Skip to main content

Points of Order

Volume 587: debated on Wednesday 29 October 2014

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Following the failure of the European Union (Referendum) Bill because the Labour and Liberal leaderships will not trust the British electorate on this issue, what guidance can you give on how best to proceed given that there is no money resolution?

I have to say to the hon. Gentleman that it is not for me to offer guidance on that matter. Procedural matters relating to Bills which have been committed to Public Bill Committees are matters exclusively within the competence of the Chair of the said Committee. Moreover, as I rather imagine that he knows, but I emphasise for the awareness of Members of the House more widely, money resolutions are exclusively a matter for the Government. Those are waters in which the Speaker does not tread.

If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I will take the point of order from Mr Andrew George first, and then I will come to him.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. In respect of the provision and tabling of money resolutions, and further to your advice a moment ago, can you please tell the House on what previous occasions there have been circumstances where, on Second Reading of a private Member’s Bill, the will of this House has been clearly demonstrated through a desire to proceed with that Bill but has been frustrated by an Executive who are clearly abusing the privilege of their Executive power in the way that they are with the private Member’s Bill on affordable homes?

I do not wish any discourtesy to the hon. Gentleman, but it is not for the Chair either to be subject to, or the purveyor of, a history lesson on these matters. I would say to the hon. Gentleman, who is nothing if not an eager beaver, that he should consult the Journal Office, and I think that he will go away, as a result of so doing, significantly better informed.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Following the most violent and vitriolic abuse, using Twitter, of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger), an individual was jailed for four weeks. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, the abuse has worsened and deepened on precisely the same issue in the same violent way. If the medium used were a newspaper, I am quite certain that the House would demand that the editor be dragged to the Bar of the House and forced to explain himself or herself. What advice would you give, Mr Speaker, on how to handle the internet, and specifically Twitter, which is the medium by which this abuse against one of the Members of this House is continuing on a most violent and daily basis?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. My immediate reaction is twofold. First, where a crime has been committed—he referenced at the outset of his point of order the fact of a crime and, indeed, of a conviction—that is a matter for the police and the prosecuting authorities. Secondly, and more widely, in so far as the hon. Gentleman has referenced an outrageous instance, or series of instances, of anti-Semitic abuse, I think that the whole House would be united in concluding that that behaviour was both despicable and beneath contempt. Although I would not ordinarily seek to personalise such matters, as the hon. Gentleman referred to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger) being on the receiving end of this abuse, I think that decent people throughout the House and across the country would empathise entirely with the hon. Lady and share my own assessment of the people responsible for that gratuitous abuse. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]

The issue of criminality is well understood and is a matter for the police, not the House, but this is about the medium of communication. If it were a newspaper, then the newspaper would not be committing criminality by allowing itself to be used as the vehicle, and the House would want to have a view on how that newspaper should be held to account. There is precedent from 1956, with John Junor, on how that was done. How can the House hold Twitter to account for its failure to act to stop its platform being used for this abuse?

The short answer to the hon. Gentleman is that the House can debate whatever the House wants to debate, and hon. Members can seek opportunities to air matters in the usual way. I have a hunch—it is reinforced by the wry grin emerging on the hon. Gentleman’s face—that the idea will by now have occurred to him, if it had not already done so, that he could seek to raise these matters in an Adjournment debate. I just have the sense, although I am of course not psychic, that his application will be winging its way to the appropriate quarter before the close of the day.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. We now finally have the overarching report into the suspension of the Leeds children’s heart unit, which has exposed very serious failures in the safe and sustainable review process and clear abuse of whistleblowing by both NHS medical professionals and officials. We have not heard anything about any statement, which we clearly need from a Minister at the Dispatch Box, finally to put this matter to rest and allow Members to contribute to that closure so that all such units can move on. May I seek your advice on how we might be able to do that?

If memory serves me correctly, Health questions took place relatively recently so it may be some little while before the next scheduled session takes place. However, the hon. Gentleman will be aware that as he raised his point of order, no less illustrious a figure than the Deputy Chief Whip, the right hon. Member for Chelsea and Fulham (Greg Hands), was sitting, as he still is, on the Treasury Bench, and his point will have been heard. Furthermore, the hon. Gentleman will know that we have business questions tomorrow, and I just have a sense that he will be in his place to raise this matter and to demand a statement from the Government.

People are going on about train tickets. I am sure that the hon. Member for Leeds North West (Greg Mulholland) was not proposing to toddle off to Leeds tomorrow morning, but if he was, he might decide to reconsider and to be present for business questions. Only time will tell; we shall see.