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Points of Order

Volume 550: debated on Tuesday 18 September 2012

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Yesterday the Secretary of State for Transport made a written statement of immense importance to the blind, the partially sighted and the disabled, in which he gave the go-ahead to station closures and destaffing of stations in the London Midland region. Together with Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson and the organisations representing the disabled, we have sought to ensure that they have access to public transport and are treated as equal citizens. However, it has been a sorry saga, which has taken an unprecedented amount of time. In the meantime, we have seen destaffing, some evidence of a deal being done behind the closed doors of the Department for Transport and, most recently, Transport Ministers refusing to meet the organisations representing the disabled. Has the Secretary of State indicated his intention to come before this House? Yesterday’s written statement paid scant regard to the needs of the disabled. He should be held personally to account to ensure that they have access to public transport.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I was already aware of yesterday’s written ministerial statement on this extremely important matter. Having listened to him, I must say two things. First: no, I have received no indication from the Secretary of State for Transport that he wishes to make an oral statement to the House on the matter. Secondly, I am not currently able to identify a matter on which it would be proper for the Chair to rule in respect of the hon. Gentleman’s point of order, but I shall continue my search. I shall let him know if, upon reflection, I find a matter upon which I can rule. He is an experienced hand, and he is certainly keen to air his concerns on this matter, and he might wish to develop his thoughts more fully in an Adjournment debate.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Today, it has been revealed that the Metropolitan police has known for 10 years that the News of the World had commissioned a company called Southern Investigations to commit burglaries to secure information and to confirm potentially scurrilous—and, as it turned out, completely baseless—rumours, and that it knew that one of the executives at the News of the World, Alex Marunchak, was directly involved in that. That evidence, which has been given by an undercover police officer, reveals that he knew then that “Ministers, MPs and Home Secretaries” were the targets for those burglaries, because they could be bribed or influenced. You will know, Mr Speaker, that it is a fundamental principle of the House that we should be able to do our job on behalf of our constituents without fear or favour. May I urge you to contact the Metropolitan police, perhaps through the Serjeant at Arms, so as to ensure that all those MPs whom the Metropolitan police knew to have been targeted in this way can be told that they were the targets of this criminal activity?

That could be said to be a point of order, but I always view any paragraphs from the hon. Gentleman as a kind of treatise, and I think that it would be as well for me to reflect upon his treatise before I respond to him, and not to make any rash commitment today. These are matters that he and the hon. Member for West Bromwich East (Mr Watson) are especially, and very properly, given to pursuing, on the basis of considerable research and knowledge. I will do him the courtesy of further reflection, and I will revert to him and, if necessary, to the House.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Human Rights Watch has recently published further evidence of failed Tamil asylum seekers who have been deported from the UK by the UK Border Agency being tortured on their return to Sri Lanka. The whole House wants to ensure that this country has strong immigration policies in place, and that they are adhered to, but it will surely also be concerned about those reports of torture. Have you heard of any possibility of a written statement from the Home Secretary, seeking to clarify her policy on the deportation of Tamil asylum seekers in the light of that new evidence?

I have not, but my hunch is that the hon. Gentleman will wish to pursue this matter further. The House will doubtless wait expectantly for that.