Part of Foreign Fighters and the Death Penalty – in the House of Commons at 4:28 pm on 23rd July 2018.

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Photo of David Lidington David Lidington Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Minister of State (Cabinet Office) 4:28 pm, 23rd July 2018

I have to say that when the hon. Lady complained about my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip not being here, I glanced across at the right hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne East (Mr Brown) and wondered why he was not at the Dispatch Box instead of her. I suspect that, when he whispers in her ear afterwards, he might suggest to her that trying to apply the Nolan principles to the inner workings of any Whips Office over recent decades would raise a number of difficult challenges.

I will address the serious points made by the hon. Lady. First, only one pair was broken last Tuesday. That was done because of a genuine error in the Government Whips Office, for which the Chief Whip has publicly apologised. Despite that breach having taken place—it ought not to have taken place—the outcome had no effect on the decision that was taken by the House in the particular votes on which the controversy centres. Had that breach not taken place, the Government would still have lost the first vote and would still have won the second vote last Tuesday evening.

We are more than willing to talk to Opposition parties and indeed to Back-Bench Members across the House about how to forge a consensus on the way forward on parental and perhaps other forms of absence but, as I said earlier, exchanges in the House already have indicated that this is not necessarily a straightforward matter. Finally, I have full confidence in the integrity of my right hon. Friend the Chief Whip.