Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:10 pm on 3rd April 2019.

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Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Conservative, Forest of Dean 4:10 pm, 3rd April 2019

I accept some of the arguments that the hon. Gentleman makes. I have not been a member of this Government; I have not served as a Minister under this Prime Minister. Certainly when I was a Minister and when I was responsible for scheduling the business of the House as the Government Chief Whip, we did vote on Opposition days, and when we had a longer Session we gave the Opposition the appropriate number of days. I often argued that we should restrain the use of our majority, to ensure that we behaved properly. There is some substance in what the hon. Gentleman says. There has been, to some extent, an equal and opposite reaction by the Opposition, who have explored mechanisms such as use of the Humble Address because they have been frustrated that the Government have not responded appropriately to Opposition days. The Government should reflect on that.

But in a way, that rather proves my point, which is that if Members behave in this way today and ram through a piece of controversial, contested legislation without a consensus in the House, they should not be surprised if in future a Government with a majority use this precedent and behave in the same way. When those Members are arguing against that, they will find the arguments they are making today being thrown back at them, and the force of their argument will be undercut.