Government accused of using up MPs’ time with ‘last-minute filler debates’
The Government has been accused of resorting to “last-minute filler debates” in the Commons to use up time amid a light legislative agenda.
The SNP accused ministers of scurrying to fill Commons time with trivial topics amid reports of a Tory “away day” in Windsor to prepare for the next general election.
The party’s Commons leader, Deidre Brock, said that people were starting to notice the early finishes and small number of Bills passing through the Commons.
The Government has extended the current session of Parliament to last until autumn this year, amid claims it had a packed agenda with too many new laws to pass before May, when the traditionally year-long term was expected to end.
SNP frontbencher Ms Brock ridiculed reports of the Conservative away day, telling the Commons: “It’s perhaps no surprise though that the Prime Minister would schedule it on a business day.
“Let’s face it, folk are starting to notice there’s an extremely light hand on the Government’s legislative tiller these days.
“Last night, again business finished early and it’s happening more often despite the big backlog of Bills, along with last-minute filler debates. It surely exposes a Government not in control of its agenda or its backbenches.”
Commons Leader Penny Mordaunt responded: “She says that we have no business going through this House at the moment. We do have some big Bills to come, and she will know we have a lot of Bills waiting with their lordships currently.
“But part of the reason why we have not been sitting through the night is because there is quite a lot of agreement in this House about the legislation the Government is passing.
“We’ve had a lot of support from the opposition benches and I think that is part of the reason why she is not having to sit longer hours and doing more.”
The Government’s law-making plans set out in the Queen’s Speech at the opening of Parliament last year were considered to be ambitious, with promises of 33 Bills to progress through both the Commons and Lords.
In the ensuing political chaos of Boris Johnson standing down as prime minister, the short-lived tenure of his successor Liz Truss, and the reset of Rishi Sunak’s premiership, it is unclear whether some of these Bills will progress.
The Bill of Rights, aimed at reforming human rights law to tackle small boats crossings, has been shelved and unshelved several times.
Others like the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill have been dropped due to political developments, while controversial pieces of legislation like the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill are still undergoing days of line-by-line scrutiny in the House of Lords.
MPs will however continue consideration of one controversial Bill next week, when the Public Order Bill returns for scrutiny.
The Commons will consider Lords amendments to the plans to crack down on disruptive protests on Tuesday March 7.
The final stages of a Bill aimed at creating new rules on selectively editing the genes of farm crops, the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill, will also be considered next Monday.