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Points of Order

Volume 577: debated on Monday 17 March 2014

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I thank you very much for what you have just said. I wonder if you might assist me and my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) in making our constituents aware that books of condolence lie in Chesterfield Labour club and Bristol city hall. We know people want to make their comments known and hope they provide some comfort to the family.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He has effectively advertised his own point. It will be on the record and I am sure he will be taking further steps to ensure that people are aware of those important facts.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sure that, should it have been my father you were speaking about, I would have been delighted with your very kind comments.

On a completely unrelated matter, sadly, last Thursday, I raised a point of order about Members who shout “Aye” and then vote no, and vice versa. Mr Deputy Speaker was kind enough to repeat your judgment. Subsequently, at least three witnesses have come to me to say that they have seen hon. Members ignoring that advice. I have not named them and would not do so because I have not warned them, but I wonder what you would like me to do, Mr Speaker. Should the witnesses write to you?

I was not present at the time, but I am advised by a very high—even bewigged, dare I say—authority that the matter was dealt with at the time, and that there is no particular merit in going back over the incident, as far as I am aware. However, I say to the hon. Gentleman that Members are free to write to me at any time if they feel that there has been an impropriety or a breach of protocol. The matter should be treated on its merits. It is the case—[Interruption.] Order. It is the case that vote should follow voice. That is a very long-established principle. Vote should not go in opposition to voice.

The hon. Gentleman is gesticulating in an eccentric fashion, but we will come to him in a moment.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. It is helpful to have your ruling on the record, but the matter was most certainly not dealt with, because we were advised to wait for the recorded vote to be made available. Your ruling is clear, but one wonders what the situation is now for those who called a vote in false circumstances.

I thank the hon. Lady for what she has said. I know that she always seeks to be helpful to the House, and I always listen to her.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise for my eccentric gesticulations, but one cannot change the habit of a lifetime. I speak as one who, within living memory, may have been guilty of that practice in getting what we considered to be a rather important vote on Syria on the record. If it is decided that the practice is unsuitable and should never be repeated, when there is an important Back-Bench debate on which there needs to be a vote to make the public well aware of the opinion of the House, and the Government choose for technical reasons to advise everyone to abstain, are there other mechanisms available that would enable that vote to be called?

For a moment I thought that, not for the first time, the hon. Gentleman had foxed me. I am sorry to disappoint him, but his point is not quite as powerful, or his inquiry as penetrating, as he imagined. The short answer to his question is yes. There is a simple mechanism by which a Member who is anxious to ensure that the will of the House is tested can see to it that it is, and that is the mechanism of putting in Tellers. That is a different matter from registering a vote in opposition to what the voice has said.

Hon. Members: He should join the Labour party.

The hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) says that he did that once before, but I think he was operating under cover at the time.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. The hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) has got form. He is the last person who should talk about doing things for other reasons. He joined the Labour party many years ago because he wanted to protect a so-called Labour MP who, when he next came to Parliament, crossed the Floor of the House and joined the Tories. The hon. Gentleman has got form.

There are only two responses to the hon. Gentleman. First, lots of us have got form. Secondly, he has made the point conclusively for me that it is time to move on.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. This morning, Sir David Higgins announced his proposals on High Speed 2, which include the suggestion that there should be a station at Crewe. That completely ignores the excellent proposal advanced by Stoke-on-Trent city council that would save £5 billion and bring services to Manchester seven years earlier. Has the Secretary of State for Transport given any indication that he will come to the House and explain why Sir David Higgins has apparently ignored the recently concluded consultation and introduced proposals that completely fail to take into account the other sound suggestions that have been made?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that point of order, to which there are two responses. First, the observations by Sir David in his report will be the subject of ongoing debate, and probably dispute, for a long time to come. I make that point, within the boundaries of what the Chair can say, with some personal feeling.

Secondly, I know that it is the Secretary of State’s intention to make a statement on that important matter. Initially, I believe he had intended to make an oral statement to the House today, but it may have come to the hon. Gentleman’s notice that the Secretary of State is engaged elsewhere, and quite unavoidably would not be able to make that statement at this time. I am hopeful, however, that he will soon make it.