Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:09 pm on 3rd April 2019.

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Photo of Charles Walker Charles Walker Chair, Procedure Committee 3:09 pm, 3rd April 2019

I will be extremely brief.

First of all, I want to say to my right hon. Friend Sir Oliver Letwin, who introduced the motion, that what we are debating is not a constitutional outrage, and nor is it an abomination. I want him to be assured of that. I accept fully that Standing Orders belong to the House of Commons. I say to the shadow Leader of the House that she is entirely right to say that the Government are wrong not to divide on Opposition motions. I have said that before as Chairman of the Procedure Committee and I am happy to say it again now as Chairman of the Procedure Committee. I would also say, however, that the Government are entirely right in their construct of Select Committees and Standing Committees. They did not rig the system and I accept that what the Government did was the right decision to make. I said that at the time, as well.

I am, however, concerned about what we are doing today. I am concerned about precedent. I have been involved in such a Bill—I think I sat through all its stages in 2012—which became the Mental Health (Approval Functions) Act 2012. It was a public safety Bill and I understood then why it needed to go through the House very quickly. I wish it had not needed to go through the House so quickly. That was not an ideal situation, but we were trying to prevent people harming themselves and, potentially, others.

I do think that the texture—I say this as Chairman of the Procedure Committee, although I am not speaking on behalf of the Procedure Committee—of what we are doing today feels wrong. I cannot put my finger on it, but I think that we, as a House, will regret what we are doing today if the business motion is passed.