Work of the Committee in the 2010-15 Parliament - Backbench Business Committee Contents

1  Introduction

1. The Backbench Business Committee was set up by the House in June 2010 and is now coming to the end of its first Parliament. The Committee is approaching a period of uncertainty over its continued existence. Whilst the Committee has been widely used by backbenchers to raise topical and important issues, and has often been very responsive to what is being debated by the wider public, its scheduling decisions have not always found favour with either or both front benches.

2. A new Parliament may bring with it a new attitude to the Backbench Business Committee and its powers to schedule votable motions on the floor of the House. An incoming government may try to reduce the number of days available to backbenchers or remove altogether the Committee's ability to schedule votable motions by restricting to Westminster Hall its allocation of debates. We believe that this would be a retrograde step, would damage Parliament's improving reputation for debating issues of importance and relevance, and would hamper backbenchers in holding the government of the day properly to account.

3. In this context, we thought it would be useful to describe our experiences of establishing the Committee, its day-to-day running, some of the difficulties we have encountered, some of the challenges we have overcome (and some which we have not), and both our successes and-equally importantly-our failures.

4. We hope to pass on the lessons we have learned and to outline the unresolved difficulties and tensions which our successors will also have to negotiate.

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Prepared 26 March 2015