Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons Written Evidence


Memorandum from Mr Angus Sinclair, Speaker's Secretary (M33)

STATISTICS HELD BY THE SPEAKER'S OFFICE—QUESTIONS, DEBATES ETC

  Following a request from Mr Gordon Clarke, Clerk to the Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons, please find below the methodology used by the Speaker's Office to record backbench Members' contributions to debates etc.

  So far as debates are concerned, we record all contributions with the following exceptions:

    —  speeches in debates held in Westminster Hall;

    —  speeches in end of day adjournment debates;

    —  speeches on Private Members' Bills or Private Business;

    —  speeches in Committee of the House;

    —  speeches on the Report Stage of a Bill or on consideration of Lords Amendments or Reason; and

    —  speeches of less than three minutes.

  We also record occasions when a Member has applied to speak and has been unsuccessful; and we make a note of speeches that last more than 25 minutes.

  If a Member was a Shadow Front-bench spokesperson but later moved to the back-benches, our records distinguish between the number of times they have spoken from the Front-bench and from the back-benches.

  All information is made available to Mr Speaker prior to the start of the debates in the Chamber.

  So far as Ministerial Statements, Urgent Questions and Business Questions are concerned, names of those called and not called are noted on each occasion; as is the length of the individual Front-bench contributions and the number of backbench Members called, along with the total length of backbench contributions. At Business Questions, the Chair will also be aware of which Members were not called on a previous occasion.

  For Departmental Oral Questions, records are kept detailing the number of Questions on the Order Paper which were reached and also the number of supplementary questions which were asked.

  Records are kept of the number of times Members have been called at Prime Minister's Questions and these figures are available to the Speaker at assist him in deciding whom to call.

  I have also been asked whether I could make available any statistics on the number of times backbencher Members are called during debates. Our records for the 2005-06 Session indicate that on average Government backbenchers were called 3.15 times and spoke for an average of 38.5 minutes in total, while Opposition (all parties) backbenchers were called 5.26 times and spoke for an average of just over 66.5 minutes in total. [1]

  The number of contributions by Government backbenchers ranged from nil (40 Members who did not seek to be called) to 13 (one Member) and by Opposition backbenchers from nil (11 Members who did not seek to be called) to 27 (one Member [Liberal Democrat Spokesperson]).

March 2007

Annex

Session 2005-06

MEMBERS CALLED TO SPEAK IN DEBATE

  The following are not recorded:

    —  contributions from a Government Minister/Secretary of State;

    —  debates when the House is in Committee or Report Stage of a Bill;

    —  debates on Select Committee reports;

    —  Adjournment debates

    ("matters to be considered before the forthcoming Adjournment" are included); and

    —  consideration of a Lords Reason or Reasons.

OVERALL
Total number of hours in Debate[2] 477 hours, 14 minutes
Number of backbench Members[3] 528
Total number of times Members were called[4] 2,275
Total number of times Members were not called[5] 186
Total number of Members not requesting to speak 51
Average number of times Members were called 4.31
Average total time taken, per Member54 minutes, 14 seconds

GOVERNMENT
Total number of hours in debate171 hours, 42 minutes
Number of backbench Members267
Total number of times Members were called 843
Total number of times Members were not called 65
Total number of Members not requesting to speak 40
Average number of times Members were called 3.15
Average total time taken, per Member38 minutes, 35 seconds

OPPOSITION
Total number of hours in debate290 hours, 4 minutes
Number of backbench Members261
Total number of times Members were called 1,372
Total number of times Members were not called 121
Total number of Members not requesting to speak 11
Average number of times Members were called 5.26
Average total time taken, per Member66 minutes, 41 seconds

POINTS TO NOTE

  1.  The difference between the Overall Total Numbers of hours in Debate and the sum of the Government Total Number of hours in Debate plus the Opposition Total Number of hours in Debate (15 hours, 28 minutes) are the contributions of less than three minutes made by Members.

  2.  As mentioned in footnote 34 above, with the exception of the Leader and the Chief Whip of the LD, all LD "Frontbench" speeches have been included.






1   Backbench Members exclude all Government Ministers and Whips, the Official Opposition Shadow Cabinet, the Leader and Chief Whip of the Liberal Democrat Party. Back

2   Total number of hours in debate taken by backbench Members of Parliament. Back

3   For these purposes, backbench means no Government Minister (including Whips) and no Shadow Spokesmen from Her Majesty's Official Opposition. The Leader of the Liberal Democrats (LD) and the Chief Whip of the LD are also excluded. Back

4   Taking footnote 3 above into consideration, this figure also excludes contributions of less than three minutes. Back

5   Owing to the time for debate running out. Back


 
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