Way back at the beginning of September I submitted a parliamentary question to the Department of Health. As a city with very low covid-positive numbers, I asked ministers what they were going to do to bolster testing of students as they shortly arrive at our wonderful universities for the start of term.
Over a month later I’ve still not had an answer. In that time covid cases in our city have increased five-fold, as they have in other cities in a similar situation to ours like Exeter.
Also at the beginning of September, I submitted another question asking what they were going to do to replace the AMEX Stadium testing facility. I’ve not received an answer to that one either even though a new testing facility has now actually been constructed.
Why’s this important? Let me say something about ‘parliamentary questions’, or ‘PQ’s’. They’re much less talked about or noticed than actually speaking in the Commons, but PQ’s are an important way for MP’s to scrutinise government, get something onto their radar, and to illicit key bits of information.
The rules and conventions of the Commons are absolutely clear about PQ’s, once submitted by an MP ministers must reply truthfully and within five days. Not to do so is contempt of parliament and government’s for hundreds of years have taken these commitments incredibly seriously. But not this one.
Today I let rip at Jacob Reece-Mogg about this. He’s the Leader of The House and it’s his job to defend the Commons despite so often being the person who has undermined it. The reason it’s important for PQ’s to be replied to is not because it’s about an MP and ministers bantering, it’s a really important way that I can give you voice in parliament, that I can get answers on your behalf that affect life and wellbeing in our community.
If government had listened to me back at the beginning of September then maybe the lid wouldn’t have come off covid infections in our city. If Boris Johnson had listened to my constructive concerns about destination communities in the summer – rather than telling me to ‘show some guts’ – then maybe we could have avoided Brighton and Bournemouth could have avoided the spikes we’re seeing now. And if ministers had listened when I told them what was unfolding in care homes way back in March, thousands of people could have been spared the horrors that unfolded in social care during the first wave of infections.
Even after everything that has come to pass, this government still doesn’t listen.
If you’d like to be updated on the questions I ask and interventions I make in the Commons, you can sign up at this independent website which is a great way to hold MP’s to account and keep tabs on us: https://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/25418/peter_kyle/hove