Skip to main content

Points of Order

Volume 576: debated on Wednesday 26 February 2014

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not often raise points of order, as you know, but I seek your guidance briefly. We have just had an urgent question in which the Attorney-General was asked directly who first authorised those letters, but we have not yet had an answer. How best could we go about gaining one?

I am happy to offer the hon. Gentleman a response, but if the Attorney-General wishes to speak at this stage he is most welcome to do so.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I try to pick my words with care so that the House is in no way misled. I am sure that the information can be supplied to my hon. Friend. I indicated that the letters were the collective acts of Government. It may be that we can go even further and identify who sent the letters, if they were Ministers. That is the proper answer to give. It was not the intention to try to conceal that information from him in any way.

We are grateful to the Attorney-General. I was simply going to advise the hon. Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron) that these matters can of course always be the subject of further questioning. I know from experience that he is as tenacious in the Chamber as I have found him to be on the tennis court over the years, so I see no reason why he will not pursue these matters if he is so inclined.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Have you received any notice from the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions that he intends to come to the House to make a statement on his Department’s decision to suspend reassessments of employment and support allowance claimants because his assessors cannot cope with the volume? His Ministers made no mention of that during oral questions on Monday, despite knowing that it had happened. Many applicants are faced with unacceptable delays and want to know what is happening.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her point of order, but the short answer to her question is that I have received no notification of any intention on the part of the Secretary of State to make a statement. I made an observation a moment ago about tenacity in respect of the hon. Member for Basildon and Billericay (Mr Baron) and, from my experience, am sure that it applies with equal force to the hon. Lady.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. On 20 November the Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions, the hon. Member for Wirral West (Esther McVey), appeared before the Work and Pensions Committee. When I questioned her on inappropriate social security sanctions, she agreed to an independent review being undertaken “on how sanctions in the duration are working”. I subsequently wrote to her and received a letter on 1 February expanding on what she intended to do. However, I have received yet another letter that calls into question whether the independent review on sanctions will now take place. I am extremely concerned that she is reneging on her original commitment made to the Committee and to me in writing. I seek your guidance on how best to hold the Department and the Minister to account.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her attempted point of order. I think that it is fair to say that, on the strength of what I have heard, although the matter is of extreme concern to her, nothing disorderly has occurred. As the Minister is present, she is free to respond from the Dispatch Box if she so wishes, although she is under no obligation.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I did indeed reply to the hon. Lady. I know that she has tried to extend the commitment to an independent review. We said that we would monitor and review, and we currently have replies coming back in relation to a review by Matt Oakley. I know that that is the correct reply and that she has received several replies. I hope that that is the matter closed for the time being.

I thank the Minister for what she has said. The issue has been aired and I know that Members will accept that we cannot have a wider debate on it now.