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Parliamentary Business

Volume 301: debated on Wednesday 26 November 1997

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To ask the President of the Council if she will list those types of business for which time for debate on the Floor of the House has ceased to be available since 1979. [17089]

Supply days were replaced by Opposition and Estimates Days in 1982. At the same time Consolidated Fund Bills ceased to be debated, with the same time allocated instead for overnight private Members' adjournment debates. The separate debate on public expenditure plans was amalgamated with the Budget debate when the unified budget was introduced in 1993 and a debate on the summer economic forecast was introduced. Estimates days and three Wednesday mornings now provide up to 12 opportunities for debates on select committee reports which did not exist in 1979.Money resolutions and ways and means resolutions, if taken on the same day as the second reading of the bill, are now put without debate, but are debatable for 45 minutes if taken at other times. The second reading of Law Commission Bills is now normally taken in a second reading committee but may still be taken on the floor of the House.Similarly, the committee stage of consolidation bills may be dispensed with and the third reading taken without debate. Although more statutory instruments and EU documents are now taken in committee rather than on the floor of the House, they may be debated on the floor.Since 1979 the only item of business which has ceased to exist is the Private members' motion. Until 1994 up to about 18 Members a year moved such motions, mainly on Fridays. These, together with the three overnight sittings on the Consolidated Fund Bill and the last day before recess debates, have been replaced under the Jopling reforms by private Members' adjournment debates on Wednesday mornings. A total of 128 hours was spent on such debates in the last normal-length session (1995–96) compared with 106 hours on the previous business in the session before the change. These have created some 160 separate opportunities each session for backbenchers to raise subjects of their choice.