House of Commons Standing Orders rarely make for lively reading but bear with me. SO24 calls for an emergency debate on a specific and urgent matter allowing the Speaker to change the future business. If the Speaker’s decision is challenged by MP’s, provided 40 stand up in their place the debate goes ahead – a bit of parliamentary pantomime the Commons does so well. Twice last week the Speaker granted emergency debates, both on the Government’s failure to live up to its undertakings.
My colleague Diana Johnson MP has long campaigned for a public inquiry into how thousands of people were given contaminated blood products in the ‘70’s and ‘80’s. The Government has ducked and dived on the issue to the frustration of parliament and patients alike. Given that the Government has starved the Commons of meaningful business to avoid losing any votes the Speaker clearly decided that time could be found for this specific and urgent matter.
The Government then went into a spin unsure of where the debate would lead. Diana and I agreed that we would call a vote making sure the Government was aware. The Government sensibly decided the game was up and agreed to a public inquiry. We now need to make sure it properly addresses the issue including the central role of the Department of Health. And when Parliament returns the Government needs a proper programme or risk losing further control of business.