Clause 173 - Customs officers

Part of Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 3:15 pm ar 16 Ionawr 2003.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Mr Nick Hawkins Mr Nick Hawkins Ceidwadwyr, Surrey Heath 3:15, 16 Ionawr 2003

I am not happy that the matter will be subject to a negative resolution. That is not good enough and we shall look at it again on Report and in another place. The clause is so brief, and so general, that it should come before the House under an affirmative resolution procedure. The Minister stressed that the House could debate the codes of practice under that procedure, and that should apply to this proposal. The clause, which will give the Treasury the power to do more or less what it likes, will go through the House on the nod, unless someone makes a big fuss about it, and that is not acceptable. It will no doubt be debated late on Monday night under something like order No. 18, when the Government hope that no one will challenge it. It is the sort of thing that they might try to get through on the last day before the summer recess, or Christmas. We all know how Government business managers arrange these things.

I understand the Minister's misgivings about my campaign to reduce the power of the Treasury. Before he was a Member of Parliament, I was involved with hon. Members of all parties in one of the few successful campaigns to get a Budget changed, and we got it changed not once or twice but four times, until a particular industry was happy with it. I will not go into detail now, as I would be out of order, but I can give the Minister chapter and verse about what happened outside the Committee if he wishes. That does not happen often because, as the Minister rightly said, the Treasury controls the money but it can be done and I would be happy to share the secret with the Minister. His views suggest that he is not unsympathetic to the idea that the Treasury has too

much power, although perhaps I am intruding on private grief in that respect.

I am not happy about the proposal, but I will not divide the Committee as to do so would risk Ministers saying that the Opposition are trying to make mischief and water down the Bill. [Interruption.] We cannot win with the Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Coventry, North-East, as he says either we are trying to water down his proposals or that we are too scared to take him on, but we are doing neither. We are making a serious point; we want Customs officers to have some power.

We may return to the issue on Report as there is a good case for having the affirmative resolution procedure on a clause that is so brief, but so wide-ranging. It is not right that measures that so affect people can be changed on the nod.