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backbench business debate, government statements

Backbench Business Committee choose subject for debate on 20 July

16 July 2010

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The Committee will have its first debate on the floor of the House on 20 July  starting at about 7.00pm. The subject will be how government statements are announced to the House. The aim is to improve the way information is provided to backbenchers.

The text of the motion can be found in the Order Paper under Future Business Part B.

The Committee is the first select committee whose members were directly elected by the House. Chair of the Committee Natascha Engel said:

"This is a historic occasion. For the first time backbenchers have decided what we want to debate in backbench time.

“Over the coming year we will debate a wide variety of topics all chosen by backbenchers and trying out new procedures to see what works best.

"This is about us as backbenchers holding the Executive to account better."

The Committee chose this subject because the disclosure of information on key policy announcements to the media before its announcement in Parliament by present and previous administrations has affected the work of backbenchers in holding the Government to account.

The three-hour debate will be opened by a member of the committee and a government minister will respond towards the end of the debate. The motion is amendable and could be voted on.

What is the Backbench Business Committee?

A new committee responsible for choosing the business of the House for backbench debate. It was recommended by the Wright Committee at the end of the last Parliament.

The Committee is responsible for scheduling debates on 35 days during the current session. The House has decided that these days will be devoted to backbench business and that at least 27 of them will be debates in the main Chamber of the House of Commons, with the remainder to be taken in Westminster Hall.

Who are its members?

How were they chosen?

They were directly elected by the House to reflect party strengths. Other select committees are elected within parties rather than by the House itself. The chair was elected in a separate and contested election.

How will they choose subjects for debate?

The committee will take into account suggestions by other members, petitions presented to the House, early day motions, and other expression of the need for a debate on a particular topic.