Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:45 am on 1st October 2020.

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Photo of Tommy Sheppard Tommy Sheppard Shadow SNP Leader of the House of Commons 11:45 am, 1st October 2020

First, may I, on behalf of the third party, associate myself with the remarks made by you, Mr Speaker, the Leader of the House and the shadow Leader of the House regarding Mark Hutton? He has been a friend of this party over the years, so much so in fact that our Chief Whip takes rather more pride than might be expected in a Scottish nationalist in having his signed copy of “Erskine May” in his office.

I want to begin by talking about our procedures and paraphrasing Kipling by saying “If you can keep your head while all around you are losing theirs, you probably don’t understand the seriousness of the situation.” I think that is what is happening in this Chamber, where we are maintaining this façade of normalcy whilst we know that there is a crisis gripping the country. I do wonder if we are devoting enough urgency to looking at how we can revise and improve participation by remote means in our discussions, given that large parts of the country are now again in lockdown and that these measures may intensify in the weeks and months to come. In that regard, I am particularly disappointed to see that next week Westminster Hall will resume its sittings in a business-as-normal- type way. Surely if there was ever an opportunity to try to test creatively the opportunities presented to us by technology and to have virtual conferencing, it would have been in the setting of Westminster Hall. As it is, these debates will take place with the vast majority of Members of Parliament unable to participate in them, and it is a great wasted opportunity.

I also want to talk about the United Kingdom Internal Market Bill, which is trundling its way through Parliament. It is now clear—it is no longer a matter of speculation—that the devolved Administrations of the United Kingdom will not give consent to this ridiculous piece of legislation, and I want to know if we can find the time to debate in this Chamber the consequences for the devolution settlement of that being the case and of the United Kingdom Government choosing to ignore the wishes of the devolved Administrations and steamroller the legislation through anyway.

For my final point, on the job support scheme, I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. It was welcome that the Chancellor came to the House to discuss this last week, but there are still enormous gaps. When can we find the time to debate what we can do to assist those companies in this country that are viable, safe and good businesses but that are closed, by order, to meet the public health imperative? Are we simply to say that all those businesses and all those jobs are unviable and they are to be discarded, or are we going to step in after 31 October and offer them some assistance?