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Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 1:22 pm on 19th March 2020.

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Photo of David Davis David Davis Conservative, Haltemprice and Howden 1:22 pm, 19th March 2020

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. In his response to my hon. Friend Adam Afriyie, the Leader of the House answered, in effect, that the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 was not available for this particular emergency. Knowing my right hon. Friend, I am sure that he was repeating, in absolute good faith, the briefing he had been given, but I was here and lived through the passage of that Act, and that is not my understanding of it. More importantly, it is not how a number of public lawyers understand the Act. So could you, Mr Deputy Speaker, undertake to get the Speaker’s Counsel to give this House an opinion as to whether that Act is applicable before we move the emergency legislation next week?

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Labour, Rhondda

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. One key aspect of the 2004 Act is that the use of powers has to be approved by Parliament within seven days and the powers can last for only 30 days before they have to be renewed by Parliament. Indeed, the Act contains specific measures to ensure that the House sits if we are in recess or even if we are prorogued. So could you feed that into the process of answering the right hon. Gentleman?

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

It seems to me that both points of order are supplementary business questions, but the Leader of the House is still in his place and will have heard both points of order, and I am sure that those on the Treasury Bench will reflect on what both Members have said today.

Photo of Mark Pritchard Mark Pritchard Conservative, The Wrekin

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. You will know that Mr Speaker prides himself on standing up for the rights of Back Benchers, who, perhaps more than ever, need to stand up for the rights of their constituents. The House is due to rise on 31 March. The Leader of the House spoke about potential flexibility on that, and I understand why he did so. Can you give an assurance to my constituents, especially as the Government are seeking unprecedented powers, possibly without review or with review months in the future, that this House will sit for as long as it can, in order that the Government are held to account?

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

I listened carefully to what the Leader of the House had to say during responses to questions. It seems to me that the commitment from the Government was exactly what the hon. Gentleman is seeking.

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) (Arts and Heritage)

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. In business questions, the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee mentioned a motion that the Leader brought forward this week in relation to Select Committees, which created a new post outside normal Standing Orders of Chair of the Liaison Committee and put a named individual in the motion to take the post. That flies in the face of the normal practice adopted by the House for many years. The Chairs of Select Committees should be elected from among the whole House, with all Members having an opportunity to put their name forward, albeit on a party-balanced basis, for those particular positions. Could you determine, Mr Deputy Speaker, whether it would be possible for the Leader of the House to table an amended motion, leaving that part of the motion out and allowing the Liaison Committee and all Select Committees to be set up forthwith?

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

I should make the observation that Mr Speaker is very keen to ensure that the rights of Back Benchers are properly respected. Therefore, I will make absolutely certain the hon. Gentleman’s comments are passed on to Mr Speaker when I vacate the Chair.