Lindsay Hoyle – 2020 Statement on Procedure

The statement made by Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker of the House of Commons, on 17 September 2020.

I would like to make a short statement about the failure of the pass readers in the Division Lobbies last night. As colleagues will know, all four pass readers in the Division Lobbies stopped working and we had to switch to roll-call voting. I have now received a report on what went wrong, and I can inform colleagues that the failure was due to human error. The contractors involved have offered their apologies, and I am assured that urgent steps are being taken to prevent such a mistake from occurring again. I thank all colleagues for coping so well with the switch, and I especially thank the Doorkeepers for their help. I know that there are alternatives to using this system of Divisions that we are currently using, and I will continue to discuss the use of alternatives with the Leader of the House and other Members concerned.

I also wish to make a short statement about the transfer of oral questions and the timeliness of written answers. This is, of course, the responsibility of the answering Department concerned. However, I note that some hon. Members tabling questions for the Ministry of Defence for Monday on matters relating to the welfare of veterans have had their questions transferred, while others have not. What makes it worse is that this does look like political interference or at least political bias; I take this very seriously. This makes it hard for hon. Members, and the Table Office in assisting them. In the current case, the hon. Members whose questions have been transferred will be called to ask supplementaries to the questions not transferred, so they will not be disadvantaged. However, I hope Departments will give careful consideration to the principles of consistency and fairness in reaching decisions on transfers. I also wish to restate my plea for Departments to ensure that all hon. Members receive timely and substantive answers to their written questions; I do not expect lip service to be paid to Members who were elected to serve their constituencies.

I am sure that both the Procedure Committee and the Leader of the House will keep an eye on these two matters, and I know that the Leader and the shadow Leader take this very seriously as well, so I do hope Ministers are listening.