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Points of Order

Volume 703: debated on Tuesday 9 November 2021

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker, you will be aware of the importance across the country, not least in the north of England, of the long-awaited integrated rail plan. In Hull, we await news on the Government’s levelling-up promises on rail electrification and the eastern leg of HS2, but recent reports suggest that the plan may be published this week, on 11 November. In Transport questions on 4 November, the Minister of State, Department for Transport, the hon. Member for Pendle (Andrew Stephenson), said:

“I am delighted to say that the integrated rail plan is not just coming soon—it is now coming very soon.”—[Official Report, 4 November 2021; Vol. 702, c. 1035.]

This evening, the House goes into recess until next Monday. Mr Speaker has repeatedly reminded Ministers of the need to make important policy announcements to this House first. I therefore ask whether Mr Speaker has received notice of any intention by Ministers to make a statement in the House regarding the integrated rail plan and whether Mr Speaker has sought any assurances that such an important statement will not be published while the House is not sitting.

I thank the right hon. Lady for her point of order and notice of it. I certainly have not been given any indication that any statements will be made, other than the one we have just had, but she has made her point very well, and Mr Speaker has made his views clearly known. Whenever that report is published, I hope there will be ample time for Parliament first to question Ministers on its contents.

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker, you may not be aware, but as I understand it, the Government told the lobby this morning—but obviously not the House, as yet—that they intend, further to yesterday’s debate and last week’s proceedings, to table a motion, rescinding the decision to set up the special committee and approving the third report of the Select Committee on Standards on the conduct of Mr Owen Paterson, for debate some time next week. Have you had any notice that that is the Government’s intention, or of what day they intend to do that? Obviously we will not have a business statement this week. Is there any suggestion as to whether there will be a business of the House motion to enable that to happen, or how they are intending to do it?

If I may, I make a brief announcement from the Standards Committee, which might be helpful to the House. As part of our review of the code of conduct and its operation, we have decided today to commission a senior judicial figure to advise us on possible changes to the process. We have already taken advice today from Sir Stephen Irwin, who is chair of the Independent Expert Panel. We believe that our present practices guarantee a fair hearing, but we will always consider suggestions for improvements. I hope that is helpful for the House.

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker, I think it helpful, given that this issue is best done on a cross-party basis, to say, first, that I support and welcome what the Chair of the Standards Committee has just said about his Committee’s procedures. On the first matter he raised, Ministers in the debate yesterday gave an indication that they were not minded to deal with the issues that arose last week. So I deprecate the fact that again these things have been announced outside the House; they should be announced in the House.

We do not have a business statement this week. Notwithstanding that, if the Government intend to bring forward a motion next week to deal with the two matters—to enable the House to take a decision on the Standards Committee report, which is important, and to unpick the committee that should not exist and which the Chair no longer wishes to chair—that is welcome, but it should have been announced in the House in the usual way. I hope that Ministers are able to furnish Members, perhaps by way of written information, before we come back next week with the detail of how they wish to proceed. I think that would be welcomed by both sides of the House.

I am grateful to Mr Bryant for his point of order and to Mr Harper for the follow-up point of order. I thank Mr Bryant for his notification. I am not privy to the lobby briefings that take place, but there has been a lot of speculation. If the Government are taking this course of action next week, then you, as Chair of the Committee, need to be given information as quickly as possible. It would be nice if that were the case. There does seem to be a bit of a theme, which is not appropriate, because Parliament needs the opportunity to hear that news first. If the process is going to take the course that it does, it is a shame that it could not have been done a lot earlier. I am also grateful for the comments he has made on the action that his Committee will take, because that is the right process. It should not hang on any individual case, as was clearly happening in this particular instance.

Bill Presented

Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Paul Scully, supported by the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary Michael Gove, Secretary Dominic Raab, Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, Secretary Nadine Dorries, Secretary Sajid Javid and Secretary George Eustice, presented a Bill to make provision enabling relief from payment of certain rent debts under business tenancies adversely affected by coronavirus to be available through arbitration; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 189) with explanatory notes (Bill 189-EN).