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Points of Order

Volume 563: debated on Tuesday 4 June 2013

Would it be appropriate to record the fact that, 100 years ago today, Emily Davison was very seriously injured while campaigning for the right of women to vote? As a result of those injuries, she died four years later. In praising her, should we not also record all who campaigned, including the suffragettes who went to prison and were forcibly fed, simply for the right to have the same vote and democratic rights as men? As far as you know, Mr Speaker, has there been any apology at all from the two political parties that did their best at the time to deny half the adult population their democratic right?

It was perfectly reasonable for the hon. Gentleman to draw attention to this very significant anniversary, as he has just done. I think I am right in saying that, in recognition of the significance of the anniversary and of the great contribution to public life of Emily Wilding Davison, an event is to take place in Westminster Hall early tomorrow evening, as a result of the prodigious last-minute efforts of the hon. Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry), of which I was kept well informed. In fact, it is my intention to join in on the occasion.

So far as the second part of the hon. Gentleman’s point of order is concerned, I cannot say I am aware of any of the matters he describes, but it would be unseemly of me to comment further.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. When the Prime Minister was asked yesterday whether there would definitely be a vote in this House before arms were supplied to the opposition in Syria, he replied that

“Parliament has that opportunity whenever it wants to.”—[Official Report, 3 June 2013; Vol. 563, c. 1241.]

Given that some of us suspect a decision to supply arms to the rebels in Syria might be taken during the recess, have you, Mr Speaker, had any indication from, or via, the usual channels that the Prime Minister would propose to recall Parliament, so that there could be a vote before such a serious step was taken?

I can say to the hon. Gentleman that I have received no indication of any plans one way or the other so far as Her Majesty’s Government are concerned. In the event that the situation the hon. Gentleman describes—which is, so far, hypothetical—were to arise, I would be obliged to deal with the matter under the current terms of the relevant Standing Order governing recall, a Standing Order with which I fancy the hon. Gentleman either is, or will shortly become, familiar.

More widely on the merits of the matters being debated, having known the hon. Gentleman for 30 years this October, I know what an incredibly persistent woodpecker he is and I feel sure that he will return to the matter at every conceivable opportunity.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Would I be right in thinking that you could recall Parliament only at the request of the Prime Minister, and not necessarily as a result of a submission made by a delegation of Members from all parties? This matter needs to be cleared up well before the summer recess, in the event that the Government decide to send arms to Syria.

The hon. Gentleman’s understanding is broadly correct. Specifically, the requirement of the Standing Order is not that the request has to be made by the Prime Minister, but that it does have to be made by one of Her Majesty’s Ministers. In so far as the hon. Gentleman is highlighting this point as evidence of his belief that the Standing Order is unsatisfactory and a constraint on Parliament, I note very much what he says. It is what it is, and it will be up to Members, if they judge it necessary, to deploy their collective wits to try to ensure an opportunity for Parliament to debate and vote, if that is what they seek. I hope that that is helpful; we will have to leave it there for today.