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Points of Order

Volume 681: debated on Thursday 8 October 2020

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am very glad you are in the Chair for this, which relates to the remarks of the Leader of the House. In response to a question from my good and hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Ruth Cadbury), the Leader of the House said that it is the duty of MPs to be here and hold the Executive to account. I draw your attention, Mr Speaker, to the 90-minute public health debate that took place yesterday, covering restrictions in the regions of the north-east, the north-west and the north of England. Back-Bench Members had 150 seconds to hold the Government to account. The Government have endless time at the Dispatch Box and in the media, but MPs had 150 seconds. Mr Speaker, may I refer to your statement of 30 September before Prime Minister’s questions? In your opinion, do the Government’s handling and the opportunities they are giving to Back-Bench Members square with your advice on 30 September?

I am sure the hon. Gentleman does not want to draw me into a political decision and discussion, but, first, I thank him for notice of the point of order. The 90-minute limit for debate to which he refers is governed by Standing Order No. 16. However, it would be within the Government’s gift to vary the time limit by a separate Business of the House motion. That would be a matter for them, not for me, but I do have sympathy, given how many constituencies were affected. I recognise that if we did have more time, it would allow Members to give their views and opinions to help the Government to be more informed. I hope that that will have been taken on board.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Yesterday the Government announced the scrapping of the Unionlearn fund of £11 million a year, which helps 250,000 learners across the United Kingdom. A study by Unionlearn and the Department for Education in 2018-19 showed that every £1 invested in the fund resulted in an economic return of £12.30. The announcement was made without recourse to Parliament as far as I am aware, so can we have an urgent question or a statement on this vital matter, which will potentially affect 250,000 learners?

As the right hon. Member and Chair of the Education Committee is aware, that is not a point of order for me, but it has certainly gone on the record. Hopefully the Government can respond. If it were up to me, perhaps things might be different on that basis.

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, I am suspending the House for three minutes.

Sitting suspended.

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