Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:38 am on 15th October 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 10:38 am, 15th October 2020

The right hon. Lady is right to ask about Remembrance Sunday, but obviously regulations around the pandemic are changing and it would therefore be too early to commit to anything at this stage. She mentions Memorial 2007, and a very worthy memorial that is. It is worth remembering that in Victoria Gardens there is a memorial to the ending of the slave trade. It was put up in the 19th century, but most people walk past it without even knowing why it is there. We do commemorate, not very far from this House, the great effort that this country made in ending an evil trade.

I entirely agree with the right hon. Lady that all public money should be scrutinised carefully, however it is spent. We can be proud that this country has such a good record on its expenditure of public money. I think we are one of the least corrupt countries in the world, and that is because we have proper scrutiny of how public money is spent. I have every confidence that the way money has been spent by this Government, particularly on the towns fund, has been absolutely proper, because we know that there is scrutiny. That is the role of this House and has been since it came into existence. It is quite right that that should be the case.

As regards the review into judicial review, that manifesto commitment is being carried out. I am delighted that a Conservative Government are carrying out their manifesto commitments—that is why people voted for us, Mr Speaker. It shows that we are people of our word.

I am fascinated that the right hon. Lady should have raised the issue of the Good Law Project; I seem to remember that that is associated with a fox killer—a fellow who likes to go out into his garden and bash poor foxes over the head. I am surprised that people want to refer to that organisation, which is not necessarily led by the finest people in the land.

On Operation Moonshot, I do not recognise the figure of £100 billion having been spent; I am not sure where that comes from. Figures get bandied about, but £100 billion is a very, very large amount of money and I have to say that it might have been noticed had that much been spent.

The right hon. Lady asked about the lay members of the Committee on Standards. As often happens, motions are brought forward at the right time, and no doubt a motion will be brought forward, or more motions may be brought forward, at a suitable time.

I come to the heart of the right hon. Lady’s questions today: they are about how this Parliament does its business. We have a duty to be here doing our business. It is unquestionably the case that democratic scrutiny is essential, even during a pandemic. We have to be here, holding the Government to account, asking questions, getting answers, legislating and ensuring that statutory instruments of national significance are debated on the Floor of the House, so that our constituents are represented thoroughly, questions are asked and we seek redress of grievance for the people whom we seek to represent.

As we come here, we have a responsibility to ensure that we act in a responsible way. The House authorities, led by you, Mr Speaker, have made every effort to ensure that we are covid-safe. Look around this Chamber and look at what we have done. We are sitting 6½ feet apart from each other; we are socially distanced. Look at the markings on the floor—I am pointing at things in the Chamber; I hope that that is not too difficult for Hansard to take down. Those markings are set out. People are wandering around wearing masks. I cannot pretend that I like wearing a mask. I cannot pretend that I do not find it slightly tiresome that my spectacles steam up, and therefore one is wandering around somewhat unable to see where one is going. But we are wearing masks because we are showing the nation what we ought to be doing, and we are legislating at the same time. We have a personal responsibility and a duty to legislate. We have a duty to be here. We have to show the way. To suggest that democratic accountability is not an essential service seems to me to be an offence to democracy.