Debates between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant during the 2019 Parliament

Business of the House

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Thursday 13th January 2022

(6 days, 10 hours ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman, but I wonder whether I may give an advert for Truespeed, which has come to Somerset and is doing terrific work in ensuring that my constituents are connected? Connecting Devon and Somerset has also been working very hard to improve the quality of broadband. However, it has to be said that when it comes to mobile telephony, there are still some parts of the south-west where the signal goes down and it does not seem to come back particularly quickly.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
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I read the Government’s record on covid slightly differently from the Leader of the House. Yes, the Government did really well on vaccines and take-up, but we had the biggest economic collapse of any advanced economy in the world, and I think we probably still have the highest death rate per 100,000.

My big anxiety this year is the financial situation facing families in my constituency. Gas and electricity bills are likely to go up by 50% in April. The cost of petrol and diesel has already gone up by 25% this year, compared with last year. We have the national insurance increase and a 7.1% increase in basic inflation. The average family in my constituency—I have done the figures—will be £1,535 worse off every year, and for those on universal credit the figure is £2,575. Many families are just on the cusp of collapsing financially. They would need an 18% pay rise this year to meet that figure, and that simply is not going to happen. So what are the Government going to do? When will they come here and acknowledge that we really do have a crisis facing thousands of families?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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The hon. Gentleman is not right to say that we have the worst death rate of any major western country, because other European countries have worse rates.

In relation to the economic figures, we use a more up-to-date way of calculating GDP, so if people are still paid to work in a school but that school is not open, we do not count that towards our GDP, whereas most countries do. It is very important, when making these statements, to ensure that the comparators are correct.

Let me come to the hon. Gentleman’s question, because I think the whole House recognises the difficulties that our constituents may be facing during the course of the year. On his underlying point, most of our constituents live to their income level, and therefore big swings in costs have a powerful effect on people pretty much regardless of their income level. Those problems are recognised, so what are the Government doing? Well, there is £4.2 billion of taxpayer support to help with the cost of living. The national living wage will go up to £9.50 from April. Some 2 million families will get an extra £1,000 through our cut to the universal credit taper and increased work allowances. There will be seasonal cold weather payments of an extra £25 a week for up to 4 million people during colder periods. Fuel duty has been frozen for the 12th year running, saving car drivers £15 every time they fill up compared with pre-2010 plans. Local housing allowance has been increased in cash terms this year, worth an extra £600 on average to 1.5 million households. The energy cap remains in place. We have provided the £500 million household support fund so that local authorities can offer their residents help with food and utility bills, and there are winter fuel payments to over 11.4 million pensioners, worth up to £300. So there is very considerable support, but I understand what the hon. Gentleman is saying, because it is a worrying time for many people.

Business of the House

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Thursday 6th January 2022

(1 week, 6 days ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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The hon. Lady’s seasonal wishes for a happy new year did not seem to last very long, but may I perhaps be more good natured and wish people not only a happy new year but a happy feast of Epiphany, which is an important day in our Christmas celebrations?

The hon. Lady thinks that I might be converted to her way of thinking, but that is wishful thinking. As her questions went on and on, it became clear that she was referring to taxpayers’ money, which is a good Tory principle. We always call it taxpayers’ money because we recognise that there is no money from anywhere else. Also, she is becoming a Eurosceptic; she has become a staunch Brexiteer. The only reason our socialist friends can advocate cutting VAT on fuel is that we have left the European Union. If we were still in the megalithic state that she used to campaign for—and that I think her constituents almost entirely voted for—we would not be able to cut VAT on fuel. I am delighted that she welcomes these flexibilities that come from Brexit. Not only do we have happy fish, having left the European Union, but we have increasingly happy socialists who realise that taking back control is a very useful thing to do.

The hon. Lady then complains—she moans and berates me—about there being no development in respect of the Online Safety Bill, when I have just announced a debate. This may have passed her by, because she quite likes to work remotely sometimes, but the amazing thing about debates in this House is that they are responded to by a Government Minister, so when we have a debate next week on the draft Online Safety Bill, if she listens carefully and bates her breath, she will be able to hear the views of Her Majesty’s Government on that Bill. I am grateful to the Joint Committee for its important work.

We then come to crime. The Conservative party has always been the party of law and order. I am sure, Mr Speaker, that you do not want or need a history lesson, but it is worth bearing in mind that the Peelers—the Bobbies—were founded by a former Conservative Prime Minister in his distinguished period as Home Secretary. Sir Robert Peel was a Conservative.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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Actually, he was chucked out by the Whigs, who voted against him on an Irish coercion Bill. The hon. Gentleman is forgetting his history for once; he normally likes to burnish his historical knowledge for the erudition of the House. We have recruited more than 11,000 police officers since 2019 and are more than halfway to meeting the promise of 20,000 more by 2023. We have done a great deal to tackle violent crime: from 2019 to 2022, in the 18 areas worst affected by serious violence we have spent more than £105 million of taxpayers’ money to develop 18 violence reduction units, and more than £136 million to support an enhanced police response.

If we really want to compare crime, let us look at two Mayors. The office of the Mayor of London—once a noble office held with distinction when it was graced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister—is now sadly traduced as we see the record number of teenagers stabbed over the past year because of the failures of the Mayor of London, who cannot run a proper police service. When we had a Conservative Mayor of London, homicide fell: we had safer streets in London when they were Conservative streets. Now, with the socialists in charge, not only can we not move about because the Mayor hates the motorist, but we cannot be safe because he cannot run a proper police force.

We then have the audacity: if you thought, Mr Speaker, that the Labour party now advocating Brexit so that we have the freedom to set our own tax rates showed a bit of gall, the hon. Lady talks about expenditure in the Ministry of Defence when there was a £35 billion—that is serious money—black hole when the Conservatives came into office because Labour could not get the procurement systems right. Procurement is now run by the Minister for Defence Procurement, my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Jeremy Quin), who is one of the most distinguished Ministers in Her Majesty’s Government.

Yes, we need new year’s resolutions, and our new year’s resolution is to welcome those who have now become Eurosceptics and those who have now become Conservatives and to keep on with good Conservative measures that lead to better government and the protection of the British people.

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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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My reading material was not the NME nor The BMJ. If somebody asks me about The Spectator I may be able to give a more positive answer. My hon. Friend raises a very difficult issue. We are a free country, and it is important that we maintain essential liberties. Enforced medication has been extraordinarily rare, though there were examples of compulsory smallpox vaccination in the 19th century. The Government are absolutely of the view—this view is held much more broadly than simply by members of Her Majesty’s Government—that vaccination is our best defence against covid. Vaccination reduces the likelihood of infection and therefore helps to break chains of transmission, and is safe and effective. Any increase in immunity of workers from vaccination will reduce the risk of harm to patients and service users, as well as to our valuable health and social care workforce. Therefore, I am sorry to disappoint my hon. Friend, but Her Majesty’s Government do not agree that the regulations on the vaccination of health and care workers should be revoked.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
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Happy Epiphany, Mr Speaker, and I hope that the Leader of the House has many epiphanies. May we have a debate on drug and alcohol services in the country, partly so that we may celebrate the amazing work that is done by the clinicians in those services, often in difficult circumstances, partly so that we may encourage more people to take up that profession, because there is a massive shortage of clinicians across the whole country, and partly, perhaps more importantly—because I suspect every single one of us knows someone who might have been affected by such services—to celebrate those extraordinary people who might have had a problem with drug or alcohol but absolutely have managed to turn their lives around? Should we not celebrate them?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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In a spirit of good will on Epiphany, may I say how much I agree with the hon. Gentleman? I cannot promise a debate, but we should certainly celebrate people who either through their own actions recover from a dependency or help others to recover. I am a great believer that people should have a second chance, a third chance and a fourth chance, and that everything that can be done by parts of the state or voluntary bodies to help that is worth celebrating. I am glad to see that the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee is still in his place, and the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) has asked once and been successful so, if we are keeping to the biblical theme:

“Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find”.

Business of the House

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Thursday 2nd December 2021

(1 month, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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Yeovil is on the Dorset border, so there are some people in Dorset for whom Yeovil would be extremely convenient. Yeovil is a town in Somerset, and therefore it is beautiful, glorious, and magnificent. I would have thought it would be a joy for anybody to go to Yeovil. But my hon. Friend makes a serious point, and after this statement I will of course take it up with the vaccines Minister. GPs are getting more involved and being paid £15 for every vaccine they are able to inject. That may be part of the process, but people need to be able to get to a vaccine centre that is reasonably close to them.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
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May we have a debate on what happens to British nationals when they are stuck overseas, for instance when there are changes to the rules on quarantine? There are 42 Welsh rugby players stuck in South Africa at the moment, including one of my constituents. They are in a double bind. Some of them have now had covid, so they might have to do 10 days’ quarantine in South Africa and then, on top of that, another 10 days’ quarantine in the UK. There is obviously a significant cost to that; more importantly, there is a cost to their mental health, too. Is there more we can do to help them to get home?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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If there are specific constituency cases, the hon. Gentleman should raise those in the normal manner. If he needs the assistance of my office in doing that, I am always willing to help hon. and right hon. Members. The issue could have been raised in the broad debate on introducing the regulations, which took place when we took away the half day from the SNP. So there was a chance to debate it, but certainly we would be very keen to help with individual constituency cases.

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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question. Yes, of course, he is the wedding feast at Cana, and the fine wine has been saved for last. I now understand the reason he wrote to me about being missed. His point is an important one and I will take it up with the Secretary of State for Transport. We obviously want to have efficient transport across the whole of the United Kingdom, and we particularly need the hon. Gentleman to be able to come here because he does so assiduously and dutifully, and, I think, he wins the prize for finest heckler in the House.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
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No! Division!

Business of the House

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Monday 29th November 2021

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
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The thing is that during covid we have started to develop really bad habits. As I understand it, the measures have not yet been laid—they are not available for any of us to see and will not be available until later today. They will start to apply at 4 o’clock tomorrow morning and we will then legislate for that retrospectively tomorrow afternoon. This is not the right way to do legislation. Every single statutory instrument Committee in which I have been involved in recent months has been on retrospective legislation that has already come into force. This is not the way the House should progress, surely to God.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I had hoped that the hon. Gentleman’s quite long question was going to go on slightly longer, because I understand that the regulations will be laid by 5 o’clock. Had he gone on for another three minutes they would by then have been laid—

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
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Just grow up.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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The hon. Gentleman, who is currently getting a little bit grumpy, is ignoring the fact that these matters are genuinely urgent. Of course it is right that laws should not come in retrospectively in the normal course of events, but our statutes provide for statutory instruments to be brought in and debated subsequently for a very good purpose, which is that sometimes things need to be done with dispatch. The Opposition, who would have kept us in lockdown forever, should remember their dither and delay when they ask questions about the speed with which we introduce things.

Strengthening Standards in Public Life

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Wednesday 17th November 2021

(2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. We are responsible and accountable to our voters. This is why the Chairman of the Standards Committee will be leading his distinguished Committee in looking into this and I hope will make recommendations to the House.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
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I am grateful to the Leader of the House for giving way, and this is very naughty of me because I have only just walked in from the Liaison Committee; I am breaking all the standards of the House. The only point I want to make is that I think it would be very difficult for the commissioner to start investigating whether an MP was devoting enough of their time to their constituents. Of course, all our constituents want us to throw ourselves heart and soul into our work, and I think we all do. Many of us work many more hours than a normal working week—60, 70, 80 hours. But I am just very hesitant about going down this route of timesheets or something. She already gets thousands of requests every year saying that an MP has not replied to an email, he or she has voted the wrong way, or whatever. I just urge him, and I will urge my Committee very strongly, to think very carefully about this.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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May I thank the hon. Gentleman, the parliamentary leader of Plaid Cymru, the right hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Liz Saville Roberts), and the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar for their good temper and sense in this debate and for trying to bring a genuinely cross-party approach?

As the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) has pointed out, these issues are complex. They are not open to easy solutions; they need deliberation. How people lead their lives depends very much on them as individuals, and trying to work out how an MP fulfils his or her duties is not something that can easily be put down in a time and motion study. That is why we are hoping that his Committee will be able to consider it and then bring forward recommendations that, with support on a cross-party basis, may prove acceptable to the House as a whole.

If I may continue, we endorse the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s recommendation that MPs should be banned from accepting any paid work to provide services as a parliamentary strategist, adviser or consultant. It is, of course, the case that amending the code of conduct for MPs is a matter for Parliament, rather than for the Government—indeed, strictly speaking it is a matter for this House, the Commons, because of our exclusive cognisance of our own affairs. However, Her Majesty’s Government believe that those two recommendations form the basis of a viable approach that could command the confidence of both parliamentarians and the public, and would therefore like to see them adopted.

Coming to the final part of my remarks—this is the point at which normally, somebody says, “Hear, hear”—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!] Thank you. I know that some hon. Members like nothing more in debate than to start delving down the procedural rabbit holes of the merits or otherwise of Standing Orders and the like. I am not immune to that temptation myself, but I do not think it would be useful in this instance. It is an established convention—this is one problem with the Opposition motion—that the Government are able to transact their business in the House of Commons, and the House itself has long recognised that principle in Standing Order No. 14, which provides that Government business takes precedence.

To give this motion from the Standards Committee immediate precedence would be both impractical and unnecessary. Her Majesty’s Government support the amendment to

“bring forward recommendations to update the code of conduct for MPs by 31 January 2022”,

which sets a clear timeframe for progress on the issues discussed today. The Government therefore support a more practical amendment that acknowledges the concerns we have all been hearing in recent days, and positively proposes that the proportionate measures devised by the Committee on Standards in Public Life should be taken forward on a cross-party basis. That would include the work being done by this House’s Committee on Standards, in accordance with the timeframe suggested by Opposition Members. We have listened, and we have very much taken into account what they have proposed. It is important to note that on this matter, as on the other issues before us today relating to the code of conduct, the Government recognise that any changes are a matter for the House, and are looking ahead to the next steps being taken in a way that seeks consensus and respects the views of all sides of the House.

Business of the House

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Thursday 4th November 2021

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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May I just reiterate what I said at the beginning of these proceedings? While there is a very strong feeling on both sides of the House that there is a need for an appeals process, there is equally a strong feeling that this should not be based on a single case or applied retrospectively. I fear last night’s debate conflated the individual case with the general concern. This link needs to be broken. I hope that answers my hon. Friend’s question.

As regards the vexed question of whipping, as I understand it, all Whips are attendance Whips. My hon. Friend is well known for his independence of mind, and I am sure his constituents are aware of that, but to vandalise some Member’s property or office because of the way that Member voted seems to me to be potentially a breach of privilege, and it may be something that needs to be looked into with considerable care. As you warned us yesterday, Mr Speaker, we always need to discuss these things in a temperate and sensible manner.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
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The problem is, we are in a quagmire now. I fully support the comments that have just been made by the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) and I am sorry for everything that has happened to his office; I think that has happened to quite a lot of MPs over the last few years. I think the message for all of us is that we need to be very careful when we are talking about standards issues, as I have tried to be.

The Leader of the House is quite right that we should never be changing the rules at the last minute for a named individual. There is a potential solution to that, which is that the Standards Committee, on a cross-party basis, could produce another report next Tuesday, which the Government could then put to the House next week to deal with the case of the right hon. Member for North Shropshire (Mr Paterson). I think the Committee would say exactly the same thing, but it would be a means of separating that case out from the issue of the whether we should change the system.

On changing the system, as the Leader of the House knows, because he has given evidence to our Committee, we are already reviewing that. There are decent points to be made about things that could be improved in the system. They are not easy things to resolve, but my Committee will do its best, on a cross-party basis and with independent members—a valuable addition to the process and an important part of establishing the trust of the public—to take that forward.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for confirming that there are concerns about the system. I think there is a general concern about the investigator and the adjudicator being the same person. It has been suggested to me on a number of occasions that that should be looked at. I am grateful for his suggestion that we should use moderate language, although it has to be remembered that he was the one comparing what happened yesterday to Russia when he was on the wireless this morning, so I hope he will use moderate language not only when he is in this House. As I say, it is important that this is looked at on a cross-party basis, because we need to have robust standards in which Members have confidence.

Committee on Standards

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Wednesday 3rd November 2021

(2 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I am sure that the Committee we are setting up will want to consider the appearance of witnesses and whether that ought to be a fundamental right of people accused of serious cases—

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
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If it is all right, I just want to respond directly to the point that has just been made. [Interruption.]

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I would like to hear what the hon. Gentleman has got to say before we make a judgment.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Let me help. It is not going to be direct; I think it is direct to the point that was made to you, Leader of the House. I think we can dance around on the head of a pin, but that is not going to be helpful in a very important debate today.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
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I just wanted to make a simple point, which is that we reviewed and read all the witness statements. Nobody asked to make an oral witness statement to us. It is perfectly normal in most workplaces in this country, as a retired High Court judge confirmed to me yesterday, for witness statements to be read and considered, and not necessarily for witnesses to be questioned or cross-examined. We did a perfectly normal, fair hearing for the right hon. Member for North Shropshire. We considered all the witness statements and we published them.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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The point is that there was this facility to set up an investigatory panel, which was not used. It would have been able to see all the witnesses that my right hon. Friend wanted.

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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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The right hon. Gentleman is a very distinguished and fair-minded Member of this House. It is fundamentally important that the whistleblowing exemption is an exemption and not a loophole that can be exploited for all purposes. Paid advocacy demeans the House and is not something that Members should be involved in. On the other hand, if people have come across a serious wrong in the course of something they have been paid for, I think most fair-minded Members would think it only right and proper that they should tell Ministers about it. There must be a clear dividing line, which I hope the Select Committee would be able to establish. That is at the heart of the disagreement between my right hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire and the Committee on Standards, and that matter needs to be clearer.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I think the hon. Gentleman is going to speak at the end, so it may be best if he does that.

Independent Expert Panel Recommendations for Sanctions and the Recall of MPs Act 2015

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Tuesday 19th October 2021

(3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
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We have not been advised of any problems with legal challenge. I still think legislation would be better. Legislation always—or nearly always—puts things completely beyond doubt, whereas Standing Orders changes do not always put things completely beyond doubt. However, it would then be a proceeding in Parliament and, as we all know, article IX of the Bill of Rights says that no proceeding in Parliament should be

“impeached or questioned in any Court”

of law or any other place.—[Interruption.] I have got it right, have I not? I think we would be able to rely on that very solidly, and that must appeal to the Leader of the House because it goes back to the 17th century. On the question of the independence of the IEP, we are very keen in the Standards Committee that we will do everything to maintain that independence, and it will not be questioned or impeached by us in any shape or form.

I note that the changes to the Standing Orders say that the Chair of the Committee can do something if the Committee has not managed

“to meet within 3 sitting days”.

I think this would happen quite often, because it is quite difficult to ensure that the Standards Committee is going to meet within three days, especially because the independent members come from some distance and we would not necessarily be able to gather them together, and we can be quorate only if we have three lay members and three members who are Members of the House.

I gently suggest to the Leader of the House that it might be nice, at some point, to have a Standing Order that says that all motions from the independent expert panel or from the Committee on Standards will be before the House within three sitting days as well, but I know what he is going to say. He will say that it is all very difficult, and that sometimes it is impossible to find time and sometimes it is possible to find time—

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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indicated assent.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Leader of the House takes my point.

On retrospectivity, I am afraid I am not going to vote for the amendment in the names of the Leader of the Opposition and shadow Leader of the House; I will be voting against it. The independent expert panel could have decided in the case we are referring to that the Member should be expelled from the House; I do not make a judgment as to whether that would be the right thing to do, but it could have done that. It knew perfectly well that these were the rules and that it was unable to allow the invoking of the Recall of MPs Act 2015. That is why it is unfair to introduce an element of retrospectivity.

It does, however, present a very difficult example for the House that somebody who has been found to have behaved so inappropriately that in any other set of circumstances it would have been invoking the Recall of MPs Act chooses to continue in the House. The Leader of the House himself has said that he thinks the hon. Member should resign, and that is my view as well. The situation is very difficult for constituents in that constituency and for other Members and staff around the House, and I wish it could be other than it is, but that does not mean we can surrender the fundamental principles we have always had.

My main point, however, is that I fully support the closing of the loophole, and I wish this had done before the IEP came to its decision on the case hon. Members have referred to. I only wish that attitudes across the House were changing more rapidly, and we still have a considerable job of work to do on that, but I am assured that many members of staff both of Members and of the House feel reassured by the independence of the IEP process, and I would encourage anybody who ever feels that they have been bullied or have been subject to sexual harassment in their line of work here to present themselves, because they will have a fair hearing from the system.

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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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With the leave of the House, I will respond to the debate. I thank all those who participated in it. I am grateful to the shadow Leader of the House, the hon. Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire), for her support for the main motion, and I am very grateful to the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) not just for his support for the main motion but for the considerable contribution that he has made to ensuring culture change in the Palace of Westminster.

I am in considerable agreement with the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), the Chairman of the Standards Committee. He made the very important point that this is not a loophole, but it was a deliberate decision that was taken because of representations that were made to exclude recall when the independent expert panel was set up. As it happens, I also agree with him that that was a mistake. The arguments against allowing for recall were essentially weak and erroneous. I think that we agreed to them because we wanted to set the panel up in a spirit of consensus and compromise, and to ensure that all the participants were happy, with the knowledge that we could go further in the future.

I turn to the speech by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips). I agree with a great deal of what she says. I confess that my first reaction when I heard about this case was that the Member concerned should not remain a Member of this House, and I said that I thought he should resign. However, I listened very carefully to what the chairman of the IEP said and very carefully, actually, to the basic principle of justice that nobody has a punishment inflicted upon him that was not available at the time the offence was committed. That principle does not apply just to this House; it applies throughout our court and legal system, and it has, really, from the earliest times. I think that is an important principle of justice.

What the hon. Lady said in her impassioned plea is so right in so many ways. Actually, when the recall Bill came through, I was of the view that we could always trust our constituents under the widest possible circumstances of recall. I have never felt that we should shy away from what our constituents want. I was very much in support of what my noble Friend Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park was trying to do. However, Parliament decided otherwise. Parliament decided to introduce a recall Act subject to strict criteria, including going through a Committee of this House, and those criteria were deliberately not used to extend the Act to the independent expert panel.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Will the Leader of the House give way?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I will not, actually, on this occasion; I want to complete my thought.

I think so many of us were so desperately depressed when, after all that this House had tried, after the efforts that we made to improve the standards of behaviour, to achieve culture change and to ensure that people working in this palace felt safe and secure and respected, somebody so recently elected, who went on the course about treating people properly—somebody who did all of that and got every message from the Whips, every message from the Government, every message from this House—had broken the rules within a few months. But that was the system that there was; that system provided for a penalty that was imposed; that penalty was imposed by an independent body, and that is justice. One may then change it for the future. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley knows how much I respect her—that is not the normal waffle of politics; I hold her genuinely in the highest regard, and I admire her campaigning spirit—but I am afraid that on this occasion, justice must trump anger.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Leader of the House knows that I will vote with him on this matter, but for me the biggest problem is that the Member concerned has shown absolutely no insight into his conduct. That was a point that the independent expert panel made, and it has been absolutely self-evident at every single moment since. That really does pose a problem for all of us. I know that many Members on his own side have said to him, “It would be better for you and for the House if you were to step down.” I very rarely say this, but as a former priest, I would say this to him as well. I think it would be in his own best interests, for him to be able to move on in his own life, if he were to step aside, and that is what I would prefer.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

I do not think that it is really for me to respond to what the hon. Gentleman has said, but it will be in Hansard tomorrow.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Business of the House

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Thursday 9th September 2021

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

I have had the privilege of visiting my right hon. Friend’s constituency, whose fine produce is absolutely remarkable. I think that he introduced me to the largest pumpkin grower in England—by which I mean that he grows the most pumpkins, not the biggest pumpkins.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

He is not the fattest pumpkin grower either, no.

On 20 July, the Government announced a further package of measures to help industry to tackle the issues caused by the HGV driver shortage. Those measures include support for the recruitment and retention of drivers, such as proposals to streamline the process to obtain a licence, offering financial assistance for training, and backing industry-led initiatives to improve the working conditions for driving. I have also noticed reports that wages for HGV drivers are going up. This is, as so often, a market solution.

--- Later in debate ---
Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

This is an important matter, and it is quite wrong for developers to sell substandard homes. Developers must meet their responsibilities to resolve issues quickly and treat home buyers fairly when things go wrong. They must also meet planning conditions agreed with the local authority. The Building Safety Bill includes provision for the new homes ombudsman scheme to provide strong and effective redress for new build home buyers and to hold poor developers to account.

Furthermore, our future planning reforms will inject real competition and quality into our construction market, with new builders entering the market to challenge incumbents, and we hope that a wave of self-built houses and a focus on beauty and quality will follow. Members will have the opportunity to raise these issues as the legislation makes its way through the House.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Is it not great to be back properly, with all of us here?

One of the saddest stories I heard this week was about Sarah Harding, the Girls Aloud singer who died of cancer—partly, her family said, because she chose not to go to the doctor early enough due to covid. The cancer was not detected soon enough.

My concern about getting over the massive backlog is that lots of people are already choosing to go private. Even people of very meagre means are spending £3,000 or £5,000 on new hips and knees, which seems massively unfair. Should we not be buying up all the capacity in the private sector, at cost, so that people are dealt with on the basis of need rather than their financial position?

Secondly, there is a real problem with staffing. We have a shortage of pathologists and histopathologists—the people who check whether something is a bad cancer—and a shortage of radiologists and radiographers. Can we have a debate on how we get staff numbers, not just more managers on £270,000, into the NHS as fast as possible?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

I find myself in a great deal of agreement with the hon. Gentleman that it is so important that people go to their doctor if they have any suspicions. He has been an example of that and I know has recovered. It was to the great relief of the House that he had the sense to be checked out early. If there is any message one could ever give to anybody who listens to these sessions it would be to go to see their doctor if they have a concern, and I remind GPs that they are meant to be offering face-to-face appointments again. The money is being provided to deal with the backlog. I think I said earlier that it would deal with 9 million cases, but, yes, shortages of staff are an issue and it is of fundamental importance that the money goes to where it is needed in the NHS: supporting paying for the staff who will be carrying things out rather than paying very large bureaucratic salaries, which does not seem to be the best application of funds.

Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Monday 28th June 2021

(6 months, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg)
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I beg to move,

That Marta Phillips, Dr Simon Thurley and Simon Wright be appointed as external members of the Parliamentary Works Sponsor Body under Part 1, Schedule 1 to the Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Act 2019.

The House will be relieved that I do not intend to detain it long. The 90 minutes available for this debate may be more than is necessary, but it may help if I explain that I am bringing this motion forward on behalf of the Sponsor Body. Schedule 1 of the Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Act 2019 states that the Sponsor Body must consist of between two and four external members, excluding the chairman. The current external board members were appointed on 1 July 2018, when the Sponsor Body was still in shadow form. Their appointments were confirmed by the House on 24 March 2020, as the body became a statutory organisation. Under the Act, a member must be appointed for a fixed term of not more than three years, although they can be reappointed. Their terms will therefore expire no later than 31 June 2021.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am not going to delay people for long either. I just wonder: we are doing all this appointing of people to the Sponsor Body, but are they ever going to mix a bucket of cement?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

I think it unlikely that Marta Phillips, Dr Simon Thurley and Simon Wright will mix buckets of cement on the estate of the Palace of Westminster. I am glad to say that work is going on. I have reported already to the House that the fire safety work has taken place and been tested across the estate, and I think that eight miles of pipe have gone in. Preliminary works are under way to make the preparations: Derby Gate is almost completed, and there will be a move of MPs into Richmond House. Many things are happening that will allow the restoration and renewal to take place, so I hope that that gives some reassurance to the hon. Gentleman. It is important that we keep up the pace to get to the full restoration and renewal. As for the individual members of the Sponsor Body mixing cement, that may be something they did in the earlier stages of their careers, but I do not think they will be doing it tomorrow.

A recruitment process for external board members has been undertaken by the Sponsor Body in recent months, and the interview panel included the chairman of the Sponsor Board, a parliamentary member of the Sponsor Board and an independent panel member. Following the recruitment process, the Sponsor Body has reappointed three of the four current external board members. I am grateful to all the external members of the Sponsor Board for their work so far. Today’s motion will approve the reappointment of Marta Phillips, Dr Simon Thurley and Simon Wright, and I therefore commend this motion to the House.

Business of the House

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Thursday 20th May 2021

(8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

May I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his unopposed return? We can continue our Bill and Ben act of his asking for more time for the Backbench Business Committee and my telling people who ask for debates that they should ask him, rather than asking me. I am looking forward to continuing that, and I congratulate him most warmly. It is a sign of the House’s confidence in him that he was returned without opposition.

The hon. Gentleman raises a very important point. Progress has been made, and I am sorry to hear that his constituency has not been reflective of the nation as a whole, where, since 2010, the number of children in absolute poverty has fallen by 100,000. This is because of a number of policies that have been and continue to be introduced: the national living wage, which is worth around an extra £4,000 a year; the doubling of the personal tax threshold, which is worth an extra £1,200 a year; and an extra £1.7 billion going into universal credit work allowances by 2023-24. A number of steps are being taken and continue to be taken. They have been successful in the past, and I am sure they will continue to be successful in the future.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On 10 March 1987, Daniel Morgan, a private investigator, was brutally axed to death. So far, the family have never had justice because a series of police investigations have gone awry. There are many allegations about corrupt involvement of police officers and the News of the World under Rupert Murdoch.

The family were delighted when the former Home Secretary and then Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May), set up an independent panel to investigate all this in 2013. That has now completed its work, and the understanding, because it says so in the terms of reference laid out by the Home Office, was that the Home Secretary would only arrange publication to Parliament—not review it, not redact it, not interfere in any way at all, but publish it to Parliament. She is refusing to do so.

Will the Leader of the House please make sure that this is no longer delayed? Otherwise, it is an outrage to the family—a “kick in the teeth”, as they have said themselves. Can we have the report published on Monday? Can we have an oral statement from the Home Secretary herself, so that we can get to the bottom of this and, most importantly, give justice to the family of Daniel Morgan?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

The issue that the hon. Gentleman raises is one of great importance and great concern, which is why the former Home Secretary set up this inquiry. The hon. Gentleman is unfortunately wrong, because the Home Secretary has not received the report from the commission. The Home Secretary will follow her statutory responsibilities—

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

No, that is wrong.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

This was checked with the Home Office this morning. I was told that the Home Secretary had not received the report, so I asked the obvious follow-up question: is it in the post room of the Home Office? It has not been received by the Home Office as of yet.

Business of the House

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Thursday 13th May 2021

(8 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

The question is obviously important, and my hon. Friend is right to raise it. General practice is open and has been throughout the pandemic, and people should be able to receive services in the way that is most suitable for them. The way in which people can get general practice services during covid-19 has changed; practices are offering more triage and remote consultations —video and online—to see as many patients as possible, while protecting staff and patients from the avoidable risk of infection. NHS England and NHS Improvement have issued guidance on the importance of continuing to offer face-to-face appointments, utilising remote triage and making use of online and telephone consultations where suitable.

General practice appointment levels are, I am glad to say, now close to pre-pandemic numbers. In February 2021, an estimated 23.5 million appointments—an average of 1.19 million per working day—were booked in general practice in England, of which 13 million were face-to-face, which is 55.3%. People who need face-to-face appointments ought to be able to get them.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

If we are congratulating people, could we congratulate Buffy Williams on winning her seat in the Senedd for the Rhondda last week? At the same time, could we also pay tribute to Leanne Wood? She was a Plaid Cymru Assembly and then Senedd Member for 18 years, which shows phenomenal dedication. We should pay tribute to those who are our opponents, not our enemies.

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he attended the Brit awards the other night, or watched them perhaps—or whether he knows what the Brit awards are? In particular, did he listen to Dua Lipa’s very important contribution about our health workers in this country? She said:

“It’s very good to clap for them, but we need to pay them.”

I say that because it is not just the people who have been doing the vaccinating and those who have kept us safe over the past 15 months, but the people who will have to get the NHS back into shape to deal with all the other conditions that could not be dealt with for the past year. We need to give them a boost in the arm—and that is money, isn’t it? Can we have a debate on it?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

May I join the hon. Gentleman in congratulating Buffy Williams on her victory in the Rhondda? He is most gracious in paying tribute to Leanne Wood; he is right to do so, because 18 years of public service is a long time and losing elections is never fun, even for our political opponents. It is worth recognising that.

Unfortunately, I did not pay much attention to the British awards.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

I am not as trendy, fashionable or à la mode as the hon. Gentleman—if only we could all be such models of modernity as he is. To come to his fundamental point, nurses will receive a 1% pay rise and have received some additional funding as well, but we must recognise that the public finances are under great strain after the hundreds of billions—over £400 billion—that have been spent to protect the economy and deal with covid. There are constraints on what can be spent, but there is an independent review. The Government’s proposal has been made, and we will see what the review says.

House Standards System: Confidentiality and Sanctions

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Wednesday 21st April 2021

(9 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

It is important, I think, that the commissioner will have the ability to speak to people informally and, potentially, to stop problems arising if they can be stopped with a word in season.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

indicated assent.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

The Chair of the Committee is nodding. That indicates that that is part of this. In the formalisation of the sanctions that this report is dealing with, there is also, as I understand it, the introduction of a least and lowest sanction, which is the word in season to try to ensure that things do not go any further. I made comments earlier about issues relating to how people co-operate with any inquiry, and I reiterate that that is inevitably a secondary and subjective issue, but it ties in at a later stage if somebody has done something that they ought not to have done. I commend these motions to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House reaffirms its commitment to the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS) and to tackling bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct on the part of anyone who works for or with Parliament; reasserts the importance of confidentiality within the ICGS in order to protect the vulnerable and encourage victims to come forward; notes the concerns expressed by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, as set out in the Appendix to the Sixth Report of the Committee on Standards, Confidentiality in the House’s standards system (HC 474), about the operation of certain aspects of the confidentiality regime set up by the House in its decisions of 19 July 2018; agrees to the recommendations specified in paragraph 22 of the Committee’s Twelfth Report, Sanctions and confidentiality in the House’s standards system: revised proposals (HC 1340); and notes that nothing in these recommendations undermines the key ICGS principle of confidentiality;

Ordered,

That Standing Order No. 150 is amended as follows:

in paragraph 12, line 8, to leave out “statistical” before “information” and to add “and matters under investigation” after “received”.

SANCTIONS IN RESPECT OF THE CONDUCT OF MEMBERS

Resolved,

That this House notes the Seventh Report of the Committee on Standards, Sanctions in respect of the conduct of Members (HC 241) and the Committee’s Twelfth Report, Sanctions and confidentiality in the House’s standards system: revised proposals (HC 1340); endorses the Committee’s approach to creating a revised regime of sanctions for breaches of the Code of Conduct in relation both to Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS) cases and non-ICGS cases; notes that the two reports propose which sanctions will be available to be imposed by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, by the Independent Expert Panel (IEP) in ICGS cases, by the Committee on Standards in non-ICGS cases, and by the House itself, with tables showing ICGS and non-ICGS sanctions as an Annex to the Twelfth Report; notes that the Committee has set out aggravating and mitigating factors in non-ICGS cases that it will keep under review, and that the IEP has published a separate set of aggravating and mitigating factors that will apply in ICGS cases; notes that the new range of sanctions includes the withdrawal of facilities or services from Members, but that, where such a sanction would interfere with the core functions of a Member, the decision on imposing it will lie with the House; notes that the Committee is currently considering options for possible appeal procedures in non-ICGS cases and intends to report to the House separately on these; and approves the conclusions and recommendations of the Committee’s Seventh Report, as modified by its Twelfth Report;

Ordered,

That

(1) Standing Order No. 150 (Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards) is amended as follows:

after paragraph (4) insert –

“( ) The Commissioner shall have power to:

(a) instigate informal discussions with a Member to indicate concern about the Member’s reported attitude, behaviour or conduct; and

(b) require a Member to attend a formal meeting at which the Commissioner may indicate concern about or give words of advice on the Member’s reported attitude, behaviour or conduct.”;

(2) The Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament (HC (2017–19) 1882) is amended as follows:

in paragraph 21, at end add: “Failure to comply with a sanction imposed by the Committee or the House relating to withdrawal of services or facilities from a Member shall also be treated as a breach of the Code.”; and

(3) The Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members (HC (2017–19) 1882) is amended as follows:

(a) in Chapter 4, after paragraph 15 insert—

“( ) The Commissioner has the right to instigate informal discussions with a Member to indicate concern about the Member’s reported attitude, behaviour or conduct; and to require a Member to attend a formal meeting at which the Commissioner may indicate concern about or give words of advice on the Member’s reported attitude, behaviour or conduct.”

(b) in Chapter 4, paragraph 19, line 5, leave out from “may” to the end and add:

“impose the following sanctions on its own authority:

(a) an apology in writing, or on the floor of the House by means of a point of order or a personal statement;

(b) requiring a Member to attend training, or to repay money;

(c) withdrawal of services and facilities from a Member, and imposing other personal restrictions including on travel, where this will not affect the core functions of a Member[footnote to be inserted here: “The core functions of a Member are defined as (a) participation in the formal proceedings of the House or its committees, and (b) their ability to communicate with and make representations on behalf of their constituents. If the Committee is in any doubt as to whether a sanction would interfere with core functions, they are expected to seek the views of the House authorities where appropriate, and to err in their decision on the side of caution, i.e. to recommend that imposition of a sanction should be decided by the House itself if there is any reasonable doubt in the matter.”];

(d) for non-Members, subject to the approval of the Speaker, withdrawal of Parliamentary passes, either indefinitely or for a fixed period.

The Committee may recommend the following sanctions for decision by the House:

(e) withdrawal of services and facilities from a Member, and imposing other personal restrictions including on travel, where this will affect the core functions of a Member, and where the sanction reflects the nature of the offence[footnote to be inserted here: “See previous footnote.”];

(f) dismissal from a select committee;

(g) suspension from the service of the House for a specified period (during which time the Member receives no salary and must withdraw from the precincts of the House);

(h) withholding of a Member’s salary or allowances even if he or she has not been suspended;

(i) in the most serious cases, expulsion from the House.

While it is for the House itself to decide on the matters set out in the list above, its practice has been to accept the Committee’s recommendations on sanctions.”—(Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg.)

Sanctions in Respect of the Conduct of Members (ICGS Cases)

Resolved,

That this House approves the following arrangements for sanctions in cases of bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct by Members following an investigation under the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme:

(1) The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards shall have power to instigate informal discussions with a Member to indicate concern about the Member’s reported attitude, behaviour or conduct; to require a Member to attend a formal meeting at which the Commissioner may indicate concern about or give words of advice on the Member’s reported attitude, behaviour or conduct; and require an apology in writing, or on the floor of the House by means of a point of order or a personal statement;

(2) The Independent Expert Panel shall have power to impose the following sanctions on its own authority:

(a) requiring a Member to attend training or enter into a behaviour agreement;

(b) withdrawal of services and facilities from a Member, and imposing other personal restrictions including on travel, where this will not affect the core functions of a Member [footnote to be inserted here: “The core functions of a Member are defined as (a) participation in the formal proceedings of the House or its committees, and (b) their ability to communicate with and make representations on behalf of their constituents. If the Panel is in any doubt as to whether a sanction would interfere with core functions, they are expected to seek the views of the House authorities where appropriate, and to err in their decision on the side of caution, i.e. to recommend that imposition of a sanction should be decided by the House itself if there is any reasonable doubt in the matter.”];

(c) for non-Members, subject to the approval of the Speaker, withdrawal of Parliamentary passes, either indefinitely or for a fixed period.

The Panel may determine the following sanctions for decision by the House:

(d) withdrawal of services and facilities from a Member, and imposing other personal restrictions including on travel, where this will affect the core functions of a Member, and where the sanction reflects the nature of the offence [footnote to be inserted here: “See previous footnote.”];

(e) dismissal from a select committee;

(f) suspension from the service of the House for a specified period (during which time the Member receives no salary and must withdraw from the precincts of the House);

(g) withholding of a Member’s salary or allowances even if he or she has not been suspended;

(h) in the most serious cases, expulsion from the House. —(Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg.)

Business of the House

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Thursday 11th March 2021

(10 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend has written to me on this matter, and he will be aware that there is a sitting Friday tomorrow for the remaining stages of eight private Members’ Bills to take place. As I said when sitting Fridays were suspended, I brought forward the motion reluctantly following representations made to me from across the House. I committed to ensuring that a motion was brought forward to bring back sitting Fridays at the earliest opportunity when it was possible and practical, which is why there will be a further motion for 19 March if tomorrow goes well and if it is a productive and useful session. That would allow for Second Readings.

I congratulate my hon. Friend, because he is using parliamentary procedures entirely properly. A ten-minute rule Bill does not normally become legislation in the Session in which it is introduced, but it begins a campaign that raises the heat on the Government to do things. I note that he is turning up the gas mark with his question to me today.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have always thought that the best way to deal with some of the historical problems that the Rhondda faces is getting the Senedd to work hand in hand with Parliament as a team. That is especially true because we have some major infrastructure projects that really need financial support. We have already talked about the tips that need sorting out, and there is the Rhondda Fach relief road, the Rhondda tunnel and a whole series of drains that have major problems because of the honeycombing underneath that results from the historical legacy of the mines.

Will the Leader of the House please make sure that there is a proper discussion of the levelling up fund so that this really is a case of Westminster and the Senedd working hand in hand? Will he make sure there is an opportunity for valleys MPs to sit down and discuss this properly with the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Then perhaps we can have a debate in the House.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

The hon. Gentleman is right to raise this issue. It is important that all parts of the United Kingdom are able to benefit from efforts to level up. One of the advantages of the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020 is that it has made it possible for Her Majesty’s Government to fund schemes across the United Kingdom rather than simply in England. He is right to call for further discussions to see how this can be done.

There are applications going in for the levelling-up fund now, and there are a further 49 deals to be awarded. It is about working together as one United Kingdom. I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales is very keen to settle these issues, too, so I think that there may be considerable cross-party agreement among Welsh MPs in this House on the issues that the hon. Gentleman raises.

Business of the House

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Thursday 11th February 2021

(11 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

My right hon. Friend, with her characteristic genius, has brought in her question at absolutely the right time, because my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care is sitting on the Treasury Bench and will have heard her appeal for a proper memorial for what has happened over the last year. The Prime Minister said on 26 January that

“when we have come through this crisis, we will come together as a nation to remember everyone we lost”.

While the Government’s immediate focus is on protecting the lives and livelihoods of the nation, there is none the less the need to remember those who have lost their lives and to recognise those involved in the unprecedented response.

The Government have begun planning to ensure that an appropriate commemoration can take place in the United Kingdom and will set out details in due course, but I think it is at the stage where good ideas will be extremely welcome. This needs to be a community and national effort, so if people do have good ideas, they should bring them forward.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I do not know whether you, Mr Speaker, or the Leader of the House have seen the really moving interview that the Welsh rugby player Alix Popham and his wife Mel gave about the brain injuries that he has suffered from playing rugby—or for that matter, the story of my amazing constituent, Adam Harcombe, who suffered a brain injury when he was attacked in the street. I know that the Government are working on this, because I found out by very secret means—well, a text message from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster—that there has been a cross-departmental ministerial meeting to look at what more the Government can do about brain injury and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is now working on concussion in sport. Will the Leader of the House please ensure that when the Government have something to announce, we have a proper statement and a proper debate in the House of Commons? It is great that we are doing work on this now, but we must ensure that everybody gets the benefit of that.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

The hon. Gentleman is right to address this issue, which is being taken very seriously by sporting bodies, who perhaps in the first instance have the best ability to look into these problems. But yes, of course, if there is a statement be made, I will do everything I can to ensure, as the ministerial code requires, that it is made to this House first.

Business of the House

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Thursday 3rd December 2020

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

I think the whole House will want to congratulate Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s on this fantastic gesture. It is absolutely brilliant, and we should be grateful to our supermarkets, which have done so much to improve the standard of living of the British people in recent decades. They are real models of good, healthy capitalism, and they have done something very impressive in handing back the tax rebates that they have received, which they were not under any legal obligation to do. As regards a debate on where the money will go, I am sorry to say to my hon. Friend that as £280 billion has been spent on supporting our businesses during the pandemic, this just reduces the figure to about £279 billion, so I am afraid the money has already gone.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Can we have a debate on inequality? I know the Leader of the House uses the word as though it is a kind of foul slur, but I am proud to be a socialist. I believe that we were all created equal. I do not believe that poverty is a mysterious dispensation that descends like manna from heaven. It has human causes and it must be susceptible to human remedies. If we are going to talk about inequality, would it not be good for us to recognise that we should not judge people according to the colour of their skin, their gender, their sexuality, what accent they speak with or, indeed, what school they went to? In that light, would it not be a good idea if girls as well as boys were allowed to go to Eton?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

Everybody is equal before God, and if we are equal before God and every soul is valued by God equally, that must also be true between us all individually. That is, I think, a point of agreement between me as a Conservative and the hon. Gentleman as a proud socialist. He is entitled to be proud of being a socialist and I am entitled to think that “socialism” is a disagreeable word. I think that is part of freedom of speech. As regards girls going to Eton, much though I might like my own daughter to go there, I think it works very well as it is, thank you very much.

Participation in Debates

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Monday 16th November 2020

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

That is the risk of sedentary interventions; one hears part of them, but not necessary all of them in their fullness. I point out to the hon. Member for Brent Central (Dawn Butler) that that is why “sedentary chuntering”, as the former Speaker used to call it, is invariably not wise.

I turn back to the substance of the points made by the right hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz). She did indeed write to me over the weekend. It was important that these issues were in the public domain and being considered and that the Government, as they said they would, were keeping them under review. As I also said, I was very moved by the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch). How could one not be? She is a remarkable person. It has to be said that my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Dame Cheryl Gillan) has also made similar appeals of a very moving kind.

It is important to recognise that the Government do listen to what right hon. and hon. Members are saying. The Government recognise the strength of arguments put forward and that there is a special set of people with the most troubling conditions who, under the current rules, which came in Thursday a week past, are being advised not to go to work. That was not the case before then, so when my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham made her requests, the Government guidance was not of that kind; it had changed by the time my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford made her appeal. It is an appeal that many Members feel should be answered, and that is what we are trying to do.

The right hon. Member for Walsall South rightly calls for there to be equality among Members, and indeed there is. Every Member who is not extremely clinically vulnerable is in the same position as other key workers, which is that, as long as their workplace is covid-secure—that is a fundamental qualification—they are not expected to stay away from work. I reiterate the point that I made to my hon. Friend the Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron) that we should expect to behave and be treated in the same way as other key workers. That is fundamental. The nation is facing this virus together, and there is not a different situation for us as opposed to other key workers.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
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They are not shirking.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

I am not saying that anybody is shirking; I am simply saying that we are in the same position as other key workers, as I think is right and proper.

On the issue of people revealing their medical conditions, I have of course thought very carefully about that because I know that many people would not want to reveal what their medical condition is. The issue is that either we would have to have an entirely virtual Parliament with all Members Zooming in—otherwise one could say, “That person has something wrong and that person doesn’t,”—which we found from experience did not work, or we would have to have it for a very small group.

The very small group have a choice. They are free to contribute, with a very wide range of rights, in interrogative proceedings in a way that allows our business to be carried out properly. The limitation remains only in those areas of business that need debate and the flow of debate. Exemptions will be made for a limited number of people, who will have the choice whether to tell the House about their need to contribute virtually because they are severely clinically vulnerable.

If I may use you, Mr Speaker, as a case in point—I hope you will forgive me—you have brought your diabetes to the attention of people by being open about it, and some Members wish to do that. I absolutely understand that other Members do not wish to, and nobody will be forced to reveal a medical condition if they do not wish to do so.

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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I hope Hansard got a bit more of that than I did, but I think I got the fundamental point. We have made the right provisions to ensure that people can come to the House and can participate in our debates, and this is a further step on this road. Therefore, I fundamentally disagree with my right hon. Friend.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have always been a bit suspicious about the concept of normality; it has always seemed to me to be a moving feast. One of the great strengths of British history and the constitution is that tradition always adapts to reality. The Leader of the House will remember the 15th century. In 1439, when pestilence was abroad, the House of Commons and the House of Lords jointly petitioned the King to say, “Could we dispense with the business of kissing the King as a sign of our liege duty?”; and the King agreed. Is not the truth of the matter that in every generation, when there are classic moments like this one of national crisis, we have to abandon our hidebound traditions? We have to adapt to the moment, and surely to God it must be invidious to be asking individual people to declare whether they are clinically extremely vulnerable. As it happens, I have had six letters, I think, now to say that I am; my doctor says that I am not. I am quite happy to talk about it, but I do not think individual Members should have to declare that.

Why can we not just trust Members, and say that every single Member is treated equally in this House and has an equal right to debate until the end of this parliamentary Session, and then we can revise what we want to do in the future? Why on earth is it going to be right that if the Government table a motion next week—perhaps at the end of this week—the Government Chief Whip will have more than 200 votes in his pocket to be able to dispose of? Would it not make much more sense for us, at least on this issue, to have voting online so that everybody can cast their own vote?

Business of the House

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Thursday 12th November 2020

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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Absolutely, we are in favour of the triumph of good over evil, and we wish everyone a happy Diwali. I think that conservatism is very generally the triumph of good over evil. As regards Stonehenge, as I take the A303 to Somerset, the sooner it is a dual carriageway the better. I fully support the proposals to have a dual carriageway, though I would add that one of the great joys of going on the current A303 is that one gets a glimpse of Stonehenge. That is a benefit and is uplifting for people to see.

As regards statements by the Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend has been incredibly assiduous in updating the House, coming to the House, making statements, answering questions and leading debates. His appearances here have been exactly what we require, and he has met and exceeded the expectations of the House.

The right hon. Lady rightly congratulates the President-elect of the United States, as Her Majesty’s Government have. The Government look forward to working with—

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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What do you want me to say?

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
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Congratulate him!

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

I have congratulated him. The Government congratulate him, and I am speaking as a Minister for the Government. It is very important, as the Prime Minister rightly said on Wednesday, that the British Prime Minister has a good relationship with the American President, and that is in the interests of the United Kingdom. It has to be said that one person who was particularly good at that was the former leader of the Labour party, Tony Blair, who was able to get on with different American Presidents of different ideological outlooks, and that I think is a model for British Prime Ministers.

I know that the Foreign Office has responded to the right hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz) about Nazanin and the other people improperly held, and her campaign is an important campaign to ensure that they are kept at the forefront of people’s minds.

It is of course a deep, deep sadness, and a tragedy for the families, that 50,000 have died with covid, but it is too early to be making international comparisons, because the statistics are not calculated in all countries in the same way. But the Government have made enormous efforts to limit the effect and to ensure that the interests of safety are paramount. That is why we entered into the second period of lockdown and, indeed, had the first period of lockdown. It is why £200 billion of taxpayers’ money has been provided in support to the economy in these very difficult times. Yes, it is a deep sadness, but it is not, I think, a matter of party politics, one way or another. The Government have made every possible effort, strained every sinew.

The right hon. Lady mentions my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis), who of course himself gave a proxy to the Deputy Chief Whip and proved the efficacy of the system, because he was able to take his proxy away and vote the way he wanted to, having listened to the debate. This is a way that is working, it is effective and it has reduced the queues in the Division Lobbies, which I know is a great concern of the right hon. Lady. I do my best to accommodate her, but I feel sometimes that she models herself on the deaf adder, and charm I ever so nicely, still no notice is taken of the efforts I have made to meet with her approbation. In spite of having made every effort to help, still more is asked for, but I am afraid we need to be here in person. Government business has to be carried through. Important legislation has to be scrutinised. This is best done in person, as we found when we were hybrid earlier in the year, so there will not be a return to remote voting.

As regards the questions about the vaccine and the vaccine tsar, and the money spent on publicity, may I say from this Dispatch Box what a fabulous job Kate Bingham has done? She deserves credit, plaudits and praise—paeons of praise—for what she has done for free. She has been working for free. She has not been charging the British taxpayer. She has brought her energy and her enterprise to ensure that we are one of the best-placed countries to have supplies of the vaccine when it comes through.

Of course, we have to tell people what is going on. There are a few nutters around, Mr Speaker—I am sure you have never met them—who are anti-vaxxers. They go around spreading rumour and causing concern to people. We need to put out the true information to reassure people. That is a reasonable and a proper thing to do. The attacks on Kate Bingham are discreditable and unpleasant.

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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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The Father of the House, my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley), also alluded to this issue. It is a matter that the Government take extremely seriously, especially following the Grenfell tragedy. The Government are providing funding to get dangerous cladding off homes. We are proposing the most significant building safety reforms in almost 40 years, and are committed to ensuring that people are safe and feel safe in their homes. Some £1.6 billion of taxpayers’ money is being spent to speed up the removal of unsafe cladding, making homes safer as soon as is practicable. I thank my hon. Friend for raising this question and for the work that he is doing for his constituents to bring the issue to the attention of Ministers. I will certainly pass on the details that he has brought to the House to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On disused coal tips, the Leader of the House knows well that a large part of the Tylorstown tip fell into the river at the beginning of the year, after Storm Dennis. I understand that the Coal Authority, a UK Government agency, has done some investigation of all the disused coal tips in the country. There are some 2,000 in Wales alone, but there is no full list of coal tips in every part of the country. Could we have a debate on this subject as a matter of urgency? I have a terrible fear that with further climate change problems, we will see more coal tip landslides. Of course, we want to make sure that people’s houses and livelihoods are safe, but if we do not even know the nature of the problem, we cannot work out how much money there is for it. I have written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer; could the Leader of the House encourage him to see me before the spending review is compete?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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The hon. Gentleman raises an issue of which I am aware, not least because my constituency is a former mining area. There is a disused coal tip in the constituency that has become a feature of the landscape in the decades since mining stopped. The anniversary of Aberfan was not that long ago, so this important issue is at the forefront of people’s mind. The hon. Gentleman makes an important point about the UK-wide agency, and I will ensure that what he has said in the House is passed on to it, in the hope that a fuller answer can be obtained for him from it. I cannot promise to be the Chancellor’s diary secretary.

Committee on Standards

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Tuesday 10th November 2020

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg)
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I beg to move,

That, in accordance with Standing Order No. 149A, Professor Michael Maguire CBE be appointed as lay member of the Committee on Standards for a period of six years, with immediate effect.

The motion today gives the House the opportunity to approve the appointment of Professor Michael Maguire CBE as a lay member of the Committee on Standards for a period of six years. Between 2012 and 2019, Professor Maguire was the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland. His previous role, from 2008 until 2012, was chief inspector of criminal justice for Northern Ireland. He will bring a wealth of experience to the Standards Committee.

The lay members of the Standards Committee play a vital role in providing an independent voice to the Committee’s decisions. When lay members were first proposed over a decade ago, the rationale given by the Committee on Standards in Public Life was that they would be

“a step towards enhancing public acceptance of the robustness and independence of the disciplinary process for Members of Parliament.”

The independent and impartial status of lay members is therefore critical to maintaining confidence in our process. If today’s motion is agreed, it will ensure that one of two lay member vacancies is filled with immediate effect. I ask the House to support Professor Maguire’s appointment.

Standing Order No. 149A requires that the House of Commons should decide on the appointment of lay members. It also stipulates that the decision should follow a debate of up to one hour. As I said in business questions on 22 October, it is only right that time is properly provided and that the House has the right to take a decision and debate a matter so that we should not assume that such a debate is simply a rubber-stamping exercise.

The House will have realised that only one of the two candidates put forward by the House of Commons Commission is named in the motion today. As I have previously said, this has no bearing on the character of the other candidate. Instead, it reflects the fact that there is disquiet in certain quarters, as well as wider concerns over the recruitment process, and in particular the criteria relating to impartiality that were applied.

That brings me to amendment (a) in the name of the shadow Leader of the House, the right hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz). My intention had been to keep the timing of the motion to appoint Ms Carter under review pending continuing conversations. That motion has been tabled under remaining orders. However, the amendment seeks to bring forward the appointment now. It is a matter of regret that the right hon. Lady has expedited the decision on this matter. We have been striving to achieve a resolution through correspondence and conversations, which I had hoped would lead us to a more desirable outcome. It is regrettable that we now find ourselves debating this matter on the Floor of the House at an early stage.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In the discussions I had yesterday, I was led to believe that the Government Chief Whip had indicated that the Government would be voting against that motion next week. That is the reason the amendment has been tabled tonight—for no other reason than because the Government were letting it be known that they were going to vote against.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

It was a leader of the hon. Gentleman’s own party who once said that a week is a long time in politics and an opportunity for considerable discussion to take place.

Let me be clear: across public appointments as a whole, political activity is not and should not be a bar to appointment. Membership of a political party is an important right under freedom of association. However, some public appointments will necessarily be independent, where individuals must ensure they are separate from party politics precisely because of their public functions. This is especially the case for quasi-judicial or disciplinary roles, as in this case. The Standards Committee is an especially sensitive parliamentary Committee, with significant powers to adjudicate on the conduct of Members of Parliament. Its lay members must be able to command absolute trust and confidence across the whole House.

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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I said quite clearly that she supported a faction. If someone supports one candidate in a leadership election, they are self-evidently supporting a faction. That is just normal use of English, which I am surprised the right hon. Gentleman questions, because he is quite hot on that normally. Any perception of partiality undermines the important role of lay members, who are there to provide a vital balance to the political membership of the Standards Committee. That is why we ask for lay members in the first place.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I can honestly say that I do not think a single member of the Standards Committee, whether they are a lay member or an MP, thinks of themselves as a politician when they are engaged in the work of the Committee. It is a really important part of the way we try to do our business. There is no partisanship—party membership is completely irrelevant. The only reason why anybody knows about this particular person’s party membership is because the Leader of the House asked about it. I have no idea whether all the other lay members on the Committee have been members of a political party, or were recently. The specific point is that the criterion for appointment was explicitly that party membership was not a bar, provided a candidate had not held office or campaigned on behalf of the party. She has done neither. I am afraid that this is turning the Committee into a party political football.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

I think that is completely wrong, and I also think that the hon. Gentleman is trying to put the cart before the horse. The House is not bound by the rules set for it by the selection process. It is entitled to challenge and question that process. That is the job of the House. We are not a rubber stamp, here merely to approve it.

I come to the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green). She is a lady of considerable integrity, and I do not and would not question—and would not even think of questioning—that, but the process undertaken by the selection panel has inadvertently created the appearance of a political pas de deux, because the person who was selected by a Committee that had only one Labour politician on it was somebody who had joined the Labour party to vote for a candidate for the Labour party leadership. It is the recruitment process that is at fault here, so I make the observation that we must do better than we have done in this sorry affair and that any future recruitment process for lay members should not make the same mistakes. I reiterate that had somebody been a recent member of the Tory party joining to vote in the leadership election, my view in the Chamber would be exactly the same.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

The process is quite clear and it ends with an hour’s debate in this Chamber. The hon. Lady did not tell the candidates that that was the process—that is a matter for her, not for me. That is a right of this House and we must use our rights in this House; that is what we are here for. There has been no change to the process.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The process in Standing Order No. 149A says very clearly that the person who tables the motion does so

“on behalf of the…Commission”—

not on behalf of themselves or the Government, but on behalf of the Commission. I think that this is only just in order because, frankly, the Commission made a decision—it voted on it; it decided—and this should be a single motion coming from the Commission that should be here tonight. All the rest, I am afraid, is party political shenanigans.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

The hon. Gentleman is wrong and, as so often, overstates himself. The Commission makes a recommendation to the House and the Commission motion has been brought forward—there is one on Standing Orders and there is one we are debating now. If the motion were not in order, it would not be on the Order Paper, and I assume the hon. Gentleman is not questioning the decision of Mr Speaker.

In conclusion, I would like to take this opportunity to express my thanks to the outgoing members of the Standards Committee, the lay members Ms Charmaine Burton and Sir Peter Rubin, for their contribution to the Committee on Standards and to the standards system in the House more widely. I urge Members to consider the points I have made carefully. The decision of this House is an important one and an essential part of the recruitment process.

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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I disagree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis). If I were on the other side of this issue and it were a Conservative under question, as I said earlier, I would still think it was an unsuitable appointment.

The shadow Leader of the House, the right hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz), made points about the panel, the discussions within the Commission and the CV of the lady in question. I have always tried to make it clear that I do not wish to question the lady’s bona fides—it is merely the impartiality issue.

There is a fundamental point, which the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) raised in his speech: the reason we have lay members is that, for better or worse, the political members were not trusted to sit in judgment upon themselves and therefore needed non-political members. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden that being a member of a party is something that one should be proud of—it is civic activity. I also think it is perfectly reasonable for people to put their political beliefs behind them. The hon. Member for Rhondda was a member of the Conservative party at university; that does not remain the case, for better or worse. It is merely a question of whether the membership is immediate and close to the point at which the appointment is made.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I understand that the Leader of the House is saying that he is not questioning the bona fides of Melanie Carter, but that he is questioning her impartiality. I hope he is not. She is a tribunal judge. She shows her impartiality every day of the week. He is simply saying that, under his new rule, which he has invented, because she has been a party member, she cannot be a lay member of the Committee. Is that right?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

I am questioning her impartiality between various factions within the Labour party, because she joined the Labour Party to support one particular faction. The right hon. Member for Warley (John Spellar) slightly gave the game away, because I think he thinks that it was his faction that she supports. I do not know that and I am not stating that for certain, but he seemed to imply that in his joy at welcoming the proposed appointment.

The hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) asked what the Commission knew. The draft person specification that was approved by the Commission in February made no reference to the issue of whether or not it was suitable for a prospective candidate to be a member of a political party. If that information made its way into the more detailed recruitment pack to candidates, that was not with the authority of the Commission.

We come to the failures of the recruitment process. It would have been absolutely reasonable and wise and sensible for the recruitment process to say that somebody who had been immediately involved in politics—not 20 years ago or not five years ago—could not be certain of being impartial and would not give the impression of impartiality to Members of the House. The hon. Member for Rhondda says that, absolutely, prejudices should be put to one side, but as I said, if people had confidence in that being so easy, we would not have lay members in the first place. The reason we introduced lay members is that we thought people could not put their prejudices aside. From a panel on which, as the hon. Lady the Member for Stretford and Urmston told us, she was the only politician—a Labour politician—we get somebody who was a supporter of a particular candidate in a very recent election. That seems to me to leave the impression, the risk, the danger of partiality.

Business of the House

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Monday 2nd November 2020

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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As I have referred to the letter, I think that a copy must now be put in the Library, if it has not already, in accordance with the guidance offered by “Erskine May”. The letter is, I think, an answer to my hon. Friend’s earlier letter. If he wishes to write to me again, he will get a further reply.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Can I urge the Leader of the House to provide a specific debate on dementia, for two reasons? First, we saw in the last couple of days the revelation that Sir Bobby Charlton is, sadly, now suffering from dementia. That means that half the team that started in 1966 have now been diagnosed with dementia, and several have died with it. It is about time, therefore, that the football authorities in this country and overseas took the dangers of playing football and concussion seriously, because, otherwise, we will be letting down a whole generation of footballers who need proper support. Secondly, as I understand it, there is now a nine-month waiting list in the Court of Protection, which means that, this year, many families whose relatives have been diagnosed with dementia will simply not be able to go to court to sort out their loved ones’ financial and health arrangements—they are simply waiting months and months and months to be able to get things sorted. That adds phenomenally to families’ anxiety and depression, so can we please have a debate on dementia—not as part of covid, but just on dementia?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

I am extremely sympathetic to what the hon. Gentleman is saying, and I think it is an issue that is of concern to the whole House. I was unaware of the issue that he raised with respect to the Court of Protection, and I shall take that up after this session with my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor. Government time is very pressed, as I said in response to my right hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean (Mr Harper), and therefore it is difficult to provide all the time for all the debates that I would like to provide time for, but the cause that he mentions is one with such widespread support that it is very much one for the Backbench Business Committee.

Business of the House

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Thursday 22nd October 2020

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

And we mustn’t forget the Vicar of Dibley.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have “follow me, follow, down to the hollow” ringing through my head now.

May I ask, I am afraid, about the Select Committee on Standards? As the Leader of the House knows, the Standards Committee is meant to have a majority of lay members who are able to vote. We have a lot of very important businesses; we have already done 11 reports in this Parliament and we have a major review of the code of conduct going on. We need a full quota of lay members. I am really grateful to the Leader of the House for tabling the single motion, which is down on the remaining orders, that would allow for Melanie Carter and Michael Maguire to be added to the Committee. I know that Standing Orders say we have to have a one-hour debate. Can I do a deal with the Leader of the House? If I promise that I will not speak in that debate and he promises that he will just move the motion very quickly, we could have a very short debate, and maybe we could get that done very quickly so that the Standards Committee can get on with its job.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

When Standing Orders provide for a one-hour debate, it is only right that that time is properly provided, should Members wish to use it, but the hon. Gentleman will be aware that there are concerns over the way the recruitment process was carried out. There is disquiet in certain quarters with regard to that, and that is why the motion has not at this stage been brought forward, though it is under discussion.

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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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Buxton is a wonderful spa town. I might slightly quibble about “best” seeing as my constituency is so close to Bath, and I might upset my neighbours if I were to—[Interruption.] Ah, it is a city. We can agree then, although Harrogate might be upset. I had better not say which is the best in the country, but Buxton is certainly a very beautiful spa town. I am delighted to hear about the reopening of the Buxton Crescent after the £70 million refurbishment. As I said earlier, high streets are essential to our towns and our sense of community, and it is really important to use the £3.6 billion towns fund well. My hon. Friend is such a fantastic champion for his own area, and this is important because we want people to visit our great and historic towns and cities and spend money there and keep the economies going and thriving.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am seriously worried about the Leader of the House’s answer about the Standards Committee, because we do need to be fully functioning. It is in the interests of the reputation of the House that we have all seven lay members appointed. It is nearly six months now since we went down to five lay members instead of seven. It is three months since the Commission, which you yourself chair, Mr Speaker, agreed the names that came forward through a process in which I was not involved at all. I note that the legislation says that the motion can be brought forward by any member of the Commission, but I wonder whether there is any means of you making sure that we are able to function fully as soon as possible.

Business of the House

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Thursday 3rd September 2020

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

The right hon. Lady is absolutely right about that. The pleasure that all Members get from going to the Tea Room is due to the wonderful staff there, who work so hard and cheer us all up. They spread a degree of sweetness and light, which politicians sometimes try to do, but not always as successfully as those in the Tea Room.

On Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, I note what the right hon. Lady says about a letter to the Defence Secretary. I will take that up—and, indeed, Anoosheh Ashoori. Both of these issues are of considerable concern to Her Majesty’s Government. I do not have any particularly new information, but I am always willing to take up any points that the right hon. Lady raises at these sessions.

May I also associate myself with the words of the right hon. Lady about John Hume, who was indeed a great contributor to peace? May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace.

Now I want to come to the right hon. Lady’s political points—this question of No. 10 appointments. We are lucky that No. 10 Downing Street has such fine people working there—fine intellects, people doing their best for this country, people thinking things through, coming up with inspired ideas—and I do not think it would be possible to imagine a better functioning, more forward-looking Government than the one we currently have. [Interruption.] Of course the Opposition scoff, but dare I say it, that is in the title of being in the Opposition. It is, as Disraeli said, the job of the Opposition to oppose, even when they see this shining beacon of wisdom in front of them, as they get in No. 10.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

And a Conservative Government is an organised hypocrisy.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

Not everything Disraeli said needs to be quoted. It is like the Bible—even the devil can quote scriptures from time to time.

Let me come to the individual points. The Prime Minister is very good at holding meetings with people and is very responsible about the meetings that he holds. He cannot inevitably, with all the good will in the world, possibly hold meetings with everybody who asks for them and I know that the right hon. Lady understands that.

As for the protection of renters, they have been protected but there is always a balance to be struck. There are stories now about people not being able to go back into their own homes because people are not paying rent and therefore they are keeping out the homeowners who are coming back from abroad, and all sorts of things. There is a balance in this, and the Government have, I think, struck the right balance in protecting people during this extraordinary crisis, but that cannot go on forever.

As regards the Town and Country Planning Act regulations, I am in discussion with the Secretary of State in regards to whether or not the prayer against them can have time found for a debate. I will report back to the House with an answer to that in due course. The right hon. Lady called for the shires to rise up. I am a county Member, not a borough Member—I believe that she is a borough Member—and I would not call upon the shires to rise up, and certainly not my shire county of Somerset. The last time we rose up was of great importance, because it was of course when Alfred the Great defeated the Danes. So when Somerset rises up, the nation is reformed, changed, improved, but we are a peaceable people in Somerset and therefore I think have no immediate plans to rise up.

The right hon. Lady then had a pop at my right hon. Friend the Education Secretary.

I think he has done an absolutely first-class job under difficult circumstances, and the truth is—

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
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He has been downgraded!

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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No, he has been upgraded. He is an A* individual and an A* Secretary of State—not on estimated grades, but on the facts before us. We know he is an A* Secretary of State because he was able to react to a situation quickly and put it right. The real success of Governments is, when there is a problem, being able to put it right. That is what my right hon. Friend did and for which he deserves the most enormous credit. He regularly appears in this House, so there is no question of him failing to make appearances and answer questions—as, of course, is my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, who has been before this House and kept us up to date on numerous occasions over the last six months and will continue to do so, because the Government have the fullest respect for this House, as it should.

Of course I note the right hon. Lady’s point that the Department of Health and Social Care is not answering written questions in a timely way, and I will take that up, because that is part of my job as Leader of the House. I have, as the House will know, been very sympathetic to the Department of Health and Social Care particularly during this pandemic for some tardiness in response. I think, six months in, that sympathy is not as great as it previously was, and that is probably true for the House as a whole, so I will absolutely take up what she has asked me to do.

On the position of Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland remains a fundamental part of the United Kingdom and will have complete, uninhibited access to the GB market. That is a very important part of the withdrawal agreement.

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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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My right hon. Friend makes a compelling case for the varied and innovative economy in Buckinghamshire, supported by a well-led local authority. I am sure that many Members would be interested in taking part in a debate on economic recovery, although I think that these subjects could be included in the Opposition day debate next week. Local leadership will be crucial in the recovery from the coronavirus. We will set out our plans for devolution to local areas in the devolution and local recovery White Paper later this year. These plans will ensure that local economies have the investment needed to restart growth and the right regulatory environment to allow businesses to innovate freely and to really drive our recovery. Most of what my right hon. Friend is asking for is actually broadly in the pipeline.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
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I suppose that, as the writer said, the world has always had two kinds of families—the haves and the have-nots—but under coronavirus this has become even more acute. Some of the poorest in the country have suffered most. Many families who had just started up self-employed businesses or were tradesfolk have suddenly found themselves going from a significant income to absolutely nothing coming in through the door whatsoever. Unfortunately, despite the Government’s attempts to try to help everybody, there are 3 million people in this country who feel very excluded from every single financial provision that there has been. I am sure that the Leader of the House will have had people knocking on his own door in his own constituency crying about losing their finances, losing their homes—losing everything. Can we not please say to those people that, yes, there is still hope that the Government are going to intervene? May we have a debate on that as soon as possible so that we can still put measures in place for those families who really have suffered the most?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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This crisis has been very difficult for very many people. The Government have taken enormous steps with the £35 billion in the furlough scheme and the £8.5 billion for nearly 3 million self-employed people. But of course, as a constituency MP, I recognise that people who founded businesses recently have found things very difficult. We need to get the economy to recover. We need to get people getting back to as normal as they possibly can. We want to encourage people to get back to work. We want to try to ensure that we achieve the V-shaped recovery, which is so important. The steps that the Government have taken have been to protect the structures of the economy so that when demand comes back, those structures are there to meet the demand that never really went away but was just shut down because of the crisis. That is what Government policy has been directed towards. We will need to ensure that we foster the economy and help it grow as we come back up that V, but I understand how difficult it is for individual families in particular circumstances.

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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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The wisdom of the British people knows no bounds and therefore we should always welcome ideas from our constituents. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Rhondda is sniffy about his own constituents. I think the wisdom of the people of the United Kingdom knows no bounds. That is why we have achieved so much over the history of this nation. We have been innovative. We have been a nation that has led the world. We really are—

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
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We haven’t got a vaccine.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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Well, we are leading the world in developing one. Anyway, this is not meant to be a two-way chat between the hon. Member for Rhondda and me. As I said yesterday, I am extraordinarily keen that the House should get back to normal operations, and we have been back since the beginning of June. We did lead by example, but if we can get any good ideas from constituents, they would be extremely welcome. I do hope that it will not be too long before we allow constituents to come back in to listen to us, because we are an open democracy, not a hidden away democracy, and we want to see all the Galleries with people in them as soon as that is safe to do.

Restoration and Renewal

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Thursday 16th July 2020

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I think that my hon. Friend may be alluding to the mention of York in the Prime Minister’s letter. I would remind my hon. Friend that between 1301 and 1325 Parliament met in York 11 times, but when Edward IV tried to get it to move to York, he was unsuccessful. It will end up being a matter for parliamentarians where this House sits, though strictly speaking the meeting of Parliament is called by the sovereign to her palace at Westminster. That, I think, is something that would be highly unlikely to change without the acceptance of parliamentarians. I hope that answers my hon. Friend’s question.

I want to conclude by quoting Caroline Shenton’s book about the construction of the Palace a century and a half ago. She raised the question of the difficulty faced by Barry and Pugin when she wrote:

“But who should be given the upper hand? The government… funded by the Treasury? Parliament as an institution made up of two legislatures occupying a single building… Or—most difficult of all—over a thousand MPs and Peers”—

this must be referring to peers rather than MPs, but never mind—

“fractious, opinionated…partisan, and…with as many individual views on how the work should progress as there were members? Deciding who was the real client at any particular moment would prove to be a mind-bending task for Barry over the next four and twenty years.”

I am a great admirer of much that was achieved by our Victorian forebears, but in this instance, this one instance, I believe the 21st century may—and I sense the shock around the Chamber—have the edge over the 19th century.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
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You should write a book about the Victorians.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I did. It is still available, probably heavily discounted, in all second-hand bookshops. For once, we have truly, in that most tiresome of clichés, learned the lesson of history. We have our client, which is the Sponsor Body. Its strategic review is setting the scope for the programme, and then the Delivery Authority will draw up fully costed proposals for us to consider. At that point, we will arrive at the moment we have been steadily working towards for some years, when we will be able to decide how to do so in a way that offers the consistent political support the programme needs.

The last Parliament set us on the path of action over inaction, but it is this Parliament that will act, meeting our collective responsibility of protecting this building, the throne, the palace of our democracy.

Business of the House

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Thursday 2nd July 2020

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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The right hon. Lady is always so difficult to follow because she so often ends with sad news. The news from my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman) was the saddest. There is so little one could say that could possibly give any comfort, other than for him to know that he has many friends in this place, and our hearts bleed for him. It is the saddest, the hardest, the most unbearable news, and we wish him and his wife every condolence and sympathy that we can.

To move on to politics, let me start with the right hon. Lady’s tribute to Mark Sedwill. She is obviously right to pay tribute to him—he is an enormously distinguished public servant—and to the civil service generally. The team that supports the Leader of the House is something that—dare I say?—the shadow Leader of the House should be enormously jealous of; I have a feeling she may be. I am brilliantly supported by extremely hard-working people who do a fantastic job. I have no idea of what their political opinions are at all, but they back the Government in what the Government are trying to do. The Northcote-Trevelyan approach to the civil service is one that has served us well for a very long time, but it sometimes needs a degree of updating. Even I am not so wedded to the 19th century that I feel nothing can be improved.

The appointment of David Frost as National Security Adviser is an utterly brilliant appointment. He is an enormously qualified man and a very distinguished diplomat, and many people are beginning to say that he is the Henry Kissinger of our time. He is a great and distinguished public servant, who will serve enormously well.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
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There is a lot of irony in that.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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The hon. Gentleman is quite incapable of keeping quiet, even for a moment. His agitation and his degree of excitement may be slightly theatrical on this occasion.

On the ISC, as always, that will be set up in due course. It would be wrong to be “Russian” these things—[Laughter]—as I am sure the right hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz) appreciates. [Interruption.] No, it was not, actually; it was quite deliberate.

On the Cumberlege review, I actually gave evidence to that review in relation to Primodos. This is an opportunity for me to pay the greatest tribute to the hon. Member for Bolton South East (Yasmin Qureshi), who has campaigned absolutely tirelessly. I first met the hon. Lady when we were both elected in 2010 and had offices opposite each other, and she took up this issue when nobody else was really interested. She has transformed people’s thinking about it, and I look forward with great interest to what Baroness Cumberlege has to say about Primodos. It is a very important issue.

Going back to some of the other questions, the right hon. Member for Walsall South is a kind and generous person, and her sympathy for Cabinet Ministers having to queue is much appreciated by my right hon. Friends, who have to take on these onerous things which are otherwise unknown across the country. Our constituents never have to queue for anything because life is so smooth and easy, but she appreciates that right hon. Ladies and Gentlemen having to queue is so burdensome and tough, and makes us realise that we are really earning our living as we stand in a queue. Remarkably, it takes almost exactly the same time to pass through the Division Lobbies as it does when we are using the Lobbies without social distancing. The speed with which we got through them earlier this week was pretty much the normal speed and therefore things are working: Government business is getting through and scrutiny is taking place. I am not as kindly or as soft-hearted as the right hon. Lady, and I think a Cabinet Minister queuing for a few minutes is no bad thing, and probably spiritually enlightening and uplifting.

The right hon. Lady referred to renters who have lost income. Emergency provisions were made: £1 billion has been made available to help people who are renting. The Government are very conscious of the need to protect people who are in the private rented sector.

The right hon. Lady also mentioned the Prime Minister not making a speech in the House, but making it outside the House. However, the Prime Minister came to the House just a week before and made a statement. We are having a statement on Wednesday next week from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Government have been assiduous in maintaining the ministerial code’s requirement to make major announcements to the House first, and this is part of the natural process of government.

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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this issue and for the tribute he paid to the Attorney General and the Solicitor General, who work extremely hard to ensure that just sentences are passed. I seem to remember—others may correct me—that the law that allowed that to happen was introduced when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister, so it is another Conservative success. My hon. Friend is right to highlight it and raise it in the House: perhaps he should ask for an Adjournment debate to discuss specific cases where the punishment is fitting the crime.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
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It is very clear now that if the easing of the lockdown is to be effective in tackling coronavirus, it will happen at different paces in the different nations of the United Kingdom but also in different parts within those nations. We see the situation in Leicester, and there may be others—who knows—and we know that some sectors will be affected for longer than others. The Leader of the House rightly said that where the state says a business cannot operate, the state should step in to provide financial assistance. I heard what he said to my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Spen (Tracy Brabin), but I do not understand whether the statement from the Chancellor next Wednesday will be just a 10-minute statement with questions for perhaps an hour—in that case, I urge him to make it more like three hours—or one with a proper series of debates so that we can get into the nitty-gritty. By the way, can I still have my £2.5 million for the tip in Tylorstown?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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May I help a little? It will be a minimum 20 minutes from the Chancellor, and it will be run long, with many more questions than normal.

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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I never realised that our separatist friends would model themselves on an Ealing comedy. It seems to have become “Passport to Pimlico”. There are no internal borders in the United Kingdom; it is one country, I am glad to say. [Interruption.] There is a difference between borders, and districts and areas. That is self-evident. A border is something that one may stop people crossing. Even I am not suggesting that we make people from Gloucestershire present their passports before coming into Somerset.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
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Then why mention Pimlico?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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As the hon. Member for Rhondda will remember, in the film “Passport to Pimlico” Pimlico was thought to have belonged to the Duke of Burgundy or some such, and therefore had become an independent state within the United Kingdom. Our separatist friend wants to do the same by insisting on passports to Scotland, and Mrs Sturgeon wishes to build a wall. [Interruption.] Unfortunately Mrs Sturgeon’s policy is not fictional. Many of us wish that it were and that the separatists were a bit more fictional, but they are not. They are here and they bang on about it constantly, but we are still one country and Scotland benefits enormously from being part of the United Kingdom.

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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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The two great newt fanciers were Gussie Fink-Nottle and Ken Livingstone. They were always interested in newts, and I am sure that they are—

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
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One of those is fictional.

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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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The hon. Gentleman is really alert this evening. He has pointed out that Gussie Fink-Nottle is fictional—

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is morning, not evening!

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is usually afternoon when the House sits. Carry on!

Business of the House

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Thursday 25th June 2020

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question, leaving aside his jibe about Essex county cricket. I commend him for his stalwart representation of the people of Ipswich in this House. We know that fewer people are coming into the NHS when they need to. That is why the NHS has begun restoring services that were rightly suspended while we dealt with the initial impact of covid-19. It is working on the principle that the most urgent treatment should be brought back first, and this will be driven by local demands on the system. The matter in his constituency sounds like a worthy subject for an Adjournment debate to highlight it more broadly.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I feel phenomenally fortunate that I completed my cancer treatment before lockdown started, and I am delighted to hear that the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch) has been able to catch her breast cancer very early—I wish her a full recovery. Unfortunately, the situation across the country has not been great for potential cancer sufferers: I believe that 290,000 urgent referrals for suspected cancer were not sent out during this period; 1.2 million screening invites for bowel cancer, breast cancer and cervical cancer have not been sent out; chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery has often been cancelled or delayed for a long time; and lots of clinical trials have been put on hold. So may we have a specific debate on cancer and coronavirus? We really need to get back on track on this. Otherwise, there will be more excess deaths from cancer than from coronavirus.

Business of the House

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Thursday 18th June 2020

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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Again, this is a point of the greatest importance, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question about support for coastal communities. He is a true champion of his community—an idyllic part of the world—as much of the Chamber is for those in the coastal communities he refers to. The communities on our coastline are of huge importance to this country, and their tourist economies have been particularly hit by the economic downturn of the pandemic. This is a matter that can be taken up at the next Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs oral questions on 25 June, but once again, it can also be raised in the debate next week on the general economic effects of the crisis.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We are a resilient community in the Rhondda, but I honestly do not think that we can take any more without significant help from outside. We had some of the worst flooding in the country earlier this year—hundreds of homes lost everything, many of them without any insurance at all—and last night, we had another bout of flooding, which has affected about 200 homes. I spoke to one woman last night who was in floods of tears because she had only just managed to get builders to sort her home out. She was about to move back in and now it is all ruined all over again. On top of that, we have a tip, half of which has fallen down into the river. Sixty thousand tonnes have to be moved and the whole thing has to be made safe, because we do not want another Aberfan. The council is completely strapped for cash. We know that we need £60 million to mend the culverts, to make sure that this does not happen all over again in three months’ time, in six months’ time or in a year. We need £2 million to move the 60,000 tonnes of earth. Please—I do not want a debate, if I am honest; I really just want the Leader of the House to make sure that we get the support we need in the Rhondda.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I think the whole House will have heard what the hon. Gentleman had to say and the emotion with which he said it, and the effect this must have on his constituents. It is hard to think of anything worse than that which his constituents suffered—just having got back to a house that was redecorated and restored and then having it flooded and destroyed again—and the worry that must remain in any community with a tip in it where people think back to Aberfan and know of the terrible disaster that that caused.

I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales will speak to the leader of the hon. Gentleman’s local council today about the flooding overnight. There are significant Government funds available—£2.6 billion—but I am aware that when I speak from this Dispatch Box about large amounts of Government money when people are sitting at home worrying about whether a tip may collapse, that is not enough. I will take it up with Ministers, and I will ensure that the message he has brought to this House is known across Government.

House Business during the Pandemic

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Monday 8th June 2020

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend, because that is a crucial point. Even with the social distancing requirements and a Chamber that is not as full as it would otherwise be, we have proper debates and ensure that the Government are properly held to account. That is unquestionably an advance on a virtual Parliament.

Legislation is how we translate the results of a general election into tangible change. In the Queen’s Speech, the Government unveiled 36 Bills—an ambitious agenda that aims to help the whole country level up. People across the United Kingdom will be affected by the laws we pass, so this House must play its part in working to ensure that these Bills are the best they can possibly be. While it is natural that Opposition Members may be less enthusiastic about the programme as a whole, because as Disraeli said, it is after all the job of the Opposition is to oppose, my point to them today—[Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) is seeking to intervene, I will give way. It is always such a pleasure to hear from him.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I think Disraeli also said that a Conservative Government were an “organised hypocrisy”, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman well knows. If he is so keen on making sure that stuff can proceed swiftly, would it not be better to have a swift means of voting? I do not understand his addiction to queuing—unless it is from his regular queuing in Lidl. A former Archbishop of Canterbury said of reading the Church Times:

“It’s a duty to read it, but a sin to enjoy it”.

Is it not the same with queuing?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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If we are batting back and forth Disraelian quotations, he also said:

“A sophistical rhetorician, inebriated with the exuberance of his own verbosity”,

but I would hate to apply that to the hon. Gentleman. [Interruption.] My hon. Friends think I should, but I will not, because he is a distinguished parliamentarian-historian and Chairman of the Standards Committee. In answer to his point about queuing, we have to use the methods necessary to proceed with Government business, which is the point I am making today. It can only be done by meeting physically.

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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I am not sure that that point was worth waiting for. [Laughter.] I do not wish to be unkind—it is a matter for debate, perhaps on another occasion, as to whether it was worth waiting for or not. The motion last week that was tabled in my name allowed those who are shielding to vote by proxy, which meets the majority of the hon. Gentleman’s concerns.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

One of the problems with the two motions that the Leader of the House tabled last week is that they create two different categories of people who can self-certify. I hope he will return to that issue, because it is a matter of concern to those who are in one category, but feel that they are excluded from another. That bit surely needs tidying up.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point, and I can assure him that it is under consideration. May I say that his second intervention was worth waiting for? I just want to continue—

Business of the House

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Thursday 4th June 2020

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

May I start by responding to the important question that the right hon. Lady raises every week about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe? Of course, the Government continue to be in touch, and the consular officials are working. It is good news that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe is still on temporary release, but I have no further news to report. I continue to welcome the right hon. Lady’s regular mention of this distressing case, because it ensures that pressure is kept up. I will continue to pass on what she says to the Foreign Office, so that the governmental systems are ensuring that representation is properly made for a British citizen.

The right hon. Lady asks why we were queuing when our constituents were queuing. I think it is fairly obvious why we were queuing: we were queuing because we have our democratic duty to do. We have a legislative agenda to get through. We made commitments to the British people in December to get Bills through Parliament. The Domestic Abuse Bill is a very important one. The Northern Ireland legacy Bill is another important one. There is also the Fisheries Bill and the Fire Safety Bill—I could go on and on. We have really important legislation to get through that we committed to the British people to get through. How many of those Bills do the Opposition want to abandon? Probably all of them, because they are the Opposition, and of course it is their job to try to stop us getting our legislation through.

We should lead by example. Across the country, people are going back to work. The right hon. Lady mentioned schools. How can we look teachers in our constituencies in the eye when we are asking them to go back to work and saying that we are not willing to? We have to be back here delivering on the legislative programme, but also being held to account. It is fascinating that the Opposition seem so reluctant to hold the Government to account, but it is right that we should be held to account, and that is done effectively by being in this Chamber. It is important that while we are here, we follow the social distancing rules. Look around the Chamber and through the whole Palace: there are marks showing the distance people should keep. In Westminster Hall, it was made remarkably easy, because the size of the flagstones was large enough to meet the requirements. Certainly I was standing at a safe distance from people. Most Members were. Most Members were standing at a safe distance, and it was marked out for them to do so.

As regards people who cannot attend the House, they will be able to be facilitated. There was a motion we put down yesterday but, as it happens, it was blocked by a Labour Member. It would have facilitated remote appearances by people who on medical advice could not appear. As it happens, we took the definition of who could appear from an amendment tabled by the Opposition, and then the Opposition blocked it. Let us hope we have a bit more success later today, but we are obviously willing to discuss who should be in those categories to try to facilitate people who are unable to come.

The Government’s position is that those who need to go back to work should go back to work, and it is obvious that people in Parliament need to come back to work for the business of this House to work properly. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr Perkins) chunters away inaudibly. I am sure if he tries to catch Mr Deputy Speaker’s eye, he may get a question in, which is the proper way of running this process. People can send in an application—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) always chunters away, but it is noticeable that it was his chuntering last night that stopped people who have to stay away from appearing remotely. I hope he is suitably ashamed of himself today, and it is noticeable that he says one thing and does another.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
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The Leader of the House is accusing me of hypocrisy.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

No, I certainly have not accused the hon. Gentleman of hypocrisy; I would not dream of doing that.

Let me come to the issue of schools and a statement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. He does not need any encouragement to come to this House. He is hoping to make a statement early next week. It is obviously important that the House is updated, but it is also really important for our children’s futures that they are going back to school and that, as with us, is the process of normalisation that we are getting under way.

With regard to coronavirus and the BAME community, the Minister for Equalities, my hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Kemi Badenoch), is leading the work on that with Public Health England.

As regards written parliamentary questions, I am taking that up with Departments. We are looking at which Departments are issuing the most holding replies. I make a general point that I would continue to have sympathy with the Department of Health and Social Care, which has been exceptionally busy in leading the response to this crisis. Other Departments, I think, have more reason to be fully up to date with their written parliamentary questions.

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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I am not sure whether “the current connection” was a pun or not, but it was certainly a very good one—

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

A current pun.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

In case that was not heard by Hansard, it is worth recording for the record that the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) said it was a current pun. I think that is very good: at least it was not a Bath bun.

I thank my hon. Friend for his question, and I know that offshore wind farms play a significant role in his constituency. I assure him that the Government want to foster as successful an offshore wind industry as possible. Thanks to the Government’s intelligent approach to delivering offshore wind, I am pleased to say that we have managed to offer significant savings for the consumer while also increasing the supply of green energy. Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy officials are working together with organisations such as Ofgem and the National Grid electricity system operator to consider the appropriate framework for offshore transmission to support increased ambition for offshore wind. I recommend that my hon. Friend take this matter up at the next oral questions with BEIS on 16 June.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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The cleaning staff were coming in anyway, and it is worth remembering that the cleaning staff were coming into this House when we were not. Frankly, the idea that others should work when we do not have to is one that I find unimpressive. Bill Committees were not established while we had a virtual Parliament. Second Reading of the Finance Bill is normally an unlimited debate, and that has been used by Opposition parties over the years to debate for many hours, sometimes with great distinction in what they had to say—

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Not normally.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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Sometimes, and that allows proper scrutiny to take place. We did the Finance Bill in four hours, with an interruption after two hours. That is nothing like the proper level of scrutiny. Both from the Opposition’s point of view in holding the Government to account, and from the Government’s point of view in getting their important Bills through, the hybrid Parliament was not working.

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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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When I was a child I remember there being a song called “Long Haired Lover from Liverpool”. I have never aimed, in my whole career, to end up looking like the long-haired lover from Liverpool, but I fear I am heading in that direction. I have never had longer hair and I am beginning to wonder whether I ought to ask nanny if she can find a pudding bowl and put it on and see if something can be done as an emergency measure.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
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Is she part of the household?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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Of course nanny is part of the household. What a daft question. But I am pleased to tell my hon. Friend that the Government are working with industry representatives to develop safe ways for some industries, such as hairdressers, to reopen at the earliest point. I think many of us will feel there is a burden lifted from our shoulders when the hairdressers are reopened.

Proceedings during the Pandemic

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Tuesday 2nd June 2020

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg)
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I beg to move,

That the resolution of the House of 21 April (Proceedings during the pandemic) be rescinded and the following orders be made and have effect until 7 July 2020:

(1) That the following order have effect in place of Standing Order No. 38 (Procedure on divisions):

(a) If the opinion of the Speaker or the chair as to the decision on a question is challenged, the Speaker or the chair shall declare that a division shall be held.

(b) Divisions shall be conducted under arrangements made by the Speaker provided that:

(i) Members may only participate physically within the Parliamentary estate; and

(ii) the arrangements adhere to the guidance issued by Public Health England.

(2) Standing Order No. 40 (Division unnecessarily claimed) shall not apply.

(3) In Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions):

(a) At the end of paragraph (5)(a), insert “, provided that (i) Members may only participate physically within the Parliamentary estate; and (ii) the arrangements adhere to the guidance issued by Public Health England”.

(b) In paragraph (5)(b) delete “two and a half hours” and insert “at least two and a half hours”.

(c) In paragraph (5)(c) delete “after the expiry of the period mentioned in subparagraph (b) above”.

(4) The Speaker or chair may limit the number of Members present in the Chamber at any one time and Standing Orders Nos. 7 (Seats not to be taken before prayers) and 8 (Seats secured at prayers) shall not apply.

(5) Standing Orders Nos. 83J to 83X (Certification according to territorial application etc) shall not apply.

The rationale for returning to physical proceedings is a straightforward one. Parliament is the assembly of the nation. The public expect it to deliver on the mandate provided by last year’s general election, and they expect it to conduct the kind of effective scrutiny that puts Ministers under real pressure. Neither expectation can be fully realised while we are not sitting physically. That is why we are returning to work safely at the first opportunity in order fully to conduct the essential business not possible from our homes. This assessment is based on the facts. The stopgap of a hybrid Parliament was a necessary compromise during the peak of the virus, but, by not being here, the House has not worked effectively on behalf of constituents. Legislating is a key function of Parliament, yet there has been no ability for legislative Committees to meet since 23 March. This means that, for 10 weeks, there has been no detailed line-by-line consideration of Bills that will affect people’s lives. I remind Members that, in the week commencing Monday 11 May, we had no debates on secondary legislation, no Public Bill Committees, and no Delegated Legislation Committees. There was significantly less time for debate—just 216 minutes of debate on primary legislation compared with the example of 648 minutes in a normal sitting week—and far less flexibility to ensure proper scrutiny of the Government.

I should also like to remind Members that much of the business under the hybrid proceedings was deliberately arranged to be non-contentious. The time limits on scrutiny and substantive proceedings were also heavily restricted. This was to facilitate the smooth running of what was always a technically challenging arrangement. What was acceptable for a few short weeks would have proved unsustainable if we had allowed the hybrid proceedings to continue. This House plays an invaluable role in holding the Government to account and debating legislation, which can only properly be fulfilled when Members are here in person.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
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Will the right hon. Gentleman allow?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I was just about to talk about Members intervening time and again, so it is the perfect time for me to give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The Leader of the House will know, because he is an historian, that one of the ancient liberties of all Members of Parliament has been to attend. Such a liberty has been asserted even when the Crown has wanted to arrest people. The House has insisted that people should be allowed to attend, but at the moment, by law, there are many MPs who are banned from attending Parliament because they are shielding either themselves or others in their household. How can it possibly be right to exclude those people? How can it be a Conservative motion to exclude those MPs and thereby disenfranchise their communities?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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Nobody is banned from attending Parliament by law. The ancient right of MPs, which dates back to 1340, entitles Members to attend. However, I accept that, for some Members with particular health conditions, it is very difficult to attend—

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
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They are not allowed to attend.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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No law exists that stops Members from attending Parliament.

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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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The House authorities have made possible virtual participation in the Bill Committee’s proceedings, and it is up to individual witnesses whether they wish to take that up or not. That was always available under the ordinary systems used for some time by Select Committees. It applied to Public Bill Committees as well.

As I was saying, I do expect some teething problems with the voting system today, and it will be some time before our proceedings are fully restored, but in the meantime we must act to minimise the disruption.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
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Have you ever been to Alton Towers?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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Indeed I have—I took my sister Annunziata there many years ago. [Interruption.] Anyway, enough of my reminiscences. It is important that we protect, preserve and prioritise our parliamentary democracy. It has to continue, regardless of the disease that is afflicting the nation.

Business of the House

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Wednesday 6th May 2020

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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It is always my wish to facilitate my right hon. Friend, and I am glad to say that there will be Treasury questions on 18 May followed by Environment, Food and Rural Affairs questions on 19 May, when these important issues may be raised, but I recognise and agree with him that the horticultural sector is a crucial one.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab) [V]
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The idea that workers will hear the Prime Minister on Sunday and change what they were going to do on Monday, and that businesses up and down the land will suddenly be able to respond from Sunday to Monday morning is utterly preposterous. The reason the Prime Minister is making the statement on Sunday is that he wants to avoid the House of Commons. You, Mr Speaker, are quite right to have already told him off on that basis. I am begging the Leader of the House to please make sure that we have more time to ask questions of Government Ministers. At the moment, we end the day early and we are not sitting on Thursdays. Ministers are not coming to the Chamber enough to answer questions, which we have in buckletloads in our constituencies. In my own patch yesterday, we had a horrific incident where one man was murdered and three others were stabbed. We want to talk about the issues that are happening in our constituencies. We need to challenge the Government on these issues and we cannot if the Prime Minister will not even come to the House.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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Well, the Prime Minister was in the House earlier on, but I accept what the hon. Gentleman is saying in that a virtual Parliament is not a substitute for the real Parliament. Apart from anything else, we are missing the constant chirruping from the hon. Gentleman.

Business of the House

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Wednesday 29th April 2020

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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It is a great pleasure to hear from my hon. Friend, and not surreal for us as we see him in glorious technicolour addressing us. With regards to the lockdown, it is of course difficult for the elderly and for those of us with elderly parents, but we must follow the rules, because that is actually working. No doubt the sun will shine eventually and the restrictions will be lifted, but now is not the time to forecast when.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab) [V]
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I think that 1 May was also the feast day of St Panacea, which may be of interest to Donald Trump.

I want to ask about cancer, because 367,000 people a year in this country contract cancer and 165,000 die of it. When I last spoke to my oncologist, he said he was terrified of a tsunami of people, who have not contacted the doctor now because they are frightened of going to a hospital in case they contract coronavirus or because they just do not want to take up the NHS’s time, presenting with their cancer too late for doctors to help. Is not it important that we get out the message, whether through a debate or statement in the Commons, that if people are ill, the NHS is still there for them now and that delaying taking a dodgy mole or something in their bowel that is worrying them to the doctor is a big mistake?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. I am glad to say that the health service is opening up for people to go back for continuation of treatments that were suspended and to have tests for potential new illnesses. That is important and was part of the whole strategy to ensure that the NHS could cope and that lives could be saved from other illnesses as well as the coronavirus.

Business of the House

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Monday 23rd March 2020

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I record my gratitude to the Opposition for deciding not to divide the House last week. We have become aware that politicians in this country can act in the interests of the nation and of us all by coming together to do this, and we have shown that with surprising speed. I reiterate the thanks given by my right hon Friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to his shadow, the hon. Member for Leicester South (Jonathan Ashworth), who has been particularly helpful in this difficult period.

The issue regarding the self-employed is of great importance and has been widely raised.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
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I warmly condemn—warmly commend, I mean—the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care for recognising that, sometimes, Opposition Members want to be helpful with their criticisms. There are specific issues, such as the treatment of employees, of those in rented properties and, for that matter, of freelancers and sole traders, on which proper questions from Members on both sides of the House can get us to a better place.

My anxiety is that we are telling the nation that we should bend every sinew to deal solely with this issue, yet we are still doing all sorts of other things in the House that are not solely directed at coronavirus. May I suggest to the Government that we shred every other ongoing legislative process? We should only be debating issues that relate to the national crisis.

When will we have the necessary votes under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 to enforce the measures that were introduced last Friday in relation to pubs and clubs?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I will not make cheap shots about the hon. Gentleman’s default position when he is trying to be helpful.

The difficulty is that some of the business we carry on needs to be carried on. It is important that the Windrush compensation scheme is debated and dealt with tomorrow. The hon. Gentleman knows the procedures of this House better than almost anybody: he will be aware that we need to introduce the Finance Bill within a set period of the motions being introduced, so there is routine business that needs to be carried out. Other things are happening on which MPs will want to hold the Government to account so, although I understand his point, we cannot go quite so far as he suggests.

Business of the House

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Thursday 19th March 2020

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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One cannot always provide satisfaction, much though I have tried hard to do so, but Her Majesty’s Government are doing whatever they can to help constituents in these difficult times. The Foreign Secretary is working very hard on this and is working with the airlines on it. This is a process, and I am afraid that not everybody is going to be repatriated overnight, because it is not simply a question of doing that; rather, it is a question of getting in touch with people, ensuring that the facilities are available and then getting them home. However, the Government are working hard to try to help constituents.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
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The Government undoubtedly need emergency legislation, but as I understand it the Bill is some 350 pages long, includes measures that, uniquely, would allow Ministers to switch on and off their powers without any reference to Parliament whatsoever, and is intended to last for two years. Some of these will be draconian measures restricting the liberty of the individual in this country. They may be completely necessary, but can I urge the Government to think about, first, making it possible for us to table amendments on Monday, before Second Reading, which is not the normal way, and, secondly, allowing these measures to last for 90 days before approval by Parliament and then to be renewed every 30 days thereafter?

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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I would look more favourably on the switching on and off mechanism, which, although not previously used, is a means of limiting these powers rather than extending them. I do not think it has been done before, but it ensures that the powers will be activated only when necessary and, when unneeded, will be removed. I think that is a step in favour of maintaining as much liberty as possible. I recognise that it is a long Bill, and I pay tribute to a parliamentary counsel for their work, which has been really remarkable in the short space of time available. It is important that these measures are passed with consensus. The hon. Gentleman has made his point; I am sure it will be—

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
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Amendments?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I had not forgotten amendments. I believe there is a motion in my name to allow amendments to be tabled before Second Reading, but I cannot give the hon. Gentleman all the comfort he wants on the change of time limit.

Business of the House

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Thursday 12th March 2020

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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May I congratulate my hon. Friend on having a constituency in which so many people want to live because it is so beautiful? My right hon Friend the Secretary State for Housing, Communities and Local Government is going to make a statement later about reforming the planning system. I think my hon. Friend’s concerns would be suitably raised in an Adjournment debate on his constituency.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
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I clearly was not happy with the Budget yesterday. Wales bore the brunt of Storm Dennis. Nearly half the people who were affected across the whole of the UK were in one local authority area, and there was not a single extra penny from the Government yesterday for the families, for the businesses or for the local authorities in Wales that are going to have to pick up the tab to the tune of many, many tens of millions of pounds. When it came to the business arrangements for coronavirus, perfectly sensible measures were being introduced in England, but there was not a single penny to make them available in Wales as well. Surely we are one United Kingdom and there should therefore be fair money for all the different parts of the United Kingdom.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I do not think the hon. Gentleman is ever happy, so there is no pleasing some people. However, I would point out that over £600 million extra is going to the Welsh Government’s budget—the biggest day- to-day funding settlement for the Welsh Government in a decade—and there will also be the concomitant Barnett consequentials from yesterday’s Budget statement. So it is simply not accurate to say that Wales is not receiving extra funding.

Business of the House

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Thursday 5th March 2020

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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I am glad that there is such rejoicing at that suggestion.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
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It was just one voice.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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But it was one that represented many.

The public will expect Parliament to sit, and to get on with its job. Parliament has proved itself to be very resilient over the years. There is no medical reason, on current advice, to think that shutting Parliament would be necessary or helpful. I will repeat that: there is no medical reason, on current advice, to think that shutting Parliament would be necessary or helpful.

Our approach will be guided by the best scientific evidence and medical advice, and we will take all necessary measures to deal with this outbreak. I can assure the House that I am engaging with the parliamentary authorities to emphasise how important it is that any decisions are taken in line with the advice of the chief medical officer. A cross-parliamentary group of senior managers is meeting daily to plan the response to covid-19 and ensure business continuity, with input from Her Majesty’s Government. The Commission will consider an update at its meeting with the House of Lords Commission on Monday. I can reassure the House that we are taking this very seriously, and that we will act on professional medical advice.

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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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To answer the second part of the question first, it is of course very sad that the SNP decided to talk out the motion establishing a Scottish Affairs Committee. It is surprising that a party that calls itself the national party of Scotland does not want to have a Committee looking into Scottish affairs. The Government will of course deliberate and consider when it is right to bring forward a motion on the subject, but it is ironic that those who wish for more Scottish debate are those who decided not to have a Scottish Affairs Committee. I know a little bit, dare I say, about the procedures of this House, and I know when somebody is trying to talk something out, and that is exactly what happened. One might think, if it were not disorderly to suggest it, that the SNP were filibustering—to stop themselves having the opportunity to discuss things. It was a filibuster with remarkably little point.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
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You’re repeating yourself.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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We are not playing “Just a Minute”; I am trying to answer serious questions.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh East (Tommy Sheppard) is absolutely right about discussions of coronavirus. The Health and Social Care Secretary is committed to updating the House regularly. I think that is important and the best way of proceeding, because we are trying to proceed on the basis of medical, expert advice, and giving Members the opportunity to ask questions, so that advice can be given to a broader audience and more widely understood, is the right approach to take, though I hear his request for a debate. Obviously, if or when there is a need for emergency legislation, there will be a full debate on it.

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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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There was a debate in Government time on the issue of the persecution of Christians. We raise that issue regularly with foreign Governments in respect of the treatment of their nationals and the protection of women’s rights. The overseas aid budget is committed to doing that. These issues are well raised on the Floor of this House in order to remind the Government to raise them with the relevant Governments.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

May we have a debate about banking? As the Leader of the House will know, the best part of £50,000 has now been raised by people in the Rhondda for those who have suffered as a result of the recent flooding. That is an amazing amount of money and it would be good to get that money to people, but HSBC, which has the money sitting in the bank account, has said that we cannot possibly transfer it out until next Tuesday because we have to go to see a business manager in Cardiff, some 15 miles away. That seems preposterous. If ordinary businesses regularly have to go through this business of having to make an appointment, days ahead, to see a business manager so as to be able to transfer funds, this must surely be madness.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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The hon. Gentleman has raised this point in the House. It is a fundamental principle of banking that the owners of the money should be able to move their money; that is the basis on which people make deposits, and banks that try to frustrate that are not operating properly. He has made his point about the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, and it is now on the record.

Business of the House

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Thursday 6th February 2020

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

I think we see the benefits of the Union every day, not least in the contribution the hon. Gentleman makes to our debates—and indeed in the contribution of our friends on the SNP Benches. Despite the fact they do not really approve of this place, they make a wonderful contribution and keep our debates going extraordinarily well. The Union is at the heart of our nation. The Prime Minister has made himself Minister for the Union and I share my right hon. Friend’s desire to promote the Union at every possible occasion.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The mineworkers’ pension scheme really needs review now. Since 1994, the Government have taken £4.4 billion out of the surplus—50% of it—and frankly, a much greater proportion should be going to the miners and their widows. There are miners’ widows in my constituency who are surviving on virtual pittances. It really is time for a proper review and the trustees fully support having one. Will the Government look at this as a matter of urgency and will the right hon. Gentleman personally introduce the debate?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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That is not within my purview—it is not my responsibility—but I refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer I gave some moments ago to the hon. Member for Easington (Grahame Morris). This is an important issue and I will take it up with the relevant Minister on both their behalves.

Business of the House

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Thursday 30th January 2020

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

Yes, that is right. We all know when he is here: 12 o’clock on Wednesdays for half an hour, to 12.30 pm—you keep it running to time punctiliously, Mr Speaker. It means that anything that is going to No. 10 will have proper scrutiny weekly.

I am absolutely delighted that the right hon. Lady has been imbued with the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) over the decades about the importance of parliamentary sovereignty—dare I say that there is more joy in heaven over the one sinner who repenteth than the 99 who are not in need of repentance? I am glad that parliamentary sovereignty is now being taken seriously across the House, rather than being focused in that fantastic corner over there on the Government Back Benches, where I used to sit in happy times.

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

Or recline, indeed.

The right hon. Lady referred to talent. I am glad to say that this is a country full of talent and a Government led by very talented people, who are making great successes of the nation. She also mentioned the Erasmus programme. It is worth bearing in mind that the Erasmus programme includes countries such as Canada and Israel, and therefore is not an exclusively EU activity, so it is perfectly possible for us to be involved with Erasmus outside the European Union; statements will be made in due time.

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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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Indeed. Restoration and renewal is a House responsibility rather than a Government one, and therefore it is only right that, with a new House of Commons, new Members should be able to express their views and to have a full understanding of what is happening with the project. It may well be that the Backbench Business Committee will consider a debate, but I have certainly heard the request for a debate in Government time.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Wonga mis-sold millions- worth of debt to lots of very poor people up and down the country. It was forced to pay compensation to those people, but now, because the company has gone bust, the average amount of money that people are going to get is just 4.2% of that compensation. In other words, if they were meant to get £1,800, they are going to get £72. Surely that is unfair. Should not the Government set up a compensation scheme to meet the full figures now?

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
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With all these matters relating to Government expenditure, there is limited taxpayers’ money—the Government cannot pay for everything, and it will be a question of priorities as to whether this compensation is paid or whether money goes to other deserving and important causes. There is not unlimited money available.

Business of the House

Debate between Jacob Rees-Mogg and Chris Bryant
Thursday 9th January 2020

(2 years ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

May I add to the right hon. Lady’s words about the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), who will be very much missed from these sessions? It always amazed me how a man of such gentleness, courtesy and kindliness in private always managed to be so fiendishly angry in the Chamber. I look forward to seeing whether the hon. Member for Edinburgh East (Tommy Sheppard), who I know is also a model of kindliness, will be similarly angry when he gets up to speak in a moment, but I look forward to our exchanges.

The right hon. Lady asked 11 individual questions, and I will do my best to answer them all. The House will always be updated by the Government on really important issues. The Prime Minister, in the last Session of Parliament, averaged 36 minutes a day at the Dispatch Box during the time he was Prime Minister, so I think he has been ahead of almost any other previous Prime Minister in his assiduousness.

As regards the Christmas recess—absolutely. We want to ensure that there is reasonable notice for all recesses, which I think is of general help not just to Members but to the staff of the House for planning their lives. This is important for all of us, so we will try to give the longest notice we can, though I cannot yet give the length of the Session—

Jacob Rees-Mogg Portrait Mr Rees-Mogg
- Hansard - -

Rhondda always wants to chip in. We might have thought that, after a little peace and quiet over Christmas, Rhondda would have calmed down, but no such luck. Because there is so much business to be brought forward, and that will depend on the progress of business. That is a completely normal approach.

As for sitting Fridays, we have only just had the ballot, but of course we will bring those forward, and the motion, as soon as is practicable. On the machinery of Government changes, I got a little bit worried by a memo that said, “MOG changes”. I am not necessarily so keen on such changes; I am rather used to being the Mogg that I am. However, I can absolutely assure the right hon. Lady that any changes that are made will lead to consultation with the Opposition about any changes to Committees. It is hoped that the motion in relation to the sharing out of the Committees will be put on the Order Paper by the end of business today. That is not an absolute promise, but I understand that good progress has been made on coming to an agreement.

I am indeed grateful to the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns) for passing on a list of overhanging proposals from the Backbench Business Committee for debates. Whether there will be a lot of time for non-legislative business in the next few weeks, I am not absolutely certain, but it is useful to have that and to be aware of it.

The Budget date—giving people plenty of notice—is perfectly reasonable. I make announcements about the business for a week or possibly for two weeks; I do not intend to announce the business for March, so I think it would be unusual for me to be announcing that. I do hope that in this Session of Parliament my appearances at the Dispatch Box will be once a week to set out the business, rather than once or twice a day, which I think was beginning to pall on everybody in the House.

The IR35 review is extraordinarily important. It is a matter of concern to many of our constituents, and something that came up in the election on a number of occasions. It is important that it is done in such a way that people know what their tax affairs will be in April.

On the takeover of Cobham, the Government have to act within the legal parameters and the approach that we generally take to takeovers, and announcements must be made punctually. Sometimes when the House is in recess announcements still have to be made. Saying it was done just before Christmas is not a reasonable criticism, because business goes on.

May I share in the right hon. Lady’s condolences to Andrew Miller’s family? It is always sad when we lose a distinguished former Member of this House who has invariably been influential and important in the careers of existing Members.

There is indeed a statement coming on the Australian bushfires. I think all of us feel the deepest sympathy for the people of Australia, who for so many of us are kith and kin, and there is therefore always a particular concern with what is happening in Australia.

The Ukrainian plane crash is something that needs to be investigated thoroughly so that we find out what the cause was. Our concern is for the British citizens, but also for all the lives that were lost.

As always, I am so glad that once again the right hon. Lady reminds us about Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, and of course all the other dual nationals who are held improperly, unlawfully by the Iranian regime. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary spoke to the Iranian Government on 6 January. The Government are doing everything that we can to secure her release and that of others, but the Government’s power, regrettably, is not unlimited in this area.

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