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Three cheers for Sir George Young, defender of legislative restraint

By Matthew Barrett
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Young George HouseSir George Young, the Leader of the House of Commons, did something rather admirable yesterday: he rejected the knee-jerk tendency, seen during the New Labour years in particular, to pass legislation at every possible opportunity. 

During Business Questions, Sir George announced that the Second Reading of the Local Government Finance Bill would take place on the 10th January. His Shadow, Angela Eagle, referenced this in her long and unfocused response, which also criticised, among other things, the Coalition's supposed "isolation" in Europe, and youth unemployment. She said:

"Many of us are incredibly relieved that we have finally spotted a Government Bill arriving in the House, even if we have to wait until next year to see it."

Sir George responded:

"I am not sure that there was a lot there about the business of the House, but let us have a go. The hon. Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle) welcomed—I think—the announcement that a Bill would be given its Second Reading after the recess. I remind her that the House is not simply a legislation factory. We are not going to make the mistake that the last Government made of imposing too many ill-considered, ill-drafted Bills on the House. The Chamber has other things to do: the Chamber is here to hold the Government to account, to debate matters of national interest, and to represent the views of Members’ constituents, and we are determined that it should have adequate time in which to do those things."

Many readers will appreciate this unwillingness to legislate constantly.

It's also worth noting that this report from Paul Goodman in May suggests a relaxed style of Parliamentary behaviour is the way forward: "Oliver Letwin recently told a group of Conservative MPs that the Government's legislation was in good order.  So much so, in fact, that there may be no need for futher laws at all in the second half of the Parliament."

> The full session can be read in Hansard here.


Eagle Angela and MariaSir George concluded his response with a reference to Maria Eagle, Angela Eagle's twin sister and fellow Labour frontbencher:

"Observing who is sitting next to the hon. Lady, let me end on this note. Like the leader of her party, the shadow Leader of the House has a sibling who is also a Member of Parliament, and whom I welcome to the Front Bench. According to an interview with the shadow Leader of the House and her sister, published earlier this year, “they haven’t had a… row in decades.” The hon. Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle) said “we do know how to be with each other. It doesn't mean you can’t disagree, but you know—you’re sisters”. Given that admirable expression of family affection, I wonder whether the hon. Member for Wallasey might be able to give the leader of her party some advice on how to manage relationships."


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