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In my 23 years in Parliament I have never seen a Government behave in such a grubby and underhand way. In October 2011 the Procedure Committee published its report. At the express request of the Government, the Committee did not pursue bringing forward the necessary debate in that Session. In the following Session, in February 2013, the Committee looked again at its report and concluded that it did not feel that a change was necessary. However, it wrote to the Government to request a debate on a Monday or Tuesday to allow the House to consider the matter properly and to ensure that as many Members as possible were present. The Government refused. The Committee raised the matter again in the previous Session with both the current Leader of the House and his predecessor. On every occasion the Government refused to grant time. As recently as February, the Chair of the Committee wrote to the Leader of the House to ask for a debate, stating that it
“should not be tucked away on a Thursday afternoon”.
The Government again refused to grant that request.
What has changed over the past six weeks? Why did the Government, who had so resolutely refused to allow the debate for three and a half years, suddenly change their mind on Tuesday? Why did the Government decide that this motion was so sensitive that it would not and could not be discussed with Opposition Front Benchers, the Chair of the Committee or even the Speaker himself? Why did the Leader of the House wait until the last moment yesterday before tabling it, without any warning or notification to anyone? Why did he claim to me that the Government Chief Whip had spoken to the Procedure Committee Chair in the afternoon, when in fact no such conversation had taken place? Why is the motion before us today the complete opposite of the motion drafted by the Committee and given to the Government?
Is not the truth that this is nothing to do with the Procedure Committee’s report and everything to do with the character of the Prime Minister? It is a petty and spiteful act because he hates his Government being properly scrutinised, thanks to this reforming Speaker. The Leader of the House should be ashamed of himself for going along with it.