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Thursday 26th April 2012 | 18:17
Word among Commons staff is that Parliament will now prorogue next Tuesday, May 1, at 2.30pm.
Leader of the House Sir George Young was skilfully vague today on the question, stating only that MPs wouldn't have much longer to wait for their break.
But over in the Lords, his counterpart Lord Strathclyde was much more forthcoming and effectively confirmed the date. Strathclyde was asked by Shadow Chief Whip Lord Bassam (of Brighton) about rumours that next Tuesday was the moment this marathon Parliamentary session would end.
Strathclyde replied in, typically rogueish fashion, with reference to fertility rites:
"Next Tuesday, of course, is 1 May. That is the day when traditionally members of the people’s party go marching and waving flags, and I am sure they will be doing so in Brighton. It is also, I am led to believe, the date of the ancient fertility rite when perhaps even Members of this House dance around maypoles, though I am sure that will not include me."
But, crucially, he added:
"The noble Lord is right that it is extremely likely that the House will prorogue on that day."
The reason Strathclyde was asked about this was because a huge number of peers - 63 - have asked to speak in the debate on Lords reform on Monday. Many of them feared they would have to stay up to 3am and wanted more time on Tuesday to continue.
In a victory for the Opposition, I hear that this afternoon it was agreed that the Lords will now sit early on Tuesday - at 10am - to allow as many speakers as possible to contribute to the debate. It will then end at 1pm, giving enough time for Prorogation at 2.30pm.
Meanwhile, over in the Commons today, Chris Bryant couldn't resist claiming that the reason Parliament was breaking up early (many had expected next Thursday) was the 'omnishambles'. With MPs away in their constituencies, they will be expected to focus on campaigning for their parties rather than griping at the Coalition. Nothing concentrates the mind of a potential Tory or Lib Dem rebel better than their local parties demanding they go canvassing.
Bryant then compared David Cameron to Charles I, who once decided to shut down a restive Parliament...and sparked the long road to his own demise. Bryant put it like this:
"In 1628, the Government were in the midst of a “clustershambles” and they decided to prorogue Parliament immediately, so that there could be no further criticism of them. It would seem that the Leader of the House is, in effect, going to do that on behalf of Her Majesty on Tuesday.
"May I suggest that it would be much better to provide a whole week of Back-Bench business, so that all the matters that I am sure Government Members would like to debate, such as why the European Commission is demanding an increase of 7% in its budget, and all the issues that Opposition Members would like to discuss, such as the double-dip recession, can be put not only to Ministers, but to the Prime Minister, who will be avoiding Prime Minister’s questions for another two weeks?"
His plea fell on deaf ears. Sir George Young is many things, but he's not as much of a rogue as Tom Strathclyde...
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