Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:38 am on 3rd October 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 10:38 am, 3rd October 2019

I will not take those questions in order, Mr Speaker, because I think it would be sensible for me to clarify what I said about you. I do not think I have said anything publicly that I have not said to you before. I have been one of your great admirers in some of the things you have done to help the House hold the Government to account, as is absolutely right and proper, but I disagree, as you know, with some of the decisions made over the last year. What I actually said in my speech to the Tory party conference was that your speakership should be taken in the round, with the bits I think have been tremendously important and the bits that have not been as I would have wished them. That is my position and I think it is respectful to the office of the Speaker and, if I may say so, not unfriendly to you personally. I hope and trust that you will take it in that spirit.

Valerie Vaz had the audacity to say that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was not appearing in front of the House enough—that he was Macavity. Well, it is a rather odd version of Macavity. In the 10 sitting days since he has been Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend has spent 494 minutes in front of this House. He has been running at an equivalent rate of 49 minutes a day. He will be ready to speak to the House after these business questions. He is speaking at an incredibly dutiful and proper rate, and he can be held to account because in statements, Mr Speaker, you allow considerable latitude—rightly, if I may say so—to the questions asked. Instead of doing a brief Prime Minister's Question Time, he has done 494 minutes. I do not think that anyone can complain about that.

As regards the Opposition day and the Order Paper, I think these two come together. If the Opposition want control of the Order Paper, they can have an Opposition day. They can have it on Monday or Tuesday, for a no-confidence vote. If they have any confidence in themselves, they will do that, though I was in a toyshop recently with my children, who thought they deserved some toys, and there was a plastic chicken, plucked, with no hairs or feathers, and if you squeezed it, it made a squawk. I cannot think why, but it reminded me of Her Majesty’s Opposition.

The hon. Lady also said that the Government were accountable to Parliament and that Parliament was allowed to pass its laws, and of course the Government are accountable to the courts, but we all serve one higher authority. The courts, Parliament and Her Majesty’s Government are all accountable to the British people, and 17.4 million people voted to leave. Whatever laws we pass and whatever court judgments come through, we must remember that it is the people who have the ultimate say. That is the foundation of our democracy.

The hon. Lady made some points about conflicts of interest. Of course it is appropriate that the ministerial code is followed, and it will be, but moving from the private sector into the public sector fully is not always simple. One sometimes has so many commitments that it is hard to remember all of them. She then criticised Crispin Odey for making money out of sterling falling. I remind her that one of the major funders—allegedly—of the remain campaign, the remoaner funder-in-chief, was one George Soros, who made £1 billion when sterling crashed out of the exchange rate mechanism, which is five times as much as Mr Odey made. I fear that all she is saying is that Mr Soros is a better hedge fund manager than Crispin Odey, who is a great friend and supporter of mine.

The hon. Lady then made a point about the shadow Chancellor, and asked whether I would listen to him. I might listen to him when he apologises to my friend,—my right hon. Friend—Ms McVey for things that he has said about people being lynched. I think that, until he does that, he should sit in shame, not on that Bench but on the steps of your Chair, Mr Speaker, because it really is so shocking—so shocking —that Members of this House should call for other Members to be lynched. It is something that I think we should all criticise, and I am sure that Opposition Members feel that as well.

As always and quite rightly, the hon. Lady mentioned Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe. As she knows, and as I said last week, both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have been in touch with the President and the Foreign Secretary of Iran respectively, and that is quite right. This issue must be pushed continually. I wish it were in the gift of Her Majesty’s Government to achieve the liberty of all the people who are held illegally, unjustly and improperly by foreign states, but we must push wherever we can.

May I add to the congratulations to the shadow Home Secretary, Ms Abbott? It is a sign of what a good society we are becoming that we are now completely relaxed about what race people belong to when they appear at the Dispatch Box. I hope that that will continue, and I absolutely endorse what the has hon. Lady said about racism being wrong. It is not only wrong, it is evil, and it something that we should all wish to oppose and root out. It should be a sadness to all of us that the Labour party is the second party—after the British National party—to be investigated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission for its anti-Semitism. That should be not something that we use as a party-political point, but something that is bad news in terms of the body politic generally.

As we come to prorogation, I should very much like to thank all the House staff for the terrific work they do. It is very impressive. We rely on all of them, and their commitment and their love of Parliament, which I think is something that many of us share.