Tuesday 2nd November 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Hansard Text Watch Debate
Taiwo Owatemi Portrait Taiwo Owatemi (Coventry North West) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

On a point of order, Mr Speaker, 15 days ago, I asked the Home Secretary an important question in oral questions concerning the long-running extradition case of the west midlands three, two of whom are my constituents. I asked her for information about the evidence used to justify their arrests. The Home Secretary claimed she did not hear my question and that she would instead answer separately, but, regrettably, that has not happened. No effort has been made by the Home Secretary to answer my question, and I have not received any correspondence about it. My parliamentary office has now contacted the Home Secretary’s private office on numerous occasions, and we have not received any clear communication or answers in return. I see little point in the Home Secretary coming to this place to answer questions if she does not do just that—answer the questions we ask. With that in mind, is it in order for the Home Secretary to fail to answer a question in the Chamber like that and then fail to provide an answer to me? If it is not in order, what action can I take to get an answer from the Home Secretary? My constituents deserve a response.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am absolutely appalled that we are still not getting the message across. Members of Parliament deserve answers. The Leader of the House and I are absolutely committed to ensuring that Members, rightly and deservedly, get their answers. I am also grateful to the hon. Member for giving me notice of her point of order.

If the Minister gave such an undertaking to respond, that should of course happen promptly without the hon. Member having to keep pressing the Home Office for an answer. I know that those on the Treasury Bench will be listening, and I expect them to pass on this point to the Home Secretary to ensure that an answer is given as early as possible. If necessary, the hon. Member can also consult the Table Office about the avenues that are open to her to pursue. Please keep me informed if that answer is not forthcoming.

I have to say—it needs to be heard loud and clear—that Members of Parliament on both sides rightly deserve answers to questions, especially as they are representing their constituents. We base this House on democracy, and part of that democratic process is that Ministers answer to Members.

Karl McCartney Portrait Karl MᶜCartney (Lincoln) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

On a point of order, Mr Speaker, I rise to represent the 649 MPs who, as the House was sitting last night, saw a report, perhaps with some consternation, on some notable websites—notably the Guido Fawkes website—that the House of Commons Commission had made changes to our working practices in this place with no reference to us. Rightly, Mr Speaker, you have done some great things over the past 18 months to keep this place going. I could make some points about the content of the announcement last night, and notably about Lord Ridley’s excellent speech in the other place about the usefulness of masks, but I would say that you rightly castigated my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, who is no longer in his place, and some of his colleagues last week. Surely what is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am not quite sure about the last bit —who is the goose, who is the gander, and what it was about. I am pleased by how the hon. Member has approached the question. It is a bit better than your email earlier today, Mr McCartney, which was pretty offensive; we ought to think about how we address each other in emails. I certainly respect your views and the views of all Members.

We have to work together. We have come this far because the House pulled together, ensuring that we got through it. We are one of only eight legislatures, I think, across the world that have managed to keep open every day, because we have done the right thing. It is about us doing the right thing. I want to help and support you; I want to help and support all Members.

In fairness, this is about safety. We have had an increase in covid-19 across the House, which has been badly reflected recently in the rising numbers. The UK Health Security Agency has determined that the risk of transmission on the parliamentary estate is now greater. As a consequence, the parliamentary authorities have decided to take further action to ensure that case numbers do not continue to rise. These measures have been communicated to Members and staff and I do not wish to debate them in detail on the Floor of the House. The measures have been introduced with immediate effect and will be reviewed in two weeks.

I will say to Members that if we can get through these two weeks, I believe we will get through to next year, but these two weeks are crucial. Numbers of infections have been rising on both sides of the House and among staff. Unusually, the transmission has been on the estate, and that is why it is a greater worry than before. Please, let us pull together and not try to undermine the officials of the House, who have to do a job—a thankless task. They get the kicks when they should not. Aim them at me; that is quite right. The hon. Member for Lincoln is right to have addressed me with this question.

I will always put the health and safety of the House first, so please help me to keep the House open by trying to get through a very crucial two weeks. After that, we will be in a much safer place, and I think we will be in the right place. I have to say that the measures have not been stringent. They could have been even more stringent and they might have to be, so please let us pull and work together. In the end, I do not want to have another Christmas like the last one, and I want to protect all of us, so work with the staff and try to remember that they have a job to do along with us. The main basis is that I know that we can see it through. I appeal to the Whips of all parties to work together to try to make it safe.

I understand the frustration. From my point of view, there is nothing better than having a full Chamber and seeing the hon. Member for Lincoln back in this House. As much as he gives me grief, I like seeing him on the Benches. I still prefer him in the House than on television—that is even more scary—but seriously, I have to say, let us all work together and pull together.

William Wragg Portrait Mr William Wragg (Hazel Grove) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. With reference to the announcements, I deprecate the announcement of things outside of this Chamber and have been known to criticise the Government for that, so it would be churlish of me not to be surprised by what appeared in the press last night. You mentioned the UK Health Security Agency’s advice. Are you aware of that agency giving any institution or venue in this country the same advice that it has given us? In terms of the parliamentary authorities quoted in the email sent to Members, may I ask when the Commission met to discuss it? I assume those authorities refer to the Commission, because the agenda and decisions come only from the 18th—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Order. I think I can help. As I said earlier, I will not go into further debate. I have the greatest respect, but I am certainly not going to be tested today.