Point of Order

– in the House of Commons at 1:45 pm on 6th September 2022.

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Photo of Holly Lynch Holly Lynch Shadow Minister (Home Office) 1:45 pm, 6th September 2022

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I hope that you can help me. Earlier this morning, we were notified that today’s planned line-by-line scrutiny session of the National Security Bill, which was due to start at 9.25 am, would be adjourned. That followed a tweet from the Minister for Security, Stephen McPartland, late last night, announcing his intention to resign from the post. However, he committed to continuing to serve as the Security Minister until a new Minister could be appointed. Despite the fact that no new Security Minister has been appointed, the Minister was not in the Bill Committee this morning and the Whip moved to adjourn.

This is the second time that a Security Minister has resigned immediately before a Committee sitting on this Bill was due to start. We have now had three Ministers and acting Ministers over the course of the Bill Committee, as well as some very late substantial additions to the Bill. In order for us to have scrutinised the Bill in accordance with the programme motion, a new Minister will have to be in place for Thursday’s sitting, but that means that someone will likely have less than 24 hours to familiarise themselves with the complexities of the legislation, making a mockery of the process. This is literally national security; the security services need this new provision. We will be up to four Ministers by the end of the week, which means that so far we have had more Security Ministers on the Bill than there have been days of scrutiny.

Madam Deputy Speaker, have you been notified of the Government’s plans to get the vital National Security Bill moving again to plug the serious gaps in our national defences?

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Chair, Standing Orders Committee (Commons), Chair, Standing Orders Committee (Commons)

I thank the hon. Lady for her point of order. I am sure that the whole House agrees with her that the National Security Bill is an extremely important piece of legislation and it is vital that it should be properly scrutinised by the Committee, but I have to say that I am little surprised at her surprise that there is a ministerial reshuffle going on. I do not think that is a surprise to anyone, not just in the Chamber, but across the country or indeed the world. When a change of Government is occurring, there is by necessity a change of Ministers. It is unfortunate that this important session of this important Bill Committee happened to be taking place this morning—the day on which there is a changeover of Prime Minister.

The hon. Lady says that the situation makes a mockery of the system. I would say to her that this is how our democracy works. It is true, as somebody once correctly said, that democracy is the most inefficient form of government, but I think that we would all agree that it is still the best and fairest. I have every sympathy with the hon. Lady’s frustration at not being able to get on with this important piece of work, but I am pretty certain that within 48 hours, if not 24, there will be a Minister in place—[Interruption.] Sorry, is Dame Nia Griffith interrupting me when I am answering a point of order? Would she care to make another point of order? If not, would she please not interrupt me while I am answering this one?

Clearly the Bill needs to be scrutinised. Nobody disagrees with that. While I understand the frustration felt by Holly Lynch, this is how our democracy works. I am sure that there will be a Minister in place in very short order. I hope that if perchance there is no Minister in place within the next two days, the hon. Lady will come back to the Chamber, so that we can address what by then will be a situation that needs to be addressed by the Chair.

Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Labour, North Durham

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am grateful for your explanation, but may I inform you that what we discovered in the Committee this morning is not what has been presented to you. The Minister said that he would resign but stay in place until the new Minister was appointed, so in effect we do have a Minister. We asked the Government to explain the position, but the Whip did not provide an explanation. The Committee sits again at 2 o’clock, because we objected to the process, and we will try again, but the Government must explain the current status of the Minister for Security.

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Chair, Standing Orders Committee (Commons), Chair, Standing Orders Committee (Commons)

I do not think the right hon. Gentleman needs me to explain to him that there are certain duties that fall to the Security Minister, which means that it would be unwise to have no Security Minister. What he has explained fits with that important duty, but he is obviously of the opinion that the Minister ought to be present in the Committee. Clearly, the Government have a different view. That is not a matter for the Chair. I take the right hon. Gentleman’s point, but that is not a matter for me to adjudicate. I have given the hon. Member for Halifax a proper answer.