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House of Commons Hansard
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03 June 2020
Volume 676

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On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. May I welcome the Prime Minister’s announcement earlier that he intends to extend the proxy voting scheme to those who are shielded and unable to attend the Chamber to vote in person? However, I must say that I have some concerns about the way the announcement has taken place and how it will be implemented. May I therefore ask you whether you can obtain this information from Mr Speaker? First, what advance notice did he have of the Prime Minister’s intention to make this announcement today? Can he confirm that the current pilot scheme for proxy voting—let us be clear that the proxy voting scheme we are currently using for maternity and paternity leave is a pilot—will expire in July 2020, that it has a number of structural issues that the Committee I chair is examining, and that it is not suitable to be extended to several dozen Members on the present basis?

Would you ask Mr Speaker whether he will agree to convene a meeting between the Leader of the House, me and the Clerk of the House so that we can discuss these matters urgently? Can Mr Speaker give the House an assurance that he will not allow any scheme to be implemented that obliges Members, from any part of this House, to disclose personal information about their health? Would you also ask Mr Speaker whether he would confirm that the Government have not, to date, provided any response to the three detailed reports on these issues produced by my Committee, one of which was to satisfy the impossibly tight timescale demanded by the Government for the introduction of remote voting, which they then ended up using for a mere eight days?

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I thank the right hon. Lady for her point of order; there were a lot of questions in there and I will do my best to respond. Obviously, I cannot answer on what discussions the Speaker has or has not had with members of the Government. I should also say that the Chair is not responsible for Government responses to the reports produced by her Committee, although, obviously, I hope that those responses will be forthcoming—I am sure those on the Treasury Bench will have heard that. I can confirm that the current scheme for proxy voting expires in July 2020 and that, as I am sure she will appreciate, the whole House will be interested in hearing the Procedure Committee’s expert views on the scheme. I know that her Committee has made a great many contributions to the debate so far, which have been extremely helpful. I am sure she knows that the Speaker has taken a very close interest in ensuring that voting in this House is carried out effectively, but that key to his response has been that it has due regard to the safety of hon. Members and of staff—I can assure her that he will continue to do this. As for a meeting between herself, the Leader of the House and the Speaker, I am sure the Speaker will respond positively to the requests she makes, as I know he has fairly regular meetings with her in any case.

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On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. This is sort of tangential but allied to the former point of order. You will know that yesterday the Leader of the House committed to the Chair of the Procedure Committee that he would be introducing a motion today to deal with allowing some Members to participate in questions, statements and urgent questions remotely. That was tabled late last night, since which time amendments have been tabled. As I understand it, Mr Speaker is minded to select three of those amendments—four are being tabled but three have been selected. That means, in practice, that if we were to suggest that we were going to push those to a vote, this would be opposed business and so if we reached 7 pm—you will tell me if I have got this wrong, Madam Deputy Speaker—without having started the debate, it could not then be taken as it is opposed business.

I also note, further to what the right hon. Member for Staffordshire Moorlands (Karen Bradley) just said, that since the Prime Minister has now made a further commitment today, it might be more sensible if we were to have a new motion tomorrow that covered all these matters in the round. We could then debate it properly, rather than having it shoved through at the end of the day by surreptitious means without the Government allowing any time for debate.

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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. He has painted a scene of something that might happen at the end of the day, which I obviously cannot predict at this point because we do not know whether the business will run until 7 pm. However, not for the first time, he is correct—in saying that the motion cannot proceed after 7 pm if it is objected to. In the current circumstances, an amendment standing on the Order Paper that has been provisionally selected and not withdrawn, and is likely to be contested, would constitute an objection, and he is right that it cannot be taken after 7 pm.

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Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I will have another go, very briefly—just to say that I will be contesting this at 7 o’clock, in case there was any doubt.

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I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for clarifying that point. I thought that that might be the case, but it is best to have it on the record.

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On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The Leader of the House announced yesterday that witnesses to tomorrow’s Domestic Abuse Bill Committee would be able to present evidence remotely if they so wished. He said that he wanted to allay concerns that some people had assumed that this would not be possible.

Nazir Afzal is the national adviser for Wales’s violence against women strategy, and is highly respected as an expert in measures proposed by the Bill. He was invited, at my request, to the Bill Committee, but had to decline as he had been told previously that giving evidence remotely was not possible. Following some discussion yesterday, Mr Afzal was under the impression that he would be able to contribute, so he contacted House staff again, after the announcement made by the Leader of the House that led him to believe that he would be able to commit such evidence. He was told again, however, that it was not possible to give evidence remotely. I must emphasise that this reflects in no way on the staff of the House, who are doing excellent work in challenging circumstances.

I seek advice from you, Madam Deputy Speaker. If it proves impossible for Mr Afzal to give evidence directly to the Bill Committee tomorrow, what should the Leader of the House do to correct the record?

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I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for giving me notice of her point of order, and she raises an extremely important matter. I understand that the House authorities have urgently been putting measures in place to enable as much virtual witness participation in Committees as possible while at the same time enabling Members to participate in person, and that work is ongoing. I understand that the programming sub-committee for the Bill agreed a witness programme yesterday that includes a representative of Welsh Women’s Aid. It is, of course, regrettable that, on that agreed programme, Mr Afzal will not be able to give oral evidence tomorrow. However, I have no doubt that the Committee would be interested to receive his views in writing. If there are any further points that the right hon. Lady wishes to raise, I am sure that she will find the Committee staff extremely helpful.

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—even though some have already arrived—I will suspend the House for five minutes.

Sitting suspended.

On resuming—

Bill Presented

Abortion (Cleft Lip, Cleft Palate and Clubfoot)

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Fiona Bruce, supported by Sir David Amess, Scott Benton, Bob Blackman, Dr Lisa Cameron, Rosie Cooper, Chris Green, Sir John Hayes, Tom Hunt, Sir Edward Leigh, Sir Desmond Swayne and Martin Vickers, presented a Bill to amend the Abortion Act 1967 to exclude cleft lip, cleft palate and clubfoot as qualifying physical abnormalities for the purposes of medical termination of pregnancy under section 1(1)(d).

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 12 June, and to be printed (Bill 131).

Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill: Business of the House

Ordered,

That the following provisions shall apply to the proceedings on the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill:

Timetable

(1) (a) Proceedings on Second Reading and in Committee of the whole House, any proceedings on Consideration, and proceedings on Third Reading shall be taken at today’s sitting in accordance with this Order.

(b) Proceedings on Second Reading shall be brought to a conclusion (so far as not previously concluded) four hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order.

(c) Proceedings in Committee of the whole House, any proceedings on Consideration, and proceedings on Third Reading shall be brought to a conclusion (so far as not previously concluded) six hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order.

Timing of proceedings and Questions to be put

(2) When the Bill has been read a second time:

(a) it shall, despite Standing Order No. 63 (Committal of bills not subject to a programme order), stand committed to a Committee of the whole House without any Question being put;

(b) the Speaker shall leave the Chair whether or not notice of an Instruction has been given.

(3) (a) On the conclusion of proceedings in Committee of the whole House, the Chairman shall report the Bill to the House without putting any Question.

(b) If the Bill is reported with amendments, the House shall proceed to consider the Bill as amended without any Question being put.

(4) For the purpose of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph (1), the Chairman or Speaker shall forthwith put the following Questions in the same order as they would fall to be put if this Order did not apply:

(a) any Question already proposed from the Chair;

(b) any Question necessary to bring to a decision a Question so proposed;

(c) the Question on any amendment, new Clause or new Schedule selected by the Chairman or Speaker for separate decision;

(d) the Question on any amendment moved or Motion made by a Minister of the Crown;

(e) any other Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded; and shall not put any other questions, other than the question on any motion described in paragraph (16)(a) of this Order.

(5) On a Motion so made for a new Clause or a new Schedule, the Chairman or Speaker shall put only the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill.

(6) If two or more Questions would fall to be put under paragraph (4)(d) on successive amendments moved or Motions made by a Minister of the Crown, the Chairman or Speaker shall instead put a single Question in relation to those amendments or Motions.

(7) If two or more Questions would fall to be put under paragraph (4)(e) in relation to successive provisions of the Bill, the Chairman shall instead put a single Question in relation to those provisions, except that the Question shall be put separately on any Clause of or Schedule to the Bill which a Minister of the Crown has signified an intention to leave out.

Consideration of Lords Amendments

(8) (a) Any Lords Amendments to the Bill may be considered forthwith without any Question being put; and any proceedings interrupted for that purpose shall be suspended accordingly.

(b) Proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour after their commencement; and any proceedings suspended under sub-paragraph (a) shall thereupon be resumed.

(9) Paragraphs (2) to (7) of Standing Order No. 83F (Programme orders: conclusion of proceedings on consideration of Lords amendments) apply for the purposes of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph (8) of this Order.

Subsequent stages

(10) (a) Any further Message from the Lords on the Bill may be considered forthwith without any Question being put; and any proceedings interrupted for that purpose shall be suspended accordingly

(b) Proceedings on any further Message from the Lords shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour after their commencement; and any proceedings suspended under sub-paragraph (a) shall thereupon be resumed.

(11) Paragraphs (2) to (5) of Standing Order No. 83G (Programme orders: conclusion of proceedings on further messages from the Lords) apply for the purposes of bringing any proceedings to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph (10) of this Order.

Reasons Committee

(12) Paragraphs (2) to (6) of Standing Order No. 83H (Programme orders: reasons committee) apply in relation to any committee to be appointed to draw up reasons after proceedings have been brought to a conclusion in accordance with this Order.

Miscellaneous

(13) Standing Order No. 15(1) (Exempted business) shall apply to proceedings on the Bill.

(14) Standing Order No. 82 (Business Committee) shall not apply in relation to any proceedings to which this Order applies.

(15) Standing Orders Nos. 83J to 83O (Certification of bills, clauses, schedules etc) shall not apply to the Bill.

(16) (a) No Motion shall be made, except by a Minister of the Crown, to alter the order in which any proceedings on the Bill are taken or to vary or supplement the provisions of this Order.

(b) No notice shall be required of such a Motion.

(c) Such a Motion may be considered forthwith without any Question being put; and any proceedings interrupted for that purpose shall be suspended accordingly.

(d) The Question on such a Motion shall be put forthwith; and any proceedings suspended under sub-paragraph (c) shall thereupon be resumed.

(e) Standing Order No. 15(1) (Exempted business) shall apply to proceedings on such a Motion.

(17) (a) No dilatory Motion shall be made in relation to proceedings to which this Order applies except by a Minister of the Crown.

(b) The Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

(18) No debate shall be held in accordance with Standing Order No. 24 (Emergency debates) at today’s sitting after this Order has been agreed.

(19) Proceedings to which this Order applies shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.

(20) No private business may be considered at today’s sitting after this Order has been agreed.—(Maria Caulfield.)