The House will wish to know that the manuscript amendment in the name of Sir Christopher Chope has been selected. Copies are available in the Vote Office and a revised Order Paper is being posted online.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
(1) notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order No. 14(8), Private Members’ bills shall have precedence over government business on Friday 20 October 2023;
(2) such bills shall be arranged on the order paper in accordance with Standing Order No. 14(9);
(3) Bills set down for second reading shall be arranged as follows—
(a) the Order for Second Reading of any Bill set down for Friday 20 October 2023 is read and discharged;
(b) notwithstanding the practice of the House, Bills set down for second reading on a day later than Friday 20 October 2023 may be set down for that date, provided that the Bill has been printed by today;
(c) a Member may give notice in relation to no more than one Bill for Friday 20 October 2023 to the Public Bill Office only by email from their parliamentary account between 10 and 10.30am on Tuesday 19 September 2023;
(d) after 10.30am on Tuesday 19 September, the Public Bill Office may accept any further notices relating to private Members’ Bills;
(e) valid notices given in accordance with sub-paragraphs (c) and (d) will be arranged according to the order in which they are received.—(Penny Mordaunt.)
I had understood that the Leader of the House was going to indicate that she is willing to accept the manuscript amendment. I would happily give way to her now to receive that confirmation, because it would enable me to keep my remarks much more brief than would otherwise be the case.
I am happy to intervene. The Government are minded to accept my hon. Friend’s amendment. I will be happy to explain in closing the debate what we are going to do.
That is very good news. I thank Mr Speaker for selecting the manuscript amendment.
It is a sad reflection that we are debating this motion, because on Thursday, when the Leader of the House gave the business for this week, she said:
“The business for the week commencing 18 September will be as follows”,
and the business for Monday 18 September was
“General debate on the UK automotive industry, followed by general debate on UK export performance.”—[Official Report, 14 September 2023; Vol. 737, c. 1016.]
There was no mention whatsoever of having a motion on the Order Paper relating to private Members’ Bills, and in particular to trying to introduce some rather novel processes. That is why I tabled the amendment, which had to be a manuscript amendment, and I am delighted that Mr Speaker selected it.
My hon. Friend has done a service to the House, because I suspect that the Government just did not like the idea of an independent-minded hon. Member being able to produce and debate 17 Bills. What is the harm of that? The fact is that these time-honoured processes are there for a purpose. They are designed to protect Back Benchers, who have very few other rights. From this saga, the Government should learn a lesson not to interfere with what we have always done in this House. These processes are designed to ensure that Back Benchers are given a voice.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for what he says. I would not be so harsh on the Government, because they have just indicated that they will accept my amendment, but the point he makes is that by deleting paragraphs (2) and (3) of the motion, the amendment will ensure that established practice and precedent continue to apply to the decision of the Government to provide another day this Session on which private Members’ Bills shall have precedence over Government business.
By the time of Prorogation, this Session will have lasted more than 18 months, and I do not think that to have one additional day for private Members’ Bills beyond the 13 normally allocated for a Session is particularly generous. The 2017-19 Session was similarly extended, and on 30 January 2019 the House agreed to three extra private Members’ Bill Fridays. That was done in the normal process, with all the people who had already put their Bills down for those days given precedence according to the rules.
The amendment would also ensure that normal rules for business remain, as set out in Standing Order No. 14(9), and that the long-standing rule of practice that a Bill set down for a specific day cannot then be brought back to an earlier date will be preserved and honoured. Indeed, that practice was applied in this very Session, to the Pensions (Extension of Automatic Enrolment) Bill, which was introduced initially on 20 July 2022 but was put back by the Member in charge to 17 March 2023. The Government then took a liking to the Bill and wanted to bring it forward, but it was not possible to do that so a No. 2 Bill had to be introduced. That is standard practice: if somebody has put their Bill too far down the Order Paper and they wish to bring a similar Bill forward, they can always issue a No. 2 Bill. That is why I am very pleased that the Government have decided to honour precedent and good practice and accept my amendment.
I thank the Leader of the House for moving this motion.
While I welcome time for private Members’ Bills, it is still entirely unclear why we need another sitting Friday to consider them. As I said last Thursday, the Government are putting forward not much at all for the parliamentary time they control. All we have had this week and most of last is general debates and statutory instrument debates on the Floor of the House. There have been so many Backbench Business Committee sittings that the Committee has run out of bids. Why can we not consider these last few private Members’ Bills in the sitting days we have remaining?
I am interested in what the Leader of the House has to say about what I understand are the Bills the Government expect to be considered on 20 October. The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill and the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill, both Government handouts, have been gutted and delayed in the House of Lords. The hunting trophies Bill has broad support from across both Houses, but a small group in the Lords with clear personal interests are holding it up with dozens and dozens of amendments. It will take many more days for the Lords to consider all those amendments, so what does the Leader of the House think we will be discussing on 20 October and what is she doing to ensure that we have some Bills to discuss?
Does this not all serve as another embarrassing reminder that the Government have run out of ideas? Our zombie Parliament has no Government Bills to consider on most Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, yet the Government now want an extra Friday for private Members’ Bills they have lost control of in the House of Lords.
I am grateful that the Government are introducing an extra sitting Friday to conclude business that has cross-party support and has finally been put through the House of Lords. We in this House can now make a strong statement about what we really want to achieve on workers’ protections. It is therefore important that all of us across the House support the introduction of this one extra private Member’s Bill Friday sitting to conclude important business that I understand is very much the will of the House.
I do not intend to detain the House for long, but I wish to bring colleagues up to speed and answer some of the points made.
The manuscript amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Sir Christopher Chope) would leave out paragraphs (2) and (3) of the motion, and the Government are content to accept it. I agree with the comments made in that respect.
Private Members’ Bills are an invaluable opportunity for Members to promote legislation on the causes they support, and the Government have expressed support for a number of private Members’ Bills in this Session. I pay tribute to Members for all the work they are doing on those Bills and for engaging in a constructive and cross-party way to secure their progress.
Some 16 private Members’ Bills are on the statute book and more are making progress through the House of Lords. That is even more than in the last Session, which saw 13 private Members’ Bills reach Royal Assent. In this Session, we are on track to have secured the most private Members’ Bills becoming law in any Session. I hope the House approves this additional sitting Friday, and I look forward to seeing progress on further private Members’ Bills in this Session.
Private Members’ Bills and Backbench Business time are just as important as Government time and legislation. In addition to the private Members’ Bills, we have put forward an enormous amount of legislation on a whole raft of issues, including strengthening our borders, protecting our citizens and guaranteeing them access to public services and public transport, and many other things. We are busy working on the programme for the fourth Session of this Parliament.
Finally, to reassure Members who are particularly concerned about the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill and the Hunting Trophies (Import Prohibition) Bill, those Bills are making progress and I expect them to return to this House.
Manuscript amendment made: Leave out paragraphs (2) and (3).—(Sir Christopher Chope.)
Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.
That, notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order No. 14(8), Private Members’ bills shall have precedence over government business on Friday 20 October 2023.