Sitting hours and the Parliamentary calendar - Procedure Committee Contents


Formal Minutes


Wednesday 14 March 2012

Members present:

Mr Greg Knight, in the Chair
Karen Bradley

Mrs Jenny Chapman

Thomas Docherty

Helen Goodman

Mr James Gray

John Hemming

Mr David Nuttall

Jacob Rees-Mogg

Sitting hours and the Parliamentary calendar

The Committee considered this matter.

[Adjourned till Wednesday 18 April at 3.00 pm

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Members present:

Mr Greg Knight, in the Chair
Karen Bradley

Mrs Jenny Chapman

Nic Dakin

Thomas Docherty

Sir Roger Gale

Helen Goodman

Mr James Gray

Tom Greatrex

John Hemming

Mr David Nuttall

Jacob Rees-Mogg

Sitting hours and the Parliamentary calendar

The Committee considered this matter.

[Adjourned till Wednesday 25 April at 3.00 pm

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Members present:

Mr Greg Knight, in the Chair

Karen Bradley

Mrs Jenny Chapman

Nic Dakin

Thomas Docherty

Mr James Gray

Tom Greatrex

John Hemming

Mr David Nuttall

Jacob Rees-Mogg

Draft Report (Sitting hours and the Parliamentary calendar), proposed by the Chair, brought up and read.

Ordered, That the draft Report be read a second time, paragraph by paragraph.

Paragraphs 1 to 30 read and agreed to.

Paragraphs 31 and 32 read and postponed.

Paragraph 33 read, as follows:

33. If the House were to sit earlier on a Tuesday, we consider that it should not do so earlier than 11.30 am, in order to leave some time for other business to be transacted on Tuesday mornings. We recommend that if a vote on retaining the status quo on Tuesday is lost then the House should be given the opportunity to decide whether it wishes to sit at 11.30 am on a Tuesday, with a moment of interruption at 7 pm. Our view is that the current Tuesday hours should be retained.

Amendment proposed, to leave out paragraph 33 and insert the following new paragraph:

The House sat earlier on a Tuesday for a period between 2002 and 2005, an experiment which generally worked well. Earlier sittings on a Tuesday were supported by a large number of Members in evidence to us, chiefly because of the degree of additional control over their time which such an arrangement would offer them. That additional control could be achieved, we consider, with no detriment to the work of Parliament as a whole—and indeed, by increasing Members' ability to do their jobs, could improve it. An earlier time of meeting on a Tuesday should not be before 11.30 am, in order to leave some time for other business to be transacted on Tuesday mornings. We recommend that the House should be given the opportunity to decide whether it wishes to sit at 11.30 am on a Tuesday, with a moment of interruption at 7 pm.

Question put, That the Amendment be made.

The Committee divided.

Ayes, 2

Karen Bradley

Mrs Jenny Chapman

Noes, 7

Nic Dakin

Thomas Docherty

Mr James Gray

Tom Greatrex

John Hemming

Mr David Nuttall

Jacob Rees-Mogg

Paragraphs 31 to 33 again read, and agreed to.

Paragraphs 34 to 39 read and agreed to.

Paragraph 40 read, as follows:

We recommend that if a vote on retaining the status quo on Thursday is lost then the House should be given the opportunity to decide (subject to the caveat in paragraph 0 below) whether it wishes to meet at 9.30 am on a Thursday, with a moment of interruption at 5.00 pm. We expect that the consequence of such a change would be that public bill committees would sit while business proceeded in the House on a Thursday morning. Consideration would also need to be given to the timing of urgent questions. Our view is that the current Thursday hours should be retained.

Amendment proposed, in line 1, to leave out from "that" to the second "the".

The Committee divided.

Ayes, 5

Karen Bradley

Mrs Jenny Chapman

Nic Dakin

Thomas Docherty

Tom Greatrex

Noes, 4

Mr James Gray

John Hemming

Mr David Nuttall

Jacob Rees-Mogg

Another Amendment made.

Paragraph 40, as amended, agreed to.

[Adjourned till Wednesday 23 May at 3.00 pm

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Members present:

Mr Greg Knight, in the Chair

Karen Bradley

Nic Dakin

Thomas Docherty

Sir Roger Gale

Mr James Gray

John Hemming

Mr David Nuttall

Jacob Rees-Mogg

Sitting hours and the Parliamentary calendar

The Committee considered this matter.

[Adjourned till Wednesday 13 June at 2.30 pm

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Members present:

Mr Greg Knight, in the Chair

Karen Bradley

Mrs Jenny Chapman

Nic Dakin

Sir Roger Gale

Mr James Gray

Tom Greatrex

John Hemming

Mr David Nuttall

Jacob Rees-Mogg

Paragraphs 41 and 42 read and agreed to.

Paragraph 43 read, amended and agreed to.

Paragraphs 44 and 45 read and agreed to.

A paragraph—(The Chairman)—brought up, read the first and second time and inserted (now paragraph 46).

Paragraph 46 read, as follows:

46. There is a further complication in that we recommend below that the House be given the opportunity to vote on whether to take private Members' bills on an earlier weekday evening; but that no change be made to sitting hours on a Thursday if that option is accepted. The House will also need to come to a decision on Tuesday sitting hours before it can decide whether to move private Members' bills to a Tuesday or Wednesday evening. We recommend that a motion providing for private Members' bills to be taken on a Wednesday should be placed on the Order Paper between the motions relating to Wednesday sittings and those relating to Thursday sittings. That motion would be open to amendment to insert 'Tuesday' instead of 'Wednesday', if the House had decided to meet earlier on a Tuesday. The House would then proceed to consider the Thursday motions: if it had decided to move private Members' bills to a Wednesday evening, we strongly recommend that it then reject any move to bring Thursday hours forward.

Paragraph disagreed to.

Paragraph 47 read and agreed to.

Paragraph 48 read, amended and agreed to.

Paragraphs 49 to 56 read and agreed to.

Paragraph 57 read, amended and agreed to.

A paragraph—(The Chairman)—brought up, read the first and second time and inserted (now paragraph 58).

Paragraph 58 (now paragraph 59) read, amended and agreed to.

Paragraph 59 (now paragraph 60) read, amended and agreed to.

Paragraph 60 (now paragraph 61) read, amended and agreed to.

A paragraph—(The Chairman)—brought up, read the first and second time and inserted (now paragraph 62).

Paragraphs 61 and 62 read, as follows:

61. Nonetheless we recognise that there is considerable support amongst Members for this option, and we do not wish to deny the House the opportunity to come to its own decision on the matter. The House should be given the opportunity to decide whether it wishes private Members' bills to be taken on a Wednesday evening, or, if it has decided to bring sitting hours forward on a Tuesday, a Tuesday evening. Our recommendation, however, is that the option should be rejected.

62. Because of the effect that it would have on the staffing of the House, we consider that it would be unreasonable to make a 9.30 am start on a Thursday if the House had been sitting on the previous evening in an extended sitting of around 11 or 12 hours. The House should therefore be asked to consider whether to take private Members' bills on a Wednesday evening before being asked to consider whether to sit at 9.30 am on a Thursday; and if the House decided to sit on a Wednesday evening then the option of an earlier start on Thursdays should, in our view, be rejected.

Paragraphs disagreed to.

Paragraphs—(The Chairman)—brought up, read the first and second time and inserted (now paragraphs 63 to 65).

Paragraphs 63 and 64 read, as follows:

63. In the course of this inquiry, we have considered alternative means of enabling the will of the majority to prevail at second reading of a private Members' bill whilst not requiring large numbers of Members to be present at Westminster on a Friday. In our consultation document, and in subsequent oral evidence sessions, we canvassed opinion on three options:

  • encouraging the Speaker to set time limits on speeches on private Members' bills, if appropriate;
  • time-limiting proceedings on some or any stages of a private Members' bill such that the question thereon is put after a specified time (e.g. after three hours' debate on second reading), thereby avoiding the need for 100 Members to be present to force a closure;
  • deferring the vote on second (and third) reading of a private Member's bill to a set time the following week.

64. As we have already concluded, a comprehensive overhaul of the procedures for private Members' bills requires a full dedicated inquiry. We intend to carry out that work shortly, with a view to making recommendations which could be implemented from the 2013-14 session. The inquiry will be informed by the House's decision on whether to move consideration of private Members' bills to an earlier weekday evening.

Paragraphs disagreed to.

Paragraphs 65 to 81 (now 66 to 82) read and agreed to.

Summary read, amended and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Report be the First Report of the Committee to the House.

Ordered, That the Chair make the Report to the House.

Ordered, That embargoed copies of the Report be made available, in accordance with the provisions of Standing Order No. 134.

Written evidence was ordered to be reported to the House for publication: letter from the Speaker on selection of amendments on report, letter from the Clerk on private Members' bills, letter from the Conservative Party on party conferences, and results of the survey on sitting hours.

[Adjourned till Wednesday 20 June at 2.30 pm




 
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Prepared 20 June 2012