Hillsborough

After 27 years the families of the 96 who died at Hillsborough have finally got the justice they have been fighting for when the Inquest jury delivered their verdicts this week. Yesterday, the Commons sat in silence as the  Home Secretary made a statement of the findings and read out each of the questions the jury had been asked to rule on and the verdict they gave. One of the reasons why I hate lying is that I always believe the truth will always come out. The scale of the cover up in this case was astonishing. Police are now able to come forward and admit they were asked to make false statements.

After the Home Secretary had left the Commons she immediately had to come before the Procedure committee which I sit on and answer questions as to why the performance of the Home Office in answering written questions form MP’s was below what others can achieve and below target. Some may think this is irrelevant compared to Hillsborough but as I pointed out actually very often MP’s are asking questions on behalf of constituents often in relation to matters like Hillsborough. This is what it is important that questions from MP’s are answered accurately and in a timely manner.

Thursday 23rd June it is…..

The Statutory Instrument confirming the date of the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union was confirmed yesterday following a vote in the House of Commons. The Instrument was passed by 475 votes to 59. The document was opposed by the Scottish National Party.

The main business in the Commons today is the first day of the Annual debate on what are called the Estimates in other words government spending. It is a very unclear process and indeed it is so unclear that the Procedure Committee on which I sit is conducting an Inquiry into the whole issue of Estimates.

Opposition day (19)

Today after questions to the Secretary of State for Wales and then the Prime Minister the main business will be the 19th allotted Opposition day when Labour get to decide the debates and today it is state pensions for women and police funding crime and community safety. I have a meeting of the Procedure Committee this afternoon where we will be hearing evidence from the Clerk of the House as part of our inquiry into the process used to deal with Private Members’ Bills.

I had a very useful meeting last evening with the chief of Rosso busses at a dinner organised by the All Party Group on Road Passenger Transport where the speaker was the Minister Andrew Jones MP. The main subject of discussion was the forthcoming Buses Bill and how it could potentially affect the buses in our area.

Procedure Committee

Yesterday afternoon I attended the latest hearing in the Procedure Committee’s Inquiry into the process by which backbench MP’s can bring forward proposals to change the law. The main reason for concern is that some M.P.’s have seen their Bill fail to progress even when it has had a debate because of lack of time. The real reason is that no Bill makes progress unless it has the consent of a majority of MP’s and as the Government by definition has nominal control it does not make progress unless the government agree it should. One exception is where the Bill relates to a matter of conscience where M.P’s have a free vote.

Yesterday, our witnesses were Jacob Rees-Mogg MP and Thomas Docherty. Thomas was a Labour member of the Committee in the last Parliament and took a lot of interest in these matters. He lost his seat to the SNP and is now seeking a seat in the Scottish Parliament. It was very useful to hear their evidence and whilst they did not agree on everything they did agree that making new laws should not be easy. What is needed is transparency so people can understand why a Bill is not making progress.

New Procedure Committee Inquiry

The Procedure Committee which I sit on has a announced the terms of reference of a new Inquiry it is to carry out on the procedure relating to Private Members Bills. These are bills intended to change the existing law or bring in an entirely new law which are brought forward not by the government of the day but by any backbench MP. They are only debated on certain Fridays in the year. As I often receive criticism for the way private members bills are handled this is your chance to make your views known. Full details of how to do this are in the formal announcement which I have set out below:

COMMITTEE ANNOUNCEMENT

Procedure Committee to inquire into private Members’ bills

The Procedure Committee has decided to look at the procedures and practices of the House relating to private Member’s bills, in the light of the work undertaken by the predecessor Committee in the 2013-14 Session.

This short inquiry will review the package of proposals adopted by the predecessor Committee in 2014, with a view to making recommendations for the present House to consider. The legislative process for bills introduced on Fridays by backbench Members successful in the ballot will be the primary focus, but the Committee will also review the use of presentation Bills and Bills introduced under the ‘ten-minute rule’ (Standing Order No. 23).

Issues to be examined by the Committee include:

· Whether the present procedures provide for an adequate balance between the right of a backbench Member to secure progress for a bill which has support in the House and the rights of individual Members to block the passage of legislation with which they disagree.

· Whether it is appropriate for Ministers to use the existing procedures of the House to prevent the progress of bills which have support in the House.

· Whether the present powers of the Chair to impose time limits on speeches in the interests of the progress of business should be used in respect of private Members’ bills.

· Whether the existing ballot arrangements which give certain Members the opportunity to sponsor bills at Second Reading and beyond are appropriate.

· Whether private Members’ bills should continue to be considered on certain Fridays, and, if not, what other arrangements might be made for consideration of such bills on the floor of the House or elsewhere.

· How the practice on moving motions ‘That the House sit in private’ (invariably used tactically on sitting Fridays) should be reformed.

The Committee invites short written submissions (no more than 3,000 words) addressing one or more of the issues above. The deadline for receipt of submissions is Friday 19 February 2016.

Submissions should be made electronically using the inquiry evidence portal at:
http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/procedure-committee/inquiries/parliament-2015/private-members-bills-15-16/commons-written-submission-form/

The Committee will also seek to take oral evidence on these issues from present and former members of the House and other interested parties.

Back to PMQ’s

After being scrapped to provide maximum time for the debate on taking action against ISIL in Syria Prime Minister Questions returns to centre stage today although with the Prime Minister in Europe I understand the Questions will be answered by the Chancellor. The rest of the main business is taken up with debates on mental health and the economy chosen by the opposition.

I am attending a meeting of the Procedure Committee where we are starting an investigation into the way the House of Commons approves and scrutinises public spending. It seems to me the present system is overly complex and almost designed to prevent any real understanding of what is going on. Hopefully once the Committee have investigated the procedures involved we will be able to come up with some ways to improve matters.

Reviews of Private Members’ Bills Procedure

The Report of the Procedure Committee into Private Members Bills was finally published yesterday.

The full report can be accessed here:

http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/procedure-committee/news/publication-of-second-report2/

The Report took a great deal of consideration and although there are some of the recommendations I can agree with personally I am of the view that there is little wrong with the present procedures and I will be voting against most of the options put forward by the Committee.