Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 2:51 pm on 14th July 2020.

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Photo of Munira Wilson Munira Wilson Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Health and Social Care) 2:51 pm, 14th July 2020

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. As we are heading into another recess, with the ongoing pandemic and a potential second wave, as we have heard today, on the way, do you have any suggestions or provisions for how hon. Members can scrutinise effectively during that period what the Department is doing, given the challenges we have, which the Secretary of State has already alluded to, in terms of responding in a timely fashion to correspondence?

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

I am grateful to the hon. Member for her point of order and for giving me notice of it. While it is not for the Speaker or me to advise individual hon. Members or Select Committees how they may wish to carry out their work during recess, we may be able to help by emphasising again what the Speaker has said about the importance of correspondence from hon. Members receiving prompt replies. I agree that this will be of particular importance during the recess, while the country is still facing a major public health challenge. I hope that Ministers will give careful consideration to how they can support all hon. Members carrying out their duties during this recess by providing prompt and helpful replies to correspondence.

Photo of Bill Wiggin Bill Wiggin Chair, Committee of Selection, Chair, Committee of Selection, Chair, Committee of Selection

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Thank you for that answer. You will be aware that 72 people tested positive in my constituency this weekend. I did apply for an urgent question. I put my name down to be on the call list today. Could I ask you to gently thank Mr Speaker for all he has done to make our hearings possible, but to make sure that constituency cases can be heard by the Minister, because I have tens of thousands of migrant workers in my constituency who probably need to be tested as well?

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

Thank you for that point of order. The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care is still sitting in his place and will have heard that point of order.

Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I would be very happy to meet my hon. Friend Bill Wiggin, who is an assiduous representative for his constituency, and to make sure that his concerns are taken into account. He is right to raise them. I have been working on them all weekend, and it is very important. I can reassure him that, as far as we know, the outbreak has been confined to the farm in question, but we absolutely will be looking into it in great detail.

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

I am just grateful that I could be so effective in creating this meeting so quickly. [Laughter.] It was a very important point of order, though, and I am extremely grateful for it and extremely grateful to the Secretary of State for his response.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I think this is important, as we look towards the autumn and winter times, when flus become more common. As one of those who gets a flu jab every year as a diabetic, I am very aware of the demands that there may be on the health service, and we are going into recess. Is it the intention of the Health Secretary and his Department to come to this House and make a statement on the preparations that will be in place so that when it comes to the autumn and the winter we are in a position to respond quickly and effectively?

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

I thank the hon. Member for his point of order. Clearly, that will be a matter for the Secretary of State. We still have a few days before we go into the recess. However, I re-emphasise the response I gave on behalf of the Speaker and the other occupants of this Chair to Munira Wilson at the beginning.

Photo of Chris Bryant Chris Bryant Chair, Committee on Standards, Chair, Committee on Standards, Chair, Committee of Privileges, Chair, Committee of Privileges

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Now that you are being so effective, I raised with you last week the issue of how important it would be for many of us to be able to raise constituency issues in Westminster Hall, and I just wondered whether you have got anywhere yet.

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

Not at this moment in time. However, I am really hopeful that, as we go into September, after the recess, sufficient progress will have been made that we can then start to normalise the proceedings in this Chamber. I fully appreciate that the way that we are currently operating is not how we would all like it to be, but we have to do this at a rate of progress that is safe for all Members and staff here. I do hope that we will make sufficient progress.

Photo of Lloyd Russell-Moyle Lloyd Russell-Moyle Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. In ministerial correspondence, the response repeatedly comes back from civil servants and not the Minister themselves, which is a trend that I have noticed more often recently. If I have written to a Minister, I find it uncourteous for the Minister not to respond. I am worried about going into a recess and receiving more civil servants’ responses that do not provide the political context that is often needed. Could you advise me on how I could encourage Ministers to respond directly?

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

I have been a Member of Parliament for 28 years, and the vast majority of replies I have had have always been from Secretaries of State or the relevant Minister. I know that those on the Treasury Bench will have heard the hon. Gentleman’s point of order, and I hope that the matter will be fed back into the system.

The House is suspended for three minutes.

Sitting suspended.