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Points of Order

Volume 684: debated on Monday 16 November 2020

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I seek your advice. On Tuesday 21 July, during an evidence session of the Science and Technology Committee, I asked the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care about the role of Topham Guerin Ltd, which was given a £3 million contract by the Government to work on their comms strategy.

I asked the Secretary of State whether he could outline what part of the Government’s strategy Topham Guerin was responsible for. He replied “No.” I then probed further, asking whether he said that because he did not know. He said:

“It was not a Department of Health responsibility.”

The Byline Times and the Good Law Project have been investigating contracts made by the Government, and I established via official records of ministerial meetings that on 26 May, almost two months prior to my question, a telephone call had taken place between a Health Minister and Topham Guerin Ltd to discuss “test and trace marketing”.

Madam Deputy Speaker, Ministers must be honest and transparent, especially when giving evidence to a House of Commons Committee. By omitting that vital information, I fear that the Secretary of State may have inadvertently misled me and the Committee. Can you advise on how I could compel the Secretary of State to be clear and confirm the correct information?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her point of order and for giving me notice of it; I presume that she also gave notice to the Secretary of State.

Right. As I am sure the hon. Lady knows, if any incomplete or unintentionally inaccurate information were given by a Minister to a Select Committee, I would expect the Committee to be informed or to pursue the matter. The hon. Lady has placed her concerns on the record. I am sure that the Treasury Bench and the Leader of the House have heard what she has had to say and will feed it back, in case any corrections need to be made.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am seeking your advice on how I can best correct the record following my question to the Prime Minister on Wednesday 4 November.

During my question, I said that the covid contact tracing system cost £32 a head in Wales and £1,700 in England. The figure in England is actually £170, so I am concerned that I may have inadvertently misled Parliament. The basic premise of my question is unaltered, as the contact tracing system is more cost effective and efficient in Wales, which uses local government and health board staff rather than anonymous callers from a remote private company. That said, I ask your advice on how I can best set the record straight.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving me notice that she wished to raise this matter. She has ingeniously used her point of order to set the record straight, and I am sure that the House is very grateful to her for doing that so promptly.

The House will now suspend for three minutes to allow for the safe exit and entry of right hon. and hon. Members.

5.23 pm

Sitting suspended. 

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