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House of Commons Hansard
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Business of the House (24, 25 and 26 March)
24 March 2015
Volume 594

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That the following provisions shall have effect:

Sittings on 24, 25 and 26 March

(1) At today’s sitting and the sittings on Wednesday 25 March and Thursday 26 March–

(a) Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply;

(b) Standing Orders Nos. 83D to 83H and 83I(2), (3) and (6) (conclusion of proceedings etc) shall apply to proceedings to be taken in accordance with this Order, but with the omission of Standing Orders Nos. 83D(2)(c) and 83E(2)(c);

(c) no notice shall be required of any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown and any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown may be proceeded with, though opposed, after the moment of interruption and shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House;

(d) no Motion to alter the order in which proceedings on a Bill are taken, to recommit a Bill or to vary or supplement the provisions of this Order shall be made except by a Minister of the Crown and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

Tuesday 24 March

(2) At today’s sitting–

(a) proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments to the Recall of MPs Bill

shall be brought to a conclusion (unless already concluded) three hours after their commencement;

(b) proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments to the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill shall be brought to a conclusion (unless already concluded) three hours after their commencement;

(c) the Lords Amendments to the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill shall be considered in the following order: Nos. 34 to 62, 86, 132, 136 to 141, 1 to 33, 63 to 85, 87 to 131, 133 to 135 and 142 to 193;

(d) proceedings on the Motion in the name of Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer relating to approval for the purposes of section 5 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993 shall be brought to a conclusion (unless already concluded) one and a half hours after their commencement;

(e) proceedings on the Motion in the name of Secretary Theresa May relating to the draft Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 (Risk of Being Drawn into Terrorism) (Amendment and Guidance) Regulations 2015 and the Motion in the name of Secretary Chris Grayling relating to the Civil Procedure (Amendment) Rules 2015 shall be brought to a conclusion (unless already concluded) one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the first of those Motions;

(f) any Lords Amendments or Lords Message in respect of any Bill may be considered forthwith without any further Question being put;

(g) subject to sub-paragraphs (a) and (b), proceedings on any Lords Amendments or Lords Message in respect of any Bill shall be brought to a conclusion (unless already

concluded) one hour after their commencement.

(3) The start of any emergency debate under Standing Order No. 24 (Emergency debates) to be held at today’s sitting shall be postponed until the conclusion of the proceedings at that sitting to which this Order applies.

Wednesday 25 March

(4) Proceedings on Second Reading and in Committee, any proceedings on Consideration, and proceedings on Third Reading on the Finance (No. 2) Bill shall be completed at the sitting on Wednesday 25 March, as follows–

(a) proceedings on Second Reading shall be brought to a conclusion (unless already concluded) two hours after their commencement;

(b) when the Bill has been read a second time, it shall stand committed to a Committee of the whole House and, subject to sub-paragraph (c), the House shall immediately resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House on the Bill;

(c) where relevant, when the Bill has been read a second time–

(i) proceedings on the Bill shall stand postponed while the Question is put on

any Procedure Resolution relating to the Bill and, in accordance with Standing Order No. 52(1) (financial resolutions in connection with bills), on any Money Resolution or Ways and Means Resolution relating to the Bill;

(ii) on the conclusion of proceedings on any Procedure Resolution, Money Resolution or Ways and Means Resolution relating to the Bill, proceedings on the Bill shall be resumed and the House shall immediately resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House on the Bill;

(d) proceedings in the Committee of the whole House shall be taken in the following order: clauses 66 and 67 and new Clauses and new Schedules relating to value added tax; clauses 1 to 5 and new Clauses and new Schedules relating to the charge to, the rates of and the limits and allowances for income tax; clause 6 and new Clauses and new Schedules relating to the charge to, and the main rate of, corporation tax; remaining proceedings in Committee;

(e) if, on conclusion of proceedings in Committee, the Bill is reported with amendments, the House shall proceed to consider the Bill as amended without any Question being put;

(f) proceedings in Committee, any proceedings on Consideration and proceedings on Third Reading shall be brought to a conclusion (unless already concluded) six hours after the commencement of proceedings on Second Reading.

(5) Paragraph (4) shall have effect notwithstanding the practice of the House as to the

intervals between stages of a Bill brought in upon Ways and Means Resolutions.

(6) At the sitting on Wednesday 25 March–

(a) any Lords Amendments or Lords Message in respect of any Bill may be considered forthwith without any further Question being put;

(b) proceedings on any Lords Amendments or Lords Message in respect of any Bill shall be brought to a conclusion (unless already concluded) one hour after their commencement.

(7) The start of any emergency debate under Standing Order No. 24 (Emergency debates) to be held at the sitting on Wednesday 25 March shall be postponed until the conclusion of the proceedings at that sitting to which this Order applies.

Thursday 26 March

(8) On Thursday 26 March there shall be no sitting in Westminster Hall.

(9) At the sitting on Thursday 26 March–

(a) proceedings on the Motion in the name of Sir George Young relating to the valedictory debate recommended by the Backbench Business Committee shall be brought to a conclusion (unless already concluded) at 4.30pm;

(b) any Lords Amendments or Lords Message in respect of any Bill may be considered forthwith without any further Question being put;

(c) proceedings on any Lords Amendments or Lords Message in respect of any Bill shall be brought to a conclusion (unless already concluded) one hour after their commencement;

(d) no debate shall be held in accordance with Standing Order No. 24 (Emergency debates);

(e) the Speaker shall not adjourn the House before a Message has been received from the Lords Commissioners.

General

(10) Standing Order No. 82 (Business Committee) shall not apply in relation to any proceedings to which this Order applies.

(11) In this Order, a reference to proceedings on or in respect of a Bill includes a reference to proceedings on any Motion to alter the order in which those proceedings are considered and (except in paragraph (4)(c)) to proceedings on any Procedure Resolution, Money Resolution or Ways and Means Resolution in relation to those proceedings.

(12) If today’s sitting continues after 11.30 a.m. on Wednesday 25 March, this Order shall have effect as if any reference to the sitting on Wednesday 25 March or Thursday 26 March were a reference to today’s sitting.

(13) If the sitting on Wednesday 25 March continues after 9.30 a.m. on Thursday 26 March, this Order shall have effect as if any reference to the sitting on Thursday 26 March were a reference to the sitting on Wednesday 25 March.

(14) If today’s sitting or the sitting on Wednesday 25 March continues as described in paragraph (12) or (13), any business set down for consideration at the later sitting or sittings mentioned in that paragraph may be considered at the continued sitting, notwithstanding the practice of the House which forbids the bringing forward of an Order of the Day.—(Mr Hague.)

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I am glad to have the opportunity to participate in this debate, and I am disappointed that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has not chosen to speak to this very important motion.

We are in a fixed-term Parliament. The Government have known for the best part of five years the date of Dissolution, yet this motion is expressed in terms that suggest there is some sort of emergency requiring the Finance Bill to be considered tomorrow in all its stages in a maximum of six hours.

It may well be that Opposition Members are indifferent to this, but having seen the Finance Bill, which was printed only today for the first time, I notice that the explanatory notes extend to some 258 pages. There are some 127 clauses covering 121 pages, and 21 schedules covering a further 220 pages. It does not seem possible to do justice to those provisions on behalf of all the people who could be affected by the Bill by considering it for only six hours and at relatively short notice. Given that we knew that we were approaching Dissolution, I hope that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will explain why the arrangements were made in such a way as to allow so little time for the Bill.

In the past, as I recall, a shorter Finance Bill has been introduced at this stage, with provision for a second Bill to be introduced after the general election to deal with matters in more detail. In that way, it has been possible to scrutinise the important changes that affect businesses and individuals up and down the country. I fear that we shall have no such opportunity this time.

I should also like to tease out what my right hon. Friend has in mind in paragraph 1(c) of the motion, which states:

“At today’s sitting and the sittings on Wednesday 25 March and Thursday 26 March…no notice shall be required of any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown and any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown may be proceeded with, though opposed, after the moment of interruption and shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House”.

Does one of the motions that he intends to bring forward under these provisions relate to the commitments he made to me and to the House in recent weeks? On 5 February, I asked him:

“When will my right hon. Friend publish the draft changes to Standing Orders that will be necessary to implement English votes on English issues?”

He replied:

“That is a party matter, rather than a Government matter, since there are different policies among the coalition parties. However, it is important to show the detail, so I intend later this month to set out how the proposal that I made earlier this week can be implemented in Standing Orders.”—[Official Report, 5 February 2015; Vol. 592, c. 426.]

I was very pleased with that response. Unfortunately, nothing had happened by the end of February, so I returned to the issue on 12 March, again during business questions. I said to my right hon. Friend:

“On 5 February at column 426 of Hansard, my right hon. Friend told me that he intended ‘later’ in February to set out the draft changes to Standing Orders to implement English votes for English laws. Why was he not able to meet his own target deadline of the end of February? May I seek an assurance from him that he will meet it before his final departure from this place?”

He responded:

“My right hon. Friend the Member for North West Hampshire (Sir George Young)”—

who I am pleased to see is in his place—

“asked about this last week. It is true that February has stretched into March, and I am conscious of the commitment that was made to my hon. Friend, so I do intend to publish the proposed Standing Order changes.”—[Official Report, 12 March 2015; Vol. 594, c. 413.]

Those changes to Standing Orders could be introduced in the form of a motion, no notice of which would be required, under the provisions of paragraph 1(c) of the business of the House motion that we are now considering. I hope that I am not being unduly optimistic in asking my right hon. Friend to confirm that that is indeed his intention, and that that is why he has included in the motion a reference to motions being able to be brought forward by Ministers of the Crown without notice. I have not yet seen any record in the Official Report of a ministerial statement altering the commitments that my right hon. Friend has already made on English votes for English laws, so I hope he will take this opportunity to introduce the changes today.

This matter is topical, not least because a series of public petitions is due to be presented later today by a host of my right hon. and hon. Friends on the issue of English votes for English laws. It would be a big mistake if we were to enter the general election campaign without having this matter properly clarified, at the very least in the form of a draft Standing Order attached to a motion brought forward by the Government without notice.

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The type of motion before the House is usual in the run-up to the end of a Parliament, and this motion facilitates the effective and efficient use of the time of the House in bringing this Session, and this Parliament, to a satisfactory conclusion. My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr Chope) is quite right to say that this Parliament is different from its predecessors in being a fixed-term Parliament. That is why there are so few Bills left to consider, and so few Bills moving between this House and the other place, at this stage. As is set out in the motion, we will go on to consider Lords amendments to two Bills, including the Modern Slavery Bill, which is still before the other place, but they represent a small proportion of the legislative programme and there is no reason why this should not come to an orderly conclusion. The motion provides for it to do so.

The one exception to the Bills that have been able to make such progress is of course the Finance Bill, to which my hon. Friend has referred. We have known for a long time that the Budget would take place six days ago on 18 March, which it duly did, and that a Finance Bill would therefore have to be considered in fairly short order between then and the Dissolution of Parliament. This is not an uncommon development. Those of us who were here in 1992 will remember the Budget being delivered only a couple of days before the Dissolution of Parliament, and that has happened on a number of other occasions as well. That has often led to substantial Finance Acts being introduced immediately after the Budget, as is the case here. I do not see any difference in principle between those occasions and this one.

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If my memory serves me correctly, a very short Finance Act followed the Budget in 1992, with the main, substantive Finance Bill being brought forward after the general election.

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It is true that there was a further Finance Act, but it is also true that many provisions were included in the initial Finance Act, as far as could be agreed with the Opposition. The present Opposition have not opposed—let us put it that way—the great majority of the measures in this year’s Budget, and we have therefore been able to include a greater proportion of it in the Finance Bill. As with any Bill, however, it will be for the House to reach its judgment in the normal way on the Finance Bill when we debate it tomorrow. My hon. Friend will be able to take part in those debates. We are providing the time that is available for the Finance Bill before the Dissolution of Parliament, which must by law take place on 30 March, which is next Monday, so the time available to debate the Bill is tomorrow. If my hon. Friend wants to tell Treasury Ministers that he wishes it was a smaller Finance Bill, he will of course be able to do so during those debates.

On my hon. Friend’s final question about paragraph 1(c) of the motion, the answer is a fairly comprehensive no. As I pointed out in my first answer that he read out on a change to Standing Orders relating to English votes on English laws, this is a party matter. It would be possible to lay a Government motion under the provisions of paragraph 1(c) only if such a motion had been agreed across the whole coalition. My hon. Friend is well versed in these matters, and he will know that the policy on this issue is not agreed across the coalition and that it therefore remains a party matter. It is therefore not for me, as Leader of the House in the Government, to publish any such proposed changes to Standing Orders; I could do so only as a Conservative party spokesman. It remains my intention to do so, but not as Leader of the House.

Question put and agreed to.