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Updates from the Backbench Business Committee on future proceedings

23 April 2020

Following a motion approved in the House of Commons Chamber on Tuesday 21st April 2020, Backbench Business scheduled for Thursday 23rd April will now be postponed until a later date. The House will not be sitting on Thursdays, until further notice. 

Debates due to take place on Thursday 23rd April and to be rescheduled include: 

  • Debate on a motion on errors in payments made to victims of the Equitable Life scandal, due to be opened by Bob Blackman
  • Debate on human rights in Kashmir, due to be opened by Debbie Abrahams.  

Backbench Business Committee  

What is a Westminster Hall debate? Find out more  

The Leader of the House of Commons, the Rt Hon Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, also indicated that the Government's immediate intention was to prioritise legislative requirements, allowing for minimum attendance in the Chamber. Sittings in Westminster Hall have been suspended until further notice.  

These restrictions have been put in place to ensure social distancing measures in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. These will remain in place until the House otherwise orders.  

Chair's comments

Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, Ian Mearns MP, said: 

“I know this will be disappointing for Members who have had debates postponed, as well as for members of the public who have an interest in the topics that were to be covered.   

“However, it is important that Parliament does everything it can to prioritise legislative requirements, ministerial statements and questions over other Business as we swiftly adapt to the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic.” 

“Currently, Members will rightly be focusing on work in their constituencies. They can still raise important matters - virtually or in the Chamber - through oral questions, PMQs, urgent questions and during ministerial statements.  

“House Authorities are working at pace to extend capacity of the hybrid model to other business of the House. If the House agrees to extend proceedings to include Backbench Business, the Committee will be ready to schedule these important debates. 

“The Committee supports the new measures and encourages MPs to continue to submit applications for debates, so they can be scheduled as soon as possible when circumstances allow.” 

The Committee will continue to meet virtually, in private only, to consider applications for debates from Members.  

Public meetings will resume in due course. 

Backbench Business Committee  

The Backbench Business Committee meets weekly on Tuesdays to consider requests for debates from any backbench Members of Parliament on any subject.  

The Committee then has to decide how to allocate the limited Parliamentary time it has at its disposal. The Committee's meetings are always conducted in public and can be watched on Parliament TV.