Sir Lindsay Hoyle: PMQs via videolink is ‘better than having no questions’

Boris Johnson’s virtual appearance at Prime Minister’s Questions is a “second best” option but the country can’t afford for him to skip it, the Commons Speaker has told Sky News.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle said he agreed for the session to go ahead via videolink because “it’s better than having no questions” during such an important time, during the coronavirus second spike.

This unprecedented moment marks a lifting of the ban on frontbench spokesmen speaking via videolink rather than at the dispatch box, after Mr Johnson went into isolation on Sunday.

Speaking exclusively to Sky News, the Speaker said it was important to keep the weekly clash with Sir Keir Starmer in the diary even even though it cannot take place face to face – his preferred format.

When Sir Keir was self-isolating, he sent deputy Angela Rayner in his place to take Prime Minister’s Questions.

Sir Lindsay said: “Of course it’s always second best. I love the eyeball to eyeball.

“I love the excitement of the chamber, I love the power of the chamber.

“The fact is, to miss PMQs would be the deficit I don’t believe we can afford. Of course it’s not the preference, it’s certainly second best, but it still goes ahead – that’s what matters.”

Sir Lindsay revealed the Commons managed “literally overnight” to achieve what it failed to do for 800 years and modernise, adding technology is keeping things “on the road”.

He was speaking after a virtual meeting with US Congress Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in which he invited her and President-elect Joe Biden to Britain.

Sir Lindsay’s predecessor, John Bercow, famously vetoed Donald Trump addressing the Commons on the outgoing president’s state visit to the UK in June 2019.

In a bid to boost cross-atlantic ties, Sir Lindsay sent an illuminated scroll, commemorating the arrival in Massachusetts in 1620 of the pilgrim settlers who set sail on the Mayflower ship from the UK to Ms Pelosi.

And he revealed he stayed up every night to watch the US election results from when polls closed until the result was projected four days’ later.

“I was enthralled. I couldn’t give it up,” he said.

Sir Lindsay teased the US about being unable to announce a result on election night.

“The other thing I’d say is at least with our [election] we can get it over and done with in the night.

“The fact is three nights and I’m still glued to the television. It means a lot to me. I love elections. I like a result a little bit quicker than this one.”

He added: “We are two great countries with history that cannot be separated and I think that’s what’s so important to our special relationship.

“It is very, very special. It’s so important to me that we do keep close links. The excitement of today – the way everybody joined it. Was something special. We’re two separate continents yet joined as one.”

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