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Point of Order

Volume 689: debated on Thursday 25 February 2021

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Paragraph 19.21 of “Erskine May” states that ministerial statements are undesirable on Opposition days. Opposition days happen 20 times in a regular parliamentary Session, but today we have the general debate on Welsh affairs, which happens only once a year and is actually not a full day but only half a day. I would be interested, Mr Speaker, in your judgment on whether it is appropriate for three statements to happen on Welsh affairs day, meaning that our debate on all things Wales is going to be shoehorned into 90 minutes at the end of today’s session.

I thank the hon. Member for giving me notice of his point of order. He is right that “Erskine May” refers to a preference to avoid ministerial statements on Opposition days. There will be times when it is necessary to make statements on Backbench Business days. However, I do think it is unfortunate that the Government have decided to make two statements today when many Members wish to speak in the Welsh affairs debate in particular; it is an important occasion for many of our colleagues.

I am sure that the Leader of the House will reflect on that. I also know that the Backbench Business Committee will want to be mindful of potential pressures on debates. It has a difficult role in trying to ensure that colleagues’ requests for debates are met. I know that it will consider whether, on some occasions, a single debate may be preferable. I do not know whether the Leader of the House wishes to add anything.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Just to say that this is the general pressure on business. People want statements made on important issues. There is demand, which you have to deal with, for urgent questions; I deal with the demand for statements and for Backbench business. I am very conscious of the desire to protect Backbench business, but the two statements today are both extremely important. It is the typical balance in a pressured parliamentary timetable.

I am suspending the House for three minutes to enable the necessary arrangements to be made for the next business.

Sitting suspended.