Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:25 am on 4th February 2021.

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Photo of Owen Thompson Owen Thompson SNP Whip 11:25 am, 4th February 2021

I thank the shadow Leader and the Leader of the House for their kind comments about my hon. Friend Tommy Sheppard. I know he certainly enjoyed his exchanges in these sessions, and I am sure the Leader of the House will be looking forward to the return of my hon. Friend Pete Wishart. I am hoping that this transition period is slightly smoother than the Brexit one.

The Oxford Internet Institute recently published a report on industrialised disinformation. Given the importance that I know the Leader of the House places on confidence in democracy, he will I am sure be worried at the report’s finding that

“industrialized disinformation has become more professionalized, and produced on a large scale by major governments, political parties, and public relations firms”,

and that the UK is listed among the 81 countries in which this is a permanent situation. Can we have a debate in Government time on how we can tackle and regulate this issue, as a number of firms are springing up—65, in fact—offering this service to clients?

Yesterday, I tried to seek an assurance from the Secretary of State for Wales on the financial powers for devolved nations in tackling the pandemic and, looking forward, tackling climate change. As part of that, I was looking to see why the Treasury continues to impose unfair and unreasonable limits on the devolved nations’ borrowing powers. I would be very grateful if we could have a debate in Government time to further consider what steps we could take to consider those implications and their impact on the devolved nations, and to untie the hands of the devolved nations so that we can tackle all the challenges that face us.

With sitting Fridays currently suspended, I am sure the Leader of the House will be keen to look at the number of private Members’ Bills there currently are and to consider which could be brought forward, perhaps in Government time, or adopted by the Government. I might even take this opportunity to make a plug for my Ministerial Interests (Emergency Powers) Bill, which I am sure the Leader of the House would be keen to see adopted, as it would further ensure confidence among Members.

Finally, as well as being World Cancer Day, today is Time to Talk Day. To support Christian Wakeford, I ask the Leader of the House whether he will join MYPAS—the Midlothian Young Peoples Advice Service—in my Midlothian constituency, which, among others, is having conversations about mental health with so many. This is such a challenging time that these conversations are so important.