Hybrid Proceedings (Extension of Temporary Orders)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:23 pm on 12th May 2020.

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Photo of Chris Elmore Chris Elmore Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Scotland) 6:23 pm, 12th May 2020

May I place on record my thanks to you, Mr Speaker, and to all the staff across the House Commission and the Clerks for all the work that they have done? I have been intrinsically involved as a member of the Procedure Committee and as an Opposition Whip, so I have an inner knowledge of the scale of the work that has taken place, and am truly grateful for it.

It has already been made clear by my right hon. Friend the shadow Leader of the House that we are in favour of extending the motion. I am just confused by the announcement of the Leader of the House. May I ask when he planned to consult the Procedure Committee about not extending the motion? It would have at least been courteous, and up to now he has been extremely courteous in consulting the Committee. Would he approach the Chair of the Committee to ensure that we have perhaps a private discussion with him to understand his rationale?

What equality impact assessment has the Leader of the House done regarding Members being able to come back to the House, given that they may have childcare or caring responsibilities? Right across the UK, we have seen people struggling to go back to work following the Prime Minister’s announcement—in England, I stress, but not in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland—because they do not have childcare provision.

What assessment has been made of Members’ health in order that they are able to come back into the Chamber? We cannot simply suggest that we can return on 1 June and that nothing changes. This Chamber is set up for 50 Members of Parliament. How does the Leader of the House propose to manage—in consultation with you, Mr Speaker—to ensure that the Chamber is usable for 641 voting Members? Is he suggesting that the Public Health England advice is going to change for the management of the Chamber? He did not make that clear.

May I also ask the Leader of the House what discussions he has had through the usual channels, or generally with the smaller parties, to explain his rationale for this announcement? It seems that we have jumped from having a procedure that is working—I accept that it is not pleasing everybody and that it is stifling some of the debate, but it is allowing for some scrutiny—to now saying that the House will return in June, when there has been no announcement about such a lifting of restrictions across all the nations of the UK. The Prime Minister, despite ignoring advice from the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish Governments, said that he would respect the advice given from those nations.

Are Members from those nations expected not to come to the House? I speak as a Welsh Member who has checked to make sure that I can come here, but the advice in Scotland could well be different. What will happen with travel arrangements for Northern Irish Members? In the earlier transport statement we heard from Members about the pressures on air travel. With great respect to the Leader of the House—I genuinely mean that, because he has been truly courteous to the Committee in recent weeks—I ask him to explain in more detail how, with literally two weeks to go, the practical management of the Chamber, including in the Lobby and indeed where we are now, will work.