Skip to main content

Business of the House

Volume 494: debated on Thursday 25 June 2009

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That, at this day’s sitting, the Speaker shall put the Questions necessary to dispose of proceedings on:

(a) the Motion in the name of Ms Harriet Harman relating to Regional Select Committee (London) not later than one hour after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order; and

(b) the Motions in the name of Ms Harriet Harman relating to Standing Orders Etc. (Machinery of Government Changes) and Parliamentary Pensions not later than five o’clock;

such Questions shall include the Questions on any Amendments selected by the Speaker which may then be moved; the Questions may be put after the moment of interruption; and Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply.—(Barbara Keeley.)

We have the extraordinary situation in which we are discussing a business motion, but a substantial part of the business has already been withdrawn by the Government. Given that the motion to establish a Select Committee on the reform of the House was withdrawn yesterday—the same day that it was tabled—the House will have much more time than it would otherwise have had to discuss the remaining motions.

May I put on the record my agreement with the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) and say that it is regrettable that we will not have the opportunity to debate the motions on the Regional Committees, especially as there has been no consultation on them? That means that Members will have more than enough time to make their views plain on the proposal to establish a Regional Select Committee for London, as well as to comment on the motion to change the Select Committee structure that follows the recent reshuffle and consequential changes to Departments.

I see no reason why we will not have enough time to consider the proposal to have a Science and Technology Committee, a point that was made at last week’s business questions by many hon. Members. We should also have more than enough time to debate the motion and amendment on parliamentary pensions. Following the Government’s U-turn last night on their proposals, we all look forward to the Leader of the House explaining her new position. It is not the intention of the Opposition to put the business motion to a Division, but this motion shows the Government’s complete disarray.

There will be great rejoicing that there is so much support for and interest in the Regional Grand Committees in motions 6 to 13. That underlines the point that my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the House has been making—that Members on both sides of the House should take part in Regional Committees and ensure that all those initiatives, including the Grand Committees, go forward as robustly as possible and extend regional accountability, which I am sure we all support.

My right hon. and learned Friend gave several answers at business questions on the issue of the parliamentary reform Committee. We are moving ahead on a consensual basis, in consultation with all interested parties, and we hope to bring forward an agreed resolution as soon as possible. The motion on the science Committee is included in the next motion on the Order Paper.

I had not intended to participate in this debate, but in the light of the incredibly disingenuous remarks from the Deputy Leader of the House, I shall do so. Surely she would accept that the way to ensure consultation with people in the regions is to consult Members to see whether the dates proposed for the meetings of these Grand Committees are convenient. The substantive motions are not debatable, so perhaps I may take this opportunity to ask the Deputy Leader of the House—I would be happy to give way to her—to explain why the dates chosen are reasonable—

Order. The hon. Gentleman is widening the debate a little too far. It is not his fault, because both Front Benchers have led him astray, but I would be grateful if he would now confine his remarks to the motion.

The motions curtail the debate today to 5 pm at the latest, when the Divisions will take place. However, I understand that the Government intend to accept the amendment on motion 5, which means that there will be a potential gap between 5 pm and 6 pm—perhaps even a longer gap if the debate finishes early—during which time it would be possible to discuss other issues.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the time necessary to debate these matters could have been much less if proper consultation had taken place beforehand?

I agree with my right hon. Friend. Consultation is the key, and it is clear that it is not taking place between occupants of the Front Benches or with Back Benchers on key procedural matters. If the Deputy Leader of the House is too stubborn to admit that she has made a mistake on this occasion, perhaps she will reflect on the fact that this is causing immense disquiet among Back Benchers, who feel left out of the loop. They have been presented with a fait accompli—the motions cannot be amended—and are frustrated to note that the Government are wasting the House’s time at the same time as they are forcing legislation through on tight timetables.

I hope that the Deputy Leader of the House will agree that these are issues of immense gravity and seriousness, and go to the heart of the question of whether this is a Chamber of the legislature or just somewhere for the Executive to do their own thing.

Question put and agreed to.