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Speaker’s Statement

Volume 701: debated on Thursday 21 October 2021

The House will be aware that today we are in the unusual situation of having an urgent question and a statement on the same subject, covid-19. I want to explain why this is the case.

The Government decide whether to make a statement; I decide whether to grant an urgent question. I have repeatedly made it clear that the Government should make important announcements in this House first. Once again, however, an important announcement was made by the Department of Health and Social Care to the media yesterday before being made to this House. This is not acceptable.

As I have warned the Government, in those circumstances I will allow the House the earliest opportunity to hear from a Minister, in this case via an urgent question. If they want to avoid a similar situation in future, all the Government have to do is make sure that announcements are made here first, not to the media.

I will make one further point. I understand that yesterday the Secretary of State made an announcement not just about important policy matters, but setting out his views about how Members should behave in this Chamber—that is to say, whether they should wear masks. That only strengthens the case that he should come here. If he wants to talk about this House, he should not do it from Downing Street; he should do it to the Members he is talking to.

I know that it is a sensitive day because of our great colleague James Brokenshire’s funeral—I understand that—but last night we put on an emergency statement: the Home Secretary came to me and we put it on. I will work with any Secretary of State or any Minister to avoid the embarrassing situation in which they think it more appropriate to brief the media than brief this House. It will not happen; if it does, we will see more urgent questions, and Government business will get blocked. That is not what I want. I want us to work together, but I want due respect for Members elected to this Chamber. I hope that that only strengthens the case that in future we get it right and that all comments should be made here before being made anywhere else.

I do feel sorry, because this is not aimed at the Minister—far from it. It is a reminder, and I am sure she will take it back to the Secretary of State: please remember that we are all elected here, not in the corridors of Downing Street or on the front doorstep.