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Topical Debates

Volume 475: debated on Thursday 8 May 2008

As set out in the written ministerial statement of 7 February announcing the review, my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House has asked for comments to inform the review by 23 May. The results of the review will be published to the House before the summer recess. This will help to inform any decision of the House on whether to make permanent the Standing Orders that introduced topical debates on an experimental basis for the 2007-08 Session, or whether any changes to the Standing Orders may be necessary.

The Deputy Leader of the House will be aware that the Procedure Committee is undertaking an inquiry into this matter, in addition to the review by the Leader of the House. Will the Deputy Leader of the House not concede that the current method of choosing topical debates is not transparent, and that it appears to be the decision of the Government when it should be the decision of Back Benchers—and would it not be sensible to have a Committee set up, under the chairmanship of a Back-Bench Member?

I will take the hon. Gentleman’s remarks as his contribution to the review. I have seen the Procedure Committee report on this question. I would like to point out to him that topical debates are held in Government time, and that if he were to look through the subjects that we have addressed over the past six months, he would see that they have been suggested by Members from across the House, including many Back Benchers. Therefore, until we have examined the matter, I cannot promise him that we will change the way in which the choice is made.