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 decision is challenged by MPs, provided 40 stand up in their place, the debate goes ahead – a bit of Parliamentary pantomime, which 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.
Colleague Diana Johnson MP has long campaigned for a public inquiry into how thousands of people were given contaminated blood in the 1970s and 80s. The government has ducked the issue to the frustration of Parliament and patients alike.
Given that the government appears to have starved the Commons of meaningful business to avoid losing any votes, the speaker decided that time could be found for this specific and urgent matter.
The government 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 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 risks losing further control of business.