I should like to make a short business statement regarding the business for tomorrow and the remainder of this week.
I shall make a further business statement in the usual way on Thursday.
May I thank the Leader of the House for providing an extra day to debate the very important issue of Northern Ireland? As he is amending the business for this week, will he consider allowing a debate on the message from the Lords on setting up a Joint Committee? It has to report by
First, may I thank the hon. Lady for her thanks—let us keep the thanks going—for the additional time for the Northern Ireland Bill? This important issue was raised during Thursday’s business statement, both by the hon. Lady and by Conor McGinn, and I am pleased that we have managed to come to an arrangement for extra time.
I take on board the hon. Lady’s comment about the message from the Lords in respect of the Joint Committee, and I will give that further thought.
As to whether this is a one-off, we will continue to listen to the House and make sure that appropriate time is available for the business of this place.
May I also thank the Leader of the House for the very short business statement? It seems like business is being organised on the hoof again. That was a feature of this Government’s handling of business a few weeks ago, when any significant business seemed to fall or be hastily rearranged by a business statement like today’s. Can we please just get back to business as usual? There is no reason why the Leader of the House could not have announced the extra day during last Thursday’s business statement. I do not understand why the business has had to be hastily reorganised.
The changes might not bother the Leader of the House and his colleagues, who will get to spend a full seven weeks with their children during the school holidays, but we are right in the middle of the Scottish school holidays; we have to make arrangements, and change our plans to be here. I know he could not care less, and all previous Leaders of the House have seemed to care very little, about our childcare arrangements. Even my hon. Friend Gavin Newlands, our spokesperson for Northern Ireland, has childcare issues this week.
Can we please get back to organising business properly? There is nothing wrong with announcing business two weeks in advance and sticking to it, like we used to do. Let us have no more business that has been hastily arranged on the hoof. Let us get back to something resembling normal in this place.
I feel that we cannot win. On the one hand, when I bring the business to the House on a Thursday, right hon. and hon. Members ask me questions and press me to make changes; on the other, when we come to the House with a change, we are criticised for apparently making up the Order Paper on the hoof. I would say it is a matter of listening to the House. The hon. Gentleman has, understandably, raised this issue of school holidays, I think in the context of recess dates, in the past. I have said to him, and I say to him again now, that if he wishes to meet to speak about Scottish school holidays in the context of the business in this place, I am very happy to do that.
I agree with Pete Wishart, who speaks for the Scottish National party on business of the House, about the ordering of business. I am a member of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which met in Luxembourg from last Wednesday to today. Getting information about what was going on in the House this week was really quite difficult. I do not understand why, when there is so little business in the House, we cannot have notice two weeks in advance, as we have had for many years, so that we can plan our diaries, make arrangements and table amendments in good time.
As I have already stated, while I fully accept the benefits and value of having advance notice of, and certainty about, the business of the House, the reality is that we should maintain the ability to be flexible, sometimes at short notice. Points were made to me on Thursday, including by the shadow Leader of the House and Conor McGinn, about the time allocated for this business. I am pleased that on this occasion we have been able to respond.