House Business during the Pandemic

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:54 pm on 8th June 2020.

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Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley Chair, Procedure Committee, Chair, Procedure Committee 6:54 pm, 8th June 2020

I thank my hon. Friend, who is a member of the Committee, for his kind words and his point about the temporary nature of the arrangements. It is incredibly important that decisions that we take on our procedure during this pandemic are temporary, because, when we return to some form of normality, this House will have to decide how we proceed with our processes, procedures and rules and regulations.

My final thing that went well is Select Committees, which have been referred to already. Select Committees have met and scrutiny is carrying on. They have operated very successfully, and continue to operate, in a virtual world.

What could we have done better? Well, we could have been better at dealing with some of the uncertainty. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and I have already disagreed on this matter during an earlier debate in the Procedure Committee when he was kind enough to give evidence. The Government should have extended the motion that allowed for virtual participation until after the Whitsun recess, so that the House could have met without a recall of Parliament and made a decision about how we wanted to proceed without disenfranchising any Members.

We should have tested the voting system that we implemented last week. I urge my right hon. Friend to make sure that, whatever comes next for voting, we have a chance to test it, because this House needs to be happy and comfortable with it. The point was made about the Division Lobbies. I want to get back in those Division Lobbies as quickly as we can. They are a very valuable asset, but we have to make sure that they are safe. I urge my right hon. Friend to use deferred Divisions more. It is incredibly useful if we can vote, socially distanced, on deferred Divisions. On Public Bill Committees, there was nothing to stop them meeting before the Whitsun recess, and I urge him to ensure that they meet, and meet for longer—