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Tue, 29 September 2020

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The Speaker is Furious with Matt Hancock Because Lockdown Changes Were "All Over Twitter" Before Parliament Knew About Them

The Speaker is Furious with Matt Hancock Because Lockdown Changes Were 'All Over Twitter' Before Parliament Knew About Them

House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle threatened to drag Matt Hancock to the chamber every day to answer questions (Parliamentlive.TV)

3 min read

A furious Lindsay Hoyle has threatened to drag Matt Hancock to the Commons to answer questions every day after new lockdown restrictions were announced to the media before Parliament.

The Speaker accused the health secretary of trying to “run this chamber ragged” by not informing MPs of coronavirus policy changes first or giving them a chance to quiz ministers over them, calling on him to apologise.

In an angry diatribe against the government following PMQs, Mr Hoyle suggested Mr Hancock might face a “UQ every day” – referring to an Urgent Question, the mechanism by which MPs can request a minister comes to the House to give answers on a particular subject.

They are in the gift of the Chair to grant if he deems them appropriate, with Mr Hoyle suggesting he will start allowing one every day regardless of merit as revenge for not informing the Commons of policies first.

He has previously upbraided Boris Johnson and other Cabinet ministers for revealing new elements of the coronavirus response to press conferences and not in statements to Parliament.

And overnight several MPs had voiced concern that Mr Hancock did not mention in a Commons appearance on Tuesday lunchtime that social gatherings of more than six people in England were set to be made illegal, despite it being announced via the press several hours later. 

Immediately after the PMQs exchanges veteran Tory backbencher Sir Desmond Swayne made a point of order, asking why Mr Hancock had not given notice of its intention to “restrict our liberty to meet with one another”, and accused him to trying to “govern by order without debate”.

Mr Hoyle said he was “very sympathetic” to this opinion, adding: “It’s really not good enough for the government to make decisions of this kind in the way, which show insufficient regard for the importance of making major policy announcements first to this House wherever possible.

“I’ve already sent a letter to the Secretary of State, I think the total disregard for this chamber is not acceptable.”

Labour’s shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth made a similar point of order, saying there was no reason for Mr Hancock not to have made clear yesterday the plans to limit social gatherings, adding: “Or should we assume ministers don’t know what they’re doing from one day to the next?”

Speaker Hoyle said the news was "all over Twitter" last night after “somebody decided to tell the media rather than this House”, adding: “I expect the Secretary of State to apologise to members and make sure this chamber knows first, when he was fully aware of what was going to be said later.

“And let me say if this minister wants to run this chamber ragged I can assure you now, I’m sure a UQ every day just might begin to run him ragged.”

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