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Backbench Business Committee

Volume 591: debated on Thursday 22 January 2015

2. What assessment he has made of the effect of the introduction of the Backbench Business Committee on the work of the House. (907154)

7. What assessment he has made of the effect of the introduction of the Backbench Business Committee on the work of the House. (907159)

The Leader of the House has not made a recent assessment of the effect of the introduction of the Backbench Business Committee on the work of the House, but the Government response to the Procedure Committee’s review agreed that the Backbench Business Committee has been widely welcomed as a successful and effective innovation.

This Parliament has seen votes on numerous Back-Bench motions completely ignored by the Government, including a vote to end the badger cull, which proceeded, and a vote to make personal, social, health and economic education a statutory requirement. Does the Deputy Leader of the House agree that it is time to take the will of the House seriously? What is the purpose of Parliament if the Government just pick and choose which votes they want to act on?

I am sure that the hon. Lady will be aware that the outcome of Back-Bench debates is not binding on the Government. However, the Government have taken account of many Back-Bench debates. For instance, policy has changed on the issue of VAT on fuel for air ambulances, and on cheaper petrol and diesel following a motion tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon). Of course, there was also the successful campaign on the release of documents relating to Hillsborough.

May I, too, welcome the excellent work of the Backbench Business Committee, which has chosen debates that the hon. Member for North Tyneside (Mrs Glindon) and I have asked for on a number of reports by the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs? The strength of the Backbench Business Committee is that its time is for debating purposes, but will my right hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House consider the possibility of a debate either selected by the Backbench Business Committee or in Government time on how the House deals with the scrutiny of European Union matters? When an implementing regulation comes before the House, hon. Members should be allowed to amend as well as just debate it.

I thank my hon. Friend, and I am sure that if a cross-party group of Members of Parliament went to the Backbench Business Committee with a proposal for a debate to examine that, the Committee would be happy to accept the request.