Business of the House (Timetabling)

– in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 13 November 2008.

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Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Conservative, Wellingborough 10:30, 13 November 2008

What factors she takes into account when making decisions about the timetable for the business of the House.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant PPS (Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC, Lord Privy Seal), Leader of the House of Commons, PPS (Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC, Minister of State), Government Equalities Office, Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

Competing factors obviously have to be borne in mind: the need for proper scrutiny of legislation, the need for proper accountability of the Government, the needs of Back Benchers to represent their constituents' concerns, the need of the whole House to listen to the concerns of the whole nation, and the need for the Government to get through its business efficiently and efficaciously. Sometimes those different factors clash.

Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Conservative, Wellingborough

I thank the Deputy Leader of the House for that answer. Oh, that it were true.

Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Conservative, Wellingborough

The Deputy Leader of the House says that it is true. Will he therefore explain why, yesterday, the Government forced a closure motion when at least five Back Benchers wanted to speak on a programme motion that was designed to guillotine time on vital issues? It was an outrageous abuse of Parliament.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant PPS (Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC, Lord Privy Seal), Leader of the House of Commons, PPS (Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC, Minister of State), Government Equalities Office, Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that it is for Mr. Speaker to decide, although Mr. Deputy Speaker was in the Chair yesterday, whether a closure motion is appropriate. The hon. Gentleman is trying to rerun yesterday's debate. The important point is that we tabled the business motion a full week in advance and neither the shadow Leader of the House nor Simon Hughes, who speaks for the Liberal Democrats, raised it at business questions last week. I say in all honesty and sincerity that if the shadow Leader of the House had said that she wanted more time for yesterday's debate, we would have listened to her concerns.

Photo of David Taylor David Taylor Labour, North West Leicestershire

One of the measures that we can use to see whether business is being processed effectively and efficiently is the number of Government Bills introduced in one Session that are carried over into the next Session, perhaps for want of time. Is the Deputy Leader of the House aware that that number seems to be increasing over the years? Is he happy with that fact? Does he not think that the schedules of Bills at the Queen's Speech are sometimes over-ambitious?

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant PPS (Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC, Lord Privy Seal), Leader of the House of Commons, PPS (Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC, Minister of State), Government Equalities Office, Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

I hate to disagree with my hon. Friend, but the number of carry-over Bills has not been increasing. At the moment, there are only two: the Political Parties and Elections Bill and the Banking Bill. In the past, my hon. Friend has argued in favour of carry-over Bills. They mean that at certain stages of the year it is more possible for this House and the other Chamber to provide suitable in-depth scrutiny of legislation. It is right that we have the carry-over provision, which is only a few years old.

Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

If the Deputy Leader of the House truly means what he says about timetabling, will he and the Leader of the House take a little time during Prorogation to consider establishing a proper business Committee composed of senior Back Benchers who would determine the allocation of the House's time?

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant PPS (Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC, Lord Privy Seal), Leader of the House of Commons, PPS (Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC, Minister of State), Government Equalities Office, Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

No, I will not. The hon. Gentleman knows that perfectly well, which is why he is sitting down with a great big smile all over his face. If there were to be a business Committee, I am sure that he, as one of the most senior Members of the House, would sit on it. I know that other Conservative Members also think that there should be one. However, to suggest that there should be such a Committee shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how the House operates. The only reason we are the Government is that we have a majority in the House. That arrangement is very different from that in the United States of America, where the Executive are separate from the legislature.