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Business Committee

Volume 517: debated on Monday 25 October 2010

The Government are committed to establishing a House business committee. The Backbench Business Committee, of which the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone) is a member, has got off to a good start, and we shall seek its views on how the House business Committee might operate.

Is it the intention of the Deputy Leader of the House that once the House business Committee is established it will subsume the Backbench Committee, or will the two Committees carry on in parallel?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that question. It is a fairly complex matter. If he re-reads the Wright Committee report, he will see that there is a degree of ambiguity about the precise interrelationship. I think the assumption is that the two Committees should sit alongside one another, with some common membership, but it is an area we need to discuss in detail with him and his hon. Friends on the Backbench Business Committee, and more widely in the House, so that we establish a system that will work for the whole House and make sure that both Back-Bench business and the interests of the House as a whole are protected.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the creation of the Backbench Business Committee was a necessary step to restore the value of Back-Bench business, which was badly neglected under the previous Government?

My hon. Friend will not be surprised to know that I entirely agree with him on that point. The Backbench Business Committee has made a good start in ensuring that important matters are brought before the House in a timely way. My greatest regret is the fact that the previous Government took so long to accede to the very reasonable request from the Wright Committee and many Members on both sides of the House to make that happen.

I warmly congratulate the Government on introducing the Backbench Business Committee, but can the Deputy Leader of the House guarantee that in future—as there always was in the past—there will be a European affairs debate before a European Council meeting and a full statement from the Prime Minister afterwards? This week, a European Council meeting will decide things such as our relationship with Russia and whether there should be Europe-wide regulation of the financial services industry, but the House will have not a single debate on it.

I can only say to the hon. Gentleman that the arrangement of statements is, of course, a matter for the Government. Other debates, as the Wright Committee clearly sets out, are a matter for the Backbench Business Committee. I am sure that his comments were heard by the Committee.

One of the most important reasons for setting up a House business Committee is to protect the rights of Members. Such a committee will not be set up in time to deal with the fiasco of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, but will the Deputy Leader of the House assure us that he will protect the rights of Members of this House by ensuring that the statutory instruments relating to the Bill are debated before Report, and that he will place a record of the Government’s discussions with the devolved Assemblies in the Library? Is it not right that matters concerning elections to this House should be debated first here and not in the unelected House?

I welcome the hon. Lady to her new position as shadow Deputy Leader of the House. I certainly do not recognise the word “fiasco” in any connection with that Bill, which will be in Committee later today.

The right hon. Gentleman says from a sedentary position that he does recognise the word “fiasco”, but the only fiasco I have come across in the course of our debates is the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) speaking for 50 minutes without mentioning his amendments. That may have been part of the problem of timing in relation to the Bill.