Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:43 am on 31st January 2019.

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Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee 10:43 am, 31st January 2019

I thank the Leader of the House very much for what she has said, which does at least explain the chronology of events. However, for the avoidance of doubt, let it be clear that it is utterly discourteous to the House of Commons for an important initiative to be announced outside of this Chamber by means of media interviews. The fact of which the right hon. Lady has helpfully informed us—that the Home Secretary wrote to shadow Ministers—is of interest, but in terms of the priority of a statement in the House, it is frankly neither here nor there. The way in which Ministers are held to account is by interrogation in this Chamber. Simply writing a letter to an opposite number and then beetling off to do a radio or television interview will not do. It is simply not up to the required standard.

I say to Vernon Coaker, who is one of the least partisan Members of this House and is naturally collaborative by instinct, that if a Minister does not come to this Chamber to announce a policy when he or she should, there are well-established means by which to ensure the presence of a Minister at the first parliamentary opportunity thereafter. If Members seek such an opportunity, it will be provided. Among other things, we will all be interested to know what possible credible explanation for the conduct can be proffered to the House by a Minister. In the absence of a credible explanation, what of course is required is an unqualified apology.