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Points of Order

Volume 461: debated on Tuesday 19 June 2007

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. You may have seen that Mr. Ijaz-ul-Haq, the religious affairs Minister of Pakistan, is reported to have said the following about the award of a knighthood to Salman Rushdie:

“If someone exploded a bomb on his body he would be right to do so, unless the British Government…withdraws the ‘sir’ title.”

The Minister then went on to praise suicide bombing.

The House will of course be mindful of the horror of the loss of life experienced on 7/7. Mr. Ijaz-ul-Haq’s remarks can reasonably be read—

The point of order is this, Madam Deputy Speaker. Those remarks can reasonably be read as incitement to terrorism in Britain. Have you had any notice that Ministers are prepared to come before the House to say whether they have demanded that the Government of Pakistan disassociate themselves from Mr. Ijaz-ul-Haq’s pro-terror remarks, and have condemned them unreservedly?

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker, about ministerial accountability to Parliament. On 15 May, the Minister for Employment and Welfare Reform sent me a letter stating that he proposed to close the Christchurch Jobcentre Plus office, to enable his Department to provide a “better service” to the residents of Christchurch than it had been able to provide up to now. I then tabled a priority written question for answer on 23 May, asking the Minister to explain how closing the jobcentre would provide a better service. I received a holding reply. I was concerned about the delay in getting a substantive response. My office phoned the Minister’s office and was told that the answer had been on the Minister’s desk and that he had sent it back so that a fuller and more helpful response could be given. That response is now available, but it does not answer the question one iota.

The Minister told me in a letter that closing my local jobcentre will improve life for my constituents, but, when I asked him, he said that this was a matter for the chief executive of Jobcentre Plus and that he does not accept any ministerial responsibility. How can we hold such a Minister to account in the House?

The occupant of the Chair has many responsibilities in the House, but Ministers’ responses to Back Benchers are not one of them. If the hon. Gentleman, who is experienced, is having some difficulty, I suggest he go to the Table Office to get advice from the staff there.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I know that staff in the Speaker’s Office and other officials in the House have for some time been trying to address the blight of the encampment outside Carriage Gates. I shall not address that situation directly, but it has been put to me that, on several occasions, megaphones have been used outside Carriages Gates to broadcast foul and abusive language when young children have been present. I have asked the police in the Palace whether they wish to take action and I have been informed that they have asked the Metropolitan police from outside the House to attend[Interruption.] This is a very serious issue. These people are addressing young people—whom we want to encourage to visit the House—using foul and abusive language and the police have refused to attend to deal with the situation. I wonder whether the House can make a representation to the Metropolitan police to ensure that, if people break the law outside the House, all action is taken against them.

I suggest that the hon. Gentleman put his criticisms and comments in writing to Mr. Speaker, who will no doubt investigate the matter further.