HC Deb 02 December 1997 vol 302 cc155-6
36. Mr. Chidgey

What assessment she has made of the advantages of spreading consideration of Bills more evenly throughout the parliamentary Session. [17128]

Mrs. Ann Taylor

The annual nature of the legislative programme inevitably means that it cannot be spread evenly throughout the Session. The possibility of carry-over, which was approved by the House on 13 November, creates an opportunity to improve the House's consideration of Bills. I hope that we shall be able to test that out on appropriate occasions.

Mr. Chidgey

I thank the right hon. Lady for that reply. I welcome the advance publication of certain Bills, which is helpful. To return to a previous point, however, is the right hon. Lady aware that, following the Jopling recommendations, there is less and less time for Back Benchers to debate issues in the House? A case in point was the wild mammals Bill last Friday—[HON. MEMBERS: "Wild Members?"] Hon. Members must have misheard; I am referring to the Wild Mammals (Hunting with Dogs) Bill, which had overwhelming support in the House and elsewhere. It is not tenable for a Government who have such a large mandate to rely on the Opposition not to oppose in order to get their Bills through. I ask the right hon. Lady to allow Government time so that the Bill can progress.

Mrs. Taylor

I do not think that there is anything I can add on that Bill. I believe that, post-Jopling, there have been a number of useful extra opportunities for hon. Members to raise issues. The Wednesday morning debates, for example, have proved extremely important for Back Benchers; that comment is slightly wide of the hon. Gentleman's original point. I believe that it is a question of swings and roundabouts, and that the interests of Back Benchers have been protected.

Mr. Pike

Was it not a fact that, in the debate on the report by the Select Committee on Modernisation of the House of Commons, it became clear that the carry-over of certain legislation would lead to the better distribution of legislation? Was it not particularly notable that a well-respected former Leader of the House, the right hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. MacGregor), wished to go even further than the report suggested?

Mrs. Taylor

I thank my hon. Friend for reminding me of that point. It is true that the very distinguished former Leader of the House, who happens to be in his place this afternoon, strongly supported the principle of carry-over. I am pleased that the second report by the House of Lords Select Committee on Procedure also accepts that there is a case for the carry-over of some Government Bills. This is the first Session of this Parliament; I am not sure whether there will be any Bills that are candidates during this Session. I hope that we can move towards looking at legislation, especially if we can manage to publish draft Bills, in a more ordered way and I believe that carry-over will have a part to play in that.