Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:46 am on 30th March 2017.

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Photo of Ian Mearns Ian Mearns Chair, Backbench Business Committee 10:46 am, 30th March 2017

I thank the Leader of the House for advertising the forthcoming Backbench Business. I also thank him and his staff for arranging to move back by two hours the debates scheduled for Westminster Hall on 18 April and 2 May to allow Members travelling from their constituencies to get here in time for them. One additional piece of news is that we have determined that on Tuesday 25 April at 9.30 am there will be a 90-minute debate in Westminster Hall on post office closures, and on Tuesday 2 May at 11.30 am there will be a debate on voter ID and electoral fraud, also in Westminster Hall.

I am going to get my begging bowl out, Mr Speaker, not on behalf of my constituents—I know Government Members always accuse Members from the north-east of England of having a begging bowl—but on behalf of Back-Bench Members. In the week after the recess, on 20 April, we will have our 27th allotted day—actually, our 27th and one quarter allotted day—of Backbench Business, which is all that is allowed in this parliamentary Session. With my begging bowl out on behalf of Back-Bench Members, I ask the Leader of the House to please send any spare time our way. We already have a waiting list of debates.

I would just like to make a point of clarification. On Tuesday, during the Backbench Business debate on Yemen, the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mr Ellwood, on a point of order, asked whether it would be possible to use up the full allocation of time—up to 30 minutes before the House was due to rise. Madam Deputy Speaker responded by saying:

The House decided on the timetable.”

That was true, but she then went on to say:

“The Backbench Business Committee gave 90 minutes for this debate, and I am powerless to change that.”—[Official Report, 28 March 2017;
Vol. 624, c. 206-7.]

Mr Speaker, the Backbench Business Committee asked for a minimum of 90 minutes of protected time for the debate, but the Order Paper allowed a maximum of 90 minutes. The Backbench Business Committee determines the subject matter of debates. The allocation of time, and the way in which the Order Paper reflects that allocation, is not within its remit.