Like many aspects of the House of Commons, the way its business is scheduled is steeped in convention and not always very practical. At 10.30 on a Thursday or thereabouts - unless there are any Urgent Questions granted to Members by the Soeaker that would come first - tthe Leader of the House, currently our local neighbouring MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, takes something called "the Business Question". Jacob does all traditional and ceremonial things well and as the plan for the coming week is set out all MPs have the opportunity to ask questions and make various points. The Government is expected to allow opposition parties time to have debates on motions of their choosing which happened on Tuesday of this week. They typically end with votes where the Opposition motions are defeated and there is something of a game thereafter in which people say this means Government MPs don't believe in or voted against x, y or z, when in fact it is just convention that the Government defeats almost any Opposition motion in this type of business as a matter of course and normal procedure.
Clearly it is right that the law-making process is responsive to events. MPs do not get much time to prepare their involvement though, whether they want to speak in a debate, table an amendment to a Government sponsored Bill or suggest changes at its Committee stage (in what is known as "Government time"). Diaries are often subject to change. Once Jacob has said his piece, MPs are advised by party whips which votes they are expected to attend and what is more optional. Sometimes, as was the case this week, we hear in capital letters that “BUSINESS MAY RUN BEYOND THE MOMENT OF INTERRUPTION”. This means don’t make any plans for the evening or even sometimes the early hours of the following morning.
This week we had such a warning in case the House of Lords suggested changes to our emergency legislation on terrorism. The Terrorist Offenders (Restriction of Early Release) Bill will make sure no one imprisoned for terrorism offences is eligible for automatic early release. It is important that it is passed as soon as possible.
Whilst late nights can be disruptive, colleagues and I tend not to mind because they are a sign of a Government with a sense of urgency, keen to get things done and do what it takes to make progress. Over the years of Brexit debate there were few late night votes, other than those to knock back the weak proposed Withdrawal Agreements. There was not enough else happening; we had the same politicians making the same speeches on an endless loop.
There will be disagreements along the way but the sense of energy now is strong and I was really pleased to see that spirit also in the recent County Council budget with measures such as new bus services to tackle rural isolation and £1m towards local initiatives to tackle climate change. We have a national Budget coming up and I will be working hard to make sure it is similarly positive for our part of the country.