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Topical Debates

Volume 473: debated on Thursday 20 March 2008

31. If she will take steps to pass responsibility for the arrangements for the selection of matters for topical debate to the Chairman of Ways and Means; and if she will make a statement. (195475)

My right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House announced a review of the operation of topical debates in a written ministerial statement on 7 February. The hon. Gentleman can submit his views to that review. The results will be published before the summer recess.

These are my views, so I hope that the Leader of the House will take note of them. I suggested the Chairman of Ways and Means in my question because I know that you are very busy, Mr. Speaker. The point is, however, that topical debates are currently decided by the Government based on what they feel like—what announcement the Prime Minister made on Monday—instead of issues of topicality. If these debates are to be topical and useful to the House of Commons, we should have issues that can be debated seriously in this House, that mean something and that are topical, instead of some Government stooge debate. We need proper debates: ones that the House wants, not ones that the Leader of the House or the Government want.

The hon. Gentleman should take a more balanced view of the matter. On 7 February, the topical debate was on NHS staffing—a suggestion of his colleague, the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May). We have also discussed Holocaust memorial day, Kenya, preventive health services, availability of financial services for low-income families, the health consequences of the availability of cheap alcohol, future prospects for apprenticeships and climate change. The first topical debate was also based on a suggestion from his right hon. Friend; it was on immigration.