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Business of the House (Today)

Volume 686: debated on Wednesday 6 January 2021

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That, at today’s sitting, notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order No. 16 (Proceedings under an Act or on European Union Documents), debate on the Motion in the name of Secretary Matt Hancock relating to Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 3) and (All Tiers) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 may continue until Seven o’clock, at which time the Speaker shall put the Question necessary to bring proceedings to a conclusion; and Standing Order No. 41A (Deferred divisions) shall not apply.—(Tom Pursglove.)

Can I start by thanking the Leader of the House for extending virtual participation in debates? It has made a huge difference to our colleagues to be able to take part.

Could I ask the right hon. Member, on the business of the House, whether the Government are likely to move any motion relating to virtual participation in Committees—many statutory instruments are coming through—and also whether there are likely to be any changes to sitting Fridays? Our colleagues are very keen to take part in all aspects of the House’s business.

May I preface this by thanking the House for getting everything ready to come back today? I seem to need to amend my business statement in future to say that there will be a recall of Parliament on a frequent basis, but I hope this will change as we move into the new year.

The plan for Back-Bench business on Fridays is that it should continue. Therefore, Members will be able to participate in that, and will be able to do so remotely. Westminster Hall will continue, but will continue physically, as will Committees. There is a small broadcasting team shared between both the House of Lords and the House of Commons. When we looked into the cost of extending remote participation to Westminster Hall, it was going to be over £100,000, and there are limits to how much taxpayers’ money can be spent on this. However, it is important to ensure that proper scrutiny takes place, and it is very popular with Members and the Backbench Business Committee. So private Members’ Bills are to continue, Committees are to continue as they are and Westminster Hall is to continue as it is.