Procedure Committee - Minutes of EvidenceHC 188-II

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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Procedure Committee

on Wednesday 13 March 2013

Members present:

Mr Charles Walker (Chair)

Nic Dakin

Mr James Gray

Tom Greatrex

John Hemming

Mr David Nuttall

Jacob Rees-Mogg

Martin Vickers


Examination of Witness

Witness: Ms Angela Eagle, MP, Shadow Leader of the House, gave evidence.

Q303 Chair: Thank you, Angela, for coming to see us. Do you think that private Members’ Bills have a role to play in a modern Parliament, and do you think it is realistic for private Members to think that they have a chance of changing the direction of travel even in the margins, or perhaps would it be better just to quietly put these out to graze?

Ms Eagle: No, I think that they are an important part of the landscape in Parliament. I think that there are different reasons why people pursue different ones. When I think about private Members’ Bills, I mainly think about the ballot Bills, the ones that are balloted for and mainly are the subject of the 13 Fridays, but obviously there are ten minute-rule Bills and presentation Bills as well, which I think really fulfil slightly different purposes. From the point of view of a Member of Parliament being able to have a chance, however small, of being able to legislate and get something worthwhile on to the statute book, I think that is quite a good motivation for them, albeit the procedure we have at the moment has a large degree of luck about it. The chances of succeeding are not stunning, probably inverse to the importance of the Bill that you want to bring. I also think it allows the public to get involved, but in a way that raises their hopes rather higher than the percentage chances of getting a Bill. We have seen that in some of the evidence that has been given to you on daylight-saving, for example. People get their hopes up really greatly, and there is not an awful lot of understanding about how arbitrary the process can be and how difficult it is to succeed. I think it is a colourful, interesting bit of what Parliament does, and I would be personally sad to see it disappear.

Q304 Chair: It is quite an opaque process.

Ms Eagle: Yes.

Chair: It is not very transparent. We have the shadows in the corners of the process that make it difficult for the public to understand.

Ms Eagle: I am not sure the public understand with a great deal of insight our procedure in general. I think when they do get to look, they are pretty astonished at some of the things that we do and the way that we do them in this Parliament, and that is putting it mildly. With private Members’ Bills, the astonishment is all the greater, because I think the private Member’s Bill procedure is probably the most anachronistic of all the procedures that we have. It is the least reformed. It is great fun for those who want to be Friday attendees and do all the tactics. The tactics and strategies are very different on a Friday than they are on most of the rest of the parliamentary week. Some people are great experts and become great experts at the Friday procedures, where everything is very different. It is fun, but I think the public look on it pretty askance when they notice it at all.

Q305 Martin Vickers: Following on from that, Angela, I agree, it is fun for some of the participants, but as you rightly say, the public are to some extent led to believe, particularly by lobbyists and so on, that there is a chance of a Bill becoming law when in actual fact we know that there is almost no chance. Do you think the whole perception of Parliament is damaged as a result of that?

Ms Eagle: I do think that the perception of Parliament is always best served by people having a realistic view of what is likely to happen. When people are told something from a particular viewpoint, if it is a lobbying company or something that wants a particular thing or a part of civil society that is campaigning for something, they are bound to exaggerate the potential of getting a Bill because they want to engender enthusiasm. I tend to be in favour of engendering enthusiasm in the political process, but if enthusiasm is engendered in a way that almost inevitably leads to disappointment, then I think you get cynicism and disillusion. You have to get the kind of balance right between saying, "Why don’t you get involved? Why don’t you try to put some pressure on?" Ten minute-rule Bills, ballot Bills-they can be about paving the way for legislation, demonstrating that there is a real feeling in the country about something, for example. There are many things that they help, and even if the Bill itself fails, quite often it then gets incorporated into a Government Bill because there has been a build-up of enthusiasm and campaigning for it. I would be sad to see it go, but I think honesty and a proper appraisal of the potential for getting a particular measure is an important part of not letting people down too hard.

Q306 Martin Vickers: You rightly say ten minute-rule Bills and the like are a way of highlighting an issue, but when they are reported, as today’s one on women bishops, for example, the end line is always it has no chance of becoming law. Isn’t it in actual fact members of the public look askance at that and think, "What was the point, then?"

Ms Eagle: I think the ten minute-rule Bill gives the chance for a Backbencher to debate something that they have thought they wanted to debate in prime parliamentary time and get some coverage for it. I think that is a wholly beneficial thing. The view that a ten minute-rule Bill might be potential legislation is not held nearly so much as ballot Bills and even less so for presentation Bills. They are simply to get things on the agenda and keep grinding away at a particular issue. I think that just because you cannot guarantee to get a Bill on to the statute book, it does not mean you should not give it a good go. Things often change because of the process that you engage in. I have never been lucky enough to come up in the ballot in all my years here when I was eligible to be in it. I know that some people dread coming up in the ballot because it is so much extra work and they are immediately inundated with people coming up with suggestions as to what their Bill should be. I would be sad to see it go. I think it is a very useful part of our parliamentary scene.

Q307 Mr Gray: Angela, would you agree there is a kind of confusion at the heart of all of this? This Parliament does not legislate. We scrutinise what the Government legislates on, with the sole exception of PMBs, but PMBs-as we have acknowledged just now and previously, you are extremely unlikely to legislate there either. Nine out of the 10 this year are hand-out Bills. The chances of actually legislating are slim. If we want to allow Backbenchers to have Bills-and perhaps we will ask the Leader of the House in a moment whether he does or not; I suspect he might not be all that enthusiastic, but let us ask him-then of course it would be perfectly simple to find procedures for doing so. The contrary argument would be that the obscure and difficult and awful procedures we have at the moment, which are a bit of a laughing stock in some respects, have the very good effect of not allowing Bills to go through; in other words, it gives the person an opportunity to raise an issue, to have a bit of fun, to flag things up. Are we as a Committee fooling ourselves by thinking that we should be examining how to make them work better when in actual fact what we want to do is to make them work worse?

Ms Eagle: As I say, I think it is a perfectly reasonable thing to allow Backbenchers to have the opportunity, so long as it does not impinge on other time, to legislate. I think that they do add value. Even if they are Government hand-out Bills, they can add value. It gets things on to the statute book that might not have had the chance to be on the statute book had the procedure not been there. It does engage with civil society, although I would rather see that engagement be a bit more realistic. I think that, given that view, I would be quite happy to see what this Committee might come up with to make it easier to get some of these Bills on to the statute book perhaps, but we also have to preserve the right of Members who object to Bills to be able to hold them up or even kill them. Just because somebody comes in the ballot, it does not mean they have an absolute right-regardless of the opinions of the majority of people in the Parliament-to legislate definitely. They have to build a consensus, often with three people, as we know, for that legislation.

Q308 Mr Gray: The second case, since you raised it, that springs to mind-surely isn’t there an argument that if people, whether other Backbenchers or whether it be the Government, oppose something, do not like it, they should summon enough people to vote against it, or indeed, in favour of it, if they are in favour of it? To stop it by means of talking for hours and hours and hours or bringing in all kinds of bizarre, "I spy strangers", or whatever it is now called, rules and all that business: does that not bring it into disrepute? If it is a bad Bill, why doesn’t the Government insist on having a sufficiently large number of people here on a Friday to vote it down? Wouldn’t that be better?

Ms Eagle: It usually does. It has a payroll here, and it can stop anything that it wants if it wants to, or it can stop it in other ways with the current quite anachronistic structure that we have at the moment, particularly by denying it time or making sure that it does not get high enough up to get into committee. I would not have a problem with making it slightly more difficult for the Government to stop bad Bills, because if we made it more difficult the Government may have to engage more openly and honestly with potential legislation in that way. I don’t think that would be a bad thing.

Q309 Mr Gray: You could have time limits, for example, two-and-a-half hours for a second reading; afterwards there will always be a vote-or you could have deferred votes.

Ms Eagle: It is very difficult. You could do that and this is the only place where Bills are not timetabled. I do not mind, regardless of what we were doing earlier on today, talking about sensible timetabling of Bills. Slightly different with a Backbencher, because there is no obvious usual channels to decide and try to agree on what the timetabling would be; you would have to think about who you would be making agreements with, unless of course there were to be a House business committee. The Government, I presume, would have to carry on looking at timetabling and coming to agreements. As nine out of 10 of the Bills that passed at the last session were hand-out Bills, then that might be a more obvious way of doing it. At the same time, there are some Bills that are small, narrow, quite focused Bills; quite short. There are other Bills that are paving the way for a debate on something, and in the past we have had Bills that have changed our social structure. One thinks obviously of the abolition of hanging and capital punishment and abortion and the legalisation of homosexuality, all done by private Members’ Bills. I think that the trend over recent years has been for Bills to be more narrowly focused or simply campaigning tools because Governments have tended to legislate increasingly on cultural and social issues themselves.

Q310 Tom Greatrex: Just following on from that, in all of the discussion and evidence we have taken on this, it has broadly identified three categories: the hand-out Bills, which you have spoken about; those where people are just wanting to raise an issue without any great expectation of anything else; but occasionally there are Bills there that are not those, that have a degree of cross-party consensus and sometimes fairly uncontroversial. Do you think there would be any merit in seeking to devise procedures that might be able to identify some within that group of Bills that would have more time or a better chance of getting time to be able to be debated, either through having access to timetabling in a way that others might not do?

Ms Eagle: At the moment, the access to time is done by ballot, effectively, and tactically choosing which of the 13 Fridays you want to have your Bill heard in. The bottleneck is the one committee, the only standing committee that can deal with private Members’ Bills. You could change that if you wanted, but I don’t see why any particular Bill should have any merit over another. A Bill to pass at the House of Commons has to get a majority of Members who wish to vote to participate and vote for it. I think that is a perfectly respectable criterion.

Q311 Tom Greatrex: Going back to your earlier point about when people get disillusioned and as to the extent to which they understand what happens, that tends to be with things where it is not someone just flying a kite and it is not just a hand-out, but it is something where there is a degree of public and quite often cross-party support. Do you think there might be some merit in seeking to identify just even a small number of those per session that might be slightly different?

Ms Eagle: I think some cross-party Bills can be highly controversial. Hunting with dogs comes to mind. That Bill never passed as a private Member’s Bill but was subsequently taken up by the Government because the ongoing private Members’ Bills created a kind of momentum in the country. That was a highly controversial Bill on both sides, although it had cross-party support. I do not see why that should merit a different procedure particularly than one that does not have cross-party support.

Q312 Chair: You touched on the fact that nine out of 10 Bills getting on the statute in this session coming out would be Government hand-out Bills. I think the Committee accepts the Government would always have an involvement in the process unless Members of Parliament suddenly find oodles of time to weigh up the hundreds of offers they get. I think, and I think some of my colleagues believe, that the process should just be more transparent. Is there not an idea that if it is a Government hand-out Bill, it could just say "with Government support" on it, for example, so those looking in understand what is going on? Because it would be too easy to stand up and say, "Hurray, we have had a wonderful year of private Members’ Bills. Ten have reached the statute", and that is not quite the case. Clearly, 10 have reached the statute, but it is not as it would seem.

Ms Eagle: Yes. I don’t have a problem with labelling Bills that have originated from the Government as Government hand-out Bills. It does not necessarily mean they have any less merit.

Chair: No, absolutely.

Ms Eagle: Often they are about things that are quite important in a quite narrow way but just couldn’t, for some reason-sometimes to do with the Leader of the House-find space to be legislated for. Yes, I do not have a problem.

Q313 Chair: It would not be a pejorative statement; it would just be "with Government support".

Ms Eagle: Yes, but you could say, if you were being pedantic-which I rarely am-that all private Members’ Bills have to have some form of Government support. They rarely make the statute book without Government support, particularly with respect to being given time and all of that. But yes, Government originated-

Q314 Chair: You will be aware from your time on the Backbenches, colleagues come under quite a lot of pressure from the Whips’ Office when they score highly in the ballot, particularly obviously from the party in Government, to take a particular Bill through, to be helpful.

Ms Eagle: Yes.

Q315 John Hemming: I think the question is really one of separation of powers. The question is: is there a majority in the House for something the Government is not that enthusiastic about? Do you think it would be better to create a situation in which it was easier to test the will of the House vis-à-vis the opinion of the Government?

Ms Eagle: I think testing the will of the House is always important for paving the way for change in some areas. Sometimes Backbenchers can be bolder with respect to that than Governments can be. Having been a Backbencher and been in Government, I have seen it from both sides. I think that is a useful role that pioneering Backbenchers can play.

Q316 John Hemming: Do you think there is a merit in trying to do that at a time when people are generally here so that it is not a question of getting people to be here on a Friday? Or should it be mainly just left around the Friday?

Ms Eagle: The great debate about when the private Members’ time for Bills should be is one that there is not a parliamentary Labour Party view on, because there are many views about Fridays and Tuesdays and the merits of Wednesdays and Thursdays. It is clearly not right if Bills are going to pass with maybe 150 people here when there are 650 Members of Parliament, but at the same time people can choose to be here if they wish. I think that when you look at the way that the parliamentary week is working, it is quite difficult to take just one day and try to reform it. I would like to look at the whole week and a look at when private Member’s Bill time should be would have to be taken as part of that whole look at the entire week. You end up with some very odd decisions if you do each day separately to all the others.

Q317 Mr Gray: What would you do with the week, then?

Ms Eagle: You are tempting me into all sorts of interesting areas there. I think there are many ways that you could do things differently in Parliament with different days. I do not think it has been entirely helpful, for example, that Backbench business is always on a Thursday because people tend to leave early to go back to their constituencies. That is making Parliament a bit too much like the Mary Celeste on Thursdays, which I am not sure that is good and it was not what the Wright Committee recommended. It is just the law of unintended consequences in MPs’ very, very busy lives. They have to juggle a lot of things and if there are not active votes in Parliament, then often they think of other things to juggle rather than being here, and I think that can sometimes be a pity.

Chair: Good for you. Well done. Hear, hear.

Ms Eagle: Well, I have to do business questions on Thursdays. It would be good to have a bigger audience occasionally.

Q318 Jacob Rees-Mogg: My question leads on from that. It seems to me that one of the reasons that all the filibustering techniques still apply on Fridays is because nobody is here and the Government doesn’t want to whip 320 people to be here on a Friday to vote down a Bill that it does not like. I wondered if you thought that any of the ideas of moving private Members’ Bills to Tuesday or Wednesday evenings might be a better way of doing it, when there are more likely to be people here.

Ms Eagle: It just means people would probably get whipped on Tuesdays or Wednesdays and then that kind of subverts the decision the House has just made about hours in its last vote. I am not averse to looking at timetabling and other-

Q319 Chair: At report stage; timetabling at report stage?

Ms Eagle: Yes, other techniques to try to curtail the power of the filibuster of very few people. I think filibustering was a great heroic thing that used to happen across the Parliament in different times to ours. I am not sure it really has much merit in an era of programming and timetabling.

Chair: Have you finished, Jacob?

Jacob Rees-Mogg: Yes.

Q320 Chair: Just on one issue, because if the Government does not want legislation to go through it will kill it off, now, if you look at a private Member’s Bill, it could do that at second reading. There seems to be quite a lot of concern about report stage now, which comes under attack from a huge number of amendments and the legislation collapses. One of the things we have looked at is allowing guillotining, knives, whatever you want to call them, at report stage but separating third reading and putting third reading on a Tuesday or a Wednesday night. If the Government cannot live with it on the Tuesday night, say after we finish voting at 7.20pm, there would be an hour for third reading, then people can be asked to stay behind and vote against the Bill at third reading. First of all, that would allow undesirable legislation to fall, but secondly, the Government would have to dip its hands in blood as well. Because we had this man from RoSPA who was livid because he genuinely thought that Jacob Rees-Mogg and David Nuttall had destroyed the Daylight Saving Bill.

Ms Eagle: I cannot believe that was the case.

Chair: He was furious, and in reality, as Mr Nuttall-yes, he really took James to task, so much so we had to rein the witness in. But David pointed out that a money motion had not been moved until about a month before the end of that parliamentary session, and in reality it was the Government saying one thing but persuading Jacob and others to do another thing. I think if the Government really wants to stop private Members’ legislation, there is no harm in it stopping it, but it has to be accountable for doing that. We have to be accountable in the Division lobbies for doing that. Would you see any merit in that?

Ms Eagle: Again, I do see merit in transparency and honesty in these matters. As someone who has talked out a Bill myself when I was a Minister, I got up to the despatch box and did it myself in full view of the cameras and was quite happy to talk about why afterwards. Yes, I think that behind-the- scenes sort of little deals, which I am sure neither David nor Jacob indulged in on that particular occasion, don’t exactly make those that are campaigning feel happy. But at the same time, I think people do not realise how difficult it is then to take a Bill through the Lords. The Government has many ways of preventing these things happening if it feels the legislation really does not have merit. If it does feel that, then it should really say so.

Q321 Chair: Yes. I am trying to draw you. Would you entertain the idea of separating report from third reading if we could then have a report stage that pushes through to a vote but, as you rightly pointed out, pushes through to a vote on Friday when maybe only 100 to 150 people are there? So, then there is an opportunity, say, the following week for the Government to say, "No, we are really not allowing this to go through" and colleagues to say, "We are not allowing this to go through. We are going to have a vote of the full House".

Ms Eagle: It is certainly a way of trying to deal with the issue. I think it would be a free vote in the House. I think it would be an interesting thing for your Committee to put some of these things before the House so that they could have a vote about it. As I say, there is no particular majority view in the PLP, because you get back to the issue about when one finishes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Q322 Chair: I know colleagues are itching to ask about Opposition Bills, but in the absence of any colleague sticking their hand up to ask it, I shall raise it, but please come in, colleagues. Do you think that the Opposition should have a power or right to bring forward legislation?

Ms Eagle: I think it is an interesting thought that hadn’t ever occurred to me before it was suggested as a possibility. It might seem a bit odd that the Opposition as an entity can’t bring forward Bills, but since there is not a majority for them to get those Bills through and-

Mr Nuttall: They can bring forward presentation Bills.

Ms Eagle: Yes, there are things like that, and ten minute-rule Bills you can do, but not in the name of the Opposition. I think it is an interesting thought, and it is one that I would not want to dismiss. I would want to look at the mechanisms of how it might work and how we might fit it into new procedures.

Q323 Mr Gray: Supposing, for example, it was to be on a Friday, the Government would not know whether or not you were going to ambush them, would they? It could be fun.

Ms Eagle: Such are the tricks and activities of any Opposition Whips’ Office that hopefully the Government never knows when we might think about ambushing them.

Q324 Chair: I am not sure we are hugely convinced as a Committee by the thought either, but it needs to be asked since we have you here.

Ms Eagle: I think it is an interesting, creative idea, but I want to have a look at how one might look at the procedures that might go with it and how that might change. You might want to think in terms of much more dividing up of days and much more formally. Obviously, there are Opposition debates at the moment rather than Opposition time that might be used for Bills, but there would be an awful lot of drafting and things to do, which may or may not be usefully done by lawyers if there was no chance whatsoever of a Bill making any progress.

Q325 Chair: I suspect it is an idea that will not find much favour either on the Opposition side of the House or the Government side of the House, but it needed to be asked.

Colleagues, any more questions? We have had our allotted session. Anybody want to ask any more questions? One quick question: you touched on ten minute-rule Bills. Do you think calling them Bills is slightly disingenuous? Should we call them ten minute-rule motions, do you think? I think one every decade gets into law.

Ms Eagle: There you are; one every decade is one more than nought every decade. I think the main use for ten minute-rule Bills is to have that prime-time debate on a particular issue. I don’t feel strongly either way particularly on that one. I would be sad to see them disappear from the agenda. I think they should stay where they are.

Q326 Chair: But call them motions, possibly? One of the problems we have identified is that you get a whole raft of Bills coming towards the middle/end of the Parliament that clutter up the Order Paper that appear at number 21. As you said, it creates a totally false expectation among the public looking in that these Bills are going anywhere. They are not going anywhere. They sit on the Order Paper. They are sort of mini-Mary Celestes all bobbing around on the Order Paper. Do you think some cleaning up of the Order Paper might be in order?

Ms Eagle: Cleaning up, explanation, more information about what these things are and procedurally what their likelihood is of making any progress; I am in favour of all of that detail and attention being available. The more that our Order Paper is understandable to someone who happens to pick one up, not knowing what it is and being able to look down it and understand what is going on, the better it is for this Parliament and the procedures that we have.

Chair: Thank you very much, Angela. That has been extremely informative and enlightening. Thank you for giving us your time this afternoon.

Ms Eagle: Pleasure.

Chair: Thank you.

Examination of Witness

Witness: Rt Hon Mr Andrew Lansley, MP, Leader of the House, gave evidence.

Q327 Chair: We shall now welcome the Leader of the House, who will not get such an easy ride, but we do like him very much.

Mr Lansley: The feeling is entirely mutual.

Chair: I know it is. Leader of the House, I understand that you would like to make a short opening statement. Is that right?

Mr Lansley: That is right, Mr Walker. Thank you very much.

Chair: Excellent. Fire away.

Mr Lansley: Thank you, Chair. I wanted just to say a few words, not least because I haven’t sent to you by way of written evidence previously. I wanted to say a number of things. Firstly, I see the private Member’s Bill procedure as important and valuable. I think it is a means by which Backbench Members of the House can themselves decide to bring forward legislative measures that they regard as the priority; it is in their gift to decide this. Some will be measures of wide public interest, some have active support from the Government, some are of very narrow interest and application; that is for them to decide. The key is that they decide this. It can lead to useful legislation-we can see many examples of that-but also it regularly promotes a debate that in itself leads on to Government legislation. Some, although declaratory rather than substantive in character, do promote important issues in the public debate.

I welcome your inquiry. I hope we can consider practical improvements to the procedure governing private Members’ Bills. In doing so, I believe we should make clear that making law should be hard. We should have to jump a high bar. Also, I hope that in supporting the principle of time allocated specifically to private Members’ Bills, we will recognise that the House debated and rejected as recently as 11 July last year the allocation of time on Tuesday evenings. May I say also in my view I hope in doing so you are not inclined to a view that the votes on private Members’ Bills should be separated from the debates. In your discussions, I hope you will consider whether and how private Members’ legislation could take account and indeed participate in the progress we are making more widely in securing pre-legislative scrutiny and public engagement in the making of legislation and in meeting legislative standards more generally, since I have a concern as Leader of the House that all legislation is properly scrutinised and of good quality.

I might say-I am sure you know-it is also less than clear to the public the distinction between ballot Bills, ten minute-rule Bills and presentation Bills. Clarity in our procedures is difficult to achieve but highly desirable. I also want to see that the time of the House and its resources are well used and that the power to delay and the need for effective scrutiny should not simply translate into pure destruction. I was myself fortunate enough in 1999 to secure passage of a Bill from 19th place in the ballot. That said, I know how difficult it can be and how difficult it ought to be.

Q328 Chair: Was it a hand-out Bill?

Mr Lansley: No.

Chair: No, it was not. So, you have experience, a rare experience, of bringing-

Mr Lansley: Illustrative in the sense that my old friend Michael Trend, who you may recall, who was a Member of Parliament here, secured a place in the previous year’s ballot, took up my subject, which was the Company and Business Names (Chamber of Commerce, Etc.) Bill. He was unsuccessful in that year because of opposition from one Alan Clark and Eric Forth and others, but I was successful in the subsequent year, which I think is illustrative of a general point that just because Bills don’t succeed in one year it should not be assumed they don’t succeed in subsequent years.

Q329 Chair: I am sure that will come as great comfort to the daylight-saving lobby.

I think it is important, and you may disagree with this, that the Government is not seen during this process to be defending the status quo. I hope your opening statement recognises that there is a great deal of room for improvement in the process to make it more transparent, less opaque. That does not mean we have to recast the whole process, but there are improvements that could be made. I asked the Shadow Leader about separating the third reading debate from report-stage debate, so we would not be separating the vote from the debate; we would just be having them on a different night. I will not go into the question again in detail, because you heard it from the back of the room. Could we have your view on that as a Committee? Then I will hand over to colleagues.

Mr Lansley: I am not sure I understand what the intrinsic benefit would be, since the character of the third reading debate on most private Members’ Bills is not only narrow in the sense that all third reading debates are but is generally confirmatory at that point. To that extent, if you have completed the report stage and you have present those Members who have participated most actively in the scrutiny of the Bill, it seems to me they have taken that interest; they are the Members who you should expect to be taking the decision on third reading. Why you would want to shift it somewhere else-I do say, and I may come to this point a few times, that you might think is almost perverse from my point of view, but I would encourage the Committee to look at any proposal they make and say, "Would it make it easier for the Government effectively to control the passage of and to push through legislation as private Members’ Bills?"

Because the truth of the matter is at the moment you may say there are Government hand-out Bills that are taken up by Members-that is entirely up to them-but in truth whether or not it is a hand-out Bill, the character of the procedure on a private Member’s Bill means if there is any significant level of opposition-and it need not be a very substantial number of Members of Parliament-that Bill will not proceed. There may be hand-out Bills, but they are Bills that almost by their nature have to have secured a consensus across the House. They are not, as it were, forced through by the Government with its majority. If one were to create a procedure that made it easy for a Bill to be forced through, a private Member’s Bill to be forced through by a Government majority, I am afraid it changes the character of private Members’ legislation.

Q330 Chair: The concern from many who we have taken evidence from is that report stage is so easy to sabotage that really that is when the Government decides that it does not want something to go through, so it deploys the black arts, loads of amendments are tabled and game over. Also, again, it does ring slightly hollow when the Leader of the House says that it is up to colleagues whether or not they take a hand-out Bill. You will be aware that the Whips’ Office are very good at applying pressure on colleagues, perhaps naïve colleagues, so that they feel obligated to take a hand-out Bill because if they do not take a hand-out Bill somehow they might feel that their copybook is slightly stained or blotted. So, it is not quite as you put it, I would argue.

Mr Lansley: I say two things. Firstly, I am sure you understand the point I was making was not that getting a Bill through report stage was not difficult. The point I am making is that you should not make it too easy for a Government with a majority-let us assume sometimes big majorities, as we have discovered in the past-to be able effectively to control and push through Bills against the opposition of Members. The fact that a number of Members can oppose a Bill and delay it, and in certain circumstances delay it fatally, is a defence because if a Government really wants a Bill and it is contentious, it should find time in the legislative programme for it.

Q331 Chair: I am just not sure these are the strongest arguments. The reality is in this session that one private Member’s Bill, i.e. not Government hand-out Bill, that is going to become an Act-the Government has total control as it stands over what Bills get on the statute and what Bill-

Mr Lansley: No.

Chair: It has almost entire control.

Mr Lansley: With respect, Chairman, I simply don’t think that is true. I do not accept your proposition that the Whips in any sense require or force Members, or even to that extent go beyond frankly pressure-

Q332 Chair: They place pressure-as I said, they place pressure-

Mr Lansley: Okay; I refute that they apply pressure. They may simply encourage and ask-and that is fine-on behalf of their Departments, but the idea that Richard Ottaway, coming at number 2 on the ballot in this session, as a very senior and distinguished Member and the Chairman of a Select Committee, would take up anything other than what he thought was most important is just nonsense. This simply didn’t happen.

Chair: Right. We have to agree to disagree.

Mr Lansley: Which turned out to be a very interesting, useful and well-supported Bill.

Chair: Brilliant, which perhaps could have been taken through in Government time, as it was a Government hand-out Bill.

Q333 Tom Greatrex: I was just struck by your opening statement talking about practical improvements that you could make to the procedures. Could you give us just a couple of practical improvements?

Mr Lansley: I was hoping in the opening statement to lead the discussion a bit, so I am grateful for that. I do think, for example, that it is difficult because Members very often, of course, having made their choice, the gap in time between the point at which they choose a Bill and make a selection of what they want to pursue and the point at which they are literally having to debate it can be quite modest. I would just draw the Committee’s attention to the fact that the House, through, for example, the public reading stage undertaken on the Children and Families Bill recently, was able to complete that on a big Bill in the space of about four weeks, I think. It is not inconceivable that there could be scrutinising processes if the House were so minded that would be available for Members in order to facilitate the scrutiny and passage of their Bills.

As I also said-and I think you touched on this in the conversation you had with the Shadow Leader-understanding the Order Paper is very important, and the distinction between Bills and where Bills are-[Interruption.]

Mr Gray: Excuse me.

Mr Lansley: Bless you. That would be a good one to get into the transcript.

Chair: Mr Gray said, "Ah-choo".

Mr Lansley: From that point of view, I think there are a number of ways and I am not in that sense trying to-I think it would help us all if you were able to think these things through in the way that you are, but trying to distinguish not just between how Bills are presented but how they are intended to be pursued. It is perfectly clear that there are some Members who introduce a ten minute-rule Bill and have the intention to turn that into a published Bill and would wish to pursue it. It is rare, but it can happen. Equally, there are Members who introduce ten minute-rule Bills and have absolutely no intention of publishing a Bill subsequently. The House authorities, of course, are presently redesigning the Order Paper for the purposes of its electronic presentation, so we have opportunities to think about this. I think if we could-or in this case, if you could-make proposals about how private Members’ Bills in their different origins and the point at which they have reached are presented on the Order Paper, that would make a big difference. If, for example, you are looking, as you are, at this stage in the session at a long list of 46 Bills, if you could understand not only that they have had second reading or been in committee but that also a significant tail of them have not even been published, it would tell you something practical about where the actual legislative process lies in relation to these Bills. That, I think, would be very useful.

Q334 Tom Greatrex: Can I ask just one follow-up to that; just a point that the Shadow Leader answered as well about whether Bills with Government support should be indicated as such? Do you see that as part of that?

Mr Lansley: I am not sure I understand how you would distinguish that. In the last full session, there were seven successful Bills, seven Acts, of which all of them in the end had Government support but only three had Government support at the outset, so how would you make that decision?

Tom Greatrex: I think it is one of these things about-

Mr Lansley: To create a practical example, would you have described in this session the Mental Health Discrimination Bill as a hand-out Bill? I am not sure I would, because-

Chair: It was not a hand-out Bill.

Mr Lansley: No, but-some people would, because Government joined in the drafting, but that is not the issue. If we give policy support to a Bill, it does not mean it is a hand-out Bill.

Q335 Chair: But would you have any objections to a hand-out Bill just having "with Government support" attached to it? I can’t see what the problem would be.

Jacob Rees-Mogg: Could I come in on that?

Chair: Yes.

Jacob Rees-Mogg: I just wonder whether we are confusing hand-out Bills, from what you have been saying-to some extent, hand-out Bills are Bills that have been around and considered and therefore it is known across Whitehall there is no major objection. Richard Ottaway’s Bill is a very good case: that lots of us were lobbied about the urgency of doing something about scrap metal and the need for updating that Bill. The Government was very sympathetic to it, but Richard himself was very, very keen to get that on the statute book. Perhaps hand-out Bills are not simply the Government trying to fill holes in its legislative programme, but they are Bills-and as we have discussed in earlier sessions-that have been around Whitehall, there is broad consensus for them and they have a chance of getting through. The difficulty with the non-hand-out Bills isn’t so much that they are an idea that the Government opposes but that they are an idea that has not been properly considered and consulted upon and that what we ought to be trying to solve is getting the period between something coming top of the ballot for presenting a Bill lengthened in such a way that they have a chance to see whether the Government can live with it or not. We have slightly been going back to front in our consideration of the hand-out/non-hand-out Bill. Is that broadly your view?

Mr Lansley: Yes. In a sense, I find the question about signalling Government support somewhat implies that these Members have done something other than themselves take decisions and be involved in not only deciding what Bill but sometimes actively deciding what the drafting and the content of the Bill should be. There are hand-out Bills that Members who have taken them up have made pretty substantial contributions to, and to that extent I think the description "a hand-out Bill", if you attached it to a Bill, is disparaging of the effective-

Q336 Chair: We would not. We would just say it was the Government’s. We are not going to call it a hand-out Bill.

Mr Lansley: But then the point I am making is that in the last session all seven Bills at the end of the day had Government support. It is our job. Conventionally, our job as Government at second reading is to indicate whether a Bill has Government support or not. That is just part of the existing structure. I think Jacob makes an important point. It is not easy to do, because there are 13 Fridays and they are distributed. The practicalities of securing enough of these Fridays sufficiently early that the Bills are handed to the Lords in good shape, in good time and so on-you know how difficult that can be. If we could create sufficient room for Bills to have some kind of public engagement and scrutiny, I think that would be in keeping with the way in which we are trying to address legislation.

Q337 Mr Gray: I have slightly lost the will to live. Can I take you back to your useful exhortation that whatever we do in this Committee we should not make it easier for the Government to make use of the procedure to get Bills through covertly? That makes a reasonable point, although that is, roughly speaking, what is happening at the moment. Would you not equally in that case agree that it would be wrong for the Government to stop some Backbench business covertly, which is exactly what happens at the moment? In other words, what I am saying is is there not an argument that says if the Government does not like a particular piece of Backbench business, they should simply whip against it and we should have proper votes on the matter, either on the Friday or on some other occasion; who knows, although I accept your point about not separating debates and votes. But at the moment, the whole thing is done obscurely. The Government stops things. The Shadow Leader-when she was a Minister, she openly talked out a Bill herself. That was not covert, that was overt, but getting a Government Backbencher to talk for hours on end in the hope that they kill off something the Government doesn’t like is covert. Isn’t there an argument for having votes, making it much more open, the stopping of a Bill, rather than allowing it?

Mr Lansley: I think it is, to be realistic, if the Government is opposed to a Bill, the Government has means to stop it.

Q338 Mr Gray: Even if they do not say so? That is the point, even if they do not say so. It is not open.

Mr Lansley: We are not engaged in any-we do not disguise this fact. I have just said it. There are a number of means of doing so. To that extent, it just seems to me that if that is the case, the obligation on Government is, it seems to me, not to seek to stifle the debate, to allow that to take place, and that is what we do. I can remember years back the occasions on which, over a number of years, there was a lot of talking at length on private Members’ Bills. Quite often it seemed to me that the Members who were doing this were not doing it necessarily at the behest of the Government Whips; they were doing it because they found this an interesting aspect of the procedure of the House and they wanted to be involved in it, and that is fine.

Q339 Chair: That is because we were mostly in Opposition when it was going on. If you are in Opposition, anything coming from the Government is something you tend to oppose, or most things. Since we formed the Government, then perhaps there has been closer co-operation.

Mr Lansley: If that were true, and I think this is something James has glossed over, the fact is the Bills that you say are Government hand-out Bills, if the Opposition objected to them, they would seek to obstruct them. The procedures would enable any significant number of Opposition Members to obstruct them as effectively as can any group of Members on either side of the House.

Q340 Mr Gray: That is the other side of the coin. What we are talking about is the Government stopping Bills covertly, not-

Mr Lansley: When you say we do it covertly, in order to say we do it covertly you have to say that we have put up Members of the House to speak on the Bills when they would not otherwise have done so, and I don’t know what your evidence is for that proposition.

Chair: Phil Davies came in-

Mr Gray: For 13 years-who was the very nice man from North London; Wembley?

Mr Lansley: Dismore.

Mr Gray: Dismore. I think Dismore was acting on behalf of the Government; of course he was. He did it every single Friday on and on and on, only on Bills of the Government. He was an aide of the Government, of course he was, but it was covert. I would just much rather see-

Mr Lansley: He was quite interested in private Members’ Bills. He secured the Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects) Bill in 2010.

Q341 Mr Gray: You are still missing the point. You are missing the point. Andrew, you are missing the point. Don’t you think there is merit in the Government standing up and saying, "This Bill-this Daylight Saving Bill", for example, "is bad because the people of Scotland do not like it. It is bad for the economy".

Mr Lansley: We did not say that. We supported the Bill.

Mr Gray: You did not say that, but you stopped the Bill-

Mr Lansley: No, we didn’t.

Mr Gray: Hang on; look, I ask the questions around here.

Mr Lansley: No, no, that was an answer. That was an answer: no, we didn’t.

Mr Gray: Let me phrase it slightly differently. [Interruption.]

Q342 Chair: Colleagues, I am sorry; we are going to reconvene in 10 minutes-15 minutes.

Mr Gray: Are we? Do we need to, really?

Chair: Absolutely. We are only just getting-I am not cutting you off in full flow.

Mr Gray: All right.

Chair: Well, I am.

Mr Lansley: Just getting interesting.

Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.

On resuming-

Q343 Chair: Are we all here? Tom is not coming. Continue, James.

Mr Gray: We were, if you recall, discussing-and you had very sensibly said that you felt we should not change proceedings in such ways to make it easier for the Government to use the mechanisms of PMBs for Government business. I think that is absolutely correct; that injunction makes good sense. But my questioning was: would you not accept that at the moment it is the other side of the coin? At the moment, for example, with regard to the Daylight Saving Bill, the Government quite clearly were opposed to it and in this case by the mechanism of delaying the money resolution killed it off, and that caused great surprise and great consternation around the country. Would it not be better were the Government opposed to the Bill to make that absolutely plain by having a proper vote on it at second reading or making it absolutely plain and therefore whipping a vote on a Friday, which you want to do, or perhaps deferring a vote and whipping it the following week; although I accept your injunction about not separating votes and debates-that is a reasonable point to make-but nonetheless you could-or another example, which the Chairman raised earlier on: you could separate the report stage and the third reading and then you could have a substantive vote for third reading the following week on a Wednesday evening or something. But is there not a dishonesty at the moment that the Government are in fact killing Bills without admitting to doing so?

Mr Lansley: I will not reiterate the point about separating report and third reading. I think, given the nature of what a third reading debate on PMB generally is, that would probably not be desirable. It is incumbent on Government to make clear at second reading the Government’s view of a Bill, and as a consequence of that there will be circumstances in which the Government seeks actively to vote against a Bill at second reading. I think one of the things clearly you are going to look at is: are there procedural means by which we can make it more certain that a Bill that has had a substantive debate at second reading reaches a vote? That is what basically you are looking at.

Q344 Mr Gray: We are looking at all the time, yes.

Mr Lansley: There are good ways of doing that and bad ways of doing it. I think a three-hour limit is an inflexible way of doing it, but you do have to think through the consequences if you set any kind of time limit; it has to be able to be varied. In varying it, somebody, as the Shadow Leader said, has to decide when and why and the House itself will have to decide that, which will take up time. We often debate things on programmes for some period of time.

But there is an important point. I read the evidence you took from Mr Mullarkey. Of course I was not Leader of the House at the time, but I enquired, and it was not the case that the Government in any sense deliberately delayed the money resolution. The point is that the Member is in charge of the Bill and the Member in question had to secure, through discussions with the Scottish Government, a position where there was then a basis on which the money resolution could be sought and provided, and that took time. It might have been done quicker, but from the Government’s point of view Government intruded no delay as such. To my knowledge, Government has provided the money resolutions, including, where appropriate, obviously they secured the opportunity for the House to approve that, whenever we have been asked to do so.

Q345 Mr Gray: So you reckon there was no unreasonable delay on the money resolution on the Daylight Savings Bill?

Mr Lansley: No. There may have been delay, but I do not think it was occasioned by the Government.

Mr Gray: An extraordinarily long time.

Mr Lansley: Yes, but I do not think it was occasioned by the Government. I think it was consequent on the delay in reaching an agreement but completing the process of discussion with the Scottish Government.

Q346 Mr Gray: We might have to take it up with Rebecca to check up whether or not that was the case.

Mr Lansley: I am simply reflecting what I understood to be the case.

Q347 Mr Gray: The presumption was we had been told that the Government had unreasonably delayed the money resolution, and by that means killed the Bill.

Mr Lansley: By all means, if I have said anything that is inaccurate, I will correct the record, but as far as I am aware that is the situation.

Q348 John Hemming: I apologise for my departure; I have been to two other Select Committee meetings.

Mr Lansley: Good man. Fantastic.

John Hemming: They needed me for the quorum.

Mr Lansley: What it is to be in a smaller party.

John Hemming: It is the Statutory Instruments Committee; everyone knows what it is like.

Mr Lansley: Oh, I do.

John Hemming: Basically, you mentioned earlier in your statement about pre-legislative scrutiny; do you think that perhaps for a small number of private Members’ Bills there is a merit in having a longer process, because at the moment the process only handles the parliamentary process, having a longer process to enable pre-legislative scrutiny and potentially consultation outside Parliament?

Mr Lansley: In a sense, what I would like to do, if I may, rather than lead the witnesses too far is put the proposition to you and let you think about what it looks like. In some cases you might say, given what we now know about the speed with which you can conduct public-reading stage-because you do it online, you can do it in weeks, so that may well be a mechanism that is available-you could think more widely. It begs the question, not at the start of a Parliament, but at subsequent points before a new session, whether the House might ballot earlier so that Members know in advance that they have the opportunity to bring forward a Bill in a subsequent session, but of course they cannot present it at that point, and if they do not want to make a decision, they do not have to make a decision. But they might have the opportunity to make a decision and to initiate a formal process with the House of having the scrutiny of a draft Bill under those circumstances.

But also I would say there are mechanisms that are available. In effect what I did back in 1997-98 was pursue a piece of legislation and fail and in the process engaged in what was effectively a form of scrutiny of it, then the next time found out who was against and sorted them out.

Q349 John Hemming: Would the Government potentially be willing to allow some of its channels that it has for such consultation to be made available?

Mr Lansley: To be perfectly honest, I am not sure I understand. If Government was seeking to prepare legislation in order for it to be a hand-out Bill, as it is colloquially described, then of course we take that responsibility, and indeed there are Bills where we have undertaken formal pre-legislative scrutiny and they have subsequently become a hand-out Bill.

I would think if a Member simply wanted to proceed, and I think it is a matter for the House, but I see no reason in theory why the House could not conduct the scrutiny. This has happened many times before-well, a reasonable number of times-that the House is perfectly capable of conducting a full scrutiny. I remember back in 2002/3 we did a major piece of scrutiny on the Communications Bill. It was not done by the Government; it was done by the House.

Q350 Jacob Rees-Mogg: Can I ask two separate questions; first, a follow-on on that, because one of the things our inquiry has indicated is that a number of worthy private Members’ Bills get opposed not because the Government dislikes them but because the Government has not had time to form a view around the Whitehall system. I do not know whether you think that is correct, but if you do think it is correct, would holding the ballot earlier, for example, than having a ballot now for the next session-

Mr Lansley: Sorry, Jacob, which-

Jacob Rees-Mogg: That the Government’s default position is to oppose a private Members’ Bill because it may not see the text of it until a few days before it is put forward.

Mr Lansley: Yes, I understand.

Jacob Rees-Mogg: The Government obviously has consultation processes internally in Whitehall to decide whether a Bill should be proceeded with. I am just wondering if with a non-hand-out Bill that would have a much better chance if there had been six months for the Government to think about it, and that just removes an obstacle probably to the uncontentious, the minor, but to some extent important Bills that individual Members want to bring forward and that would help ease the process.

Mr Lansley: I think that is true. I would have said in my obviously now six months’ experience I have not seen an occasion where I think the Government has not been able to arrive at a view on a ballot Bill. Clearly this is true for ten minute-rule Bills or in fact, strictly speaking, for presentation Bills and the like when they come up. You will be aware that considerable effort and resources are devoted to this inside Government. We don’t take the view, "This is down at number 12, therefore we do not need to bother to decide what our view is on it". It may be down at number 12, it may be very unlikely to be reached but there will be a process inside Government of having resolved across Government what our view is on that Bill. So, the fact of Bills being on the Order Paper for consideration on a day-it should be understood that the costs and resources implied by that are wider than simply what you see inside the House.

But it is true; sometimes it is very difficult to take a view other than that we oppose-because sometimes simply the Bill is not there until the very last minute, and that is not desirable. I think procedurally it would be good to have the Bills available earlier. I think for public-engagement purposes, Members who are serious about a piece of legislation should have it available with a reasonable amount of time. From our point of view, if there were a mechanism by which even four weeks of publication of scrutiny it would be perfectly sufficient from our point of view to manage these processes. Of course, it is my responsibility that these processes are managed properly.

Q351 Jacob Rees-Mogg: The second area of questioning is, from what you have been saying about coming to a vote, do you think the current system works very well on second reading, that you get a closure, you need 100 Members to be present, that is a perfectly reasonable thing to demand, but the difficulty is at report stage? Would it be possible to copy the closure motion and apply it to a timetable for report stage, but possibly with a slightly higher number, to say we need 150 Members to vote for a timetable on report stage, and if you could get that, that would show that a sufficient number of Members of the House felt that it was important that one or two people should not be able to filibuster it?

Mr Lansley: I think to some extent proceedings on a private Members’ Bill, insofar as they reflect what would be available for the progress of legislation generally, is a reasonable proposition to start with. So, you could say if you have sufficient Members available and you can put down a motion at the commencement of business to set a timetable for that Bill to be completed, you could construct a procedure for that.

I just come back to the point I made previously; it is important to be careful, because if you are given-and I say this: I am in the Government, but if the Government knows that if it has the right number of people about, it can put a timetable motion down, force a piece of legislation to be debated, it encourages Government to consider the proposition that a piece of a hand-out Bill constructed under private Members’ legislation could proceed, notwithstanding that there was substantial opposition from the other side of the House. That is not the position at the moment. We do not see private Members’ legislation as a route by which we can divert contentious legislation. From our point of view, it has to meet all the tests related to the quality of legislation and public interest, but it also has to meet a test of being non-controversial, something which is capable of attracting a consensus across the House.

Q352 Jacob Rees-Mogg: Yes, because it is just as easy to talk out a hand-out Bill as it is to talk out a non hand-out Bill.

Mr Lansley: Yes.

Jacob Rees-Mogg: Absolutely.

Q353 Mr Nuttall: What is your view about when is the best time to consider private Members’ Bills?

Mr Lansley: My personal view is on a Friday, because I think private Members’ Bills have-there are a number of Members who are very interested in that part of the process of scrutiny, and I think probably make a significant contribution by doing that.

I think for most Members, and I have to say this was my personal experience, I tended to make time to be here on a Friday when there were Bills that I was particularly interested in. I think the expectation that a wide range of Members would want to be involved in private Members’ debates, there is no evidence to suggest that large numbers would be involved. Therefore, for example, as the House rejected the proposition that they should be considered 7.00pm to 10.00pm on a Tuesday evening, but if that had passed through it seems to me that we would have had quite a lot of Members being around between 7.00pm and 10.00pm on a Tuesday evening, from their point of view, for no purpose.

Q354 Mr Nuttall: Just another point: at the moment we have a rather absurd situation where we are still having ten-minute rule motions coming forward every week but there are no more sitting Fridays. Something we referred to earlier-I just wondered if you felt that, perhaps in the interest of transparency, it could even be as radical as saying once we have gone past the opportunity for them to even remotely stand a chance of being considered on the Friday, there might be an argument for saying, "Is there any point in going through the charade of listing a date when they will be heard on, when we all know that there is no chance it will be considered on that day?"

Mr Lansley: I will be interested in what you have to say about this, because I think there is some argument, not in taking away the opportunity for ten minute-rule Bills, because there is-

Q355 Mr Nuttall: No, I was not suggesting completely.

Mr Lansley: I share Angela’s view about that. I think it is a good opportunity for Members at a prominent moment in parliamentary proceedings, and it does not hold us up too much to do this thing. But it is perfectly clear that it is very often, and I have been struck how often Members feel that if it is opposed and it comes to a vote that they are voting on the merits of the Bill itself rather than the question of whether the Member should have leave to introduce it. In a sense, even in the House there is a degree of confusion about the character of what is being sought, and in truth what is being sought is a motion.

Mr Nuttall: Yes, it is a ten minute-rule motion.

Mr Lansley: It is a motion, and you ask that question and in truth that is what it is. Whether it is through changing the name or changing the description and how it is reflected on to the Order Paper, there may be better ways of illustrating that unless, without changing the procedure, if somebody wants to bring in a Bill, the motion could still give them leave to introduce a Bill and so to that extent they would not lose anything by it. But it might be possible, in the absence of them publishing the Bill subsequently-which many do not-you have created a distinction that people can see between what is effectively no more than a declaratory motion and what is an intention to promote some kind of legislation.

Q356 Martin Vickers: The question I want to put to you is the same one I put to the Shadow Leader about the reputation of Parliament, and you will have seen the evidence, particularly from the Hansard Society, who are concerned that it is the PMB process that is not beneficial to people’s perception of Parliament. Could I lead into that by just picking upon something you just said about particular Members having a particular interest in PMBs and therefore scrutinising-and whether you regard filibustering as effective scrutiny, or does filibustering contribute to the rather poor perception of the process by the public?

Mr Lansley: Filibustering should not be possible. To some extent, without changing the procedure, the practice of the Chair in relation to the latitude that is given in speeches and debates could change the character of this altogether. It is not to say there have not been moments-there have been moments when the Chair has intervened in order to limit debates that have ranged too widely. I personally would take the view that, from the point of view of the overall credibility of the House, it is important that the Chair does that. I think the Chair is aware of this and so has that in mind.

Do you need a change in procedure for that? In truth, if you wanted to do that, you have to set some kind of limits, but the procedure is available. If the Chairs wanted to do so, as far as I am aware, there is absolutely nothing to stop the Chair suggesting in relation to a group of amendments on report that there are Members wanting to speak, and they could set time limits in relation to that if they sought to do so. I do not think the Chair is constrained from doing that.

Chair: Would anybody else like to ask any questions of the Leader of the House? No. Thank you very much, Leader.

Mr Lansley: It has been a pleasure; thank you. It is always a pleasure being with my colleagues.

Q357 Chair: Leader, just before you go, we are quite keen to transact some business, because we have a number of reports that need to find debating time, of course.

Mr Lansley: You have, you have.

Chair: If that could be arranged, I wouldn’t say we would be eternally in your debt-I would not want to put the Committee in that position-but we would be very grateful in the appropriate way if we could find some time to transact our business.

Mr Lansley: It will not have escaped your notice and will be apparent tomorrow that time is limited between now and the end of session, but we will. I am sorry; in the spirit of our recent discussions, there may be occasions where we might have to take business after the moment of interruption, so I apologise if we have to do that. But I am sure you would rather that we did that than that we did not make progress.

Chair: Committed parliamentarians, all of us; we will manage.

Mr Lansley: Indeed, you are.

Chair: Thank you very much. Sorry to send you on your way with a false start.

Prepared 28th August 2013