Sittings of the House
Video Recordings Bill (Allocation of Time)
David Heath (Somerton and Frome, Liberal Democrat)
Sir George Young said that Mr. Bone had no personal interest in the matter. However, I have enormous personal interest, having been successful in the ballot, albeit in a lowly position this year-not that one's position in the ballot makes much difference to making progress with private Members' legislation, because some Government Whip need only shout "Object" for a measure to fall, as I found out in the previous Session. Nevertheless, were the amendment accepted, it would allow time to enable my important School Transport Bill, which would provide for a yellow bus system in this country-greatly to the advantage of children throughout the country and, indeed, the environment-to progress, or at least be debated.
However, the difficulty is typified by the debate. The Executive, not the House, prioritise the House's time for debate. The Executive decide what will happen and put that before the House, and only the Executive are allowed to do so. Answering on behalf of Her Majesty's Opposition, the right hon. Gentleman says he is unable to commit his party to taking a different position if it were to form the Executive in future, so the Executive would still have control of the business of the House. Back Benchers of all parties do not have as much control of the House's business as I think they should have.
All of that would be corrected if we could make progress on the proposals in the Wright Committee report. I do not intend to debate them today, because they are not the substance of the issue before us, but making progress on that would have the following two results: first, we would never in future have before us another such motion in the name of a Minister; secondly, we would no longer have rationing of days by the Executive. Instead, that would be determined by a committee of the House. It would consider the rationale of all of this and whether it is appropriate to make the abatement which is the substance of the motion, and we would have the option to consider whether Wednesdays are a better day than Fridays for the consideration of private Members' business.
So much is wrong with the current procedures for private Members' business. So many obstacles are put in the way of making rational progress on what may be very commendable Bills, and it appears to me that the will of the House is the last thing to be considered in respect of both the time made available for Bills and whether a Bill goes ahead. It is too simple to scupper something from a sedentary position, rather than debating matters and allowing the House to determine the result.