This week the issue of testing for covid-19 has been very much in the headlines and rightly so. I applied for an Urgent Question at the start of the week, but the question was quite rightly granted to the Shadow Secretary of State for Health. That did, of course, give me the opportunity to ask a single question on behalf of a constituent, but not the two minutes I had hoped for to raise the significant problems many constituents have faced in getting a test. I have been emphasising to the Secretary of State over the last three weeks that there are very serious issues for people not just wanting but needing tests, including pupils who have not been in school because they have had symptoms but been unable to get a test in a feasible location within a reasonable timescale. The opening of the walk through testing facilities is of course welcome, but of no use if there are no slots available to book.
I chaired my first Bill Committee this week, for the Education (Guidance about Costs of School Uniforms) Bill. I have to say I would have very much liked to have been able to speak in the debate, it was incredibly interesting. I enjoy being a member of the Panel of Chairs, but there is a frustration when chairing debates that are of interest that you are effectively gagged, and going forward I will not be able to participate in any Report Stage. I am sure, however, that the House will not divide on it.
An issue on which the House did divide this week was the Internal Market Bill. I did vote for Second Reading, clearly it is imperative that the very important clauses in this Bill are thoroughly debated, and the vast majority of them were not only not contentious but are essential. However 5 clauses are very worrying and I have signed Bob Neill’s amendment which will come forward in the later stages of the Committee scheduled for next week. We have so far had two days of debate and there are two more to come, and quite unusually it is a Committee of the whole House, meaning the debate is in the Chamber. I have had a great deal of correspondence on this issue so far, expressing a wide variety of views.