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Division Details - Commons Main Chamber

21:35, 17 July 2017, Division 8: Business of the House (Private Members’ Bills)

View the debate for this division

Preamble

I beg to move,

That Private Members’ Bills shall have precedence over Government business on 20 October, 3 November, 1 December 2017, 19 January, 2 and 23 February, 16 March, 27 April, 11 May, 15 June, 6 July, 26 October and 23 November 2018.

The purpose of this motion is to provide 13 days for private Members’ business, in line with what is required under Standing Order No. 14. Given that we have already announced that this will be an extended Session, we will of course expect to provide additional days in due course. In the extended parliamentary Session of 2010-12, the Government provided extra days for private Members’ Bills, and these were approved at a later date. The motion we are dealing with today covers days for private Members’ Bills between now and 23 November 2018. We will therefore bring forward a motion to provide additional days for private Members’ Bills in due course, which will allow us to take into account the progress of business and any new recess dates that are announced in future.

This House must balance the needs of Members to proceed with private Members’ business with Members’ other priorities. Members value time spent in their constituencies on Fridays, and scheduling additional sitting Fridays for private Members’ Bills in 2019, with no regard to what pressures might exist at that time, could cause avoidable inconvenience. This motion is a proportionate way to deal with this being a longer Session, and I encourage the House to support it.

Pre Vote

In the previous debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) talked about the power of the Executive not only over controlling the agenda, but over ensuring that laws that are in manifestos get through. However, we are in a unique position in this two-year Session of Parliament. As my hon. Friends the Members for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard), for Ealing Central and Acton (Dr Huq) and for Rhondda said, the important thing is that private Members’ Bill are sometimes big pieces of legislation that are too hot to handle—too hot for the Government to put through.

Many private Members’ Bills have gone through this House that make a real difference to people’s lives. I introduced the Christmas Day (Trading) Act 2004, which means that large shops cannot open on Christmas day—the Act was good for shop workers who were forced to work on Christmas day. In the same Session, Jim Sheridan, the former hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, introduced the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004, which brought in tough regulation following the tragedy at Morecambe bay to try to protect people from being exploited by gangmasters. Private Members’ Bills can make a real change to people’s lives.

I am a bit concerned that the Leader of the House says she is minded to announce additional days. How many additional days would she like to propose, and what are the criteria for introducing them? The current logic is that 13 days will be spread over a two-year Session. The hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) made the argument, with which I have some sympathy, that it is in the Government’s hands to move an amendment if they wish to have another ballot for private Members’ Bills in the second year.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Angela Smith) said, in the 2015-16 Session, 20% of successful private Members’ Bills did not come through the ballot but came through the ten-minute rule procedure and other routes. The hon. Member for Shipley is arguing that, somehow, my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda and others who have been successful in the ballot will have an unfair advantage, but I am not sure that will be the case. Other hon. Members will have a chance to get their private Members’ Bills on the statute book.

The hon. Member for Shipley thinks of himself as a great filibusterer on a Friday, but he pales into insignificance compared with the former right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst, the great Eric Forth, with whom I successfully did a deal to pass my private Member’s Bill because he wanted to stop a Bill lower down the Order Paper.

The hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) mentioned the proposal to move debates on private Members’ Bills to Tuesday and Wednesday nights, thereby getting round the travel difficulties of Scottish National party Members on Fridays. Are private Members’ Bills an area ripe for reform? Yes, they are. We must not only show our constituents that we are listening to them but must enact Bills that are relevant to them. Private Members’ legislation is important.

I am not sure whether the Government have limited Friday sittings by mistake, or because they want to keep the decks clear or to ensure that nothing controversial is introduced in the next two years, as some Government Back Benchers might vote against the Government. My hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda made the fundamental point that there are few opportunities in this place to change legislation, but we can do it in Bill Committees.

My hon. Friend the Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge mentioned the decriminalisation of homosexual acts in the merchant navy, which was originally raised during the passage of the Armed Forces Act 2016. We managed to get the discriminatory legislation on the merchant navy changed through a private Member’s Bill with the Government’s agreement. Again, the issue had been overlooked for many years, and it was only because of our scrutiny in this House that we could get rid of that discriminatory legislation on the military and the merchant navy. So I would support the amendments. It is nonsense to suggest that by giving these additional days the world is going to stop—it is not. It is going to allow Back Benchers, either through the ballot or through private Members’ business, to ensure that their voices are heard and that they can make a real difference in trying to get some of those Bills past even the hon. Member for Shipley.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Ayes - 285

Tellers

Noes - 315

Tellers