Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 12:37 pm on 7th October 2020.

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Photo of Lloyd Russell-Moyle Lloyd Russell-Moyle Labour/Co-operative, Brighton, Kemptown 12:37 pm, 7th October 2020

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. On Monday, I suggested that you and your office had denied me a speaking slot in the debate we were discussing. I had of course put in the request late, and owing to the new rules that do not allow on-the-day requests, it was not down to your office’s discretion whether I could speak. I want to make sure that it is clear for the record that no slight on my part was meant towards you at all.

Photo of Sarah Owen Sarah Owen Labour, Luton North

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Since the end of summer I, like many other Members of the House, have tabled a series of questions to the Health Secretary on issues that are important to my constituents. It is now way past the five sitting days for most of those questions and I am still waiting for a response. A question on 8 September was about when the Health Secretary had met families who had lost loved ones during the pandemic, and another on 15 September was about how private sector contracts are letting down people in Luton North who need covid tests. I also asked about data on the number of people who are trying to get tested in Luton North; for the Health Secretary to give evidence for the 10 pm pub curfew; about targets for this year’s flu jabs; and about the track and trace app.

These questions were all asked in good faith and I know that my constituents are keen to know the answers to them. It is our job as Members of Parliament to hold the Government to account, but getting a straight answer out of the Health Secretary is almost as hard as getting a test at the moment. Will you therefore please advise, Mr Speaker, on how we are supposed to get answers from the Health Secretary to straightforward questions when he will not reply to letters, will not reply to our questions and, when he is in the Chamber, accuses Members of using divisive language when we just raise our concerns?

Photo of Lindsay Hoyle Lindsay Hoyle Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, House of Commons Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

This comes on the back of what was said yesterday. I am getting very frustrated, and Members of Parliament are rightly getting frustrated, by the very late arrival of answers to questions—and in a lot of cases, Members are still waiting for them. It is totally unacceptable. We are the representatives of the electorate. We must get this message through to the Department. The hon. Lady’s frustration is shared. That is the worst part: this is not an isolated case.

I would say, however, that there are other ways; the hon. Lady could write to the Procedure Committee to explain her frustration. In the end, this affects all Members, not those on one particular side. That is the big issue. The people we represent want the answers. I would suggest that the hon. Lady writes to the Procedure Committee, but in the end the responsibility lies with the Department of Health and Social Care. It is for the Secretary of State to ensure that his Department is more proactive in the answering of letters. I understand that he may have a lot of questions put to him, but in the end—bring the extra staff in—they must be answered. I will ensure that this issue is taken up again with the Leader of the House, who I know is as frustrated as the hon. Lady’s good self and me.