Business of the House

– in the House of Commons at 3:30 pm on 17th March 1997.

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Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree 3:30 pm, 17th March 1997

With permission, Madam Speaker, I should like to make a short business statement.

In the light of the announcement made earlier today by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, the business for the rest of this week will be rearranged. The House will also wish to know that Parliament will be prorogued on Friday 21 March.

I shall be tabling a motion later today, which will be set down for the commencement of business tomorrow. That will enable the House to conclude the remainder of its business in an orderly manner, which I trust will be for the convenience of the whole House.

Following discussions through the usual channels, which are already under way, I shall make a business statement later today setting out the detailed business for the remainder of the week.

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

I thank the Leader of the House for that statement—it is good to have my predictions from last Thursday's business questions confirmed as being correct. We are, of course, co-operating through the usual channels to deal with outstanding business as effectively as possible and we look forward to receiving further details from the right hon. Gentleman later.

In the meantime, will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that Question Time will operate as usual up to and including Thursday this week? So that Members of Parliament are as fully in the picture as possible at this stage, will he confirm that, when the House prorogues on Friday 21 March, it will not meet again and that Dissolution will be through proclamation?

Finally, needless to say, Labour Members are very glad that the campaign has come for real at last.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

The hon. Lady will recall that I refrained from announcing any recess dates last Thursday and, indeed, from commenting on her predictions or speculation, which I would not then have been in a position to confirm. I can confirm that it would be my expectation that questions will proceed as normal. Those are probably the only points in her remarks on which I need to comment.

Photo of Mr David Steel Mr David Steel , Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale

Will the Leader of the House confirm that his announcement has two effects: first, that some 28 Bills will have to be either passed through the House in the next few days or dropped altogether, which hardly seems to be the best way of concluding legislation; and, secondly, that, coupled with the press statement from No. 10 Downing street, he has announced the longest election campaign in this century, with three weeks of phoney war before Dissolution and three weeks of real campaigning afterwards? Should he not come to the Dispatch Box and apologise to the House on behalf of the Government for being, in the words of Charles II, such an unconscionable time dying"?

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I see no reason whatever to apologise to the House, either on my own behalf or on that of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. It remains to be seen how phoney the war will be. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that my party will be fighting vigorously throughout the period in question.

As for the Bills on which proceedings have not been completed, I can of course confirm that there are a significant number of them. Precisely how they will be dealt with is what is under consideration via the usual channels and will be the subject of the business statement that I hope to make later today.

Photo of Mr James Molyneaux Mr James Molyneaux , Lagan Valley

Will the Leader of the House prevail on the usual channels to ensure that the Northern Ireland business set down for Wednesday will not entirely disappear? I assure him that we shall do all in our power to facilitate an easy passage for those vital matters.

Photo of Mr Tony Newton Mr Tony Newton , Braintree

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I shall certainly try to reciprocate by being as helpful as I can.

Several hon. Members:

rose

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. Questions have been put to the Leader of the House about his statement, and he has been good enough to say that he will come to the House later today with a substantive statement. This one is very narrow, telling us what many of us already know—but I thank hon. Members for coming in to hear it anyway. Meanwhile, we look forward to hearing from the Leader of the House again later this afternoon.