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Points of Order

Volume 541: debated on Monday 5 March 2012

The day would not be complete without a point of order from the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant).

You probably do not know this, Mr Speaker, but my constituency contains a Remploy factory, which does a very good job of recycling electronic equipment, and we are hearing a lot of mood music at the moment about whether it is going to close. Last week, the Minister for disabled people visited the factory without notifying me that she was coming. A lot of workers at the factory are vulnerable and very uncertain about their future, and they take this scuttling in and out of my constituency as signifying that their jobs are going to go. They are very worried about the situation. I hope that you might be able to have a word with this Minister and urge her that if she has something to announce, she should do so soon and in this House.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. The Minister for disabled people will have heard, or she will shortly hear, the point he has made. He will know that it is not a rule contained in our Standing Orders but rather a convention—a custom or courtesy—of the House that a Member visiting another Member’s constituency notifies that Member in advance of the intended visit. I remind Members on both sides of the House of the importance of adhering to that courtesy. No matter whether the Member visiting is a Back Bencher, a Minister or an Opposition Front Bencher, this is a courtesy and it should be upheld. In addition, if a Minister has an announcement to make, it should be made first to the House and, depending on the nature and content of the statement, it might well take the form of an oral statement. I must say that breaching the convention is a risky enterprise and doing so in respect of the constituency of Rhondda is especially risky, as it is almost certain that the hon. Gentleman will raise the matter, as he has just proved.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Backbench Business Committee has come under some criticism for not allocating time for a debate on health, and the website www.labour.org.uk/wheresmydebate complains about the absence of such a debate. Would it have been in order for the leader of the Labour party to speak to the Leader of the Opposition and allocate time today to debate the issue of health, or would that have been out of order?

The leader of the Labour party and the Leader of the Opposition are one and the same person. The hon. Gentleman is a very clever and sophisticated fellow and it might well be that he has raised a very clever and sophisticated point, but if he has it warrants time to be contemplated. It might be too clever and sophisticated for the Speaker, and at any rate I will not deal with it now, but I shall reflect on the hon. Gentleman’s points, as I invariably do, and we will see where we get.