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Points of Order

Volume 490: debated on Monday 30 March 2009

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Might you consider asking Mr. Speaker for a report on the proceedings and conduct of the Committee that considered the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill? From Thursday to Friday afternoon, it sat overnight for a total of 17 hours and serious disrespect was shown to the Chairman by the Government. It sat through the night, even though the programme motion still allowed for another day’s sitting, and the House had to remain staffed for the whole period, at short notice and considerable expense. That has cost the taxpayer a lot of money, just because of vindictive management by Labour Whips, as punishment to their own Ministers and Members, who failed to turn up at all on the Thursday morning. May I ask you to find out whether there can be a proper investigation into that?

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. As my hon. Friend the Member for Rutland and Melton (Alan Duncan) has just said, on Thursday we spent more than 17 hours in Committee, not finishing until midday on Friday, because the Government refused to adjourn the Committee until every clause of the Bill had been finished, despite the fact that we had available in the programme motion five and a half hours of time in Committee tomorrow, Tuesday 31 March. The reason the Government Whips Office did that was to punish Labour Back Benchers for failing to turn up on Thursday morning, as a consequence of which the Government lost three votes on their own amendments. Can you advise me how much that petulant fit of pique has cost the taxpayer in staff overtime, taxi fares and other House of Commons costs that would not have been incurred if we had used the time available in Committee tomorrow? Can you advise me whether that approach to managing a Bill is the most effective way to organise the scrutiny of legislation?

Hon. Members have raised the question of proceedings in a Committee. I inform them that such proceedings are matters for the Chairman of a Committee and not for the occupant of the Chair to rule on.