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House of Commons Hansard
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14 July 2020
Volume 678

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On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. As we are heading into another recess, with the ongoing pandemic and a potential second wave, as we have heard today, on the way, do you have any suggestions or provisions for how hon. Members can scrutinise effectively during that period what the Department is doing, given the challenges we have, which the Secretary of State has already alluded to, in terms of responding in a timely fashion to correspondence?

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I am grateful to the hon. Member for her point of order and for giving me notice of it. While it is not for the Speaker or me to advise individual hon. Members or Select Committees how they may wish to carry out their work during recess, we may be able to help by emphasising again what the Speaker has said about the importance of correspondence from hon. Members receiving prompt replies. I agree that this will be of particular importance during the recess, while the country is still facing a major public health challenge. I hope that Ministers will give careful consideration to how they can support all hon. Members carrying out their duties during this recess by providing prompt and helpful replies to correspondence.

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Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Thank you for that answer. You will be aware that 72 people tested positive in my constituency this weekend. I did apply for an urgent question. I put my name down to be on the call list today. Could I ask you to gently thank Mr Speaker for all he has done to make our hearings possible, but to make sure that constituency cases can be heard by the Minister, because I have tens of thousands of migrant workers in my constituency who probably need to be tested as well?

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Thank you for that point of order. The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care is still sitting in his place and will have heard that point of order.

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Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I would be very happy to meet my hon. Friend the Member for North Herefordshire (Bill Wiggin), who is an assiduous representative for his constituency, and to make sure that his concerns are taken into account. He is right to raise them. I have been working on them all weekend, and it is very important. I can reassure him that, as far as we know, the outbreak has been confined to the farm in question, but we absolutely will be looking into it in great detail.

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I am just grateful that I could be so effective in creating this meeting so quickly. [Laughter.] It was a very important point of order, though, and I am extremely grateful for it and extremely grateful to the Secretary of State for his response.

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Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I think this is important, as we look towards the autumn and winter times, when flus become more common. As one of those who gets a flu jab every year as a diabetic, I am very aware of the demands that there may be on the health service, and we are going into recess. Is it the intention of the Health Secretary and his Department to come to this House and make a statement on the preparations that will be in place so that when it comes to the autumn and the winter we are in a position to respond quickly and effectively?

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I thank the hon. Member for his point of order. Clearly, that will be a matter for the Secretary of State. We still have a few days before we go into the recess. However, I re-emphasise the response I gave on behalf of the Speaker and the other occupants of this Chair to the hon. Member for Twickenham (Munira Wilson) at the beginning.

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Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Now that you are being so effective, I raised with you last week the issue of how important it would be for many of us to be able to raise constituency issues in Westminster Hall, and I just wondered whether you have got anywhere yet.

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Not at this moment in time. However, I am really hopeful that, as we go into September, after the recess, sufficient progress will have been made that we can then start to normalise the proceedings in this Chamber. I fully appreciate that the way that we are currently operating is not how we would all like it to be, but we have to do this at a rate of progress that is safe for all Members and staff here. I do hope that we will make sufficient progress.

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Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. In ministerial correspondence, the response repeatedly comes back from civil servants and not the Minister themselves, which is a trend that I have noticed more often recently. If I have written to a Minister, I find it uncourteous for the Minister not to respond. I am worried about going into a recess and receiving more civil servants’ responses that do not provide the political context that is often needed. Could you advise me on how I could encourage Ministers to respond directly?

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I have been a Member of Parliament for 28 years, and the vast majority of replies I have had have always been from Secretaries of State or the relevant Minister. I know that those on the Treasury Bench will have heard the hon. Gentleman’s point of order, and I hope that the matter will be fed back into the system.

The House is suspended for three minutes.

Sitting suspended.

BILLS PRESENTED

Non-gender-specific Passports Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Christine Jardine, supported by Daisy Cooper, Sir Edward Davey, Caroline Lucas and Stephen Farry, presented a Bill to require the Secretary of State to make non-gender-specific passports available to non-gendered, non-binary and other people who do not identify as, or exclusively as, male or female.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 13 November, and to be printed (Bill 161).

Domestic Properties (Minimum Energy Performance) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Sir David Amess, supported by Sir Graham Brady, Sir Roger Gale, Duncan Baker,

Selaine Saxby, Peter Aldous, Mr William Wragg, Stephen Timms, Lilian Greenwood, Sir Edward Davey, Wera Hobhouse and Tim Farron, presented a Bill to require the Secretary of State to ensure that domestic properties have a minimum energy performance rating of C on an Energy Performance Certificate; to give the Secretary of State powers to require persons to take action in pursuance of that duty; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 11 September, and to be printed (Bill 162).