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Business of the House

Volume 686: debated on Tuesday 15 December 2020

I should like to make a short business statement.

Wednesday 16 December—Consideration of a business of the House motion, followed by all stages of the Trade (Disclosure of Information) Bill, followed by, if necessary, consideration of Lords message, followed by a motion relating to the appointment of board members to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.

The business for Thursday remains unchanged and as previously announced. I shall provide a further update to the House regarding future business on Thursday. For hon. Members wishing to participate in tomorrow’s debate on the Trade (Disclosure of Information) Bill, Mr Speaker has made arrangements for the call list to remain open until 3 o’clock today.

I will be calling only the shadow Leader of the House and the SNP Chief Whip to ask a question on the statement.

I want to ask just a couple of short questions. It is absolutely wonderful to see that the Trade Bill is still alive; this is a small part of it. Can the Leader of the House confirm that it is coming back to the House and, if so, when?

Yes, the Trade Bill is with their lordships and is on Report in the other place. It will come back when it has completed consideration in their lordships’ House. The bit that we are bringing forward tomorrow has already passed through this House unamended.

I just wonder if this is what the Leader of the House has campaigned for all these years and if this is what parliamentary sovereignty and taking back control are supposed to look like—legislative chaos and bouncing stuff through the House without any notice whatever. The Government are supposed to have a majority of 80, yet they cannot get their business done.

When the Leader of the House tables the orders for tomorrow, he has to include the restoration of the right of all Members of the House to take part in business remotely. The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care stood at the Dispatch Box yesterday and said that there was a new strain of covid and that people should not travel to tier 3 areas, to a room full of people who had done exactly that. If there is any possibility of the House sitting next week or being recalled over Christmas, there has to be virtual participation for everyone because it is not safe to travel. Given that the east coast main line will be closed, it will not be possible for most people to travel either.

May I just say that we are meant to stick to the business statement? The hon. Gentleman drew a line, and that railway went a long way.

One of the most remarkable things about this House is that the most charming Members on the SNP Benches are always the most furious whenever they appear before the House. I must say, as we get near to the spirit of Christmas, I begin to think that the fury is somewhat confected.

In terms of the legislative programme, we are ensuring that the legislation is brought through. I warned hon. Members last Thursday, as I thought it only fair to do, that we might have to act flexibly in response to developments in what was going on. These clauses could have been introduced in the Trade Bill that we might need if we get a deal with the European Union, but the late stage of that means that it is necessary to bring that forward early. This is exactly what one would expect, given the deadline of 31 December for the negotiations with the European Union, of a trade Bill.

Regarding remote participation, we have discussed that at length in the House. We provided more than two hours of Government time to debate people’s ability to appear remotely, but regrettably the measure was talked out by Opposition Members, making it impossible for the extremely clinically vulnerable to appear remotely. I think that is a great shame.