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House of Commons Hansard
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Leader of the House
27 October 2016
Volume 616

The Leader of the House was asked—

Standing Order No. 143

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1. Whether he has had discussions with his ministerial colleagues on the scope of Standing Order No. 143(1)(ii) and 143(1)(vi). [906842]

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I have had no such discussions to date, but while we are a member of the European Union, our obligations remain in place, as does the scrutiny reserve resolution, so the scrutiny Committees will be able to examine and interrogate EU dossiers in the usual way.

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Does the Leader of the House agree with the hon. Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg) that the document to trigger article 50 is one that the European Scrutiny Committee would recommend for debate and possible vote in the main Chamber? If he does, would that be before or after the Prime Minister has served the notification?

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As the hon. Lady knows, the Government take the view that the triggering of article 50 is a matter for the Executive to determine. This, as the House knows, is an issue that is being contested in the courts at the moment, and we are currently awaiting a judgment.

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I applaud the initiatives that the Leader of the House is taking to ensure maximum debate about Brexit and the establishment of the Select Committees. Will he ensure that there are no procedures of this House that could block the will of the British people to leave the European Union?

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The Government’s intention, whatever side of the referendum debate individual Ministers took, is that the will of the British people has been clearly expressed in a referendum with a very high turnout, and that the House voted by an overwhelming majority to enact the European Union Referendum Bill and hand that decision to the British people. That mandate from the British people now needs to be respected.

Standing Orders: Reform

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2. What plans he has to bring forward proposals to reform the Standing Orders of the House. [906843]

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Standing Orders undergo frequent revision. The Procedure Committee, the Clerks and the Government monitor their use to ensure that our Standing Orders reflect how business in the House is conducted in practice.

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Yesterday, the Leader of the House announced a review of last year’s change to Standing Orders, which implemented the absurd English votes for English laws process, which disfranchises non-English MPs. Will he restore equality for MPs by removing the over-convoluted and shamefully partisan EVEL procedure from Standing Orders, and make sure that all MPs in this House are equal?

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I shall take that as a first contribution to the consultation that the Government have initiated. I am disappointed that Members from the Scottish National party seem unable to comprehend that it is a matter of justice that legislation affecting only England should command the support of a majority of Members of Parliament from England.

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Do the Standing Orders not need to be changed to reflect what goes on today? Despite your valiant efforts, Mr Speaker, we have far too many subjects to cover today, which prevented me from railing against the madness that prevents gay men from donating blood unless they say they have been celibate for 12 months.

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As I think my hon. Friend has demonstrated, an ingenious Member of Parliament is able to find numerous ways in which to place the points about which he is concerned on the record.

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The hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) is a notable practitioner of what I call the shoehorning technique, which is to shoehorn the matter of concern to oneself into any question whether it naturally fits or not.

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My hon. Friend the Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford) is absolutely right that EVEL has been a bureaucratic, cumbersome and misunderstood nightmare, which has divided this House on the basis of nationality and geography. Given that the Government have a majority in both England and the rest of the United Kingdom, what difference has this useless apparatus made to any legislative outcome that we have considered in the past year?

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The changes are a demonstration of the Government’s commitment to ensuring justice is done to Members from all parts of the United Kingdom. The EVEL arrangements apply only in respect of legislation, amendments or statutory instruments that cover matters that are devolved in Scotland, over which this House has no say and no jurisdiction, but which are a matter for this House to determine in respect of England, and it is only right that English Members should exercise the veto that these arrangements provide.

IPSA: Members’ Budgets

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3. What recent discussions he has had with the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority on changes to hon. Members’ budgets; and if he will make a statement. [906845]

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Mr Speaker, I attended a meeting of your Committee for IPSA on 18 October, and the agenda included discussions on IPSA’s current consultation exercise.

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Has the Leader of the House had a chance to examine IPSA’s proposed changes to zone 3 accommodation funding limits? May I make it clear that they do not affect me, because I do not claim any London rent from IPSA? However, does he agree that they could have a damaging effect on MPs with young children? Does IPSA not understand that, apart from on Monday, when we sit late, on virtually every other evening many MPs are kept here until well after the House rises?

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The points my hon. Friend makes about the pressures of parliamentary life on Members’ families are true, and I think they are true of Members right across the House. As we all know, IPSA is an independent body, and it will, I am sure, consider carefully the representations from hon. Members and others, and then come to a decision at the end of its consultation.

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The Leader of the House, and all Members of the House, will remember so clearly the dreadful killing of Jo Cox only in June. Since that time, has he had any intelligent communication and conversation with IPSA about how Members are better protected here, in their constituencies and on their travels between them?

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As I hope all Members of the House know, Members’ security was the subject of very urgent consideration following the shocking murder of our late colleague. Under the leadership of the Chairman of Ways and Means, a new package of security measures has been made available to all right hon. and hon. Members, with a fast track for delivering those security improvements, where they are needed.

Private Members’ Bills

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4. Whether he plans to provide an opportunity for the House to vote on the proposals from the Procedure Committee on reform of the private Members’ Bill system. [906846]

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As I confirmed to the House on Tuesday, and to the Procedure Committee last week, the Government are currently considering the Procedure Committee’s report, and will respond in detail within the normal two-month timeframe.

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Before Christmas, there will be important private Members’ Bills on the minimum wage, disability equality, awards for valour, and violence against women. To save us all a repeat of last Friday’s farce, can the Government just tell us now which ones they plan to talk out?

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If the promoters and sponsors of any of those Bills command widespread support across the House, they should ensure that their supporters turn up on the day and vote, whether on procedural motions or on the substance.

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While the Leader of the House is right on that point, there are reforms to private Members’ Bills that are important, and we need the House to look at them. We need the Government to bring forward a package of proposals, which we could then amend and vote on in the House. We need to have a debate and a vote on this. Could he please arrange that?

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As my hon. Friend knows, the Procedure Committee has, indeed, proposed such a package. The Government will want to consider the Committee’s recommendations carefully, including its recommendation that the decision on this be placed before the House. We will, as I said earlier, respond to the Committee in detail in due course.

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6. Sticking with the subject of the private Member’s Bill from last Friday, the Leader of the House said on Tuesday that there was no complaint during the debate. I was there, and I was complaining—I was one of dozens who were complaining—about the farce that was opening up in front of us. Does he stand by the actions of the Minister in this case, or does he agree with me and with people across the country that it was an absolute farce—a shameful, embarrassing disgrace? [906849]

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No; as I said on Tuesday, there was no argument last Friday that any hon. Member on any side of the argument was engaged in filibustering. When 2.30 pm came, the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Mr Gyimah), as the Minister responsible, had spoken for only one minute more than the Bill’s promoter and for a shorter time than one of the Bill’s main supporters. He sought to respond in detail to the many questions raised, and he gave way seven times to interventions. It seems to me that he behaved in a thoroughly reasonable manner.

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In order to guarantee the fairness that the Leader of the House spoke about earlier, is it not time that English votes for English laws was extended to private Members’ Bills?

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That sounds to me like a further interesting submission to the Government’s consultation.

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I call Mr Laurence Robertson. Not here.