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Points of Order

Volume 602: debated on Tuesday 24 November 2015

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Last week at Prime Minister’s questions the Prime Minister told the House that

“we have seen an increase of 3,800 in the number of neighbourhood officers over the Parliament and a 31% cut in crime.”—[Official Report, 18 November 2015; Vol. 602, c. 665.]

On the 3,800 figure, in 2012 the Government lifted the ring-fencing of the neighbourhood policing budget, despite warnings from Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary that it would be the area most at risk from a cut of 25% in the last Parliament. Crucially, the Home Office figures prayed in aid by the Prime Minister are a consequence of the subsequent recategorisation of officers on response as having a neighbourhood function. It is not a genuine increase in neighbourhood policing. In truth, the Government’s own figures show 17,000 police officers gone—12,000 from the frontline—and 4,500 police community support officers gone.

On the crime figures, I can do no better than quote from a Government exercise co-ordinated by the national fraud co-ordinator, in which he says that the results of the next crime survey of England and Wales will show a 40% increase in crime. I am sure you will agree, Mr Speaker, that on matters such as the police, crime and national security, it is essential that the deliberations of this House are informed by the facts. Has the Prime Minister indicated his preparedness to come to the House and put the record straight?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his attempted point of order and for giving me advance notice of his intention to raise it. The short answer is that I have not received any indication that the Prime Minister proposes to come to the House to correct the record. It is, of course, the responsibility of every right hon. and hon. Member to ensure the veracity of what he or she says. In the event that any Member thinks that he or she has erred, that Member has the responsibility to put the record straight. More widely, I know the House will understand that disagreement about statistics is part of the currency of political debate, in which the hon. Gentleman is a practised and dextrous expert. If there is an Opposition day ere long, I have a hunch that we will hear the sonorous tones of the hon. Gentleman, very likely from his vantage point on the Opposition Front Bench. Meanwhile, he has had a bite of the cherry and I hope he was satisfied with the taste.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Children’s Commissioner for England, Mrs Anne Longfield, today published a report, “Protecting children from harm”, which outlines the prevalence of child sex abuse in this country, where only one in eight cases of child sex abuse is reported to the authorities. Would it be in order to ask a Minister from the Department for Education to respond urgently on the very important matter of the prevalence of child sex abuse, hopefully even before Education questions on Monday?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that point of order. The question of whether a Minister comes to the House to make a statement voluntarily is a matter for the Minister. I was conscious of this matter, which was courteously drawn to my attention by the hon. Gentleman. My understanding is that the Government have just received the report and have not yet penned a response. I had a sense that the House would benefit from an exchange on the matter at the point at which the Government had determined a response, but these matters, as the hon. Gentleman knows, are kept under review. It would be perfectly open to a Minister to come to the House before Education questions or, if not, to do so pretty soon. I dare say the hon. Gentleman has his back channels by which he keeps in touch with the Government’s thinking on this, and I feel sure that it will not be long before a very thorough exploration of the issues takes place on the Floor of the House.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Do you have it in your power to extend Foreign and Commonwealth Office questions? I know that a number of Members here would like to have raised an attack in Jhelum in Pakistan against the Ahmadi Muslim community, and to have heard from Ministers that they would call in the high commissioner for Pakistan to challenge him and to say to him that attacking people on the basis of faith is not acceptable.

I am extremely grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his point of order. He speaks with all the moral force of a former Deputy Leader of the House, no less. I note his inquiry in relation to my powers. The short answer is that I do not have the power to extend Foreign Office questions or any other Question Time session—[Interruption]—although I sometimes find myself doing so anyway, as those on the Treasury Bench were quick to point out, more or less good-naturedly. The truth of the matter is that we often overrun a bit because I want to hear Back Benchers. The right hon. Gentleman has very cheekily and inappropriately, but I think on this occasion forgivably, made his point in his own way, even though he did not really have a right to do so.