BUSINESS QUESTION – TIMING OF DEFENCE DEBATE – 4 June 2009

Dr Julian Lewis: May we have a statement from the Leader of the House on the selection of topics to be debated on days when major elections, such as the European and County Council elections today, are going on? She knows that I am a great admirer of the way she discharges her duty as Leader of the House and I cannot believe that she would have wanted the “Defence in the World” debate – the most important defence debate of the year – to be scheduled on a day like today. If she cannot resolve the problem herself, will she have a word with the leader of her party, whoever that may be, in the next few days?

[The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): All of us in the House believe in the importance of democracy, and we believe in it not just for the election of Members of the House, but for the election of local councillors and Members of the European Parliament. That is why there are so few Members in the House when local elections or elections to the European Parliament take place. Traditionally, that has been responded to by an effort to ensure that there is no controversial business and no need for a vote at the end of business. That means that we will be debating the important subject of the economy when few Members are in the House. There is an opportunity to look afresh at a lot of issues. If we think that there is no opportunity for serious debate in the House on election days such as this, perhaps the House should not be sitting. We need to consider that.]