Skip to main content

Points of Order

Volume 501: debated on Tuesday 24 November 2009

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. This morning, the Select Committee on Reform of the House of Commons produced an extremely important report. Unfortunately, at last Thursday’s business questions the Leader of the House declined to say when the report might be debated and declined to come to give a statement to the House today on how the Government might respond to it. Could you use your good offices to advance the case made by this excellent report and, indeed, to give the House an opportunity to debate it, so that we may add to or subtract from it as we see fit?

The hon. Gentleman is anticipating business questions and asking a business question on Tuesday that would be suitable subject matter for a question on Thursday. I am, very properly, conscious of and focused on this subject. I am watching events with close interest, as he would expect. He might want to raise the matter on Thursday. There will be opportunities—and soon, I am sure—for these matters further to be considered and it is right that they should be, with a clear indication of how events should proceed.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can you use your good offices to see whether we can have a feed of the Chilcot inquiry into Iraq on our parliamentary channels? There is considerable interest in the inquiry. I am aware that if one has a BBC red button, one can push that, but we have no such buttons on our sets.

I understand that in technical terms the matter is relatively straightforward. I have noted what the right hon. Lady says, although I am not quite sure that it constitutes a point of order. As always, I want to be helpful and I know that she has the interests of the House at heart. I will ask officials to be in contact with her with a view to seeing whether her request, which I suspect will be reflected elsewhere in the House, can be accommodated.

In business questions last week, I raised with the Leader of the House the question of the House’s ability to scrutinise Government Bills, particularly on Report and particularly in relation to the Equality Bill, which is her Bill. She accepted that she had given undertakings to consult Opposition parties about how that would be dealt with, given that it is a huge Bill with many amendments and that there will be multiple groups of amendments. However, without any consultation, only one day has been allocated and that will not be sufficient to even touch proper scrutiny. Have you heard from the Leader of the House whether there will be reconsideration of that provisional business? An announcement on Thursday might be very late for business scheduled for next Wednesday and it is very difficult for the House to provide scrutiny if we do not get good notice as well as sufficient time.

I think that the hon. Gentleman has a lot in common today with the hon. Member for North Essex (Mr. Jenkin), at least in the sense that he is asking a business question on Tuesday that could reasonably be asked on Thursday. I also remember very distinctly the list of dates recited by the hon. Member for Oxford, West and Abingdon (Dr. Harris) in the House last week on which he had previously made the request for due consideration on Report over two days of the matters in question. I feel sure that the concerns that he has again articulated will have been heard by those on the Front Bench and by the Leader of the House. I have no power to influence the matter further, but he has raised an extremely important concern. He might be tempted to raise it again, and I feel sure that if it is raised again it will be heard.