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Business of the House (Today)

Volume 716: debated on Monday 20 June 2022

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That in respect of the Motions in the name of Secretary Grant Shapps relating to

(1) the High Speed Rail (Crewe - Manchester) Bill; and

(2) Positions for which additional salaries are payable for the purposes of section 4A(2) of the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009, the Speaker shall put the Questions necessary to dispose of proceedings not later than one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order (notwithstanding, in respect of item (2) above, the provisions of paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 16); such Questions shall include the Questions on any Amendments selected by the Speaker which may then be moved; proceedings may continue, though opposed, after the moment of interruption; and Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply.—(Mark Spencer.)

This is a small but important procedural point, and I could be corrected later on, but it seems to me that this Business of the House motion says that four very complicated provisions relating to HS2 have to be put within one and a half hours. This is contrary to standing orders. If a number of colleagues and I wanted to look into this matter for more than one and a half hours, the Government’s business would never be got to today. If we look at the motion, the Government propose to ignore Standing Order No. 16, which requires a one and a half hour debate on motions, not a one and a half hour debate from when the business of the House motion is moved. This is a trick that Governments of the day have been using for a number of years.

Tonight’s debate is perhaps not of the utmost importance, but if motions are tabled for a one and a half hour debate and there are questions about whether the motions should have been tabled, about the method and about whether the time should be extended, discussing the business of the House motion would eat into the one and a half hours. However long I have talked for will be knocked off the one and a half hours. I could go through each of these motions.

My hon. Friend may want to bring this up afterwards, but the motions are very complicated and it might take the Minister of State, Department for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Pendle (Andrew Stephenson), at least an hour and a half to explain to the House what on earth they mean. Perhaps he does not know—I do not know—as they are extremely complicated.

This is not about that, really. I am trying to complain about the Government’s habit of tabling business of the House motions to eat into the time for debate so that anyone with a concern about the procedure who speaks to the business of the House motion is hurting the people who want to talk about the actual issue.

Will the Leader of the House tell us that, in future, the Government will stick to the Standing Orders and allow a proper one and a half hour debate after the business of the House motion has been decided upon? It is a small but important part of our democracy that the Government do not tweak our Standing Orders to their own advantage.

We have a great Leader of the House, and he does not need to detain the House much longer. Will he just say that this will not happen in future?

I hope my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) recognises that the Government would be in listening mode in the circumstances he describes. Where there is some excitement about the amount of time for debate, the Government would take that into consideration and would be more generous with their time.

I think it unlikely that we will spend the next hour and 20 minutes debating this business of the House motion. We will then get to the main business, and I am sure all will be well on this occasion. Should things be more excitable in future, I am sure we would be in listening mode.

Question put and agreed to.