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Standing Orders (Public Business)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:21 pm on 22nd October 2015.

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Photo of Charles Walker Charles Walker Chair, Procedure Committee 1:21 pm, 22nd October 2015

I shall try to be brief, Madam Deputy Speaker, because although the 50 hon. Members waiting to speak are very interested in what I have to say, I know that they are much more interested in what they have to say. Now is not the time for great oratory.

I would first like to thank the Procedure Committee, which I chair, for working so hard and producing an excellent report. I also thank the Leader of the House, who has been open and straightforward in his dealings with the Committee, which makes a welcome change from his predecessor. I know that the issue ignites strong feelings in the House, which is another reason why I shall be brief, because we need to hear as many views as possible. Also, I do not understand why we cannot move the vote to 5 o’clock this afternoon, or perhaps later.

The concept of EVEL is easy to understand, but the proposals attached to it are extremely complex, and Members on both sides of the House should be in no doubt about that. The shadow Leader of the House said that 742 additional lines of Standing Orders are proposed. I disagree, because I make it 733, but who is going to quibble over nine lines. Between four and eight additional stages are potentially being injected into the legislative process, which may have huge consequences for the transacting of legislation in this place. We cannot have any truncation of Report stage or Third Reading.

The idea that certification will always be done smoothly, with one stage followed by the next, is for the birds. There will be times when the process of scrutinising Bills is interrupted for a significant period of time while finely nuanced decisions about certification are taken. I do not believe that the decisions taken by the Speaker will end up before a court. Someone might try to bring them before a court, but the proceedings of this House are protected by the Bill of Rights. The Speaker will be able to call on his Counsel, senior Clerks and two senior members of the Panel of Chairs.

We are entering new territory, so of course we will have to experiment. That is why the Procedure Committee will return to the House in a year with a review of the early stages of the process. We will be forceful in putting our view at that stage.