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Leader of the House

Volume 554: debated on Thursday 29 November 2012

The Leader of the House was asked—

House Business Committee

I continue to consider this matter and I look forward to further constructive discussions on the issue with the Procedure Committee and others.

I am concerned about the timetable. Yesterday, the Prime Minister expressed regret, in an answer to the hon. Member for North West Cambridgeshire (Mr Vara), that he did not have control of the House of Commons agenda, but actually he does have control of most of the House agenda. A decision of the House was made in 2010 and the proposal was in the coalition agreement. When are we actually going to see the House business committee?

As I said, it is my responsibility as Leader of the House to ensure that we make progress in enabling the House to conduct its business effectively and efficiently. It is incumbent on me to ensure that any development in this area takes into account the progress that we have already made since May 2010. For example, just last week the Procedure Committee published its review of the operation of the Backbench Business Committee. That gives us important information about that progress, which has been very positive. It also enables us to consider the question of a House business committee constructively.

The Leader of the House could make a real name for himself. I would like to see him as the chairman of this new parliamentary timetabling committee, but should he not be elected by the whole House rather than being appointed by the Executive? I am sure that he would get a lot of support from Members on both sides of the House.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his solicitude for my future. When I was talking about constructive discussions, I was including the discussions that I have had with him, and with many others across the House, to ensure that we add value to the way in which the House manages its business. That is what I am looking to do.

We know that there is no greater champion of the House business committee than the Government Chief Whip, who said two years ago that

“we must not lose sight of the progress that we want to see made in the third year of this Parliament on a House business committee”.—[Official Report, 15 June 2010; Vol. 511, c. 782.]

Given that we are halfway through that third year, when will the Leader of the House sit down with me to discuss how he intends to turn the Chief Whip’s vision into reality?

I share with the shadow Leader of the House admiration for what the former Leader of the House, now the Patronage Secretary, has achieved. In the context of the establishment of the Backbench Business Committee and the clear progress consequent upon it, I want to make sure that we follow up constructively on the progress already made.

Following on from that, will the Leader of the House confirm that whenever the House business committee is established, there will still be a valuable role for the Backbench Business Committee to play and that that role will continue?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who illustrates precisely the point that I hope I was making, which is that we want to build on the progress that has been made and that we want to do it in a constructive way. The progress made regarding the Backbench Business Committee, as illustrated in the Procedure Committee’s report last week, provides a very good basis on which to continue those discussions.