Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, at the sitting on Thursday 5th February, notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order No. 16 (Proceedings under an Act or on European Union documents), the Speaker shall put the Questions necessary to dispose of proceedings on the Motion in the name of Mr Secretary Blunkett relating to the Police Grant Report not later than two hours after their commencement, and put the Questions necessary to dispose of proceedings on the Motion in the name of Mr Secretary Prescott relating to Local Government Finance not later than Six o'clock or four hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion relating to the Police Grant Report, whichever is the later; proceedings may continue after the moment of interruption, and the Orders of the House of 28th June 2001 and 6th November 2003 relating to deferred Divisions shall not apply.—[Mr. heppell]
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire) (Con)
I shall make one quick point on this subject. I regret that the motion will give us but four horns to discuss those two matters. In the past, such motions have been given far longer debates on the Floor of the House. They are worthy of greater and longer debate. They cover a huge range of local services that are delivered to our constituents. Indeed, they cover about 40 per cent. of the public expenditure delegated to local authorities. In the past we have always had more time to discuss such motions.
Under the timetable motion, we might have no more than two hours to discuss the local government settlement. There will be an hour when a statement is made, and two hours will allow little time for Back-Bench Members to participate in the debate. This is a bad move, and I hope that the Government will reconsider the issue in future. I shall not oppose the motion, but we all know that council tax is one of the issues that is at the forefront of many of our 596 constituents' minds. To provide only two hours for the police grant and the local government grant is a retrograde step, and I hope that more time will be provided in future.
§ The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Phil Woolas)
I shall explain the background to the motion and try to answer the point that the hon. Gentleman has made. Perhaps I can reassure him about our intention, if not about the outcome.
This is a Business of the House motion of the normal sort. It relates to the business for this Thursday, when we are to debate the Police Grant Report (England and Wales) 2004–05 and then the Local Government Finance Report (England) 2004–05. The motion provides for the debate on the first report to end not later than two hours after it begins, and for the second debate to end not later than 6 pm, or four hours after the first debate began, whichever is the later. In other words, the motion makes more generous provision than would otherwise be provided for under Standing Order No. 16, which limits debates on proceedings under an Act to one and a half hours. Our intention is to ensure that the House has more time than it would otherwise have had. It also provides that the Sessional Orders on deferred Divisions should not apply; in other words. any Divisions would not be deferred.
I think that the House will take the point that the hon. Gentleman has made. All Members in England and Wales—and, I would argue, in Scotland and Northern Ireland as well—have an interest in those matters. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has heard the comments that have been made, and I urge the House to support the motion.
§ Question put and agreed to.