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Barbara Keeley: It was not me who gave the evidence to the Committee, but my predecessor. I have quite recently had a meeting with an individual Minister and officials, when I used very stern words; I am prepared to do that. I am always happy to consider individual cases. If the guidance that my predecessor set out has not been followed, I would be very happy to take up the cases that the shadow Deputy Leader of the House has raised. Let me reiterate that the Government's recent
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response to the Procedure Committee's report supports further work on challenging unsatisfactory answers. I shall take that forward and I hope the Procedure Committee will decide to do so, too.

House of Commons Commission

The hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission, was asked-

Microphones (Chamber)

23. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): If the House of Commons Commission will take steps to install additional microphones for the use of hon. Members who are unable to stand when speaking in the Chamber; and if he will make a statement. [301688]

Nick Harvey: The Commission is very sympathetic to the requirements of Members who are unable to stand when addressing the House and whose words might therefore not be heard fully. I have therefore asked the relevant officials to investigate having microphone coverage throughout the Chamber. From the information available, I understand that the improvement sought by the hon. Gentleman should be possible, although significant physical work might be needed in the Chamber. I shall of course inform him and the House when the full investigation is complete.

Michael Fabricant: I am grateful for that answer. We have at least two colleagues in this Chamber who find it impossible or difficult to stand. They speak with clarity of mind and voice, yet listeners and viewers at home often cannot hear them clearly because of the positioning of the microphones. We all look forward to receiving an update on precisely when that information, and the microphones, will be provided.

Nick Harvey: I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman. A range of options might be possible. They are being investigated at the moment and once the best option is identified I am sure that we will be ready to crack on and do it.

Leader of the House

The Leader of the House was asked-

Programming (Bills)

24. Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): How many clauses of Bills were not debated as a result of the provisions of programme orders in the 2008-09 Session. [301689]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Office of the Leader of the House of Commons (Barbara Keeley): All parts of a Bill are subject to parliamentary scrutiny at all stages of its passage. In many cases, Bills also undergo pre-legislative scrutiny. Elements of a Bill that are not debated in detail at one stage may clearly be considered at another stage and, in any event, may be divided on. It is therefore
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difficult to say with certainty which clauses of a Bill were not considered at all as a result of programming, but in Public Bill Committees no clauses were not reached for debate.

Mr. Bone: Is the Deputy Leader of the House not totally embarrassed by that answer?

Barbara Keeley: No, I am not. The important thing is the last point that I made-that, in Public Bill Committees, there were no clauses that were not reached for debate.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con): Will the hon. Lady give thought to the suggestion from the noble Lord Rooker that, when a Bill has been inadequately discussed or not discussed at all in this place, a certificate should accompany it when it is sent to the other place? In that way, the other place can know which parts of the Bill have not been discussed or need to be discussed more fully.

Barbara Keeley: Many of the things that we are talking about this morning in respect of reforming how Bills progress through the House are under consideration at the moment, but I do not think that there is anything specific on that particular recommendation. However, the other place knows how much debate on a Bill there has been here, so the process that has been described does tend to happen anyway.

Dr. Evan Harris (Oxford, West and Abingdon) (LD): The Deputy Leader of the House should know that Government new clauses and amendments are not discussed in Public Bill Committees-clearly they cannot be, because they are moved after that stage. The Library has told me that, on four Bills alone, nearly 200 amendments, including 50 Government new clauses and amendments, were not scrutinised. Does she accept that we cannot go on like this? The Wright Committee has set out a way to avoid the problem so that we do not have to demonise Government and the Government do not have to infantilise Members of this House.

Barbara Keeley: We have had a number of exchanges this morning about the Reform of the House of Commons Committee. We have had the Committee's report for two days, and we will be considering the recommendations in it that relate to the hon. Gentleman's question.

Select Committee Reports

26. Mr. David Amess (Southend, West) (Con): What plans she has to allow more time for consideration of Select Committee reports by the House. [301691]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Office of the Leader of the House of Commons (Barbara Keeley): The Government have already created additional opportunities for debating Select Committee reports by establishing sittings in Westminster Hall. That provided an extra 52 hours of debating time for Select Committee reports in 2008-09. I should like to remind the House that the Government will always consider requests from Select Committees for a tag on the Order Paper for any Government business that may be relevant to their work.

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Mr. Amess: The Minister knows perfectly well that, since we have had a Labour Government, it has been practically impossible to scrutinise anything other than through the Select Committee procedure. Will she now agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young) and give more time to debating Select Committee reports on the Floor of the House?

Barbara Keeley: It is always open to the Chairs of Select Committees to ask for a topical debate when they produce a report, given that such reports are often topical. That would be a way to give more time to Select Committee reports, over and above the extra sitting hours and days that arise from debating them in Westminster Hall.

Mike Penning (Hemel Hempstead) (Con): When Select Committee reports come before Westminster Hall, they are very often timetabled in a way that makes proper debate impossible. The most recent Health Committee report came before us right on the edge of Prorogation: instead of having a proper three-hour debate on inequalities in health, we had to try to work out when the House was going to rise. We lost half of our debate because of Prorogation and we did not have enough time, so is it possible to bring the report back for further consideration?

Barbara Keeley: As I have just said, it always open for Select Committee Chairs to ask for topical debates. If a debate is unfortunately chopped about because of voting around Prorogation, I am sure that the Leader of the House would be open to looking at that.

House of Commons Commission

The hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission, was asked-

Energy Efficiency (House of Commons)

27. David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): What steps the House of Commons Commission plans to take to improve the energy efficiency of buildings on the House of Commons part of the parliamentary estate. [301692]

Nick Harvey (North Devon): In the last 18 months, the House service has reconfigured building management systems and installed new remote energy meters and kitchen ventilation and lighting controls, as well as energy-efficient lighting and movement sensors. It has also initiated an IT upgrade and a server virtualisation programme, and begun an insulation trial as part of the cast-iron roof project. An estate-wide environmental assessment is currently under way to identify future
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options, which include further building management system changes, voltage optimisation, draught-proofing and behaviour-change programmes. That will allow for a challenging but realistic environmental target, supported by an action plan to be set before the House in 2010.

David Taylor: Like hundreds of colleagues, for nine years I have had the pleasure and privilege of working in the superb surroundings of our fine and iconic building, Portcullis House. Sadly, it has the lowest possible band G energy performance rating of 203. What is the Commission doing to ensure that buildings on the parliamentary estate rise up league tables to become public sector exemplars to the commercial and industrial sectors?

Nick Harvey: The Management Board recognised in 2007-08 that there was a need for improvement in the House's environmental performance. A new post of head of environment was filled on 31 December 2008, and the aim since then has been to lay foundations for Parliament to make an improvement, and a good-practice gap analysis has been undertaken. As I said, that will result in a comprehensive plan being brought before the House in 2010.

Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): Notwithstanding the comprehensive list that the hon. Gentleman has just read out, it seems to many of us in the Palace of Westminster that when the weather is uncharacteristically warm outside it becomes even hotter inside. Most of us have something in our homes called a thermostatic control. Could that not happen here, and save the taxpayer a lot of money?

Nick Harvey: I assure the right hon. Gentleman that there are thermostatic controls in the Palace of Westminster and in Portcullis House, although it would be fair to acknowledge that they are not always hugely efficient.

Hugh Bayley (City of York) (Lab): A few weeks ago when the House of Commons Commission considered the proposal of the 10:10 campaign that the House should cut its carbon emissions by 10 per cent. in 2010, it was decided-sadly-that it was impractical. Was that decision taken by consensus among all members of the Commission from all parties, and did the Commission receive any representations from the right hon. Members for Witney (Mr. Cameron) or for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Clegg), who proposed to the House two days later that 10:10 should be supported?

Nick Harvey: The Commission received a variety of representations but felt that it was not possible honourably to commit the House to doing something in the course of 2010 that we could not be confident of achieving. As I have already indicated, we are determined to make improvements way beyond that, but we cannot guarantee doing so during the calendar year 2010.

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Business of the House

11.31 am

Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire) (Con): May I ask the Leader of the House to give us next week's business?

The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): The business for next week will be:

Monday 30 November-Second Reading of the Financial Services Bill.

Tuesday 1 December-Motion to approve European documents relating to financial services, followed by a general debate on fisheries.

Wednesday 2 December-Remaining stages of the Equality Bill.

Thursday 3 December-A general debate on European affairs.

The provisional business for the week commencing 7 December will include:

Monday 7 December-Second Reading of the Energy Bill.

Tuesday 8 December-Opposition Day [1st Allotted Day]. There will be a debate on an Opposition motion. Subject to be announced.

Wednesday 9 December-Statement on the pre-Budget report, followed by remaining stages of the Child Poverty Bill.

Thursday 10 December-Estimates Day [1st allotted day]. There will be a debate on students and universities and a debate on the relationship between central and local government. Details will be given in the Official Report.

[The details are as follows: Students and universities ; 11 th R eport of the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee of Session 2008-09 HC 170; Government Response-8 th Special Report of Session 2008-09, HC 991. The Balance of Power: Central and Local Government ; 6 th Report form the Communities and Local Government Committee of Session 2008-09, HC33 ; Government Response-Cm 7712. ]

At 6 pm the House will be asked to agree all outstanding estimates.

I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for 10 December will be:

Thursday 10 December-A debate from the Work and Pensions Committee on tackling pensioner poverty.

Sir George Young: I am grateful to the Leader of the House for giving us the forthcoming business.

Today there is a written statement from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government on the local government finance settlement for next year. Last year, as in most years, there was an oral statement on the Floor of the House, allowing us to question the Minister on behalf of hard-pressed council tax payers in our constituencies. Why has that convention been broken for the last settlement before an election?

Will the Leader of the House confirm that there will be a debate after the pre-Budget report on 9 December? Given the delicate state of the UK economy, does she not think that the House has a right to debate the Chancellor's plans?

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Pursuant to the answers we have just heard, will the Leader of the House give a clear indication of when she expects to find time for the House to debate and vote on the recommendations of the Wright Committee-the Committee on Reform of the House of Commons? Unlike the right hon. and learned Lady, I welcomed the report when it was published, particularly since many of the ideas reflected what the Opposition had already proposed. In written evidence to the Committee in July, she said that she wanted a quick report

I share that enthusiasm, so can we expect to have a debate and votes on the proposals before the end of January?

I see in the future business set out in today's Order Paper that the right hon. and learned Lady has tabled a motion on the appointment of the chairman and other members of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. Given the speed with which we need to move if we are to get the authority up and running, will she give time next week for that debate?

Will the right hon. and learned Lady give a statement on the timetabling of her Equality Bill? Yesterday, on a point of order, my hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean (Mr. Harper) noted that her Bill will have only one day on Report, despite the size of the legislation and the number of amendments, excluding Government amendments, that have already been tabled. The right hon. and learned Lady has given several promises to the House that her Bill will provide an exemplar of good scrutiny; we would expect nothing less from the parliamentarian of the year. Will she give an assurance that she will translate her fine words into action?

May I repeat my call for a stand-alone debate in Government time on Afghanistan? Yesterday, the former head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, accused the Prime Minister of

The right hon. and learned Lady has said on several occasions that she recognises the need to find time for a debate on Afghanistan. As Downing street has briefed that a decision from President Obama on troop levels is imminent, will she promise to ensure that the House has an early opportunity to discuss the implications of that decision for our forces on the ground?

Finally, may I ask once again when the right hon. and learned Lady will give us the date of the Easter recess? She said last week that it would be announced "in the usual way". If that is the case, why did she not do it in the usual way when she gave us the date of the Christmas and February recesses more than four weeks ago? Is her reluctance to announce the date in any way related to the careless whisper from the Home Secretary, who this week betrayed his fears that next year's poll would be

Does the right hon. and learned Lady share those anxieties, or is she made of tougher stuff than the Home Secretary?

Ms Harman: The right hon. Gentleman asked about the written ministerial statement on the local government settlement. He will know that I have announced the date of the pre-Budget report; all the issues can be raised when the Chancellor is at the Dispatch Box on the occasion of the pre-Budget report.

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