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Government whip makes speech from the Despatch Box - is this a first?

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By Jonathan Isaby

The above screengrab from BBC Parliament shows an image I have never seen before - a Government whip making a speech from the Despatch Box.

Convention states that Government whips never speak in the chamber - so what on earth is James Duddridge doing at the Despatch Box?

It's the end of day adjournment debate and Andrew Rosindell secured a half hour debate on the Turks and Caicos Islands.

The minister responsible for the Overseas Territories is Henry Bellingham, and I would have expected him or a Foreign Office colleague to reply to the debate.

But no, instead there you have James Duddridge, the whip attached to the Foreign Office ministers. I missed the beginning of his speech, but I can only conclude that Bellingham is stranded overseas on government business or perhaps snowed in in his Norfolk constituency.

Will let you know if and when I get an explanation!

4pm update:

Henry Bellingham was not able to reply to the debate because of long-standing ministerial commitments overseas, but the plan was for Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt to take his place. However, as of this morning he was snowed in in Paris and it was decided that as the Foreign Office whip, James Duddridge was a suitable stand-in, and he was swiftly called back to Westminster from his Southend constituency to do the task.


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