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Points of Order

Volume 681: debated on Tuesday 6 October 2020

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. As you may be aware, I am chair of the all-party group on coronavirus. On 22 July, in Prime Minister’s questions, we were given a welcome assurance by the Prime Minister that he would “look at” the recommendations we would send him very seriously. During the recess, we wrote to him and sent him the recommendations, but we never received a response. I then tabled a named day question on 17 September asking whether the Prime Minister had acknowledged the all-party group’s recommendations. That was then transferred from No. 10 to the Department of Health and Social Care. The named day, when the reply was meant to come back to us, was 22 September—two weeks later, we have still heard nothing. Our group has been looking at this in order to try to save lives before a second wave. That second wave is now upon us. We have heard moving evidence from those suffering from long covid, from bereaved families and from frontline staff, who deserve to know that the promise is kept to them and the Prime Minister looks at these recommendations seriously. Can you please advise me on what further action remains open to me to seek a substantive and timely response from the Prime Minister on whether he has met the recommendations and whether he has looked at them?

First, I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving me notice of her intention to raise this matter. As Speaker, I have expressed my concerns on several occasions about the delays in answering written questions, particularly delays within the Department of Health and Social Care, none more so than in the case referred to in the text I received yesterday from the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch)—she said that she had been waiting since April and had finally got a reply last week. The Ministers on the Treasury Bench will have heard the instance that has been raised and I hope that they will also take action. The hon. Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Layla Moran) may also wish to consider raising her concerns with the Procedure Committee, which keeps a watching brief on the timeliness and adequacy of answers to parliamentary questions. I am disappointed on her behalf and, although this does not make it better, she is certainly not on her own.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You are aware that there are a number of reports in the Scottish media today regarding the possibility of increased restrictions in Scotland. It was suggested earlier today that we might in fact be heading for some sort of circuit-break lockdown. As things stand, it is my intention to go home on Thursday to return on Sunday for business on Monday. I am not, at present, sure if that is actually going to be possible. What guidance can you give to Members, especially from Scottish constituencies, who want to be here to carry out their duties in the House, especially in the light of the reluctance of the Leader of the House to allow us the continuation of digital participation to its full extent?

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of his point of order. While being grateful, I would also remind him that he knows very well that it is not a point for the Chair. The decision on the scope of virtual participation is for the House itself, but his views, I am sure, have been heard by hon. Members across the House. I express his concern myself, as well, in saying that we do have alternatives. It will depend on what news comes in the future, I am sure.

In order to allow the safe exit of hon. Members participating in this item of business and the safe arrival of those participating in the next, I am suspending the House for three minutes.

Sitting suspended.