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Programming of Business

Volume 512: debated on Monday 21 June 2010

6. What his policy is on the use of programme motions to regulate proceedings on legislation; and if he will make a statement. (3027)

The Government intend to provide adequate time for consideration of Bills on Report, when the most serious problems occurred in the last Parliament.

The Minister and I regularly used to vote against the previous Government’s routine use of programme motions in the last Parliament. What will be different about this Government, so that we do not have the situation where people in opposition complain about programme motions, but in government routinely use them?

The hon. Gentleman remembers well what happened in the last Parliament, when very often huge parts of Bills were not considered by the House, which was a disgrace. What will be different is that there will be fewer Bills, better drafted Bills and an end to the automatic guillotine of the Report stage. However, that depends on all parts of the House having a grown-up attitude to how we consider business. [Interruption.] I hear the grown-up attitude evinced by Opposition Members.

Is not the answer to remove timetabling, or at least relax it, so that it no longer strangles debate in the House? For years now, Bills have gone through with very little debate on key parts. The answer is to go back to a time before the Jopling proposals, when we had full and free debate, and when the House could sit as late as was necessary.

This is the first opportunity that I have had to welcome the hon. Gentleman back to the House. I am very pleased to see him here.

Yes, we want to ensure that the bits of Bills that need longer scrutiny receive that scrutiny, and that we have a sensible dialogue with all Members of the House—the establishment of the Backbench Business Committee will help us in non-legislative areas—to ensure that the House has its say on matters about which it is concerned, and that we do not waste time on areas where no one has a genuine interest. That is what I mean when I talk about a grown-up way of looking at the business of the House. Let us hope we get it.