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Government Policy on the Proceedings of the House

Volume 629: debated on Monday 9 October 2017

Application for emergency debate (Standing Order No. 24)

If there are no further points of order, I will in a moment call the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr Carmichael) to make an application for leave to propose a debate on a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration under the terms of Standing Order. No. 24. The right hon. Gentleman has up to three minutes in which to make such an application.

I stand to request your permission and the leave of the House that the House should debate a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely the policy of Her Majesty’s Government in relation to the proceedings of this House.

Before the House went into recess, we considered two Opposition day motions concerning, first, public sector pay and, secondly, student tuition fees. In both these debates, the Government argued against the motions before the House. When the questions were put, however, they remained silent, and each motion was passed without Division. In particular, it was known that, in the event of a Division, Members from the DUP would vote against the Government, who would, in all likelihood, lose.

It was widely reported that because the motions were non-binding, the Government took the view that they could effectively be ignored, as has ultimately been shown to be the case. It was further suggested in some quarters that the approach taken by the Government last month is one that we should expect to become routine. I put that to the Leader of the House at business questions on 14 September, and, significantly, she did not deny it.

I accept completely that motions of this sort are not de jure binding on the Government. De facto, however, it has long been the practice of Governments of all colours to respect the views of the House expressed in this way. Over the years, Opposition day votes have been an important means of influencing Government policy and righting wrongs. Hon. Members will recall the vote in 2009 concerning the residence rights of those who had served as Gurkhas. That was an issue resolved in this House by an Opposition day motion.

Mr Speaker, the Government are seeking to treat this House as a talking shop, rather than the place in our nation’s life where decisions of note are made. The formation of a Government that do not command a working majority in this Chamber is a rare moment in our nation’s constitutional story. It is a moment for us to assert the will of Parliament, not to see it sidelined. Those currently on the Treasury Bench will clearly find that inconvenient, but we are here to hold them to account, and not simply to do their bidding. It is for that most fundamental of reasons that I seek to bring this matter to the House for its urgent attention.

I have listened carefully to the application from the right hon. Member. I am satisfied that the matter raised is proper to be discussed under Standing Order No. 24. Has the right hon. Member the leave of the House?

Application agreed to.

The right hon. Gentleman has obtained the leave of the House. The debate will therefore be held tomorrow, Tuesday 10 October, as the first item of public business. The debate will last for up to three hours, and it will arise on a motion that the House has considered the specified matter set out in the right hon. Member’s application.