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Speaker's Statement

Volume 664: debated on Thursday 26 September 2019

Before we get under way with today’s business, including a number of urgent questions and statements, I just want to say a few words to the House. I think there is a widespread sense across the House and beyond that, yesterday, the House did itself no credit. There was an atmosphere in the Chamber worse than any I have known in my 22 years in the House. On both sides, passions were inflamed, angry words were uttered and the culture was toxic. This country faces the most challenging political issue that we have grappled with in decades. There are genuine, heartfelt, sincerely subscribed to differences of opinion about that matter. Members must be free to express themselves about it and to display, as they unfailingly do, the courage of their convictions. It ought, however, to be possible to disagree agreeably, and I can see Members on both sides of the House who are fine exponents of that principle and tradition. Yesterday, that was not the majority strain, I am sorry to say.

I have, overnight, received an approach from two very senior Members on either side of the House pressing the case for a formal consideration of our political culture going forward. Manifestly, any such formal structure—any such conference, deliberation—would not take place under my aegis. Like everybody else here, I just want what is best for the House. Pending consideration of that approach and the argument for having a sober consideration of the issue of political culture and conduct over an ongoing period, I can advise the House that there will be an urgent question later today on the matter to which I have just referred, and that will be an opportunity for colleagues to say what they think.

This is something of concern across the House. It is not a party political matter and, certainly as far as I am concerned, it should not be in any way, at any time, to any degree a matter for partisan point scoring. It is about something bigger than an individual, an individual party or an individual political or ideological viewpoint. Let us treat of it on that basis. In the meantime, may I just ask colleagues—that is all I am doing and all I can do as your representative in the Chair—please to lower the decibel level and to try to treat each other as opponents, not as enemies?

Order. I genuinely am not convinced, but I will take one point of order if the hon. Gentleman insists. I am not sure how helpful it will be, but let us see.

Would it be helpful for the House to know the subjects of the other urgent questions and statements, please?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. The first urgent question is from the hon. Member for Edinburgh South (Ian Murray) on the subject of the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019. The issues will play out, but it is about compliance with the Act. It is a perfectly reasonable question from the hon. Gentleman. The second is from the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Catherine West) on the situation in Hong Kong. The third is from Mr Chris Law on the subject of arms export licences to Saudi Arabia. The fourth urgent question, to which I perhaps slightly elliptically referred, is from the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips) on the matter of the toxicity of our political culture and the need to take appropriate steps to minimise that toxicity and conduce to a better atmosphere.

The statement from the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is on the subject of international climate action at the United Nations climate action summit. There will also be a further business statement, of which we had notice last night, from the Leader of the House. I hope that has satisfied the legitimate inquisitorial appetite of the hon. Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley).