Sir Charles Walker praises the hybrid Parliament as a “brilliant” quick fix, but as lockdown is eased in England, he calls for Parliament to resume as soon as possible so that the Government can fully be held to account and MPs can properly represent the interests of constituents during the economically turbulent times ahead.
As Chair of the Administration Committee, I have the great pleasure of working closely with you, Mr Speaker, and the wonderful members of the House staff who made this hybrid Parliament a reality. They are to be congratulated and celebrated for their efforts. This is a technically brilliant fix. However, when it comes to holding the Government to account—and the Opposition—it is absolutely hopeless. We need to be in this place, eyeballing Government Ministers, the Leader of the Opposition and shadow Ministers and holding them to account. When we are not in this Chamber, we need to be discussing and transacting our constituents’ business in the Division Lobby, the corridors and around the Estate. This is where Parliament should be.
I am afraid that we are in danger of bringing ourselves into disrepute. I sat through part of the last debate and saw a co-ordinated and, yes, legitimate attack from our colleagues north of the border on the Prime Minister because he had asked people to return to work. I point out to those colleagues north of the border that, whether they like the Prime Minister or not, and whether they respect him or not, he is not asking anyone to do something he is not doing himself. Whether or not they approve of what he is doing or what he says, day in and day out he is going into work to lead the country. He did that day in and day out except when he was ill.
It does show a lack of self-awareness to sit in your front room and attack the leader of this country for having the temerity to ask that people go back to work. We all have absolute heroes in our constituencies, working at the Co-Op, at Sainsbury’s, at Tesco, in our hospitals, driving our trains, policing our streets and clearing our rubbish. What right do we have to ask them—and teachers—to go back to work if we are sitting in the comfort of our own home, not leading from the front but directing operations from behind? At the end of the day, our constituents—not all of them, but most of them—will expect us to be here, promoting not ourselves or our own agenda but their agenda. There is an economic tsunami heading towards this country and the rest of western Europe. We need to be here day in, day out, in person—physically—protecting and promoting the interests of the people we represent.