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Business of the House (6 February)

Volume 558: debated on Monday 4 February 2013

I beg to move,

That, at the sitting on Wednesday 6 February—

(1) notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph (2) (c) of Standing Order No. 14 (Arrangement of public business), Opposition business may be proceeded with for three hours, and shall then lapse if not previously disposed of, and

(2) notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order No. 20 (Time for taking private business), the Private Business set down by the Chairman of Ways and Means shall be entered upon at the conclusion of the Opposition business, and may then be proceeded with, though opposed, for three hours, after which the Speaker shall interrupt the business; and the business may be entered upon after the moment of interruption.

The Government are facilitating the protection of both the Opposition half day allocated to the Democratic Unionist party and the opposed private business set down for Wednesday, with three hours each. Without this motion, any votes, statements, urgent questions or other business would curtail the amount of time available to Members for these important debates. I commend this motion to the House.

Briefly, I see no reason at all why we cannot have the normal arrangements, whereby three hours is allocated to private business between 4 o’clock and 7 o’clock on Wednesday. When such motions have been carried in the past, they have sometimes resulted in the private business continuing beyond 7 o’clock and the people promoting and speaking to that business being criticised by the Whips and colleagues for keeping the House late. The private business should be taken between 4 o’clock and 7 o’clock, and if the business managers so arrange things that they cannot deal with the other business before 4 o’clock and the private business has to continue after 7 o’clock, so be it. Obviously I am not going to divide the House on this matter this evening, but I put people on notice that if on Wednesday the private business continues beyond 7 o’clock and people start bellyaching about it, I hope they will not bellyache against those of us who take a keen interest in private business, but will criticise the Government and the business managers.

As it is private business, it is not whipped business, so hon. Members will be completely free to go home whenever they feel like it as the private Bill is going through. No one will think otherwise.

My hon. Friend so often articulates the traditional view—indeed, the correct view—but unfortunately it is not consistent with the document outlining the Whip that I saw on the internet over the weekend.

The Vice-Chamberlain of the Household was nodding vigorously as I was making my intervention, so I think I had authoritative support from the Whips.

That puts a slightly different complexion on it. It means that if we approve this motion, all my hon. Friends and Opposition Members will be free immediately after the Opposition day business and will not need to stay for the private business. Following my hon. Friend’s useful contribution, I hope that the Whip will be altered accordingly to reflect the fact that people on this side of the House will be free to leave at 4 o’clock at the latest on Wednesday and that we can then have the private business in our time and under our own rules, with those who are interested in participating present in the House and others who are not so interested absent. On that basis—that the Government are changing the whipping, so that private business is not whipped business—I shall not push this matter to a vote.