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The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Peter Hain): Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a business statement. Following the Prime Minister's announcement earlier today, business for tomorrow will now be as follows:
Wednesday 6 AprilConsideration of a business of the House motion to facilitate business for prorogation, followed by all stages of the Finance (No. 2) Bill followed by formal proceedings on the Appropriation Bill, followed by remaining stages of the Inquiries Bill [Lords], followed by consideration in Committee and Third Reading of the Disability Discrimination Bill [Lords], followed by consideration in Committee and remaining stages of the Public Service Ombudsman (Wales) Bill [Lords], followed by consideration of Lords Amendments.
Thursday 7 AprilConsideration of Lords Amendments, followed by remaining stages of the Education Bill [Lords], followed by motion to approve the carry-over of the Crossrail Bill, followed by consideration of Lords Amendments, followed by all stages of the International Organisations Bill [Lords], followed by consideration of Lords Amendments.
Mr. Oliver Heald (North-East Hertfordshire) (Con): I thank the Leader of the House for his statement and his courtesy in letting me have early sight of it. Conservative Members are pleased that this surprise election has been announced. We are prepared to be constructive in discussions about the Bills currently before Parliament, but does he not agree that there are many Bills that have not completed their normal passage, and indeed some have not been debated at all? The Government have also lost a day for reasons that we all understand and agree with. So, Bills will be lost. Will the Leader of the House confirm that his statement does not affect questions or Adjournment debates, which will go ahead as before?
May I say how grateful I am for the response of the shadow Leader of the House? We are working together through the usual channels to try to bring about the normal orderly conclusion of business in these circumstances. Questions will continue, including questions to the Prime Minister tomorrow, and Adjournment debates will continue. However, in Westminster Hall on Thursday there will be no private Member's debates, although they will happen on Wednesdaytomorrow.
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May I say for the record that if, the discussions that have been conducted with the Opposition through the usual channels, which have been constructive, reach the expected conclusion, we will have secured Royal Assent for 16 Bills, more than half the programme of Bills announced in the Queen's Speech? That will be a considerable achievement.
Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall) (LD): Will the Leader of the House confirm that however constructive our discussions over the next few daysI am sure that my colleagues in both Houses will be constructivethe Government do not have to dissolve the House for another 15 months, five years after the date of the last general election? In those circumstances do the Government really believe that this is the right way to conduct the business of the House? If there is so much vital business still to be scrutinised by Parliament, why does it have to be dissolved so early? Does the Leader of the House recall that the Prime Minister himself said, in an earlier manifesto:
Mr. Hain: I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman was making a plea to enhance his pension. I am sure that the House agrees with me that he has had many distinguished years here and that he will be sorely missed. I wish him a very happy retirement, but I cannot help him on any of the other points.
Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend consider carrying over for consideration tomorrow the Mental Capacity Bill, which is due to be considered this afternoon but not for another six hours, so that the House may be fully satisfied that, by accepting the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Middleton (Jim Dobbin), the assurance to the Archbishop of Cardiff which the Government gave the last time the Bill was considered will be totally and fully fulfilled, and those of us who are to be asked to vote with the Government in the next few days will be able to do so, rather than feeling that we need more assurances?
Mr. Hain: My right hon. Friend puts the point very fairly and sensitively. We are seeking to move ahead in the way that he describes. It is our objective to get Royal Assent, if we can, but it may not be achievable because of the sensitivities involved; we will just have to do our best.
Mr. Hain: That is a matter for Her Majesty because, as the hon. Gentleman knows, it is done by royal proclamation. The normal dissolution arrangements will apply in the normal fashion, and the precedents established for when the House dissolves will apply as normal.
Tom Levitt (High Peak) (Lab): I am delighted that the Disability Discrimination Bill is scheduled for tomorrow, so it will be completed. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that the measure will go through intact, thereby fulfilling Labour's commitment to comprehensive civil rights for disabled people during this Parliament?
Mr. Hain: I very much hope so. I share my hon. Friend's objectives. The Bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation of this Parliament, to give extra rights to people with disabilities. I hope that all Opposition parties will be in constructive mode in giving the Government every opportunity to get the legislation on to the statute book, and that it will receive Royal Assent as soon as possible.
Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): What will happen to the private Members' Bills scheduled for debate on Friday? I am promoting one such Bill, to remove discrimination against Catholics under the Act of Settlement and other Acts, and was confident that the Government would facilitate progress on the measure. What do they now intend to do about that and other Bills, and will the Leader of the House, on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, join the Leader of the Opposition in saying that he will seriously consider removing the last piece of religious discrimination in our constitution?
Mr. Hain: I realise that the hon. Gentleman is disappointed that there will be no private Members' Bills on Friday, but there is simply no opportunity to take them forward. Other Members whose Bills are making progress will also be disappointed, but I am afraid that is a consequence of the choices that always have to be made in the run-up to a general election.
Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab): Why has the Road Safety Bill been left out of my right hon. Friend's list? Over which aspects of saving lives on roads was it not possible to reach agreement with Opposition parties?
Mr. Hain: The Opposition said that there was insufficient time for the proper scrutiny that they demanded, so it has not been possible to make progress on that Billwhich I regret, because it is a vital life-saving measure on which we should have been able to achieve Royal Assent.
Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con):
Will the Leader of the House confirm that the business on the Order Paper today remains as stated? If it does, what is the point? We have a Second Reading on a Bill
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that cannot go forward, and a programme motion saying that some of the proceedings on it must finish by 21 April.
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