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Points of Order

Volume 597: debated on Monday 29 June 2015

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Earlier this afternoon, the Prime Minister was quite revealing—perhaps unintentionally—about his strategy in European negotiations, but a number of Members, not just myself, felt inhibited from asking him about Europe when we had colleagues across the Chamber asking about their constituents who were dead or missing in Tunisia. Under those circumstances, can you facilitate an early specific and perhaps more appropriate opportunity to question the Prime Minister precisely on European negotiations?

The record shows that the Prime Minister has regularly come to the House to update it on his policies in respect of the European Union. It is not for me specifically to facilitate such an occasion. However, I say two things to the right hon. Gentleman. First, the Prime Minister is here weekly at Prime Minister’s questions, and that might be a suitable opportunity for people from a range of parties to question him on that matter if they so wish. Secondly, if the right hon. Gentleman is keen to have a debate on foreign affairs or a debate specifically on Britain’s relations with the European Union and feels that he could grace us with his presence on the occasion of business questions, I promise that my eyesight will not fail me. I will see the right hon. Gentleman and feel my usual insatiable desire to hear him.

I saw the hon. Lady first. I am saving the hon. Gentleman up. It would be a pity a waste him at too early a stage of our proceedings.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. As many Members know, I am new to this place, and I hope you can give me your wisdom and experience. This place is a little bit like Hogwarts to me: it has a lot of trapdoors, corridors and conventions. I believe that one of the conventions of the House is that, if a Minister or any other Member visits our constituency, they should at least inform us that they are coming. The Secretary of State for Health, who has been in this House a lot longer than I have, visited my constituency on Friday. I did not find out about it other than through the organisation that he visited. I just wonder whether you can give me some guidance on that, Mr Speaker.

I am very grateful to the hon. Lady for her point of order and the courteous terms with which she phrased it. Yes, the short answer is that there is a long-standing convention that Members notify each other in advance of what might be called public visits to each others’ constituencies. That is certainly, therefore, an obligation incumbent upon Ministers, a fact reflected in the content of the “Ministerial Code”. The hon. Lady has, at a very early stage in her career, discovered an important way to register her grievance with Government Front Benchers. She has done it through her point of order, the contents of which I feel sure will be winging its way to relevant Ministers almost before I have sat down.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I, too, am new to this House and it struck me, at my desk this morning, that I may have erred. Earlier this month, I participated in an Opposition debate on housing. I did not, and should have, drawn the attention of the House to the fact that I have a modest investment in a specialist housing provider in the north of England. I apologise to you and to the House for this oversight, and I am grateful to you for the chance to correct it.

The hon. Gentleman has corrected the record. Each Member is responsible for what he or she says by way of declaration, but in general terms—I thank the hon. Gentleman for putting the record straight and for his courtesy—it is probably better, particularly in the climate of our times, to err on the side of over-declaration rather than under-declaration. I thank him for what he has said, and the House will do so.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Last Wednesday, during Prime Minister’s questions, a number of incidents, which I understand are the subject of police investigation, occurred in Central Lobby. It was drawn to my attention shortly after those incidents that in attendance of some of those events was an abstentionist Member of this House, the hon. Member for Mid Ulster (Francie Molloy). He obtains significant sums for not attending this House, but he was present in Central Lobby and has given interviews subsequent to the incidents. I seek your advice on whether that Member will be subjected to any input by the police in the course of their investigations.

I react with caution to the point of order from the hon. Gentleman, to whom I am grateful for giving me advance notice of his intention to raise it. Certainly, Sinn Féin Members—it is to such a Member, clearly, that he is referring—have access to Central Lobby, just as any member of the public visiting the House enjoys such access. It is, of course, incumbent on all Members—those who have sworn in and those who have not—to ensure that the visitors they accompany behave appropriately and respect the rules on access. It is also, of course—this should go without saying—incumbent on Members themselves to demonstrate such respect. I cannot go beyond that relatively general statement, as I not familiar with the detail that the hon. Gentleman might have in mind, but I hope that that is a useful rubric.

If there are no further points of order and the House’s appetite has now been satisfied, we can now move on to the presentation of Bills.