Evidence heard in Public

Questions 1 - 37



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Representations taken before the

Backbench Business Committee

on Tuesday 20 October 2015

Members present:

Ian Mearns (Chair)

Bob Blackman

Mr Peter Bone

Mr Philip Hollobone

Mr David Nuttall

In the absence of the Chair, Bob Blackman took the Chair.

Rt Hon Frank Field and Rt Hon David Davis made representations.

Frank Field: Thank you for inviting us. We are making an application for a Back-Bench debate on the Floor of the House on tax credits, on how Back Benchers might wish the package to be shaped, on how the reshaping can be done at nil cost, and on the opportunities-if there are any mitigating moneys coming down the track, on how the Government might best use those resources. We have 16 Members who already wish to apply for this debate and who are supporting it. We have practically every party in Parliament supporting it, except the Green party. I am happy to answer questions, but I think David wishes to add something.

Mr Davis: Just a word or two. This is an attempt to take some of the politics out of a very important issue and to present something on a cross-party basis, designed to meet the Government’s aims and to protect the public. It is an unusual proposal for the Committee, but I remind it that right back at the beginning of this Committee, we did something similar with prisoner votes, which was also a central part of Government policy. The Government was in a bit of a quandary at that time, as you may remember. The House, as it were, ruled its opinion on it, and it got the Government out of a bind to the net benefit of the country and changed the constitution, to some extent, of the European Court. This is in the same sort of category, unusually focused on public policy, but designed to be dealt with on a cross-party basis rather than on a partisan one, as will be happening later today, or in fact-

Q1 Chair: At this moment. That leads into the first question I have, before I bring in other colleagues. There is a full day’s debate on tax credits taking place at the moment. How does your application for a debate differ from what will be not only-almost certainly-a partisan debate, but a very full discussion on tax credits and potential alternatives?

Frank Field: There will be a full discussion, but not necessarily the sort of vote that expresses the wishes of Members of Parliament. When we were in government, it was very, very difficult for Members on the Government side to vote on Opposition day motions, whereas they may find it easier to vote for a motion that is theirs, rather than coming from the Opposition.

Mr Davis: I think it is also the case that we will endeavour to get external input-people like the Institute for Fiscal Studies and so on to establish the numbers, to work out what is right and wrong and what the figures are, which they tend not to get enticed into in a partisan battle, so that is the other side. Hopefully it will be a better informed and rather more measured debate than we will see today.

Q2 Chair: The final issue for me is obviously the timing of such a debate. There is a full day’s debate today. The autumn statement is coming up. How urgent is this request? Clearly, we have competing requests for debates.

Frank Field: Before the autumn statement, Chair. This is urgent because the measure will be considered in the House of Lords next week. And given the pressure from our constituents for Back Benchers to have major input into the debate, I hope that you might consider this a priority for you. That is not to say there are not other priorities, but they are not so time-constrained as this one is. If we are going to influence the autumn statement, the earlier we can have the debate, the better.

Mr Davis: Could I express one piece of raw prejudice? I would rather this issue was moved forward-it will not necessarily be resolved in this debate-by the House of Commons than the House of Lords. It is a major financial issue. In constitutional terms, it is our business, not theirs, and I would rather we made the decision, not them.

Q3 Mr Bone: I suppose, Chairman, because of the limited time-we only have possibly, just possibly, one Commons day and all these applications, but we have, relatively, a lot of Westminster Hall time available. Could this be a Westminster Hall debate?

Mr Davis: It is not really one for Westminster Hall, Chairman. The simple truth is that this issue is at the top of the political agenda. The debate will get vast amounts of coverage. Lots of people will want to take part. I would think that is not an appropriate route for us, really.

Q4 Mr Nuttall: There are 17 names, including your own two, on this application. Have you any indication as to how many of those 17 will be speaking in the debate today?

Frank Field: That I don’t know. There are other names on the Government side who have meetings with the Prime Minister or the Chancellor of the Exchequer. They thought it not polite to put their name down here until those meetings had taken place, so there are more wishing to participate.

Q5 Mr Hollobone: The purpose of this Committee is to allocate time for Back-Bench business. The Government allocate that time to us and then we have to decide how best to use it. Usually but not always, the Government give us a Thursday. It might be that the next available Chamber time is a week this Thursday. Would that date suit you?

Mr Davis: That would be fine.

Q6 Mr Hollobone: My second question is this. Obviously, this is a huge issue. Why are you asking only for a three-hour debate? Once you have got in the Front-Bench speeches from the Treasury Minister, from the shadow Treasury Minister and from the SNP, you are not going to have an awful lot of time for informed Back Benchers to chip in. Why not go the whole hog and ask for a full day’s debate?

Mr Davis: Bluntly, if we thought we would get a full day, we would ask for a full day. We are just conscious that a queue of people are going to be coming to you. Frankly, I rather agree with you.

Q7 Mr Hollobone: Do you think that you would fill a full day?

Mr Davis: Oh yes, easily.

Q8 Mr Hollobone: My third question is this. I am a bear of little brain. I have looked at the wording of your motion, which says "mitigate at nil cost". My question simply is: at nil cost to whom? Are you saying at nil cost to the individual? At nil cost to the Government?

Frank Field: To the taxpayer. It would be shifting the burden. When a similar event occurred that so penalised low-paid workers who were claiming the 10p rate of tax, the Government held their line that there was going to be no mitigation until the last minute. They then flooded the Chamber with money to buy people off, so that the then Budget was not defeated. We are anxious-and this debate would allow this-for Back Benchers to make their views known on how, if in fact there was additional money coming down to mitigate, they would like that spent. We would not want it on the Gordon Brown principle of confetti going everywhere by raising the tax threshold or the national insurance threshold, so could we fit it into a package that would mitigate the situation for those who would lose most?

We would be debating a nil cost proposal, but my guess is that unless this Government are different from all the others that have been under this sort of pressure, at some stage they will come up with extra money, and so it is really important that the House gives a view on where that extra money should go, whenever that is available, and where it should come from.

Mr Davis: Mr Hollobone, this is probably the only time you are ever going to find me in a middle way position, trying to find something that solves everybody’s problems.

Q9 Mr Hollobone: I ask because the way you have worded it means different things to different people. There are probably two arguments going on about the same subject. One is about whether you can change the system so that nobody is particularly penalised; the other is about whether you can change the system so that the deficit reduction plan is still on track, but perhaps taxes are raised elsewhere to compensate. If you were successful in your bid, you might want to have a look at the wording of this, because who can actually support the motion might depend on what that "nil cost" means.

Mr Davis: Yes. It is the last point you raise. We will do that.

Frank Field: It is just that we submitted that wording and people signed up to it, and at the last minute it is very difficult to get 16 people to agree a change, but if we have the opportunity for a debate we would certainly come up with a motion that opened up the opportunity for the House to make its views felt and for the Government to respond positively.

Chair: All right. Thank you very much. We will let you know.

Robert Flello made representations.

Q10 Chair: Robert, your request is for a debate on dog meat trade cruelty.

Robert Flello: This debate was originally requested by John McDonnell. What with recent events, I have happily taken over responsibility for trying to get the issue raised and debated more widely, to put pressure on the countries that are involved in this appalling and barbaric trade to do something about it, and ideally to end it permanently.

We are looking for a three-hour debate ideally, but we can probably just about squeeze into 90 minutes-it would not give a great deal of time for each of the speakers, but if that is all that is available it is what we will take. We could certainly fill three hours; sadly I do not think we could quite get enough speakers for a six-hour full-day debate, not because it is not an important issue but because there are so many other very important issues.

Your Committee may already have seen a request previously and had most of the background, so I will not rehearse all the comments that have been made before, but this issue needs to be raised in a way that is very prominent and, I hope, makes the countries involved sit up and take notice.

Q11 Chair: May I clarify one thing in your application? You have indicated that you are applying for a debate either in Westminster Hall or in the Chamber, but you have a divisible motion, which obviously cannot be taken in Westminster Hall.

Robert Flello: No, indeed. I would prefer it to be in the Chamber, but if there was not the option of the Chamber we would work backwards to try to accommodate that.

Q12 Chair: Clearly, if you had a debate in Westminster Hall, the motion would just be, "This House has considered…".

Robert Flello: Indeed, so I would much rather we had a proper substantive debate in the Chamber.

Q13 Chair: Your application is for 90 minutes. Is there any particular priority in terms of timing? I know this has been delayed somewhat.

Robert Flello: Yes, indeed. It would be good to get it sooner rather than later. It would have been ideal had we been able to get it for this particular week, when the Chinese premier is around, but I hope the message will get to him that we will have the debate anyway. It would be good to have the debate and raise the profile sooner rather than later.

Q14 Chair: The other consideration, given that you are applying for a 90-minute debate, is how much notice you would need to have such a debate. The reason I ask is that, occasionally, Government business collapses at an early stage, which may be predictable or unpredictable. It may be possible because one of the things we will probably be asking for is consideration for Backbench Business to be tacked on at the end, to potentially give end-of-day debates some sort of priority. What sort of notice would you need?

Robert Flello: Good point. If it was in the next five days, I would probably struggle. If we were on notice that we might have a debate at short notice, I think we could act quite quickly. It really depends. If notice was given on the day of the debate, we might just struggle to get folk, but if we had a day or two’s notice, I am sure we could marshal the folk to take part.

Q15 Mr Bone: It sounds generally that it would be excellent in the first instance for a one-and-a-half hour Westminster Hall debate. We have seen in the past that things have gone into Westminster Hall, we have had a really good, strong debate and they have then gone up the food chain on to a substantive motion in the Chamber. That has had much more effect in changing Government policy. We do have some Westminster Hall debate time available.

Robert Flello: I hear exactly what you are saying. Unfortunately, there have also been examples the other way, that things have been debated in Westminster Hall and then not had the opportunity to go anywhere because everything that needed to be said was said and ultimately there was no substantive motion to push the Government on. If there are no opportunities, Westminster Hall is better than having no debate, but I would much prefer the Floor of the House.

Q16 Mr Hollobone: Why don’t you go the whole hog-untick the "in either" box and tick the "in the Chamber" box and wait for a time? Surely it is not critically important that it should be in the next fortnight, month or two months. What you really want, I am hearing from you, is the motion and the vote on the Floor of the House.

Robert Flello: Yes. I think we were trying to be helpful to the Committee. I know how it works; you might have some slots available. But I think you are right. I think, if I may, I will make an amendment to untick the box and push for the substantive motion.

Chair: Thank you. We will let you know.

Graham Stuart, Mr Alistair Carmichael and Callum McCaig made representations.

Q17 Chair: Apologies. I have been detained. I was expecting a quick Division on the Trade Union Bill. I was detained for a little longer than I anticipated. Sorry about that. We are now on to Mr Stuart. You don’t see him for ages, and then!

Graham Stuart: May we ask for a debate, please, on Her Majesty’s Opposition not taking Chairmen of Select Committees and putting them on Public Bill Committees? It seems like an abuse, which the Government party rarely does to its Select Committee Chairmen, because you volunteer.

Chair: You just can’t get the staff these days.

Graham Stuart: Well, in addition to that, we are here with representatives from every main party from the mainland of the United Kingdom supporting this debate on the UK Green Investment Bank.

The Government announced in the summer that they were going to move towards privatisation of the Green Investment Bank and they announced last week that they were going to repeal certain provisions to do with the bank. In summary, the bank was set up after a piece of work and research commissioned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that identified that there were market failures in bringing forward technologies and investments in the green space. Therefore, the creation of the Green Investment Bank formed part of the manifestos of all the main parties, duly came into being and has been a great success.

Why do we need a debate about it? The worry and fear is that once those provisions change, so that state control over the Green Investment Bank is effectively released and it is truly seen as independent and privatised, it will lose its guided role of going in where others fear to tread. It has proved that by going there it has created the baseline finance which has brought in other money from all sorts of sources. It has triggered large-scale investments leading to jobs and the development of various green schemes across the country to the betterment of the nation as a whole. We need the debate to find out whether those market failures still exist, whether the Green Investment Bank is still going to play that role and how the heck we can have any belief it will do so. Why won’t it just act like any other bank if it becomes a privatised bank?

Callum McCaig: Over and above that, there has been a lack of consultation. There have been comments from colleagues up the road at Holyrood suggesting that this may require legislative consent. I apologise for not knowing the intricacies of that, but there is a lack of consultation across the board. I believe that the market failures still exist and, as has been said, if you remove the requirement for this to be a green investment bank it just becomes another bank. We are signalling a major change in policy around effecting change on carbon reduction, while privatising a significant asset that was set up with that prime purpose. I think the House should have the opportunity to discuss this and hear from the Government how it will be done.

Mr Carmichael: This is possibly one of the most technocratic areas of public policy that you will find in energy regulation, in its broadest sense, and this feeds into it. For that reason, it is not an area that tends to get attention beyond the experts, if you know what I mean. From that point of view, even a Westminster Hall debate would be an opportunity to tease out the issues in a more accessible way and bring to wider attention the points that my colleagues have already made.

Q18 Mr Hollobone: I want to say to you the opposite of what I said to Mr Flello. I know you are keen as mustard to have a debate in the Chamber with a motion, and I appreciate the reasons for that, but I suggest that you might find that you are more likely to get your three-hour debate if you unticked "in the Chamber".

Graham Stuart: Thank you very much-agreed. You are quite right, Mr Hollobone, but you start off by asking.

Chair: We work by an old maxim which I am sure you have heard me say before: "Shy bairns get nowt".

Q19 Bob Blackman: To qualify for a three-hour debate we would normally expect 15 or 16 speakers. On this list you have half a dozen, even though they are representative of the party spectrum. How confident are you, given the technocratic nature of the debate, that you will get the necessary speakers to populate a three-hour debate?

Graham Stuart: Quietly confident.

Q20 Bob Blackman: "Quietly confident" does not pass muster on an application. What would you need to do to attract speakers? We would not allocate a debate until we know we have the speakers.

Mr Carmichael: I am prepared to be loudly confident, on the understanding that it will require effort on our part to go round and approach those who have a direct interest in this. The figures you are talking about are not difficult.

Graham Stuart: The headquarters are in Edinburgh, for instance.

Callum McCaig: Indeed. From an SNP point of view, I am absolutely certain that we would fill our share of 16, whatever that would be; three or four perhaps. Because of the local aspect-Edinburgh, as has been stated-and the financial aspect, there are two or three colleagues who would be very keen to address that, but there is also the question of how this fits with the green agenda in the widest possible sense. It offers an appeal to people to contribute in different and constructive manners.

Q21 Bob Blackman: We have competing priorities. We have an application on the Royal Bank of Scotland and we have this Green Investment Bank. Of the two, which would you prefer to debate, given that both would get a debate eventually? Which would be your priority?

Graham Stuart: This is topical; this is moving fast. Without criticising the Government, they appeared to think they could quickly privatise this, then they suddenly discovered that there were-oops!-all these provisions in part 1 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013. Those need to be rescinded so they are tabling amendments for the Committee stage next week in the House of Lords. The measure is already at Committee stage in the House of Lords and they are sticking those amendments in. This is being pushed through in a hurry at the same time because they have been told that in order to make this bank independent, they have to cut these ties. When they cut the ties, they are basically taking out all the impetus to ensure that the bank actually does what it was set up to do. This needs serious attention.

I am no expert on the Royal Bank of Scotland and I do not underestimate its importance to the UK economy. I am just saying that it has had a vast amount of attention. Its trajectory is fairly well known. That is not to say that there are not hot issues to be debated around it, but this important bank may go under the radar and get missed. I think that is highly unlikely to happen to RBS.

Mr Carmichael: Let us just say that the debate surrounding RBS tends to be less technocratic in its nature. It is one that can be painted in rather more primary colours.

Q22 Mr Hollobone: When we are allocated time in Westminster Hall it is normally on a Thursday afternoon starting at 1.30 pm and ending at 4.30 pm. It is very embarrassing for us if we award a debate to applicants and the debate finishes early. What we are really asking you is-

Graham Stuart: It will not finish early.

Mr Carmichael: I can give you that assurance.

Graham Stuart: You have got three of us here who, if we are ever here before you again, can be sure of the long memories on this Committee. There is no better incentive for us to pull our finger out. There is plenty of interest and we will ensure that they are there, if you award us the debate, which I hope you will.

Q23 Chair: I have worked closely with Mr Stuart over the past five years on the Education Committee, and when he says he is quietly confident about something it means there is a superabundance of confidence about something. Thank you very much indeed. We now have Mr Graham Allen, please.

Graham Stuart: Before you do that, Chairman, may I ask about the school funding debate? Is that something you have decided today?

Q24 Chair: We have not yet had it completely confirmed that we have an allocation of time for the 29th. We believe it will be on the 29th and at the moment that debate has a very good chance of going forward on the 29th, should we get confirmation that the time is allocated to us.

Graham Stuart: The Deputy Leader of the House told me that it had been confirmed to you.

Q25 Chair: Well, when we get a memo that says "tbc" we take it that means "to be confirmed".

Graham Stuart: I quite understand.

Mr Graham Allen made representations.

Mr Graham Allen: Chairman, I need some advice. I would like to thank you and the Clerk for the advice that has already been given to me. Would it be helpful to go over the story briefly? I copied a letter to all the members of the Committee.

I raised a debate in Westminster Hall about the need for a House Business Committee, to put it succinctly, as part of the Wright Committee report, which was set up by the then Prime Minister to look at the reform of the institutions internal to the House.

The Backbench Business Committee was set up, and it gives me great pleasure to be here to talk to you as an institution that I helped to create all those years ago. Included in that was also the election of Select Committee Chairs, which is something that you and every other Select Committee Chair benefited from for the second time round this time, and the election of members of Select Committees.

The big unfinished business was the creation of a House Business Committee, which in some shape or form would allow Members of Parliament as MPs rather than as members of the Government or alternative Government to have a say, ideally, but certainly as a minimum to be consulted on the business for future weeks, so that a parliamentary view could at least be heard. Despite promises in various manifestos and coalition agreements and on the Floor of the House, and despite, may I say, the best efforts of Sir George Young, who made heroic efforts to get most other parts of the Wright Committee through the House-something that his Labour predecessor did not attempt-none the less, we still do not have a proper discussion about how a House Business Committee could be formulated. It is nonsense that the institution that is meant to hold Government to account has its agenda set on a daily basis by the Government that it is meant to hold to account, rather than Parliament having at least some fresh air-some way of influencing the debates that could take place in the House. That is why I ran the debate.

We came to the end of the debate and, possibly as a measure of frustration as much as anything else, having fought a battle with colleagues from all parties in the House, and hearing a rehearsed speech written by the Chief Whip and the Office of the Leader of the House, which I had heard many times before, I called for a Division. Of course, a Division, as such, cannot take place in Westminster Hall. From that moment forward, I sought advice on the matter. It may, at first sight, seem to be relatively technical and dry, but, in my opinion, it is about the key conflict of power in British politics, which is not necessarily between parties, but between the Executive and Parliament. It seemed to sum up the frustration and impotence that many Back-Bench Members feel about the relationship.

I have sought advice and, ironically, one of the bits of advice was that because it is highly unlikely that the Government will allow a Division to take place in its own time, one possibility is to ask the Backbench Business Committee if they would allow me 15 minutes-it started off as two minutes to call the vote, but then I realised that it would have to be 15 minutes to count the vote-in which to make a point on behalf of Members from all parts of the House that this package should be looked at properly and promises should be kept.

Another option would be to have a debate that would accompany that vote, not least because many Members will not have followed Westminster Hall and might appreciate the fact that an explanation could take place. The downside is that I have had the debate and I have been generously treated in being given the half hour in Westminster Hall, and I would be repeating, along with other colleagues, arguments that have been made in the very recent past-literally, last week-but that may be something that is justified in the light of the Division taking place.

I could still go with just a Division and do an educational effort outside the Chamber by writing to every Member and explaining why this odd vote will be taking place. The difficulty would be, if you were generous enough to allow me 15 minutes or even 90 minutes for this issue, that to make it meaningful, this is about a vote, and we would need to have Members available to have that vote. Because of the way in which Government manage your time, that is not always an easy thing to achieve.

That is thinking out loud in a sense, Chair, and I would appreciate the advice of colleagues around the table as to whether you believe, as I do, that this is worth our while pursuing and whether you believe, as I do, that this is worth taking to some sort of conclusion, if only to say that we will continue to squeak at the Executive steamroller, whichever political party leader is driving it-they are all the same when it comes to this stuff-and that squeak might be worth putting on the record.

Chair: Thank you very much indeed, Graham. I know that the issue was raised at House business questions on Thursday. I will now introduce for a question or comment one of the people who raised it.

Q26 Mr Bone: Just before I came to this meeting, the Leader of the House came up to me and said that the Government will not bring forward this motion. Under Standing Order 10 (13), a motion has to be brought forward for the vote to occur and the vote has to be put forthwith, so there cannot be a debate or an introduction. You are quite right, however, that you can educate Members on the date when the vote will happen and on the reason for it. That is what we are looking at. That is the specific issue. An application may be made later for a Backbench Business Committee debate because circumstances have changed, but that would have to be a proper application. It is clear from the Standing Orders, however, that this Committee has the right to put this motion on, but it would just be for a straight vote. It would be up to you and others to educate Members.

You mentioned the fact that the Government Minister read her speech, but the one thing that you didn’t mention was that she took eight minutes, which some might say was not quite in order. This is the first time that such procedure has happened, but that is because the rules in Westminster Hall have been changed, so I do not think that this will necessarily be the last time. I think that we are talking purely today about whether we put this motion on, which would be-I don’t know whether it ought to be at the beginning or end of a Backbench Business day-a straightforward vote. That is what we are talking about.

Q27 Mr Hollobone: Were the Government to allocate this Committee Thursday week for the Chamber, were this Committee minded to accept an application for a major debate on that day and were we to allow you your motion and Division right at the very start of the Backbench period of time, would that tick all your boxes?

Mr Graham Allen: It would tick my boxes. However, it may well be the end of Members being elected to this Select Committee in the sense that if everyone is there waiting to kick off on, let’s say, tax credits or some other very important issue, an obscure vote where the Government would wheel out a sizeable majority-one could do something like just putting two tellers in and say, "We’re making a point"-would take 15 minutes out at a key moment. I feel very strongly about this Select Committee. Had the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee not been created in 2010, I would have stood to be the Chair of this Committee. That is how strongly I feel about it. I feel paternal about this Committee and would not want to do anything that damaged its reputation-without flattering anybody, it has a very high reputation-for bringing sensible, important issues to the Floor. If you were regarded as cocking a snook at Government and keeping 200 Members waiting, you would need to assess whether that would reflect badly upon you. I am not trying to teach you your job; I am just keen not to abuse your generosity.

Q28 Mr Hollobone: I think we might be talking at cross- purposes here.

Mr Graham Allen: Forgive me.

Mr Hollobone: One of the things that I picked up from your remarks was your enthusiasm for as many Members as possible to take part in such a Division.

Mr Graham Allen: I think that is one way to do it. To be able to get 50 or 60 or, on a good day, 70 Members would still be a heavy defeat, whereas another possibility-again, I am absolutely open to advice-would be to have the Division and put tellers in, having done your homework beforehand by letting Members know what you were going to do and why. That is another way to skin the cat. I am keen to ensure that there is a balance. The last thing that I want do-ever-is to diminish the reputation of the Backbench Business Committee.

Q29 Mr Bone: May I put it to you, Mr Allen, that the Government should have done this? They should have put the motion down. They have the power to do it. You would not be before us if the Government had put it down. I am not sure that this Committee has ever been scared of what the Government might want to do to it. We are quite happy to stand up to them and when we think that something is right, we do it.

Q30 Mr Nuttall: The letter before us says:

"I am asking whether the Back Bench Business Committee will allocate a maximum of 15 minutes in order that a vote can take place forthwith without debate."

If that is the question, I am minded simply to agree and say, "That is your wish. You are entitled under Standing Orders to follow this procedure which you have decided to follow." I am minded to say that in those circumstances this is the process which is set down by Standing Orders. If you wish to arrive at a determination of that question and this is the only way it can be achieved, that is what must be done. If people do not like it, that is what Standing Orders say and we are entitled to give you your wish.

It may well be that on reflection you feel that a further full debate or partial debate in the Chamber on a substantive motion calling on the Government to set up a House Business Committee may be a preferable course of action. That is not for me to say. As I understand it, the motion that would be voted on is that this House "has considered" the matter of the establishment of a House Business Committee. If that is the motion you are proposing, the Government would then presumably-bizarrely in my view-try to say that they have not considered it.

Q31 Chair: No, the intention from Graham’s perspective is that the motion would be that this House has considered the creation of a Business Committee, but he would then vote against it.

Q32 Mr Bone: Because he voted against it in Westminster Hall.

Q33 Mr Hollobone: Who would put tellers in for the Ayes?

Mr Graham Allen: If we wanted a vote, I could put tellers in both Lobbies.

Q34 Mr Bone: Well the Government would normally, sorry-

Mr Graham Allen: The Government would normally do that, but I would be prepared to do that.

Chair: I am terribly sorry, I have just been notified that the Minister is on his feet again and four Divisions are expected in my Bill Committee. Graham, I think you have a feeling of where the members of the Committee are.

Q35 Bob Blackman: One more question: the Chairman of this Committee is not involved in this issue but the Chairman of the Procedure Committee may be. I know that the Procedure Committee is considering the work plan for the year. Have you considered making suggestions that the Procedure Committee looks at this issue to advance the case that you are making?

Mr Graham Allen: I will speak to him, Bob. In his position I would be a little concerned if this was a precedent so that everybody flooded the Back-Bench Business Committee and said, "Well I didn’t get a vote on my business and it is an affront to me and my issue" and came here in droves. I think that this is helping to set a precedent.

Q36 Chair: I don’t think that would be a consideration. Where people are asking for Chamber time, we are suggesting to them that if they want a vote on a motion, they draft a votable motion. If they don’t choose to do so they either get Chamber time or they are less likely to do so. That is not a consideration from our perspective.

Mr Graham Allen: Then the other bit of information is that in the event that I was fortunate enough to have additional time to make a case before the vote, I have secured a promise from both the Chair of the 1922 Committee and the Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party that they would wish to participate in this matter about the rights of the House versus the Executive. May I underline again this is totally not a partisan issue? I have fought Labour Governments, coalition Governments and Conservative Governments on this. I think it is a parliamentary issue. It is the next bit of progress we need to make in the House to secure our own liberation and it is very important that we do that. I am not looking for a decision from the Committee immediately.

Q37 Chair: We would not give you one. We are going into private session.

Mr Graham Allen: I would be grateful for further advice, formally and informally, so that we can make the maximum impact on the rights of Parliament, which is the reason I am saying this.

Chair: Thank you.

Prepared 26th October 2015