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Westminster Hall

Volume 532: debated on Thursday 8 September 2011

7. If he will take steps to encourage Secretaries of State to participate in debates in Westminster Hall pertaining to their Department. (70624)

Westminster Hall debates are an important mechanism for holding the Government to account. Secretaries of State do participate in debates in Westminster Hall, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development did recently.

May I make the Leader of the House aware that the Backbench Business Committee is keen to allocate as many days to Backbench business in Westminster Hall as he will give the Committee? That task would be made easier were he to encourage his fellow Secretaries of State to attend, listen to and respond to those debates.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. The Government have no ownership of the days in Westminster Hall—that falls between the Liaison Committee and the Backbench Business Committee—but I take to heart what he has said. My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, who attends Cabinet, will be speaking in a debate in Westminster Hall next Thursday.

Following on from that, if Secretaries of State attended Westminster Hall, perhaps Monday afternoon could be opened up for Westminster Hall debates, and the general debates we used to have in this Chamber on defence and Europe could be held there?

That is a helpful suggestion from my hon. Friend. He will know that the Procedure Committee is at the moment undertaking an inquiry into the calendar. Whether or not we open up Westminster Hall on a Monday afternoon is a proposition that my hon. Friend could usefully share with my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Mr Knight), who chairs that Committee.