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Points of Order

Volume 673: debated on Thursday 19 March 2020

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. In his response to my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Adam Afriyie), the Leader of the House answered, in effect, that the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 was not available for this particular emergency. Knowing my right hon. Friend, I am sure that he was repeating, in absolute good faith, the briefing he had been given, but I was here and lived through the passage of that Act, and that is not my understanding of it. More importantly, it is not how a number of public lawyers understand the Act. So could you, Mr Deputy Speaker, undertake to get the Speaker’s Counsel to give this House an opinion as to whether that Act is applicable before we move the emergency legislation next week?

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. One key aspect of the 2004 Act is that the use of powers has to be approved by Parliament within seven days and the powers can last for only 30 days before they have to be renewed by Parliament. Indeed, the Act contains specific measures to ensure that the House sits if we are in recess or even if we are prorogued. So could you feed that into the process of answering the right hon. Gentleman?

It seems to me that both points of order are supplementary business questions, but the Leader of the House is still in his place and will have heard both points of order, and I am sure that those on the Treasury Bench will reflect on what both Members have said today.

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. You will know that Mr Speaker prides himself on standing up for the rights of Back Benchers, who, perhaps more than ever, need to stand up for the rights of their constituents. The House is due to rise on 31 March. The Leader of the House spoke about potential flexibility on that, and I understand why he did so. Can you give an assurance to my constituents, especially as the Government are seeking unprecedented powers, possibly without review or with review months in the future, that this House will sit for as long as it can, in order that the Government are held to account?

I listened carefully to what the Leader of the House had to say during responses to questions. It seems to me that the commitment from the Government was exactly what the hon. Gentleman is seeking.

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. In business questions, the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee mentioned a motion that the Leader of the House brought forward this week in relation to Select Committees, which created a new post outside normal Standing Orders of Chair of the Liaison Committee and put a named individual in the motion to take the post. That flies in the face of the normal practice adopted by the House for many years. The Chairs of Select Committees should be elected from among the whole House, with all Members having an opportunity to put their name forward, albeit on a party-balanced basis, for those particular positions. Could you determine, Mr Deputy Speaker, whether it would be possible for the Leader of the House to table an amended motion, leaving that part of the motion out and allowing the Liaison Committee and all Select Committees to be set up forthwith?

I should make the observation that Mr Speaker is very keen to ensure that the rights of Back Benchers are properly respected. Therefore, I will make absolutely certain the hon. Gentleman’s comments are passed on to Mr Speaker when I vacate the Chair.

bills presented

Trade Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Secretary Elizabeth Truss, supported by The Prime Minister, Secretary Dominic Raab, Secretary George Eustice, Secretary Alister Jack, Secretary Simon Hart and Secretary Brandon Lewis presented a Bill to make provision about the implementation of international trade agreements; to make provision establishing the Trade Remedies Authority and conferring functions on it; and to make provision about the collection and disclosure of information relating to trade.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 120) with explanatory notes (Bill 120-EN)

Fire Safety bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Secretary Priti Patel, supported by The Prime Minister, Secretary Matt Hancock, Secretary Robert Jenrick, Secretary Simon Hart and James Brokenshire presented a Bill to make provision about the application of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 where a building contains two or more sets of domestic premises; and to confer power to amend that order in future for the purposes of changing the premises to which it applies.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 121) with explanatory notes (Bill 121-EN)

Coronavirus Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Secretary Matt Hancock, supported by The Prime Minister, Secretary Priti Patel, Michael Gove, Secretary Robert Jenrick, Secretary Gavin Williamson, Secretary Thérèse Coffey, Secretary Robert Buckland, Penny Mordaunt and Jo Churchill presented a Bill to make provision in connection with coronavirus; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 122) with explanatory notes (Bill 122-EN)

I remind the House that Members may now table amendments to the Coronavirus Bill. I encourage hon. Members—Chris Bryant is already going—who want to table amendments to do so by sending them to the Public Bill Office by email from their parliamentary network account. If Members would like advice on amendments, I encourage them to phone the Public Bill Office rather than visit in person.