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Regulation of Financial Services (Land Transactions) Bill

Mr. David Stewart accordingly presented a Bill to regulate financial services: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 22 April, and to be printed [Bill 47].

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Modernisation of the House of Commons

1.41 pm

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): I have a brief statement to make to the House about today's debate. There will be a joint debate on the three motions in the name of the Leader of the House on sitting hours, connecting Parliament with the public and car mileage allowance. Mr. Speaker has selected all the amendments that have been tabled to the motion on sitting hours. A list has been distributed that also shows the order in which Questions will be put.

Under the order of the House on 24 January, at the end of the debate, or after three hours, I will call Members formally to move the amendments. If an amendment is agreed to, the Question will immediately be put on any consequential amendments. When the amendments have been disposed of, the Question will be put on the main Question on sitting hours, amended or not, as the case may be.

The Questions will then be put on the motions on connecting Parliament with the public and on car mileage allowance.

The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Peter Hain): I beg to move,

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We have three motions before us: on sitting hours, connecting Parliament with the public and phasing in the lower car mileage allowance, tabled at the request of the Members Estimate Committee.

First, I shall deal with sitting hours. The House agreed to our current hours in October 2002 by a narrow margin. Many Members have always been strongly opposed to the change and others have not liked how it has worked in practice. It was my aim as Leader of the Commons to try to find a consensus, and in the past 18 months the Modernisation Committee has taken extensive evidence from Members of Parliament, parliamentary staff and other interested groups such as the Lobby journalists. We were also helped by the Procedure Committee's survey last spring and I am grateful for that. However, no consensus was achievable. Opinion remains divided, with the principal point of difference being the hours on Tuesday.

The motion is in line with the Modernisation Committee's recommendation. It looks discouragingly complex, but its purpose is simple: to make permanent our current hours on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, to bring forward the start of the sitting to 10.30 am on Thursday and to allow Standing Committees to sit an hour earlier in the afternoon. An explanatory memorandum, which sets out exactly how Standing Orders would be changed, has been made available.

My hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the House has tabled amendments to the motion, which would return Tuesday to the old hours—2.30 pm to 10 pm—as on Monday. Those amendments have been tabled to assist the House to come to a clear decision, but both the Deputy Leader and I shall vote against them.

I believe strongly that the package recommended by the Modernisation Committee represents the best way forward. It maintains our new hours, while addressing the widespread concerns about the compression of the working week.

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