Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:13 am on 25th June 2020.

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Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 11:13 am, 25th June 2020

If I may begin where the right hon. Lady left off; I thank her for those words. I will certainly convey the condolences of the whole House to my right hon. Friend Mr Paterson at this saddest of all possible times. He is in all our thoughts and prayers.

I will also answer with regard to Nazanin, Kylie and Anousheh because the right hon. Lady is quite right to keep on raising this issue. Kylie is being dealt with by the Australian authorities, in agreement with them, and not by the British Government at the moment. Nazanin continues to have representations made on her behalf by the British authorities, and that will continue. As the right hon. Lady knows, she is currently out of prison on temporary release. We hope that that will lead to permanent release, and that she will be able to be fully reunited with her family. We say the same in relation to all the arbitrarily detained UK persons in Iran. The right hon. Lady’s efforts to secure their release are entirely admirable.

The right hon. Lady, as usual, asks a long list of questions, which I will come to. The ISC is going through the normal processes and we look forward to its being set up in due course. I hope that a motion will be brought before this House in due course. I had better not go into the discussions as to who is going in and out, whose lists are going where and which Members of which parties and what parties may or may not be putting their names forward, having their names taken off or putting their names back on again. I am not entirely sure that it is a one-way street in this regard, but let me leave it at that.

The right hon Lady asks about the list of ministerial responsibilities. They were last issued in October and they are updated periodically. The Cabinet Office is in charge of that and will I am sure come forward in the fullness of time with an up-to-date list to help and assist and to ensure smooth communication with Members, so they know exactly who they ought to be writing to.

On the merger of the International Development Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee, discussions are going on within the House. My hon. Friend Sir Bernard Jenkin, the Chairman of the Liaison Committee, is, I know, involved in discussions with the various interested parties. I note the point the right hon. Lady makes about its being a Labour chairmanship that has been lost, and there are standard procedures in accordance with that, of which the Government are aware. However, I would stress that it is right that Select Committees follow Departments, otherwise we would end up with Select Committees that related to Departments that might have been removed years and years ago. For the House to ensure proper scrutiny, I think that principle is an important one.

I am delighted that the right hon. Lady wants to wish my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education a happy birthday. Can I remind the House that, apparently, if you sing “Happy Birthday” twice while washing your hands, that helps defeat the coronavirus? I prefer to stick to the national anthem, rather than “Happy Birthday” twice, but it has the same effect. I am sure many Members of the House will be singing “Happy Birthday” many times today, and will be thinking of my right hon. Friend and the marvellous job he has done in giving £650 million to headmasters and headmistresses up and down the country to spend on getting pupils back up to speed. I think it is absolutely the right thing to do.

The right hon. Lady mentions the Childhood Trust and the post-traumatic stress of children. I would encourage Opposition Members, and particularly her dear leader, to say loudly and boldly that going back to school is safe, as he has been encouraged to do by the Prime Minister on several occasions. That will encourage people, make them feel safe and make post-traumatic stress disorder or other problems less likely, so that is to be encouraged.

On communication with councils, there are the local resilience forums, which are used very effectively to keep councils up to date, so that they know what is going on.

Finally, on the issue of updates to the House, we have many updates to the House. We have had so many statements—regular statements—and the Prime Minister made the major statement. I must confess that I think there was revelry, Mr Speaker, in your office when the Prime Minister came to the House to make the statement, something you have consistently asked for. Mr Speaker says go and we goeth, and come and we cometh, like the centurion’s servant of old, for when he asks the Government that statements are made here, that is what happens.