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Business Committee

Volume 517: debated on Monday 25 October 2010

Does my hon. Friend agree that the House business Committee, allied with the Backbench Business Committee and the elections to Select Committees, has restored the balance of power between Parliament and the Executive? What other steps is he taking to redress that balance?

We have already introduced quite a hefty group of reforms. I place on the record again my gratitude to the Wright Committee for its work, although I do not think that its proposals are necessarily the end of the story. I hope that the work of the Procedure Committee and the work that we will continue to do in bringing forward suggestions from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and myself will give us the opportunity to ratchet up steadily the involvement of individual Members of the House, to enable them to do the job that they were sent here to do on behalf of their constituents, which is to represent their constituents properly and to hold the Government to account in both their legislative and executive functions. The previous Parliament was incapable of doing that simply because of the restrictions placed on it. I hope that we can now make steady progress in improving the reputation of the House.

But is not part of the job of an MP to introduce private Members’ Bills when they come first, or even ninth, in the ballot? It is vital that the House looks closely at private Members’ Bills and at the Committee stages to ensure that we are able to bring measures to the House and get them enacted?

We need to consider urgently how we scrutinise private Members’ legislation. The Procedure Committee is currently looking at that, and I hope that it will make proposals in the near future. Meanwhile, we will have to consider—my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House is considering this—how we best use the time made available by the slightly longer Session than usual to enable greater scrutiny and greater opportunities for private Members’ legislation already in the pipeline.

No, the hon. Gentleman is not standing. He was poised, perched like a panther. I call Mr Pete Wishart.

Will the hon. Gentleman assure me that the House business committee will be a Committee of the whole of the House, not just the Government parties and the Labour Opposition? What is he and the Leader of the House doing personally to ensure that smaller parties are properly represented on the new Committee?

The hon. Gentleman knows, because we discussed the matter very early in this Parliament, that the Wright Committee was not terribly helpful in its proposals to him and his colleagues. Having committed ourselves to implementing the Wright Committee, we were left in some difficulties. However, we need to ensure that the voices of smaller parties in the House are clearly heard. I hope that he will take part in the necessary discussions about the establishment of the House business committee to ensure that that is done in good order and in a way that is consistent with the Wright Committee proposals while reflecting best practice in the House.