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House of Commons

Thursday 19 May 2005

The House met at half-past Ten o'clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]


HBOS Group Reorganisation Bill


London Local Authorities and Transport for London Bill


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Business of the House

10.34 am

Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell) (Con): Before asking for next week's business, I congratulate the Leader of the House and the Deputy Leader of the House on their appointments. I suspect that the Leader's new post may be a welcome respite after holding one of the most difficult posts in Government in the past few years. It remains to be seen whether he will find it a rest after a few months of dealing with his colleagues on the Back Benches. However, I congratulate them both.

Will the Leader of the House please give us the business for next week?

The Leader of the House of Commons and Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his comments, which we reciprocate.

Mr. Speaker, you informed the House on Tuesday of the subjects for debate on the Queen's Speech. The business for next week will therefore be:

Monday 23 May—Continuation of the debate on the Queen's Speech.

Tuesday 24 May—Continuation of the debate on the Queen's Speech, followed by motions to approve the Draft Tax Information Exchange Agreement (Taxes on Income) Orders 2005 relating to Netherlands Antilles, Aruba, Virgin Islands and Montserrat.

Wednesday 25 May—Conclusion of the debate on the Queen's Speech, followed by motion to approve ways and means resolutions on which a Finance Bill will be introduced.

Thursday 26 May—Motion on the Whitsun recess Adjournment.

Friday 27 May—The House will not be sitting.

The provisional business for the week after Whitsun will include:

Monday 6 June—Second Reading of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Bill.

I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for Thursday 26 May will be:

Thursday 26 May—A debate on the millennium review summit.

It may assist the House to know that, subject to the resolutions being approved by the House on 25 May, the Finance Bill will be published on Thursday 26 May.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce the Commons calendar for Parliament until Christmas 2005. We plan to rise for the Whitsun recess on Thursday 26 May and return on Monday 6 June. For the summer recess, the House will rise on Thursday 21 July and return on Monday 10 October. For Christmas, we will rise on Tuesday 20 December and return on Monday 9 January. That is subject, as ever, to the standard Government health warning about the progress of business.

A copy of the new calendar is available from the Vote Office now and I encourage hon. Members to study it carefully.

Chris Grayling: I am grateful to the Leader of the House for giving us the details of future business.
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I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman had so little to say, and so little intention of including business on, global warming and this country's response to it. He will remember that, before the election, the Prime Minister said that it was the biggest issue that our country faces. It was therefore surprising to hear nothing about it in the Queen's Speech. It is obviously not on the agenda at the moment—that will come as a surprise to many people inside and outside this place.

Will the Leader of the House please give us an update on the timetable for appointing Select Committee members and Chairmen, especially in the light of the Chairmen's meeting in July, when the Prime Minister will be interviewed again? It is obviously important to get Chairmen in place before that.

When will the Bill on the European constitutional referendum be published? Will the right hon. Gentleman clear up the confusion of the past 24 hours? Will the Bill contain a firm, definite and immovable date for the referendum? Will he clarify the position?

Will the Leader of the House provide an early opportunity for the House to consider the system of ministerial appointments in this country, especially whether it should be possible for someone to receive millions of pounds from substantial Government contracts, make a major financial contribution to the Government and then become a Minister in that Government? Is not that the sort of behaviour that the right hon. Gentleman's colleagues have a habit of criticising vigorously when it happens in other countries?

I am sure that the Leader of the House and I share the hope that what we all do in the House during this Parliament will encourage greater interest in the democratic process. Does he therefore share my disappointment that the Queen's Speech debates this week have been curtailed owing to a lack of interest and lack of willingness to speak among Labour Members? Does he believe that that is a sign of things to come?

Mr. Hoon: I am surprised to hear the shadow Leader of the House complain about the lack of discussion on the important subject of global warming, given that we are about to start a debate on precisely that subject, once the business question is resolved. There will be every opportunity for Ministers and other right hon. and hon. Members to discuss the issue in the course of that debate.

It is certainly my intention to have the Select Committees up and running before the summer recess. I hope also to be able to assist the House in relation to the publication of the Bill dealing with the referendum. Exceptionally, I would like to announce that we propose to introduce it on Tuesday next, 24 May. I hope that that will be of assistance to Members in illustrating the Government's determination that there should be a referendum.

I am sure that the shadow Leader of the House knows full well that all ministerial appointments are made in accordance with the relevant rules, and there have been no exceptions whatever on this occasion.

I certainly share the hon. Gentleman's concern that there should be greater interest in the democratic process. It is in the interest of all Members to establish
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ways of increasing turnout. I made the point in my acceptance speech following the announcement of the result in Ashfield that the amount of effort and energy put in by all Members to promoting democracy around the world must be matched by a similar effort so far as turnout in our own constituencies is concerned. That is a challenge for all political parties.

Mr. Chris Mullin (Sunderland, South) (Lab): I am sorry to see that we seem to have reverted to the 80-day summer recess. Nothing brings us into discredit with our constituents so much as the idea—which I know is false in many cases—that we take two and a half months off in the summer. I had understood that we were to come back for a couple of weeks in September; I thought that that had been agreed some time ago. Is the suspension of the September sittings permanent or temporary? I understand that this suspension might have something to do with the fitting of a new security screen, but I would like an assurance from my right hon. Friend that we shall revert to the arrangement that I thought had been agreed.

Mr. Hoon: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that matter. I know that the question of the September sitting is of concern to right hon. and hon. Members. This year, the specific reason for there not being a September sitting is the works that will have to be carried out in the Chamber to install a permanent security screen—my hon. Friend was right in that regard. That does not mean, however, that we have taken any particular decision as far as the future is concerned.

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