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PRAYERS - [Mr Speaker in the Chair]

– in the House of Commons at 9:34 am on 6th July 2018.

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Photo of Steve Reed Steve Reed Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) (Civil Society) 9:34 am, 6th July 2018

I beg to move, That the House sit in private.

Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 163), and negatived.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point of order arises from what happened following the sitting on 15 June and Lord Pannick’s article in The Times yesterday on the need for Bills to be scrutinised properly. We do not know how many of the 34 Bills on today’s Order Paper will be discussed before 2.30. I personally hope we will be able to reach the Bill introduced by Paul Flynn on the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

I seek your advice on those Bills that will not be debated today. How can it be made clear to the Government, parliamentary colleagues and the wider public, including social media, that an objection to a Bill going through on the nod is not a commentary on the merits of the contents of the Bill, but a demand for proper scrutiny? I am sure, for example, that if the Government object to my Public Sector Exit Payments (Limitation) Bill today, it will not be because they object to the substance, which they concede will save the taxpayer hundreds of millions of pounds.

Is there any way in which we can ensure an opportunity for the reasons for objections to be articulated, and can you also advise on what can be done to dampen public expectations that Bills undebated today should, on the whim of the Government, be able to queue-jump Bills that have been successful in the private Member’s ballot, received a Second Reading and are waiting for the Government to facilitate discussion in Committee? If the Government support a private Member’s Bill, is not the proper course to convert it into a Government Bill, as has been done with the Voyeurism (Offences) (No. 2) Bill?

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. Under existing arrangements, an objection at the moment of interruption suffices to prevent the progress of a Bill. There is no provision for an explanation of the reasons for that objection. If our private Member’s Bill procedure were to be reformed, as many people—myself and the Procedure Committee included—were to be successful in bringing about, if there were to be a change to the procedure, part of the change could relate to the objection process. However, if memory serves me correctly, when the Procedure Committee recommended a change to the existing procedure, it did not recommend—and nobody else recommended—a change on that point.

There was of course great controversy three weeks ago, and the hon. Gentleman has to fend for himself in the public domain in seeking to defend his decision. In procedural terms, I emphasise that no impropriety took place. That is all that I can say today. It would be perfectly possible for the House to reform the private Member’s Bill procedure, but not everybody in the House wishes to do so, and it has been obvious to me that the Government have not wished to do so. Mr Walker brought forward a report on this matter, which the Government have shown no enthusiasm for bringing to the House with a view to implementing. We had better leave it there, if there are no further points of order.