A briefing paper on the UK Government's Safeguarding the Union deal to restore power-sharing institutions in Northern Ireland
The Opposition has proposed a motion for a return:
That an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that she will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House the minutes from or any notes of the meeting of 9 April 2020 between Lord Bethell, Owen Paterson and Randox representatives, and all correspondence, including submissions and electronic communications, addressed or copied to, or written by or on behalf of, any or all of the following:
- a Minister or former Minister of the Crown,
- a Special Adviser of such a Minister or former Minister, or
- a Member or former Member of this House
relating to the Government contracts for services provided by medical laboratories, awarded to Randox Laboratories Ltd. by the Department for Health and Social Care, reference tender_237869/856165 and CF-0053400D0O000000rwimUAA1, valued at £133,000,000 and £334,300,000-£346,500,000 respectively.
DHSC contracts with Randox
The motion refers to two Department for Health and Social Care contracts with Randox. Information about these contracts is available from the Contracts Finder website:
- Randox Laboratories Ltd Testing Services
- Randox Laboratories – Contract for the Delivery of Covid-19 Testing
Freedom of Information request
A request to release information about the meeting between Lord Bethell, Owen Paterson and Randox, that took place on 9 April 2020, was lodged in December 2020. The DHSC released certain documents in redacted form.
BBC, Covid: What do we know about Randox and its contracts? 9 November 2021
The Times, Army had to help Owen Paterson firm Randox with lucrative Covid contract, 12 November 2021
Each House has the power to call for the production of papers by means of a motion for a return.
Erskine May (Parliamentary Practice, 24th Edition, p133) explains that “a return from the Privy Council or from Departments headed by a Secretary of State is called for by means of an Humble Address to the Sovereign”. Calling for a paper which is then produced as a return confers on the paper parliamentary privilege.
This motion can be debated, amended and voted on like any other motion.
The motion of return has not commonly been used by the House of Commons in modern times. In 2017 and 2018, the Opposition tabled two motion for a return to have so-called “Brexit Impact Assessments” shared with Members and the Select Committees.
The issues raised by the use of Humble address as a procedural device are considered in section 2 of our briefing Exiting the EU: Sectoral assessments.
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