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Business of the House

Volume 566: debated on Tuesday 9 July 2013

With permission, I would like to make a short business statement following the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.

The Home Secretary announced that the Government have committed to a vote in this House and the other place before formally deciding on the United Kingdom’s opt-out decision pursuant to article 10 of protocol 36 to the treaty of the functioning of the European Union.

It will assist the House to know that we intend to schedule that debate and vote to take place on Monday 15 July. As a consequence, the Second Reading of the Defence Reform Bill, provisionally announced at the most recent business questions to take place on that day, will now take place on Tuesday 16 July.

As announced in the earlier statement, the House will also have the opportunity to debate the new Europol proposal, as set out by the Home Secretary in her statement, on Monday 15 July, following the opt-out debate that I have just confirmed.

I will be pleased to answer any questions on the management of business when I make my usual weekly business statement on Thursday.

I thank the Leader of the House for giving me early sight of his statement.

It would be incredibly helpful if the Leader of the House told us when the motion for the debate will be published. The Government must have known for some time that they were going to schedule this business for next Monday, yet there is no clear indication of what the motion will look like. Will the Leader of the House commit to ensuring that the motion will be published before the close of today’s business, and will he confirm that it will be amendable?

Is the Leader of the House prepared to guarantee the time that will be available for debate on Monday? Yesterday we heard two major statements which, taken together, seriously curtailed the time available for debate on the main business of the House. Will he therefore guarantee the time that will be available for the debate on this important topic on Monday?

May I go one step further and ask why the debate on this topic has been scheduled so quickly, especially given that the Home Affairs Committee was promised that it would have the chance to scrutinise the proposals before a decision was taken? We will not have the benefit of the views of the Home Affairs Committee on the proposals before we debate and vote on them on Monday.

Will the Leader of the House confirm that he will guarantee the time available for the debate, and explain why there is such urgency and why the Home Affairs Committee has been denied the opportunity to scrutinise the proposals before the House debates them?

As I have just announced the business for Monday, the motion will be tabled in good time so that the House may consider it.

On the timing of the debate, the business on Monday will relate to the justice and home affairs opt-out and opt-in measures and the subsequent Europol measure. There is no other business, so there will be a full day’s debate on those related issues.

On the Select Committee issue, the hon. Lady will have heard what my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said and I completely endorse that. The Home Secretary was very clear about the Government’s intentions in October. In today’s Command Paper, we have been very clear about the principle behind what the Government are setting out to do. The House will have an opportunity to debate that and to vote on a substantive motion on Monday, which gives rise to the opportunity for amendment. We have been very clear that that is required so that my right hon. Friends the Home Secretary and the Justice Secretary may lead negotiations with the Commission and other member states. That process will lead to another vote in 2010. I am absolutely clear that we are giving the House the opportunities to debate and vote on these matters as we have promised.

I am grateful to the Leader of the House for making an emergency business statement, but he has not explained why there is such urgency. I heard what the Home Secretary said, but I was not convinced that the matter needs to be rushed through now. I ask the Leader of the House to consider two options. Preferably, he will put the debate off until September. At the very least, he should put it in the last week before the recess.

I inadvertently spoke of a further vote in 2010. I meant 2014.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) should always trust in what the Home Secretary says, as I do. She is right about this matter. I know from our discussions that it is important that she has the backing of the House as her negotiations with the Commission and other member states accelerate and acquire substance. That must be available to her at the earliest possible time.

The very fact that this is an emergency business statement suggests that this is an inappropriate way of doing business on a matter that is of substantial national security interest. If the Leader of the House were honest, he would listen to the voices across the House that are suggesting that emergency business is not a wise policy to adopt for next Monday. He has not replied to the specific question of whether the motion on Monday will be amendable.

Order. I hope, for the avoidance of doubt, that the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that the Leader of the House is other than honest.

I am grateful for that, Mr Speaker, because I might have imagined otherwise from what the hon. Gentleman said. I am always honest with the House. This is an emergency business statement because it is not a business statement in the normal course of events. The structure of the business will give the House the opportunity to debate and vote on these issues in the way that we had anticipated.

May I press my right hon. Friend on when the motion will be tabled, because if it is tabled tomorrow it will enable Members on both sides of the House who are concerned about this issue to see whether we can reach an agreement about an amendment?

When my hon. Friend looks at the Command Paper that is published today by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, he will see what will be the substance of the debate on Monday. That is what it will focus on. The motion will be published in good time. He can take it that the effect of the motion will be to support the Government’s proposals, as set out in the Command Paper.

This is probably the most important European question that we will have to decide on in this Parliament. According to the treaty of Lisbon, a decision has to be taken before 2014. The Government have known from the time the treaty was signed that a debate would be needed with proper time, as the Minister for Europe promised, before the end of this year. Surely it would make sense to have a reasonable period of discussion on this extremely important issue. A number of Members have expressed concerns and reservations on which they want clarification. Let us have a proper debate.

It is particularly important that Select Committees have plenty of time to reach their conclusions. We have heard from the Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee that his Committee needs to give these matters proper deliberation.

I hope that the Leader of the House has second thoughts. I am sure that he would not want to give the impression that the Government want minimal debate because they do not want to expose divisions in the Conservative party. I am sure that that is not the reason.

That question was longer than my statement. I know that the hon. Gentleman was in his place last Friday, but he did not take part in the vote, unlike some of his hon. Friends. I am making an emergency business statement today because I thought it proper not to wait until Thursday once my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary had made it clear that a debate was in prospect. It is clearly not possible to debate the substance before the Government’s proposals have been fully set out.

I think that the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Wayne David) thought momentarily that he was speaking from the Front Bench rather than the Back Benches.

Trusting that the Leader of the House is an honest fellow who is sensitive to the mood of the House at all times and given the comments that have been made today, may I urge him to reconsider his decision and to hold the debate and vote in September? Given that most of Europe, and especially the European Commission, goes on holiday in July, August and early September, I am sure that a delay until our September sittings would do no harm at all to our renegotiation prospects.

I hope that my hon. Friend knows how sensitive I am to the views of the House. I have frequently amended what we have planned to do for that reason. In this instance, the case seems straightforward. When the Government have reached a policy decision and the basis of that decision has been published for the benefit of the House, it is very often in the best interests of the House to have a debate as soon as possible. That will provide a good basis on which Ministers can take forward the negotiations, as I have described. As a consequence of those negotiations, there will of course be a further vote in 2014.