Sir George condemns guillotine on health debate
14 Feb 2001
Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire): I support my hon. Friend the Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) in opposing the motion. I am not fundamentally opposed to all programme motions. I know that some of my hon. Friends are against them all, and I respect that view. I do not share that view, and there have been occasions when I have put my name to programme motions. I did so because I felt that that was in the best interests of a structured debate, sometimes with benefits to the Opposition. However, I am in favour of programme motions only when they do justice to the issues under discussion, and give the House an adequate opportunity to scrutinise them. That is not the position this afternoon.
There are three reasons--the Minister did not deal with them--why the motion is particularly inappropriate. One reason relates to community health councils. Much concern was expressed on Second Reading about CHCs. My hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Mr. O'Brien) initiated a debate in Westminster Hall. There were meetings in Committee Rooms that were well attended by hon. Members from both sides of the House.
For whatever reason--I make no complaint about the Committee of Selection--no Labour Members were notable critics of the Government's policies on CHCs.
Their only opportunity to voice their concern will be this afternoon. I am sure that, as we speak, Labour Members are in the Central Lobby, from where I have just returned after a constructive dialogue with the Winchester CHC, being briefed about the damage that the Government propose to do to CHCs. I would be amazed if many Labour Members did not wish to speak later on behalf of their CHCs and register their concern at what is about to happen.
Dr. Fox: Given the Prime Minister's indication at Question Time that the Government may be intending to make a partial U-turn, does my right hon. Friend agree that in the light of the discussions in defence of the Government's original proposals in Committee, in which the Minister of State participated, it would be unacceptable to have any new Government ideas being put briefly to the House this evening? We would be unable fully to scrutinise what the Government intend to do. That opportunity should be available to us in Committee.
Sir George Young: If the Government are about to make a major change in their policy on CHCs, that could not be accommodated within the programme motion, which was tabled before such a U-turn was contemplated. That would be an injustice to the House.
The second reason--
Ms Linda Perham (Ilford, North): The right hon. Gentleman commented on Labour Members speaking on behalf of community health councils. Does he remember that on Second Reading I spoke on behalf of Redbridge CHC and my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mrs. Gordon) spoke on behalf of the CHC in her constituency? We put forward our views on Second Reading.
Sir George Young: We were sorry not to see the hon. Lady and the hon. Member for Romford (Mrs. Gordon) in Committee, where their concerns were not done justice by the Labour Members who served on it.
Mr. Bercow: The hon. Member for Ilford, North (Ms Perham) has made a challenging and important point. Does my right hon. Friend agree that although she and the hon. Member for Romford (Mrs. Gordon) bravely and eloquently criticised the Government's policy on CHCs on Second Reading, that does not remove or diminish their responsibility, if the Government have not responded to that concern, to repeat their criticism in even more forceful terms?
Sir George Young: The House awaits the hon. Lady's speech with bated breath.
My second reason for thinking that the Government are wrong was touched on by my hon. Friend the Member for Woodspring, and it is the number of Government amendments. There are 15 pages of Government amendments to an 80-page Bill, yet they seriously expect us to consider these matters in the time that remains available, which is about four and a half hours. It is impossible for us to consult the bodies that are interested
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in the Bill during that time, given the range of amendments that have been tabled. Thirdly, a 9 pm cut-off does not allow adequate time to conclude our consideration, given the important issues that the Bill tackles. For example, there is the establishment of care trusts, with all the implications for social services.
My interest in speaking on the motion is that the final group of amendments on Report are in my name. I am concerned that, given the time frame, we may not reach that group.
Mr. Hogg: Perhaps my right hon. Friend will remind the House that there is no reason why we should finish at 10 pm. Last night, we continued until 12 midnight on a Government Bill. The Government were content to allow the House to debate the complications of the Capital Allowances Bill between 10 pm and 12 midnight. Why should we not do the same thing with today's Bill?
Sir George Young: I am sure that the Minister will deal with that when he replies. My right hon. and learned Friend said that there is no reason why we should not go beyond 10 o'clock but, as he knows, that is what the programme motion says. If it is carried, we will have to stop at 10 o'clock. Health councils, patient information--dealt with in clause 62, which was previously clause 59--the new regime for prescribing, important changes for residential and nursing homes and the new changes to capital limits are important issues in the Bill to which the House will not be able to do justice by 9 o'clock.
That is symptomatic of the mismanagement of the Government's legislative programme. They are simply trying to get too many Bills through in too short a time. The House cannot do justice to the sheer volume of legislation with which it is confronted. Within their programme, the Government have mismanaged matters because this Bill comes after the Hunting Bill. It is clear that the Hunting Bill will not reach the statute book, but it is conceivable that this Bill could. If the Government had put it ahead of the Hunting Bill, we would not be facing this programme motion and we would have had more time to discuss the Bill.
I want to register my protest against the programme motion. I shall follow my hon. Friend the Member for Woodspring into the Lobby with enthusiasm.

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