Page last updated at 16:51 GMT, Thursday, 23 February 2012

MPs fail in bid to force extra Commons sittings

The government has seen off an attempt to force it to hold extra sittings in the House of Commons.

Business managers had tabled a motion suspending business in Westminster Hall, the secondary chamber of the Commons, on Tuesday 20 March, because the Queen is due to address Parliament that day.

But on 23 February 2012, backbench Conservative MPs Philip Hollobone and Peter Bone tabled amendments requesting additional sittings in Westminster Hall to make up for the time lost.

Debates in the secondary chamber were often over-subscribed, Mr Hollobone argued, with up to 150 MPs applying for the "precious parliamentary airtime" each week.

He called on the government to reschedule the lost time on an alternative day, so MPs could continue to raise important issues for their constituents.

Mr Bone agreed, claiming that the quality of debate in Westminster Hall was "often better".

The Wellingborough MP said important business was often scheduled there, pointing out that the debate on cycling happening across the corridor at that very moment had attracted national attention.

But Deputy Leader of the House David Heath said arranging an extra sitting day for Westminster Hall was not practical because it would mean amending parliamentary rules, known as standing orders.

He acknowledged the "huge demand" on time in the Commons, but asked MPs not to "engage in ad hoc arrangements".

MPs went on to reject Mr Hollobone's amendment calling for an extra Westminster Hall sitting day by 165 votes.

They also voted down his call for the House of Commons to sit an extra day before rising for the Easter recess.

Mr Hollobone argued that rising on Wednesday 28 March instead of Tuesday 27 March would allow the public to see the "wonderful parliamentary occasion" of prime minister's questions.

But MPs voted down his proposal by 240 to 79, a majority of 161.

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