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Business of the House (Today)

Volume 700: debated on Wednesday 8 September 2021

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That, at this day’s sitting, the Speaker shall put the Questions necessary to bring to a conclusion proceedings on the Ways and Means resolution relating to the Health and Social Care Levy at 7.00pm, if not previously concluded; and those Questions shall include the Questions on any Amendments selected by the Speaker which may then be moved.—(James Morris.)

We will be debating an important issue today, and if the debate had been on a Finance Bill, it could have gone until any hour. I appreciate that we are debating a Ways and Means motion, but given the interest in it, the time could have been extended. Will the Minister explain why he decided that the debate would stop at the moment of interruption?

I rise to express sympathy with the point made by the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) about this dribbling out of Budget announcements. These days, we have trinity Budgets, not one Budget: we have Ways and Means motions when it suits the Treasury. The change of behaviour on fiscal issues, Budgets and tax announcements in which the Government are indulging does not lead to decent policy making, and nor does it help Parliament to hold the Government to account. Rather than the ongoing dribbling out of Budget and tax proposals when it suits the Government rather than the House, let us get back to having one fiscal event and one Budget when the Red Book is published so that we can properly hold them to account.

Is there not another point? We already have remarkably weak control over taxation and expenditure in this House. It is one of the things that we do worse than nearly any other legislature in the UK or anywhere else in Europe and the rest of the world. Most other countries have a proper budget when they decide both expenditure and taxation at the same time. Surely the two should go together.

What we have here, most extraordinarily, is a motion that was put on the Order Paper only yesterday, without any forewarning of a debate today. Surprise, surprise, as is the convention under our Standing Orders, nobody other than a Government Minister can table an amendment to increase or vary a tax or duty. We are therefore a completely hamstrung Parliament in which the Executive have excessive control over us. We should have had proper time to debate the motion and proper forewarning, but yet again, the Government are taking everything into their own hands.

Question put and agreed to.