New Forest East



Dr Julian Lewis: I am grateful to the Deputy Leader of the House for outlining that helpful list. Does he agree that many of those categories also apply to business questions every Thursday, when hon. Members ask for statements or debates on subjects close to their hearts in the full knowledge that no such statement or debate will follow but because it enables them to make a point? That is what the EDM does, but it has the additional feature that many Members can sign up to it, which enables them to make a point and show that it is widely supported. Would that not be a loss to hon. Members?

[The Parliamentary Secretary, Office of the Leader of the House of Commons (Mr David Heath): It was for precisely that reason and connected reasons that the Procedure Committee in the previous Parliament decided against recommending the abolition of EDMs or their substantive reform. However — there are several “howevers”— a major area of discontent for many years, as reflected in the Procedure Committee's report in the last Parliament, concerned the lack of connection between EDMs, whose ostensible purpose was to set down a motion for debate in the House on an unspecified day, and the provision of time on the Floor of the House. The House has taken a major step to respond to this problem with the establishment of the Backbench Business Committee, as I mentioned at the outset.]

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Dr Lewis: Will the Deputy Leader of the House give way?

Mr Heath: I really cannot give way again, because we are coming to the end of what is normally an Adjournment debate between one Back-Bench Member and a Minister, and tonight we have had a cast of thousands. ...

Perhaps I might surprise the hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) by telling him that I now have time to allow him to intervene, if he does so quickly.

Dr Lewis: What a marvellous Deputy Leader of the House we have! I just wanted to record the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris), who opposes the signing of EDMs, secured my signature, along with those of more than 100 other hon. Members, to a letter that he wanted to send to the press. If it is good enough to send a letter to the press, it is good enough to get a large number of MPs' signatures on an early-day motion.

Mr Heath: The hon. Gentleman has done very well to get his intervention in.