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.