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Points of Order

Volume 580: debated on Wednesday 14 May 2014

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. On the vexed issue of appropriate workplace grievance procedures, what colleagues across the House need is a funding mechanism contained within their office budget that allows them and their staff to access independent dispute mediation services that are entirely separate from the House of Commons and its political parties. Will you kindly promote this need further in your routine discussions with the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority and the Members’ personal advice service?

I am always grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his thoughts on all matters and he has encapsulated them very pithily in that point of order. The issue of the grievance procedure is ongoing and is the subject of much wider discussions, so I think the fairest thing for me to say today is that I have noted what he has said. The Leader of the House will have done so, too, and I feel sure that there will be further opportunities for those concerns and alternative ideas to be aired. I hope that that is helpful.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I raise this point of order with some reluctance. There are rumours running across the House that a decision has been made or is about to be made that the security of the House of Commons will be turned over from the Metropolitan police to a private provider, such as G4S. As this rumour has been in the newspapers and is running around the Palace of Westminster, can you put our minds at rest that it has not and will not be decided?

Let me say to the hon. Gentleman, who has been in the House for 35 years this month, that we simply do not discuss security matters on the Floor of the House. I say to him in all candour and amiability that if he wants to discuss such matters we can do so, but we do not do so on the Floor of the Chamber. Suffice it to say that I know about these matters and am very comfortable about the interests of the House, and I know that the Leader of the House and the shadow Leader of the House also know about these matters. We are all very sanguine. It would be irresponsible to get into a discussion of these matters on the Floor of the House and whatever sedulous temptations are lobbed my way I do not intend to do so. I am sorry, but we must leave it there.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Further to the point of order raised earlier in the week by my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington South (David Mowat), I would like to raise the issue of Members visiting other constituencies on parliamentary or official business. I know that you have spoken in the past of this matter and of your disappointment that prior and timely notification is not always given by colleagues. In recent months, no fewer than five shadow Ministers have visited my constituency without giving notice. I have raised this issue on a case-by-case basis with them and, indeed, had a meeting with the shadow Chief Whip, but this discourtesy continues. I do not wish to name the Members involved, but in the interests of clarity I should be grateful if you reminded the Opposition that parliamentary convention dictates that prior and timely notification is required from all colleagues.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. For the avoidance of doubt, let me just say that this matter has regularly been raised by Members on both sides of the House, frequently referring to Members on the other side of the House. As Members would expect, I am being strictly and scrupulously impartial and this is not a question of one side needing to get the message rather than the other. The convention is, I think, clear. If an hon. Member is visiting the constituency of another hon. Member on parliamentary or official business, in which category I include party political business, there is an obligation to notify the Member whose constituency is to be visited and to do so in a timely way. I appeal to Members on both sides of the House faithfully to adhere to that convention and in that spirit I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising the point and for doing so in the way that he has.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Earlier, during Prime Minister’s questions, the Prime Minister said in response to a question from me, “I think he will find that the quotes that he has given are not accurate.” First, I did not read out any quotes in my question, and secondly, what I reported to the House about what the head of Pfizer said about job losses and cuts in research following a takeover is entirely accurate. Do we have any redress when the Prime Minister thinks that he can casually traduce an hon. Member just because the facts are inconvenient to him?

I think that the hon. Gentleman knows that he is continuing the debate. He is doing his best to suppress a puckish grin, as he is perfectly well aware that such redress as he sought has just been made available to him through his use—some might say abuse—of the points of order procedure. I think we will leave it there for today. By the way, the hon. Gentleman says that he has been traduced. I have known him for 13 years and have never regarded him as a particularly delicate or sensitive soul and he bears no scar as far as I can tell—[Interruption.] No more than the hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) feels any scar, I suspect, from our robust exchange earlier. He is a good-natured colleague and I think he understands the spirit in which proceedings need to be conducted and the importance of making progress. It is good to see him back in his seat.