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Points of Order

Volume 683: debated on Monday 2 November 2020

6.24 pm

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Earlier today during the Prime Minister’s statement, I made the point that across health, the economy and social wellbeing, covid has a massive impact. It is not limited to the national health service. Members of Parliament of all parties will have had letters from constituents who believe that the costs of lockdown across those areas are so great that the cure is, in effect, more dangerous than the disease. I do not believe that to be the case, but I do believe that we in the House of Commons have a duty to reassure our constituents about the full disclosure of information that can be made available to use.

That is why I suggested that, along the lines of the Intelligence and Security Committee model that we already have in Parliament, we set up a covid Committee that can look across all the different Departments and cross-reference what happens on the economy with what happens on health and with other areas. As you will know, Mr Deputy Speaker, the Prime Minister said that that was a matter for the House, not for the Government. I understand that New Zealand has already introduced such a system. Can you advise us on the next steps for the House if we wanted to take forward such a model so that we could reassure our constituents, hand on heart, that we had seen and examined all the information that was available, and could command disclosure of any data that we needed to make that case clear?

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for notice of his point of order. I heard the question that he posed to the Prime Minister and the response that he was given. The creation of a new Committee would require the House to pass a resolution determining the membership, terms of reference and so forth. Motions that would have a direct consequence of additional expenditure under the House of Commons administration estimate of £50,000 or more would require the Clerk of the House to produce a memorandum setting out the expected financial consequence. I hope that is helpful. If the right hon. Gentleman wishes further guidance on that, he should seek it directly from the Clerk of the House, Dr John Benger.

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Thank you very much for that explanation. I am entirely with my right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox) in his request to the House. These are unique circumstances and this is a time when the House is finding it difficult to do its job properly. I would like to give notice that we wish to press the matter further.

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. May I give the House a specific reason why I think the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset (Dr Fox) is valid? I questioned the Leader of the House about publishing information. In answer to a question from the right hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones), the Prime Minister said that all scientific information pertinent to the decisions that the House is being asked to make would be published. Later, in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Bob Seely), the Prime Minister said something slightly different: that he would seek to publish all the information that he had seen in making his decision. Those two things are not quite the same. The sort of Committee that my right hon. Friend the Member for North Somerset described would enable the House, rather than the Government, to be in control of the process. I commend the suggestion for that reason.

I thank David Davis and Mark Harper for their points of order further to that of Dr Liam Fox. I have nothing more to add to the guidance that I initially gave, but I am grateful to the Leader of the House for staying to listen to the three points of order. As I said, I hope the right hon. Members will now seek further guidance from the Clerk of the House, Dr John Benger.

We will now suspend the sitting for a few minutes for sanitation of both Dispatch Boxes and the safe exit and arrival of Members of Parliament.

6.28 pm

Sitting suspended.