HC Deb 27 June 2000 vol 352 cc714-5
45. Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West)

What proposals she has for changes to the times when the House sits. [126381]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Privy Council Office (Mr. Paddy Tipping)

The Modernisation Committee is to review the experiment with Thursday sittings later this Session and other parts of its work may have some impact on sitting hours, but I have no other proposals for change at present.

Mr. Swayne

Has it occurred to the hon. Gentleman that, with the current pace of European integration and our giving away so many of our powers to other European institutions, we might avoid the inconvenience of having to sit at all?

Mr. Tipping

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will note that there are lengthy debates whenever European matters are discussed, such are the divisions in his own party.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley)

Does my hon. Friend think that a considerable change in the hours of the House could be made if, instead of having Divisions after half-past 10 at night, we were to roll them over to the following day? Would not those Opposition Members who make us sit ridiculous hours then soon lose their interest in democracy and debate?

Mr. Tipping

I understand the point that my hon. Friend makes. I simply say that there was a Division last Wednesday at 1.12 in the morning. My hon. Friend was there, together with 177 other Labour Members of Parliament, but only 18 Conservatives.

Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire)

Following the helpful question from the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), can the Minister give an assurance that he will not support any proposal to reduce the sittings of the House that would compromise its duty to scrutinise Government legislation?

Mr. Tipping

That is a strong point, and part of the responsibility lies with the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues. Some Opposition Members believe that scrutiny should occur in the other place; the real and effective place for scrutiny is in this House.

The hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission, was asked—

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