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Business of the House

Volume 834: debated on Wednesday 6 December 2023

Motion on Standing Orders

Moved by

That Standing Order 44 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with on Tuesday 12 December to enable the National Insurance Contributions (Reduction in Rates) Bill to be taken through its remaining stages that day and that, in accordance with Standing Order 47 (Amendments on Third Reading), amendments shall not be moved on Third Reading.

My Lords, although this is a formal Motion, I think that it would be helpful to the House for me to outline the arrangements for the National Insurance Contributions (Reduction in Rates) Bill, which will be taken on 12 December as agreed by the usual channels.

The Bill has been introduced and noble Lords can now sign up for Second Reading in the usual way. Noble Lords can also table amendments for Committee ahead of Second Reading and should do so by contacting the Public Bill Office, again in the usual way. The deadline for amendments will be one hour after the conclusion of Second Reading on Tuesday.

If amendments have been tabled, once all the necessary documents are ready, the House will move into Committee and amendments will be debated and decided in the normal way. If no amendments are tabled, I would expect all further stages to be taken formally. If it is necessary to have further stages, the Deputy Chief Whip will update the House on Tuesday as to the arrangements. I am particularly grateful to the usual channels for their practical and constructive approach to this Bill.

My Lords, there appears to be a mistake in the title of the Bill. Should it not be entitled, “Preparation for a General Election Bill”?

My Lords, I thought that question had strayed from the House of Commons, so I was not planning to give it an answer.

My Lords, I am not sure whether this is the appropriate place to ask some questions about the way we do business in this House, but I will try. The brief background to my point is this: ever since BHS’s demise in 2016, the Government have promised legislation that has not materialised. Then, on 19 July 2023, the Government published a draft statutory instrument, the Companies (Strategic Report and Directors’ Report) (Amendment) Regulations 2023. It was scheduled to be debated in this House on 17 October, as per the business papers. However, the afternoon before, the Government issued a press release stating that the proposed legislation had been withdrawn. The next day’s business papers in this House, on 17 October, said that the Department of Business and Trade had withdrawn the regulations that were due to be debated on that day. No other statement was made to this House. Can the Minister explain why no statement was made to the House when the announced legislation was withdrawn? I am sure he would agree that press releases are no substitute for Statements and Questions in Parliament. Will he now ensure that the relevant Minister comes to this House to make a Statement about this withdrawn legislation and take the appropriate questions?

My Lords, many thousands of statutory instruments are tabled in draft every year under every Government. It is not usual to make a Statement in Parliament on rescheduling statutory instruments. In relation to these draft regulations— I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving me notice on the subject about which he was concerned—the department had carried out a call for evidence to inform a review of existing non-financial reporting. This high- lighted strong support from both UK business and investors for existing company reporting to be simplified and streamlined. The Government therefore decided that it would be better to consider the reporting measures contained in the draft regulations alongside wider reforms to deliver a more targeted and effective corporate reporting framework. I know that the noble Lord is a great enthusiast for laying regulations on business, which does, in fact, destroy jobs in the end, but there is a wider review going on. I hope that the noble Lord will accept that explanation.

My Lords, getting back to the Motion before us, can I just confirm that this was agreed by the usual channels? I am very happy that it was. The process has been used before with very similar legislation. I am grateful to the Leader of the House for setting out how the process will work next week. This Bill will put money in people’s pockets. We support it and I hope that we can agree the Motion.

Motion agreed.