In Parliament last week it was confirmed that the HS2 Hybrid Bill debate would have a second day allocated to the discussions.
The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr Andrew Lansley): The business for the week commencing 28 April is as follows:
Ms Angela Eagle (Wallasey) (Lab): …On the first two days back after the recess, we will have the chance to debate the Second Reading of the High Speed Rail Bill. Will the Leader of the House explain how he plans to schedule the day and a half allocated to the Second Reading and the subsequent motions? Given the fate last night of the hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant), who was unceremoniously sacked as a Tory vice-chair for opposing HS2 and for his overly honest tweets, is the Leader of the House expecting any more trouble on his own side?…
Mr Lansley:… The shadow Leader of the House rightly asked about the Second Reading of the High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill. I can confirm that on Monday 28 April I will table a motion, the effect of which will be to allow that Second Reading to take place until 11 pm on that day, so a maximum amount of time will be made available. The maximum of seven and a half hours will, of course, depend on whether there are requirements for a statement or an urgent question, but that means it will be a very full debate on the Monday. On the Tuesday, I can confirm that we will allocate up to four hours for consideration of the motions which I think Members can see on the Order Paper today relating to the hybrid Bill procedures, including petitioning and instructions to the Select Committee and the establishment of the Select Committee. I hope that that will allow Members to have the maximum time for the discussion of the principles of the Bill on the Monday and additional time to debate the processes of the hybrid Bill on the Tuesday.
In total, we are giving more than a day and a half for Second Reading, and not trying to push through all those issues of process and principles in the course of one day. I heard, as did my colleagues in the usual channels, that Members wanted additional time to debate the Second Reading of the HS2 Bill, and I think that makes a very good outcome….
Mrs Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): Why are the Government so frightened of giving Members of Parliament a decent time to debate the HS2 Bill on Second Reading? Quite frankly, giving us an extra hour, with an extra half day for the other motions on the Order Paper, is all well and good, but may I draw the Leader of the House’s attention to item 35 on the list of remaining orders and notices, which is a motion in my name asking for two full days of debate on HS2? After all, for the largest infrastructure project ever undertakenby a Government and after our constituents have been blighted by it for four years, that is not too much to ask, and not granting it will bring our procedures in this House into disrepute.
Mr Lansley: I am sorry that my right hon. Friend feels that I have not responded positively to the representations that she and our other hon. Friends made at business questions last week. We have, indeed, responded positively. Up to seven and a half hours are available on Monday 28 April for a debate on the principles of the Bill, and four hours are available on Tuesday 29 April for the further hybrid Bill procedures, which are themselves important and form a substantial part of the overall debate on Second Reading. I acknowledge that had it all been done in one day, that would have meant a very congested debate, but I think that that is pretty positive.
A Second Reading debate on a normal sitting day very often takes not the full amount of time, but sometimes—with statements and urgent questions—perhaps five hours or even down to four and a half hours. On this occasion, if we can minimise statements and urgent questions on Monday 28 April, we can have seven and a half hours of debate that day, with four hours the following day, which I calculate is broadly equivalent to two days of debate.
Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan) made a very good point. The problem in this House is that we have a dictator who decides the timings, even if it is a benevolent dictator in the form of the Leader of the House. Surely meeting the commitment in the coalition agreement to a House business committee would remove all these concerns. Will the Leader of the House make a statement next week to say that we will have a House business committee very soon?
Mr Lansley: My hon. Friend will be aware of the evidence that I gave to the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee on the difficulties associated with the proposals for a House business committee. In a sense, we are a Committee of the whole House on business. Last week, I received representations about how much time should be available on Second Reading of the High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill. As I have explained to the House, the time available is not just a day and a half, but more than a day and a half. It could amount to close to the equivalent of two days’ debate on Second Reading and the other motions.
Mr Lansley: My right hon. Friend is saying that there is one hour. There will be an additional hour on the Monday for Second Reading and there will be four hours on motions relating to the hybrid Bill on the Tuesday. That is a substantial addition. This has been discussed through the usual channels and we have listened to the voices in this House.
Mr Speaker: I say gently to the Leader of the House that, in extending the Monday sitting by an hour, I feel sure that he was taking pity on the Chair and did not want the Chair to be occupied beyond 11 o’clock. For my part, I would be quite happy to sit in the Chair until at least 3 or 4 in the morning if it facilitated the contribution of Back-Bench colleagues to the debate. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] I mention that point purely in passing, but these are matters for him.
Sir John Randall (Uxbridge and South Ruislip) (Con): Sometimes my motives are misconstrued, but I always strive to be helpful, and I would like to help the Leader of the House. He has been very generous in allowing an extra 60 minutes for the HS2 debate, but if he were happy to test our stamina by lifting the 10 o’clock rule and having the vote the following day, those Members who did not want to stay until the early hours for a vote could come back then, while those of us who really want to push the case for or against HS2 would have ample opportunity to do so. That may be a way forward.
Mr Lansley: I am always grateful to my right hon. Friend, not least when he is being helpful. The additional hour—if we are able to avoid urgent questions or statements—would give us substantial time for debate on that Monday. As a matter of principle, and especially on important matters, we should try to avoid separating the vote on an issue from the debate on it. It is also important for the House, notwithstanding your generosity, Mr Speaker, to try to achieve the conclusion of a debate and the vote at a time when our constituents might reasonably expect to be watching it.
Mr Speaker: The point is made: as long as right hon. and hon. Members are standing to speak in that debate, I shall be in my Chair.