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Pre-Adjournment Debate

Volume 521: debated on Thursday 20 January 2011

4. What assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the format of the pre-Adjournment debate held on 21 December 2010. (34731)

May I say how much I welcome the decision of the Backbench Business Committee to retain the pre-recess Adjournment debate, which is a venerable institution, as indeed are the contributions of the hon. Member for Southend West (Mr Amess) to it, as they always provide a tour d’horizon of his constituency? We are always very pleased to know what is going on in Southend West.

I congratulate the Backbench Business Committee and its excellent Chairman on their innovative work and I am delighted that all those who wanted to speak in that Adjournment debate were called, but does the Minister have any feel for whether the new arrangements have achieved the objectives on ministerial responses?

I think that ministerial responses—I set aside my own efforts—were better than usual, simply because they were informed by a pre-knowledge of the topics that Members intended to raise.

Forty-five Members participated in the debate on 21 December 2010, compared with 23 in 2009 and 25 in 2008, and I believe that according to most measures that must be considered a success.

Not only did 45 Members speak, but every Member who wanted to speak was able to do so. The fact that six Ministers responded from the Dispatch Box made the occasion very popular with Back Benchers, and also ensured that they were much more able to hold the Government to account. The debate was in its usual slot, but does the Deputy Leader of the House welcome the fact that the Backbench Business Committee has done some innovating of its own?

I think it is terrific that the Backbench Business Committee is prepared to consider new ways of doing things in order to establish whether we can improve the procedures of the House, and I can only congratulate it on doing so. I am particularly grateful to the hon. Lady for ensuring that I had sufficient time in which to address, at least briefly, the points raised in the debate.

I know—my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will announce it later—that the hon. Lady’s Committee has decided that there is scope for a debate on parliamentary reform, and I think that that too is extremely useful. We will work closely with the Committee in trying to do things better in future, and I hope that the hon. Lady will continue her good work.

There is no reason why the end-of-term Adjournment debate need take place only at the end of term. It could take place on other occasions in the parliamentary timetable as well. Would the Deputy Leader of the House welcome that?

I always welcome opportunities for Back Benchers to have their say on matters that concern them and their constituents, and I am always happy to make myself available to respond to such debates. I am sure that my ministerial colleagues would say the same.