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House of Commons Commission

Volume 514: debated on Monday 26 July 2010

The hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the House of Commons Commission, was asked—

Early-day Motions

The cost of publishing early-day motions, including printing, staff time and technical support, was approximately £1 million in the financial year 2009-10. Printing alone accounts for some £776,000.

Taxpayers will be shocked by the figures that the hon. Gentleman has just read out to the House. Should this not offer scope for huge cost savings and, hopefully, be another nail in the coffin of the wretched EDM system?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his remarks, and he will be happy to know that from the start of this parliamentary Session older EDMs have not been reprinted weekly, saving 2.5 million sheets of paper and up to £300,000 in printing costs per year.

I confess that I have been here for only 18 years but I have not yet seen an EDM debated. Would it not be a good idea for us to pick four or five EDMs for debate in the course of a year and therefore, through the Backbench Business Committee or the Leader of the House, vent those issues and make the system better value for money?

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, but I cannot add to the points made by the Deputy Leader of the House and the hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis). As my right hon. Friend will no doubt know, this is a matter for the Procedure Committee or the Backbench Business Committee.

Would it not be a good way to save money to publish EDMs just on the internet and not print them on the Order Paper?

That is an interesting point. In 2007 the Procedure Committee said there should be no electronic tabling of EDMs without stronger authentication than that in place for questions.

My hon. Friend asks why. The Procedure Committee said there should not be such electronic tabling unless

“significantly stronger authentication than is currently required for parliamentary questions can be guaranteed”.

The Procedure Committee went on to say that it cannot therefore

“recommend the introduction of e-tabling for EDMs.”

I am happy to answer the hon. Gentleman’s question, and my hon. Friend’s question from a sedentary position.

Running Costs

7. Whether the House of Commons Commission plans to seek the views of hon. Members on ways of reducing the running costs of the House. (10704)

The Commission will seek the view of Members in the normal way through the Finance and Services Committee and the Administration Committee. I am pleased to see on today’s Order Paper the submission of names to the will of the House for both those Committees. The Commission will also welcome the submission of views from individual Members, which should be sent to the secretary of the Commission.

I understand the need for the House to cut its costs, but I am worried about the size of the cut in respect of Select Committee travel, because it will undermine the ability of Parliament to scrutinise the Government. Will the Commission seek savings in other areas which do not have a direct impact on how Parliament does its job? For example, at a time of widespread public concern about public sector bonuses, will the Commission examine what impact the bonus scheme for senior staff of this House has had on their output and productivity?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question. On the cuts in the Select Committee budgets, I am afraid that we are not able in this House to distinguish between one set of expenditure and another. The cuts announced recently are for this year only and are in response to the general financial stringency being applied to the public sector in the current year. Following scrutiny by the Finance and Services Committee last December, the Commission agreed to a reduction of 9% over three years and will consider the position for future years in the autumn. My hon. Friend’s point about bonuses will be included in that review.