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Private Members’ Bills — [Valerie Vaz in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:50 am on 13th April 2016.

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Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons 10:50 am, 13th April 2016

I only have two more minutes before the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington sums up.

On public perception, use and abuse, people have thrown about the word “filibuster.” I recognise that it is generic, but it is for the Chair to keep order in debate, and the Chairs do respond to filibustering. MPs and organisations need to be clear with their constituents, and with the people who contact them, about expectations. We have talked about the National Health Service Bill, which Caroline Lucas presented on 1 July 2015. On that day, when she was asked, she said that Second Reading would be on 11 March 2016. There was zero chance of that Bill ever becoming law, and it was actually quite unlikely to get a debate. We have to remember that, historically, such Bills were the only way that Back Benchers could get debates in the House. We now have more opportunities, through the Backbench Business Committee, debates on petitions and a lot more Westminster Hall debates. In a way, we have other opportunities to raise issues, rather than just through legislation.

Having a dedicated day for private Members’ Bills matters. In the last Parliament, the House voted not to sit on Tuesday evenings, and I have heard it suggested that the House should sit on Wednesday evenings. There may be an opportunity for the House to reconsider its sitting hours, which I am sure the Procedure Committee is considering. There have been six written submissions to the current inquiry and five oral sessions, in which MPs, Clerks and journalists have contributed, and members of the Procedure Committee are here today. The Government look forward with eager anticipation to the publication of the Committee’s report, and there may be an opportunity to debate it in due course—it is open to any Select Committee to try to secure such a debate on a report.

This has been an interesting and full debate, and I encourage Members to recognise that they can help to shape legislation—it is not just about the Government. The Government have the mandate, but people can work together on other issues. As Justin Madders said, 11 September 2015 was one of the most powerful days that I have been in Parliament, and I was pleased with the outcome. Nevertheless, it was an opportunity for each and every Member, and a majority of Members came along and expressed their view decisively.