Speaker ERUPTS: Sir Lindsay Hoyle slams UK Ministers over poor answers ‘Not good enough!’

After Simon Jupp MP tried to help Boris out of another “Hoyle” hole, the previous day, by changing the subject. Despite being a “friend at court” our Simon received, in Owl’s opinion, only Boris bluster in reply.

THE Speaker of the House of Commons aimed a furious warning at UK Government Ministers for not providing full and thorough answers to questions from Opposition MPs. [Thursday]

Speaker slams MPs for ‘not respecting’ opposition questions

Sir Lindsay Hoyle issued the warning to Conservative MPs, telling them that the International Trade debate on the future of Brexit Britain in Parliament had “not been very good”. Sir Lindsay reminded UK Ministers that all MPs are representing a constituency and their questions deserve proper respect. 

The Speaker said: “What I will say is that these questions have not been good.

“I am beginning to worry that we have very good answers to one side of the chamber and the answers to the others are not getting the respect they deserve.

“In fact, we had one occasion when it ‘not our responsibility’ and then when another member asked it is our responsibility.

“I want us to be concise in the treatment and the way in which we deal with all members of this house.

“They are representing constituencies and I expect them to get full and thorough answers.

“And not the political games of all sides that seem to be being played.”

The previous day [Wednesday] during Prime Minister’s Questions Simon Jupp posed his question after this exchange on the last question from Sir Keir Starmer concerning the contents of free school meals.

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party

The Prime Minister says that the parcels are “disgraceful”, but it should not have taken social media to shame the Prime Minister into action. Like the Education Secretary, he blames others, and he invites me to hold him to account, so let me do that because blaming others, Prime Minister, is not as simple as that, is it?

I have checked the Government guidance on free school meals—the current guidance, published by the Department for Education. I have it here. It sets out an

“Example parcel for one child for five days”— the Department for Education, Prime Minister; you want to be held to account—

“1 loaf of bread…2 baking potatoes…block of cheese…baked beans…3 individual” yoghurts. Sound familiar? They are the images, Prime Minister, you just called “disgraceful”. The only difference I can see with this list and what the Prime Minister has described as “disgraceful” is a tin of sweetcorn, a packet of ham and a bottle of milk. He blames others, but this is on his watch. The truth is, families come last under this Government, whether it is exams, free school meals or childcare. Will the Prime Minister undertake—he wants to be held to account—to take down this guidance by the close of play today and ensure that all our children can get a decent meal during the pandemic?

Boris Johnson The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party, The Prime Minister

The right hon. and learned Gentleman’s words would be less hypocritical and absurd if it were not for the fact that the—

Photo of Lindsay Hoyle Lindsay Hoyle Speaker of the House of Commons,

I do not believe anybody is a hypocrite in this Chamber. I think we need to be a little bit careful about what we are saying to each other. There was a “not true” earlier and there were also comparisons to others. Please, let us keep discipline in this Chamber and respect for each other. We are tidying up how this Parliament behaves and I certainly expect the leadership of both parties to ensure that that takes place. Prime Minister, would you like to withdraw the word “hypocrisy”?

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party, The Prime Minister

I am delighted to be advised by you, Mr Speaker. Let me confine my criticism to the absurdity—which I hope is acceptable, Mr Speaker—of the right hon. and learned Gentleman attacking us over free school meals when it was a Conservative Government that instituted free school meals—universally approved— not a Labour Government. Of the £280 billion that we have spent securing the jobs and livelihoods of people across this country, uprating universal credit and, in addition, increasing the living wage by record amounts this year and last year, as well as increasing the local housing allowance, the overwhelming majority of benefits—the bulk of the measures—fall in favour of the poorest and the neediest in society, which is what this House would expect.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman takes one position one week and one position the next. That is what he does. That has been his whole lamentable approach—if I can get away with lamentable, Mr Speaker—throughout this pandemic. He says he supports the vaccine now. He says he supports the vaccine roll-out, and he tries to associate himself with it because he senses that it is going well, but be in no doubt, that that was the party that wanted us—this country—to stay in the European Union vaccine programme. That is absolutely true. He stood on a manifesto, which he has not repudiated, to dismantle the very pharmaceutical companies that have created this miracle of science, which is true—

Photo of Lindsay Hoyle Lindsay Hoyle Speaker of the House of Commons,

Prime Minister, there are questions and sometimes we have got to try to answer the question that was asked of you. To run through the history is one thing, but in fairness, it is Prime Minister’s questions. It was the final question. We have lots of others to go through, so I think I am now going to move on to Simon Jupp in Sidmouth, who is desperate to ask a question of you, Prime Minister.

Photo of Simon Jupp Simon Jupp Conservative, East Devon

The hospitality industry is the lifeblood of East Devon. Our pubs, restaurants, cafés and hotels provide thousands of jobs, places to meet and places to stay. The generous support package now put in place will tide many of these businesses over for now, but they will need further support. Will my right hon. Friend consider extending the VAT cut for hospitality to give them a helping hand when they are back open for business?

Photo of Boris Johnson Boris Johnson The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party, The Prime Minister

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I know that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has done everything he can to help businesses throughout this pandemic, and that is why he has extended the grants and why we have the cuts for both the VAT and for business rates. We will do everything we can to help as we go forward, but the best thing would of course be to ensure that we roll out this vaccine programme and bounce back as fast as possible. Any further announcements my right hon. Friend makes will be well ahead of 31 March, by which time we intend to have a Budget.