Scheduling of Parliamentary Business

Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 6:21 pm on 17th July 2017.

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Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Constitution), Shadow SNP Leader of the House of Commons, Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee 6:21 pm, 17th July 2017

My hon. Friend is spot on. I share his frustration, as I think most in the Scottish National party do, about the way in which private Members’ Bills are progressed through the House. It is clearly unsatisfactory. I remember the private Member’s Bill sponsored by my colleague John Nicolson, which was stymied by the Government even though we had the necessary numbers here. The way in which certain Members of this House—none of them are in their place at this point—do all they can to talk out and filibuster private Members’ Bills is a disgrace to this House. Our constituents expect better than that. When their Members of Parliament are lucky enough, as my hon. Friend Stewart Malcolm McDonald has been, to secure the opportunity to introduce a private Member’s Bill, it is right and proper for them to expect those Bills to be properly debated in the House. I hope at some point we will be able to reform the process.

We support what the hon. Member for Walsall South said about the sittings for private Members’ Bills. Of course the number should be doubled and I really hope the Government do that.

There has to be a proper arrangement and a proper understanding about the time allocated for Opposition days. The Labour shadow Leader of the House was absolutely right that we are entitled to three Opposition days per parliamentary Session and we now expect six, given that it is a two-year Session. I hope the Leader of the House will confirm that.

We have to get all these things worked out. The arrangements of the House are clearly unsatisfactory and there are lots of things we need to do. I spent a couple of weeks in the usual channels before my hon. Friend Patrick Grady was put in place. I saw how the usual channels are working just now. There seems to be a misunderstanding about how the different parties’ requirements and expectations of this Parliament are to be met. I encourage the Leader of the House and the Whips Office to get a better grasp of the new reality of this House—this House of minorities, where nobody has a majority—and ensure that our business is equipped, shaped and designed to accommodate that new reality.

This zombie Parliament must get up and working. It must be allowed to do its work. It must allow the optimal conditions for scrutiny and empower us, as Members of Parliament, to do the work that our constituents sent us here to do. For goodness’ sake, let’s get on with it and let’s do it.