Business of the House

Part of Speaker’S Statement – in the House of Commons at 10:31 am on 25th July 2019.

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Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 10:31 am, 25th July 2019

I thank the shadow Leader of the House for her incisive list of questions and, indeed, for the suggestion that I replace nanny with the staff in the Leader of the House’s office. I think they might be a bit bemused if six children trotted in with me and expected to be looked after by House of Commons staff, so I will not go down that route.

Erskine May” is available online for free. I understand that Opposition Members view themselves as modern, cutting-edge and thrusting. Therefore, going online might not be too problematic for them. Even I can do it occasionally myself. If they do not want to do that, the proper edition of “Erskine May” is available for £400 and may prove a good investment.

The business has been announced for a week, as has been standard practice for some time. I know that historically it was not, but you said yourself, Mr Speaker, that convention has to evolve, and this is one of those conventions that has evolved. Now, we merely have it for one week.

The hon. Lady asked about the conference recess. She knows that recesses are a matter for this House to determine. No doubt a proposal will be made through the usual channels, but I imagine that it would be convenient for Members to be able to attend their own party conferences. That is what has happened previously, and it tends to be to everybody’s benefit. [Interruption.] I am glad to see the Labour Chief Whip nodding, or at least appearing to nod, at that. I therefore think that something may be forthcoming in due course.

The issue of Prorogation is absolutely marvellous, because the hon. Lady asked for a new Session and asked when this Session would end, and then asked me to promise that we would not prorogue. We cannot have both, because we cannot get to a new Session without proroguing. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said that he views Prorogation as an archaic mechanism and that he does not wish to see archaic mechanisms used—[Laughter.] As I am now bound by collective responsibility, that is now also my view.

The Lords message about a Joint Committee will obviously be looked into. We always wish to treat the other place with respect; that is an important way in which we operate. That will be taken care of in due course.

On the written ministerial statements, I was going to use a word beginning with “d” and ending in “n”, with an “-ed” on the end—you are if you do and the same if you don’t—but Mr Speaker might rule me out of order if I did say that, which I do not want to happen on my first appearance at this Dispatch Box. Parliament wants to know what is going on and there is limited time for debates. Earlier this week, Mr Speaker granted me an urgent question on Batten disease. We know that the system for getting statements and urgent questions answered works. Therefore, if there are issues that people wish to raise from the 70 written ministerial statements, there are mechanisms that the hon. Lady is extremely well aware of.

As to the hon. Lady’s extremely important point about Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, absolutely I will take that up. I promise that I will take it up every week for her. We as a nation should always put the interests of our citizens first; that is fundamental to how this country should operate in its conduct with foreign nations. The treatment that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe has had to undergo is shameful and must be so distressing. When the hon. Lady talks about her child—a five-year-old—being deprived of a mother, that is the most awful thing that one can imagine. I have the greatest sympathy and yes, of course I will take this matter up.

May I conclude by reiterating the thanks that the hon. Lady gave to everybody in the House? How lucky I am now to be Leader of the House—what a privilege it is and what a fine House we have. I have always found that, whenever one wants to know what is going on in the House, the Doorkeepers know first and provide us with a fabulous service.

In paying tribute to Paul Evans as he retires, I should say that the British constitution is a hobby of all sensible people. It is the most interesting matter to discuss and be informed about. It is why £400 for “Erskine May” is such a good investment: it educates one about the British constitution. I wish him well in his retirement.

Finally, I pay tribute to my predecessor, my right hon. Friend Mel Stride, who was such a distinguished Leader of the House and Lord President of the Council.