Public Bill Committees

Oral Answers to Questions — Leader of the House – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 5 March 2015.

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Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation 9:30, 5 March 2015

How many sittings of Public Bill Committees took place in the last Parliament; and how many such sittings have taken place in this Parliament to date.

Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

There were 935 sittings of Public Bill Committees in the 2005 to 2010 Parliament, and there have been 797 sittings so far in the current Parliament.

Photo of Hugh Bayley Hugh Bayley NATO Parliamentary Assembly UK Delegation

It is clear that the work rate of Public Bill Committees in this Parliament has been considerably lower than that in the previous Parliament, and I say that as a member of the Panel of Chairs. Will the Government now look at allocating more time for Public Bill Committees to consider private Members’ Bills, so that more private Members’ Bills get through the House and get Royal Assent?

Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

First, I should perhaps correct the impression that the hon. Gentleman wants to give that this Parliament has not been busy. The 2010 to 2015 Parliament will sit for 734 days, which compares with the 718 in the 2005 to 2010 Parliament. Of course, for individual Bills there have been more Public Committee days or sittings than there were under the previous Government. I have heard what he has said about private Members’ Bills. I know that the Procedure Committee has some strong views about private Members’ Bills, and I suspect that we may have to return to the matter in the next Parliament.

Photo of Thomas Docherty Thomas Docherty Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

The reality is that too many Bills have been leaving the House of Commons without adequate scrutiny and have to be salvaged in the other place. My hon. Friend Ms Eagle has proposed a new stage for Commons scrutiny—the whole House scrutiny stage. Does the Deputy Leader of the House accept that we need to improve scrutiny in this place, rather than simply using the Lords to bail us out?

Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons

I do, of course, accept that in this House we need scrutiny, but the Labour party is responsible for scrutiny and what we have seen in this Parliament is that far more Bills have finished early than was the case in the previous Parliament. I am afraid that is because the Opposition are not undertaking their job of scrutiny effectively.