ayes 220, Noes 9.

Division No. 251]

[12.21 am

AYES

Abbott, Ms DianeDrew, David
Ainger, NickDunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Ennis, Jeff
Allan, RichardEtherington, Bill
Allen, GrahamFitzpatrick, Jim
Barron, KevinFitzsimons, Lorna
Battle, JohnFlint, Caroline
Bayley, HughFlynn, Paul
Beard, NigelFoster, Rt Hon Derek
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs MargaretGeorge, Andrew (St Ives)
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)Gerrard, Neil
Bennett, Andrew FGibson, Dr Ian
Benton, JoeGodsiff, Roger
Berry, RogerGoggins, Paul
Best, HaroldGolding, Mrs Llin
Betts, CliveGordon, Mrs Eileen
Blears, Ms HazelGriffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Boateng, PaulGrogan, John
Borrow, DavidHall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Bradley, Keith (Withington)Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Bradshaw, BenHanson, David
Burgon, ColinHeal, Mrs Sylvia
Butler, Mrs ChristineHealey, John
Caborn, Rt Hon RichardHeppell, John
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)Hesford, Stephen
Cann, JamieHewitt, Ms Patricia
Caplin, IvorHinchliffe, David
Caton, MartinHood, Jimmy
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)Hope, Phil
Chisholm, MalcolmHopkins, Kelvin
Clapham, MichaelHowells, Dr Kim
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)Hoyle, Lindsay
Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Clelland, DavidHurst, Alan
Coaker, VernonHutton, John
Colman, TonyIllsley, Eric
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Corbett, RobinJenkins, Brian
Corbyn, JeremyJones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Cousins, JimJones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Cox, TomJones, Ms Jenny (Wolverh'ton SW)
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)Keeble, Ms Sally
Cummings, JohnKeen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Cunliffe, LawrenceKeen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)Kemp, Fraser
Curtis Thomas, Mrs ClaireKhabra, Piara S
Dalyell, TamKidney, David
Darvill, KeithKilfoyle, Peter
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)Kirkwood, Archy
Davidson, IanLadyman, Dr Stephen
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)Leslie, Christopher
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)Levitt, Tom
Dean, Mrs JanetLiddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Donohoe, Brian HLivingstone, Ken
Dowd, JimLock, David

McAllion, JohnRussell, Bob (Colchester)
McAvoy, ThomasSarwar, Mohammad
McCabe, SteveSavidge, Malcolm
McCafferty, Ms ChrisSheerman, Barry
Macdonald, CalumSimpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
McDonnell, JohnSingh, Marsha
Mackinlay, AndrewSkinner, Dennis
McNamara, KevinSmith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
McWalter, TonySmith, Angela (Basildon)
McWilliam, JohnSmith, John (Glamorgan)
Mahon, Mrs AliceSoley, Clive
Mallaber, JudySpellar, John
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)Squire, Ms Rachel
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Marshall, David (Shettleston)Steinberg, Gerry
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)Stevenson, George
Marshall-Andrews, RobertStewart, David (Inverness E)
Meale, AlanStewart, Ian (Eccles)
Merron, GillianStoate, Dr Howard
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Milburn, Rt Hon AlanStringer, Graham
Moffatt, LauraStuart, Ms Gisela
Moonie, Dr LewisSutcliffe, Gerry
Moran, Ms MargaretTaylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Mullin Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Naysmith, Dr DougTemple-Morris, Peter
Norris, DanTouhig, Don
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
O'Hara, EddieTurner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Olner, BillTurner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Öpik, LembitTwigg, Derek (Halton)
Pearson, IanTyler, Paul
Pendry, TomVaz, Keith
Perham, Ms LindaVis, Dr Rudi
Pickthall, ColinWalley, Ms Joan
Pike, Peter LWard, Ms Claire
Plaskitt, JamesWareing, Robert N
Pollard, KerryWebb, Steve
Pond, ChrisWhitehead, Dr Alan
Pound, StephenWicks, Malcolm
Powell, Sir RaymondWilliams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)Winnick, David
Prosser, GwynWise, Audrey
Purchase, KenWorthington, Tony
Radice, Rt Hon GilesWray, James
Rapson, SydWright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Raynsford, Nick
Rooker, Jeff

Tellers for the Ayes:

Rooney, Terry

Mr. Keith Hill and

Rowlands, Ted

Mrs. Anne McGuire.

NOES

Forth, Rt Hon EricSwayne, Desmond
Gorman, Mrs TeresaWinterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Gray, JamesWinterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)

Tellers for the Noes:

Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)

Mr. David Wilshire and.

St Aubyn, Nick

Mr. David Maclean.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Question put accordingly:—

The House divided: Ayes 218, Noes 9.

Division No. 252]

[12.34 am

AYES

Abbott, Ms DianeBarron, Kevin
Ainger, NickBattle, John
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Bayley, Hugh
Allan, RichardBeard, Nigel
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Allen, GrahamBenn, Hilary (Leeds C)

Benn, Rt Hon Tony (Chesterfield)Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Bennett, Andrew FHinchliffe, David
Benton, JoeHood, Jimmy
Berry, RogerHope, Phil
Best, HaroldHopkins, Kelvin
Betts, CliveHowells, Dr Kim
Blears, Ms HazelHoyle, Lindsay
Borrow, DavidHughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Bradley, Keith (Withington)Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Bradshaw, BenHurst, Alan
Burgon, ColinHutton, John
Butler, Mrs ChristineIllsley, Eric
Caborn, Rt Hon RichardJackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)Jenkins, Brian
Cann, JamieJones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Caplin, IvorJones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Caton, MartinJones, Ms Jenny (Wolverh'ton SW)
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chisholm, MalcolmJones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Clapham, MichaelKeeble, Ms Sally
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Clark, Dr Lynda (Edinburgh Pentlands)Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kemp, Fraser
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)Khabra, Piara S
Clelland, DavidKidney, David
Coaker, VernonKilfoyle, Peter
Colman, TonyKirkwood, Archy
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Corbett, RobinLeslie, Christopher
Corbyn, JeremyLevitt, Tom
Cousins, JimLiddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Cox, TomLivingstone, Ken
Crausby, DavidLock, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)McAllion, John
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)McAvoy, Thomas
Cummings, JohnMcCabe, Steve
Cunliffe, LawrenceMcCafferty, Ms Chris
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)Macdonald, Calum
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs ClaireMackinlay, Andrew
Dalyell, TamMcNamara, Kevin
Darvill, KeithMcWalter, Tony
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)McWilliam, John
Davidson, IanMahon, Mrs Alice
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)Mallaber, Judy
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Dean, Mrs JanetMarsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Donohoe, Brian HMarshall, David (Shettleston)
Dowd, JimMarshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Drew, DavidMarshall-Andrews, Robert
Dunwoody, Mrs GwynethMeale, Alan
Ennis, JeffMerron, Gillian
Etherington, BillMichie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Fitzpatrick, JimMilburn, Rt Hon Alan
Fitzsimons, LornaMoffatt, Laura
Flint, CarolineMoonie, Dr Lewis
Flynn, PaulMoran, Ms Margaret
Foster, Rt Hon DerekMullin, Chris
George, Andrew (St Ives)Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
George, Bruce (Walsall S)Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Gerrard, NeilNaysmith, Dr Doug
Gibson, Dr IanNorris, Dan
Godsiff, RogerO'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Goggins, PaulO'Hara, Eddie
Golding, Mrs LlinOlner, Bill
Gordon, Mrs EileenÖpik, Lembit
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)Pearson, Ian
Grogan, JohnPendry, Tom
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)Perham, Ms Linda
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)Pickthall, Colin
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)Pike, Peter L
Hanson, DavidPlaskitt, James
Heal, Mrs SylviaPollard, Kerry
Healey, JohnPond, Chris
Heppell, JohnPound, Stephen
Hesford, StephenPowell, Sir Raymond

Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)Sutcliffe, Gerry
Prosser, GwynTaylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Purchase, Ken
Radice, Rt Hon GilesTaylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Rapson, SydTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
Raynsford, NickTemple-Morris, Peter
Rooker, JeffTouhig, Don
Rooney, TerryTrickett, Jon
Rowlands, TedTurner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Russell, Bob (Colchester)Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Sarwar, MohammadTurner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Savidge, MalcolmTwigg, Derek (Halton)
Sheerman, BarryTyler, Paul
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)Vaz, Keith
Singh, MarshaVis, Dr Rudi
Skinner, DennisWalley, Ms Joan
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)Ward, Ms Claire
Smith, Angela (Basildon)Wareing, Robert N
Smith, John (Glamorgan)Webb, Steve
Soley, CliveWhitehead, Dr Alan
Spellar, JohnWicks, Malcolm
Squire, Ms RachelWilliams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Starkey, Dr PhyllisWinnick, David
Steinberg, GerryWise, Audrey
Stevenson, GeorgeWorthington, Tony
Stewart, David (Inverness E)Wray, James
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Stoate, Dr Howard
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin

Tellers for the Ayes:

Stringer, Graham

Mr. Keith Hill and

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Mrs. Anne McGuire.

NOES

Forth, Rt Hon EricSwayne, Desmond
Gorman, Mrs TeresaWinterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)

Tellers for the Noes:

Maclean, Rt Hon David

Mr. David Wilshire and

St Aubyn, Nick

Mr. James Gray.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved,

That
(1) notwithstanding Standing Order No. 63 (Committal of bills), the Railways Bill be referred to the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee; and
(2) the Committee shall consider the provisions of the Bill and report thereon by 12th November 1999.