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Speaker Forced To Intervene After No Black MPs Are Picked To Speak On Racist Abuse In Commons

The Speaker's Office was able to rectify the call list after an MP highlighted that no black Members had been selected (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor)

3 min read

The Speaker’s Office was forced to intervene on Wednesday after a procedural issue meant no black MPs were selected to speak during an urgent question on racist online abuse.

Shadow women and equalities secretary Marsha de Cordova said she was “very disappointed” not to have been selected to speak during the debate, and highlighted that there were no black MPs among the 30 selected to speak.

“The draw is random but it doesn't seem right that there is not a single Black MP on the call list for this debate,” she wrote on Twitter.

The Labour MP confirmed later that the Speaker had “used his discretion to rectify the decision” and confirmed that two black MPs had been selected to speak during the debate. 

“It is essential that Black voices are heard on this issue,” De Cordova added.

A spokesperson for the Speaker's Office said: "Since it was brought to the Speaker’s attention that the list was unrepresentative, he immediately took steps to remedy the situation by adding more Members to the list from a BAME background who had applied for the debate but had been unsuccessful in the shuffle.

"This was an extremely regrettable situation, but one that will be remedied after next week when we return to Members being called in the Chamber at the Speaker's discretion.'

Traditionally, the Commons did not publish in advance the order in which members could be called to Speak in the Chamber — with the exception of selected businesses such as PMQs.

MPs were able to “catch the Speaker’s eye” during a debate if they wished to speak. But, since April 2020, this practice has been halted and the full call list for debates has been published in advance to ensure social distancing is adhered to in the Chamber.

MPs can apply to ask questions during ministerial statements and urgent questions, but who is selected to speak is decided by a random ballot.

However, the Speaker’s Office is responsible for setting the number of successful Members for each event and chooses the final order of names on each call list. 

They also have discretion over last-minute changes to the list, and not all Members who come out in the random ballot will appear on the call list.

Labour had tabled the Urgent Question in response to the level of racist abuse being directed at members of the England football team in the wake of their loss against Italy on Sunday. 

Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka have all been targeted with racist messages on social media after missing the crucial penalty shots in the Euro 2020 final. 

The Prime Minister has condemned the abuse, saying perpetrators should be “ashamed of themselves”.

Home secretary Priti Patel, meanwhile, has attracted criticism for her past comments on the England team’s decision to take the knee before each game, and her refusal to condemn those booing players for the protest. 

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