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 Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 11:25 am, 4th February 2021

May I begin by saying how sorry I am that the right hon. and learned Lady has left the SNP Front Bench? That is not because I regularly agree with her, because I do not think that I do, but because she has made it clear that she is one of the most intelligent and careful scrutinisers of Government, not just on her party’s Benches but in this House. When I was on the Brexit Committee with her, her analysis and her questioning were, I must admit, second to none. As I believe that good government depends on careful scrutiny, her removal from office is a loss to our democratic system. Dare I say, perhaps ungraciously, that Mona Lott is responsible for this and it may be for reasons of internal SNP politicking?

To come to the right hon. and learned Lady’s point, free speech is fundamental, and it is disgraceful that she received threats for her views and her removal from office, to the extent where the police had to be involved. Every Member of this House should feel safe in whatever they say as long as it is within the law and is not effectively threatening violence. What is said in this House is of course completely protected. It is outrageous that she should have been placed in this position. Can I commit to supporting freedom of speech? Absolutely I can. That is what this place exists for; that is what underpins our democracy. Much as I disagree with her on so many things, may I commend her courage in standing up for freedom of speech and putting forward her views clearly in a difficult and sensitive area but one where she has a right to be heard?