Last week I travelled from Northampton to Westminster for the first time in several weeks to personally appear in the House of Commons to answer ministerial questions as Her Majesty’s Solicitor-General for England and Wales. This took place on Tuesday, 28th April 2020. I returned to Northampton that night.
For the first time in 700 years Parliament has arranged what are being called ‘hybrid proceedings’, where up to 50 MPs can safely be physically in the House of Commons at a distance from each other, including Government Ministers answering questions, and many other MPs can join proceedings remotely via Zoom.
Over the last five weeks I have been very busy working from home every day, for up to 12 hours a day. The answering of departmental questions by ministers is an important part of our constitutional functions and ministers are expected to be personally present even in the current circumstances if at all possible.
Following the Attorney-General I responded to questions in the chamber from my colleagues on a range of challenging issues including the legal aspects of the coronavirus ‘contact tracing app’ – an extremely important smartphone app the NHS and government are working on in order to help track the virus. I also asked questions about the importance of pro bono proceedings - this is where law professionals provide free legal advice.
I have had four government ministerial roles over the years but this appearance was memorable as I answered questions from MPs from both ‘sides of the house’, but asked remotely from MPs homes via video link. Indeed, Labour’s new Shadow Solicitor-General asked me questions from her home via the new video link system.
You can watch me answer Attorney-General’s Questions here (duration approximately 9 minutes): https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/054db461-0467-42e2-afee-1fde126da7d1?in=11:52:57&out=12:01:19 .