Given previous weeks, you’d be forgiven for switching off Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) early. But sometimes it’s worth waiting a bit longer. As two of the more interesting points of Wednesday 14 October’s edition actually came from backbench Labour MPs – after Keir Starmer stopped speaking.
Seizing an opportunity
Ignoring Starmer and Boris Johnson’s playground-like spat, other Labour MPs actually made the most interesting points.
First up was Matt Western. He said:
The communities secretary has a habit of hitting the headlines. Not always for the right reasons. At the weekend we discovered that his constituency had been awarded £25m for a regeneration scheme. And that was approved by one of his own ministers. The secretary of state returned the favour by approving funding for that minister’s constituency.
In short, housing, communities and local government secretary Robert Jenrick signed off on money for one of his junior ministers, Jake Perry. It was for his constituency’s housing needs. Then, Perry returned the favour by signing off on £25m for Jenrick’s constituency. One good turn deserves another, hey?
Western put it to the PM:
does he… think that the public might be right in thinking this all looks a bit grubby?
Johnson said these bungs had all been “independently approved”. Which is not really the point. There’s little more grubby than Tory ministers treating their departments like some Masonic Lodge: trading favours and scratching each other’s backs.
Speaking of grubby, the Tories’ habit of stopping MP’s scrutinising what they’re up to also came into the spotlight.
Labour MP Dawn Butler drew attention to the remote participation in House of Commons proceedings bill. It calls for parliament to make changes in light of the pandemic. The bill calls for MPs to be able to vote remotely. It also wants MPs to be able to participate fully and attend parliament and committees remotely.
Sounds perfectly reasonable, doesn’t it? Unless you’re the Tories who have actively tried to stop MPs debating things like the Coronavirus Act. Butler asked the speaker Lindsay Hoyle:
can you please advise me how best we can ensure that [the]… bill become a reality for this house?
Butler was asking this in response to something Hoyle said earlier. In short, Johnson had previously claimed that the issues surrounding virtual MP participation was the job of Hoyle and the House of Commons authorities to sort out. But Hoyle made a pointed take-down of this before PMQs. In short, it is the government’s responsibility. Hence Butler’s question:
60 cross-party MPs write to PM calling for virtual participation in Parliament during pandemic as Speaker @LindsayHoyle_MP makes clear it is PM @BorisJohnson responsibility not his https://t.co/A2iMCvWi9u pic.twitter.com/4Ga0gnD39S
— Geraint Davies (@GeraintDaviesMP) October 14, 2020
And as Butler previously said:
The Government’s action to stifle parliamentary democracy is worrying… We cannot and we must not allow the Prime Minister’s – and his adviser’s – insatiable lust for power to threaten our fundamental British values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
The chances of Butler’s bill becoming law are slim. But at least she’s trying. And her and Western’s interventions today were probably the highlights of PMQs.
Featured image via the Telegraph – YouTube