By Tim Montgomerie
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Like Graham Brady I wasn't keen on the nature of some of the electioneering but the overall result of the 1922 elections was, as I blogged this morning, encouraging. I'm more worried about the outcome of the elections for the Backbench Business Committee.
The BBBC has been hugely successful. It has meant that the House of Commons has debated issues that wouldn't have been discussed if the two frontbenches had had their way. The most famous debates of this kind were on prisoner voting and, of course, the EU referendum motion (in which 81 Tory MPs rebelled). Other debates have included the war in Afghanistan, welfare of circus animals, contaminated blood products, metal theft, charging for Big Ben tours, assisted suicide and the Hillsborough stadium tragedy.
Their voting behaviour (see list within this post) may have been too anti-Coalition for their colleagues but central to making the BBBC a success were Peter Bone and Philip Hollobone. Sadly both were unsuccessful in yesterday's election and I fear the BBBC will be a little more tame from now on. Two changes orchestrated by the Whip's Office since the "81 rebellion" made them particularly vulnerable. One change, a few months ago, meant that the BBBC's members were no longer elected by the whole house but the Tory members by Tory backbench MPs only and Labour representatives by Labour backbench MPs etc. The second change was to allow ministerial aides (Parliamentary Private Secretaries) as well as full backbenchers to vote and these received instructions from Keith Simpson, bag carrier to William Hague to vote for change. I don't know what the margins were in the secret ballot but the two rule changes certainly contributed to the fact that the new Tory representatives exclude Messrs Bone and Hollobone. The successful candidates were David Amess, Bob Blackman, Jane Ellison and Marcus Jones.
By Matthew Barrett
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One of the great reforms of this Coalition has been the creation of the Backbench Business Committee (BBBC). The Committee has forced debates on topics as diverse as Europe, voting rights for prisoners, banning circus animals, and cuts to petrol prices. It has caused trouble for both the Government and Opposition. It has helped to hand back power to the backbenches, and remove it from the executive. Most importantly, it has helped restore Parliament to its rightful place as one of the centres of national debate.
Therefore, the Government has decided to change it. Sir George Young is expected to amend the workings of the BBBC so small-party MPs like Caroline Lucas can attend the currently eight-member Committee. Not only is Sir George's proposal an intrusive intervention in itself, but the Procedure Committee, chaired by Greg Knight, which deals with the practices and procedures of the House, is already compiling a report into the workings of the BBBC, and is expected to issue its verdict soon.
Total Politics quotes the BBBC's chair, Labour MP Natascha Engel as saying:
"They, out of the blue, put these motions down for debate on Monday when today [Friday] is the last day for a call for evidence from the procedure committee on the workings of the backbench business committee. What's the hurry? Why can they not wait for the procedure committee to do their report? The government is not consulting with anybody and just putting down these motions," Engel adds. "Why ask the procedure committee to do a review if they are just going to do this?" She also reveals that neither herself nor the procedure committee were consulted about the plans tabled for Monday's order paper – "which is a bit of bad form".
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