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Business of the House

Volume 716: debated on Thursday 16 June 2022

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That notices of Amendments, new Clauses and new Schedules to be moved in Committee in respect of the Social Security (Additional Payments) Bill may be accepted by the Clerks at the Table before it has been read a second time.—(Amanda Solloway.)

I want to ask a few questions about the situation we find ourselves in. I am confused about what is going on, and I wonder whether the Government have a clue about what they are doing. Four weeks ago, the Chancellor stood up and made an announcement about the uprating Bill, saying that benefits would be uprated and additional social security payments would be made. That happened four weeks ago. There was already a massive delay to get to that point, and it should have happened far earlier than it did.

In the three weeks since that announcement, nothing happened until yesterday, when the Bill miraculously appeared. Yesterday was the first time we saw it. We have only just seen the money resolution, yet the Government have decided that it is so urgent, despite hanging around for three weeks and for a number of months before that, that we have to get through every piece of business on the Bill—Second Reading, Committee, and Third Reading—all in one day on Wednesday. If this absolutely has to be done right now, why did it not have to be done two weeks ago? If it had been introduced at the time when the Chancellor made his statements, or even shortly afterwards—remember that he had months to come up with those statements—we would not have to rush business through and get through everything in one day.

The business of the House motion is written to allow us to table amendments for Committee in advance of Second Reading, which, as you will know, Madam Deputy Speaker, is not common practice—it is very unusual. I have no problem with being able to table amendments in advance of Second Reading, but we are now in a bizarre situation where amendments for Committee should technically be submitted by the close of play tomorrow—I hope that there might be some leeway—whereas we have until Tuesday to table amendments to the Second Reading motion in order for them to be considered by the Chair.

If the Government had organised the legislation properly, we would not have to consider it in one day. I appreciate that the Minister in her place now is not responsible for the Bill, but, at some point, I would really like some commitment from the Government that when we come to the windfall tax Bill, which is the other half of this piece—we have an overview of it, but we have no idea exactly what will be in it, and we have not seen anything to do with its drafting—we will not be expected once again to make decisions in the course of one day.

It is not acceptable for us to make such a huge decision in one day without having had adequate time to table amendments, to properly consider the motion or to scrutinise the Government’s extremely restrictive money resolution, which is fairly unusual in its drafting. I wanted to raise my dissatisfaction with the Government on both the delay and the rush with the Bill. It makes for poor scrutiny.

I thank the hon. Lady for raising those points. As she said, I am not the Minister responsible for the Bill, but I am happy to respond. This is a crucial piece of legislation and, as she said, there is urgency in getting payments out. There is a complicated set of requirements, so officials have taken some time to ensure that they get the details right.

The hon. Lady is right that the Bill will be debated on Wednesday and, given the short notice, the Leader of the House has made arrangements for Members to be able to table amendments as flexibly as possible. She slightly contradicted herself by saying that there has been a delay and that now the Bill is being rushed. It is important to get these things right, but, given the factors out there in the economy, it is also important that people can access these payments as quickly as possible. Of course, I will feed her thoughts back to my ministerial colleagues and to the Leader of the House, but I hope she can appreciate that the Government are trying to be as efficient and flexible as possible in helping Members when we come to debate the Bill next week.

Question put and agreed to.