Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:42 am on 17th September 2020.

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Photo of Tommy Sheppard Tommy Sheppard Shadow SNP Leader of the House of Commons 10:42 am, 17th September 2020

It is good to be here, Mr Speaker, after so many months of absence to discuss matters with the Leader of the House in person.

I begin with your very welcome statement, Mr Speaker, about what happened last night. The Leader of the House ought to be a little less nonchalant in his approach. What we presented to the public and the world last night was quite an unedifying spectacle, to be honest. The conga line going through this House involving Members, many of whom clearly had some difficulty with social distancing, was not a good example to set. When we had the remote voting system, it did not fail; it worked perfectly well on every occasion it was put to the test. It is a system that was fit for purpose, and as he well knows, the Procedure Committee has recommended that whilst the pandemic persists we should go back to that form of voting, which is not only secure but safe and allows people to vote without coming into proximity of one another. I hope that when we discuss these matters next Wednesday at the debate he has announced on proxy voting, we will be able to consider alternatives as well, and I hope we will be able to take some action on this prior to the present arrangements running out at the beginning of November.

Secondly, I invite the Leader of the House to comment on the resignation yesterday of Lord Keen, the Advocate General for Scotland, who reached a point where he found it impossible to continue to serve in the Government because of their intention to proceed with breaking international law. Does he think he will be successful in finding a qualified Law Officer in Scotland who will be prepared to countenance breaking the law in the future?

Finally, I want to ask the Leader of the House about the coronavirus job retention scheme and the self-employment income support scheme, both of which we will discuss in Backbench Business debates this afternoon. Members across the House who will be participating in those very well-subscribed debates look to the Government to bring forward proposals for what will happen after 31 October, when many businesses will have to remain closed by Government order. If that is the case, it seems to me that the public purse has to assist them in getting to the other side of this pandemic. It is not enough to simply close down the scheme and say, “That’s it.”