Parliamentary Fridays

On Friday the second reading of Caroline Lucas’ Private Members NHS Reinstatement Bill didn’t happen because Conservative backbenchers spent four and a half hours debating the Foreign National Offenders (Exclusion from the UK) Bill. This bill, brought by Conservative MP Peter Bone, has only two clauses and had previously been brought and withdrawn following opposition.

I had previously written to my MP, Bob Stewart (Conservative, Beckenham) to ask him if he was going to be present for the NHS Bill. This is what he told me:

Dear Mr Muttram

Thank you for your e mail.  True there is a Second Reading of a Private Members Bill on the NHS on Friday 11th March.  It has been proposed by Caroline Lucas MP (Green Party).  It is not really a debate though and I do not expect many MPs will be present.

That is because Fridays are reserved for Second Readings of Private Members bills but the vast majority of MPs are expected (by constituents mainly) to be in their constituencies doing things like their surgeries then.  That should normally also apply to me but by chance I am in Westminster that day as I have two appointments which will take up the morning.  That having been said, if I can, I will go into the Chamber although the Commons rises at 2.30pm.

In addition the NHS Bill is on second next Friday and I wonder if it will be reached in the time available?  The first bill to be discussed is the Second Reading of the Foreign National Offenders (Exclusion from the UK) Bill proposed by Peter Bone MP (Conservative) and I suspect that will go on for quite a long time before the NHS Bill is called, if it is.

In my time at Westminster I have never seen a Private Members Bill reach the Statute books without Government approval – and that is only one Bill.  So, although a campaigning organisation (maybe 38 Degrees but I don’t know)  is encouraging people to write to me using their template letter they must also know that the chances of this Bill reaching the statute books are practically nil which is slightly disingenuous to its members I believe.  They know that and perhaps they should have explained the situation.

I am sorry to disappoint you on this but I will, if I can pop, into the Chamber if I can get away from my appointments.

With best wishes

Bob Stewart

Indeed, as it turned out he was able to be in the Chamber – in order to add his voice to the Conservative MPs talking out the NHS bill.

It may well have been “disingenuous” of 38 Degrees to push on a Private Members’ Bill with “practically nil” chance of making it to the statute books, but I think Bob Stewart’s reply to me might have also been slightly disingenuous.

As the Independent says:

After the conclusion of proceedings Ms Lucas tweeted: “Just tried – without success – to stop Tory backbench filibuster.

“Parliamentary process needs radical change – makes mockery of this place.”