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Business without Debate

Volume 684: debated on Wednesday 18 November 2020

Delegated Legislation

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Exiting the European Union (Electronic Communications)

That the draft Audiovisual Media Services (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020, which were laid before this House on 15 October, be approved.—(David Duguid.)

Question agreed to.

Electoral Commission

[Relevant Document: Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission, Fourth Report of 2020, Re-appointment of Electoral Commissioners, HC 793.]

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that Her Majesty will re-appoint Dame Susan Bruce DBE as an Electoral Commissioner with effect from 1 January 2021 for the period ending on 31 December 2023; and Dame Elan Closs Stephens DBE as an Electoral Commissioner with effect from 13 March 2021 for the period ending on 12 March 2025.—(David Duguid.)

Question agreed to.

Exiting the European Union (Constitutional Law)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

That the draft European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (Relevant Court) (Retained EU Case Law) Regulations 2020, which were laid before this House on 15 October, be approved.—(David Duguid.)

The Deputy Speaker’s opinion as to the decision of the Question being challenged, the Division was deferred until Wednesday 25 November (Standing Order No. 41A).

Virtual Participation in Substantive Proceedings

Motion made—

That:

The Order of 4 June 2020 (Virtual Participation in Proceedings During the Pandemic (Temporary Orders)), as amended on 22 October, be further amended by adding at the end the following paragraphs:

() The Speaker shall draw up and publish a scheme to permit Members who are certified by a medical practitioner as clinically extremely vulnerable (or equivalent) according to relevant official public health guidance issued in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland, to participate virtually in such debates as are designated for virtual participation by the Speaker.

() The scheme drawn up by the Speaker shall include:

(a) arrangements for demonstrating and registering eligibility for virtual participation in designated debates;

(b) any other provisions the Speaker considers necessary to secure the effective implementation of this Order.—(David Duguid.)

We now come to motion 8 on virtual participation in substantive proceedings. The Speaker selected a manuscript amendment to the motion. Amendment (a) in the name of the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) is as follows:

Line 5, leave out from “Members” to “to” in line 8 and insert “with a public health reason relating to the pandemic”.

Under the established practice of the House, a selected amendment to a motion that cannot be proceeded with after the moment of interruption constitutes an objection, so the motion cannot be taken.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. As you know, the provision that we have in this House is that some things go through after the moment of interruption, so after 7 o’clock tonight or after 5 o’clock tomorrow night, on “nod or nothing”. The whole point of “nod or nothing” is exactly what it says on the tin—that if the whole House agrees, then the motion can go forward, but if one Member objects because the motion is not consensual, then it cannot go forward.

I tabled the amendment today after consultation with quite a lot of other Members on both sides of the House, including several Select Committee Chairs, several of whom went to meet the Government to discuss this earlier today, and following on from the debate that we had on Monday afternoon on the urgent question by the hon. Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron). I think I am right in saying that every single Member who spoke argued for a more generous system that would allow Members who either have to self-isolate for themselves, or are shielding to protect other people in their family or for some other public health reason, should be allowed to participate fully in debates, including on legislation. I do not think that many in the House disagreed with that proposition.

The Leader of the House said on Monday that he was coming forward with a motion. The motion was tabled late last night without being notified to the Opposition or any of the Members concerned, which is very unusual. The motion is on the Order Paper this evening. We were not able to table any amendments or have any consultation on this whatsoever. That is why I have tabled the amendment, which means that it cannot go forward tonight.

I understand from the Table Office that the Government have already said that they will table exactly the same measure tomorrow. I just do not think that this is treating the House with respect. The honest truth is that there should be no distinction between different Members. Lots of people have lots of different reasons why they would want to take part in debates. What I hope you will be able to confirm, Madam Deputy Speaker, is that if we go through this whole rigmarole again tomorrow—the Government table exactly the same motion, and I table exactly the same amendment, which I can assure you I will—then the motion will again fall tomorrow.

I think the House wants us to be able to progress this. There are two ways in which we could do that that would meet the House’s needs. The first is that the Government say, “Let’s have a debate” and we have a vote on an amendable motion, and the House can decide. There are arguments on both sides, I accept, so let us have that debate if that is what the Government want. Alternatively, the Government table tonight—and they have until the close of play tonight—an amended motion that does not require individual Members to have to go to a GP to get a certificate to say that they are shielding so that they can then take part in debates, but actually allows MPs to be grown-ups, to make their own decisions and to take part on behalf of their constituents.

I thank the hon. Member for that point of order. First, I can confirm that if a motion is tabled for tomorrow night at five o’clock and if the hon. Member were to table an amendment and the Speaker were to accept it, the same process would be followed as has taken place tonight. I am sure that those on the Treasury Bench will have heard the comments of the hon. Member and will feed that back to the Leader of the House. Of course, it is business questions tomorrow, where this may be something that gets raised again.

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is it not correct that if the motion is carried over from tonight and is on tomorrow’s Order Paper, it can be amended, and provided the debate starts before five o’clock, we can then have a debate about it and a vote on it?

Well, a motion has to be re-tabled, an amendment has to be re-tabled and then that has to be selected. If it comes after five o’clock, then it would be the same as tonight; if it comes before that, then that is a different matter. I suspect tomorrow is actually quite busy, not least because the hon. Member has tabled an urgent question, which will be heard, so he might be wondering about that one. I hope that that explains the position.