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Points of Order

Volume 554: debated on Monday 3 December 2012

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I raise this point of order with you in respect of your duty of defending the interests and rights of Back Benchers and Committees in this House. This morning in an interview in The Sun newspaper, the Home Secretary, who I see is on the Treasury Bench, said the following about the Communications Data Bill:

“Criminals, terrorists and paedophiles will want MPs to vote against this bill. Victims of crime, police and the public will want them to vote for it. It’s a question of whose side you’re on.”

She also said:

“Anybody who is against this bill is putting politics before people’s lives.”

A Joint Committee of this House and the other House is meeting at present to pass comment on this Bill. Therefore, apart from traducing a large number of Members of this House, the Home Secretary is undermining the work of that Committee. Has she asked to come to the House to explain herself, and if not, what can you do to protect us, Mr Speaker?

We shall come to it, therefore. I am saving the right hon. and learned Member up. He is worth waiting for, I am sure.

Let me respond first to the point of order of the right hon. Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis). Ministers and other Members must take responsibility for their own words. I have not received any requests from the Home Secretary to come to the House. The right hon. Lady is reported as having expressed herself in strong terms, as the right hon. Gentleman alluded, and others, notably including the right hon. Gentleman, may disagree with her analysis. The two Houses agreed that a Joint Committee would be an appropriate way of examining the Government’s proposals in detail, but that does not put the proposals beyond comment by others. I am sure that, as with all Joint and Select Committees, this Joint Committee’s report will be founded on a careful and sober weighing of the evidence. I hope that is helpful to the right hon. Gentleman and the House.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Have you received any requests from the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to make a statement about the nature of diplomatic relations between the United Kingdom and Israel? Following last week’s events in New York at the United Nations, a number of actions have been taken and/or promised that are admittedly retaliatory in purpose. Would it not be right for the House to be brought up to date as soon as possible about the attitude of Her Majesty’s Government towards those actions and any future conduct which may be of the same nature?

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. May I support the right hon. and learned Member for North East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell) in what he has said? Last week, the Foreign Secretary came to this House to make a statement about a proposed action by Palestinians, as was right and proper. It is therefore beyond me that when the state of Israel is breaking international law in three ways the Foreign Secretary has not regarded it as necessary to come here today. When will we have a statement from him?

I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Member for North East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell) and to the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Sir Gerald Kaufman) for raising this point. With respect to the latter part of the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s point of order, I refer to his words directly: it is right that the House should be kept up to date on this matter. There will be precisely such an opportunity at Foreign and Commonwealth Office questions tomorrow. I am not psychic, but you don’t have to look into the crystal ball when you can read the book; judging from the historical evidence of FCO questions, I just have a hunch that the right hon. and learned Gentleman and the right hon. Gentleman will be in their places, and there is surely a reasonable chance that their eyes might catch mine. I hope that that is helpful.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. On 2 August, I wrote to the Home Office on behalf of my constituent Vanessa Watson with regard to a dangerous dogs issue, yet despite chasing that Department on many occasions, I have yet to receive a substantive response. May I seek the advice of the Chair as to what I should do next?

The short answer is: first, timely answers are not just desirable, but essential; secondly, the Home Secretary is on the Bench and is almost thirsting to rise from her seat—she can if she wishes; thirdly, I just point out to the hon. Gentleman that the Leader of the House is in his place and I know he will want to chase an early reply. If the Home Secretary wishes to come to the Dispatch Box, she may do so.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise to my hon. Friend for the delay in responding to his particular question. I will ensure that that matter is chased up and he receives a more timely reply.

I am grateful to the Home Secretary and I hope that is regarded as helpful. I hope there will not be many more points of order, as I do not want other people to be unduly delayed. However, I will take a last point of order from Mr Jim Dowd.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am particularly obliged to you for taking this point of order, which relates to the next, and main, business of the day. You will be aware that one of the main categories in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests is that of media earnings, which are many and diverse, and affect very many Members of this House. First, may I ask you to decide whether everybody who has an interest in that category should declare it in the forthcoming debate? Secondly, rather than just giving the completely uninformative, “I draw the House’s attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests,” should Members say what it is they are pointing to?

What I would say to the hon. Gentleman is that each hon. and right hon. Member is responsible for his or her own declaration of interest. On the further point of substance, the declaration of interest should be sufficient to enable the House to recognise the nature of the interest. I hope that is helpful. I think that, if I may say so, what I have said is, or at any rate should be, self-explanatory to hon. and right hon. Members.