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Point of Order

Volume 683: debated on Wednesday 11 November 2020

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. On 13 October, I submitted a named day written question to the Cabinet Office on whether contractor relief identical to that set out in procurement policy note 02/20 would be given from 31 October, given the ongoing covid outbreak. Nearly a month later, I still have not received a response, and I submitted a named day written question on 5 November asking when my initial named day written question would be answered, but I still have not had a response to that. So, Madam Deputy Speaker, please can you advise me on how I can elicit a response from the Minister for the Cabinet Office on this really important issue?

I am very concerned to hear what the hon. Lady has to say, and I suspect from my own experience as a constituency Member of Parliament that a great many Members around the House are having the same experience as the hon. Lady. [Hon. Members: “Yes.”] I see that almost everyone present in the Chamber is showing their assent. Mr Speaker has made it clear on several previous occasions that Departments must do better in answering questions from hon. Members. We all appreciate that many people are having to work from home and in rather more difficult circumstances than usual, but it should not be wrong of us to expect a certain degree of efficiency from professional civil servants, so the delay to which the hon. Lady refers is unsatisfactory.

I am sure that those on the Government Front Bench will have heard the hon. Lady’s concerns, my concerns, Mr Speaker’s concerns and the echo all around the Chamber of almost every hon. Member: this is happening far too often. The hon. Lady may wish to write to the Leader of the House, and I certainly, in answering this question right now, hope to draw the attention of the Leader of the House to this predicament.

The Leader of the House said in answer to a question from the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Andy Slaughter):

“Named day questions must be answered within the named day period…and questions should be being dealt with in timely fashion.”—[Official Report, 5 November 2020; Vol. 693, c. 495.]

I am quite sure that the Leader of the House will be cognisant of the fact that almost every Member of this place shares the experience that the hon. Lady has just described and that he will take steps to ensure that his ministerial colleagues answer their questions in a timely fashion and that those who are supposed to support them do so efficiently.

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 item of business, I will suspend the House for three minutes.

Sitting suspended. 

Bill Presented

National Security and Investment

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Secretary Alok Sharma, supported by the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary Dominic Raab, Secretary Priti Patel, Michael Gove, Secretary Ben Wallace, Secretary Liz Truss, Secretary Oliver Dowden and Nadhim Zahawi, presented a Bill to make provision for the making of orders in connection with national security risks arising from the acquisition of control over certain types of entities and assets; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 210) with explanatory notes (Bill 210-EN).