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Points of Order

Volume 678: debated on Tuesday 30 June 2020

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Late on Friday night, a story was published in The Guardian, following the leaking of a Government document and briefing from officials in the Department for Education, saying that the Government appear to have committed themselves in principle to moving university applications to after A-level results, commonly called post-qualification admissions. Yesterday, the Department for Education produced a written statement, but no mention of those changes were made, despite the huge impact they would have on university admissions and hundreds of thousands of students. I seek your advice on how the Government can be encouraged to keep the House updated on all policy developments, and ask whether they have made any plans to bring forward a statement on higher education.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving me notice of her point of order. Mr Speaker has made it clear on several occasions that new policy announcements by Ministers should be made in the House and not to the media. It is obviously for Ministers to decide whether to make a statement to the House. The hon. Lady will be well aware of the fact that there are different routes to summon Ministers to the House if a policy announcement has been made that warrants the attention of the House and it has been made to the media as opposed to the House.

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Many Governments have tried to bypass Parliament by making statements first to the media. Today, the Prime Minister has made a major speech on new policies, not to this House but to the media. What can Mr Speaker do to get the Government to abide by the rules of Parliament?

As I have just said, Mr Speaker has made it clear on several occasions that he believes that new policy announcements by Ministers should be made to the House and not to the media. I can only reiterate that. I am sure those on the Treasury Bench will have heard the disquiet of the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Lady, as well as the feelings of others in the House, and will take that back—[Interruption.] I understand it has been duly noted.

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker, and one that I made last Thursday. This matter shows that, as soon as the lockdown effectively ends on 4 July, we should consider the end of call lists and go back to a much more spontaneous Parliament, because it would allow Members to be more fleet of foot and to come into the Chamber, without having to put in to speak a day before. It would also allow the Government to be more fleet of foot. I hope you will take that message back to Mr Speaker. We do not want to be like the Council of Europe, of which I am also a member—a dead parliament where everyone queues up on a written list. We want more spontaneity, more action and more of a traditional Parliament.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his point of order. Mr Speaker, the Commission and the House authorities have worked very hard to ensure that they note the advice from Public Health England and others on safety in the Chamber. The arrangements currently in place have been voted on by Parliament. They will continue to be updated as advice changes, and recommendations will presumably then be made to the House.

Virtual participation in proceedings concluded (Order, 4 June).