Tories defend parliament’s early finish ahead of black-tie dinner event

Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom arrives in Downing Street. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau

Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom arrives in Downing Street. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Andrea Leadsom said that an accusation that parliament finished business early so the Tories could attend a party fundraiser were 'denigrating' the House of Commons.

The Commons leader called the accusation 'extremely offensive', after the government was criticised for allowing the House to rise four hours ahead of schedule.

This is despite plans to cancel the planned February recess because there is a backlog of Brexit legislation to get through.

Christian Matheson asked at Business Questions if the early finish was related to the Black and White Ball, an annual Conservative Party event held on the same day in London which Theresa May and other Cabinet ministers attended.

The Labour MP for Chester asked: 'Will the Leader of the House confirm that the only reason for the light business yesterday and the extremely early rising was because she and other ministers had somewhere else to be?

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'Most namely going cap in hand to the dodgy Russian oligarchs and City hedge fund billionaires who are now the main source of finance for the Conservative party.'

Leadsom hit back saying the comments were 'denigrating this House'.

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She said: 'Yesterday we were talking about compensation payments for some people who have suffered from asbestosis and other appalling conditions.

'What the government seeks to do is provide adequate time for debate. The Government does not then grab members by the scruff of the neck and insist that they speak in that debate.'

The Commons leader added: 'I also think it is extremely offensive for the Honourable Gentleman to make the assertions that he does.

'And I can absolutely tell him I myself was in a meeting until 7pm last night.'

The issue was also raised by Labour MP Diana Johnson, who said she was 'disappointed' the House rose early.

'I thought it might be so that some people had to go and get their posh frocks on for the event that has already been raised,' she added.

Johnson said she was reassured by Leadsom's earlier answer but called for 'sufficient time for members to debate the important issues', and not just Brexit.

The Commons leader replied: 'I want to reassure her yesterday's business was a function of the numbers who wanted to speak in those debates, and certainly not any attempt on behalf of the Government or anyone else to try and finish business early.'

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