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Points of Order

Volume 606: debated on Monday 22 February 2016

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have made the office of the Minister for Community and Social Care aware of my intention to make this point of order, as well as your good office. Last week, after much delay, the long- awaited report by the Mental Health Taskforce, which was commissioned by NHS England, was published. On the same day, the Government made a series of apparent announcements to the media in response to the report—a courtesy that is yet to be afforded to this House.

This is a vital moment for mental health in England, so it is highly regrettable that the report was published during a recess, preventing Members from all parts of the House from scrutinising its findings and questioning the Government’s response to it. Will you advise me, Mr Speaker, of whether you have received any indication from Ministers that they intend to make a statement on the Mental Health Taskforce report and allow Members the opportunity to question the Government on the announcements they have made?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her point of order and for her courtesy in giving me notice of it. The short answer to the last part of her point of order is no. I have received no indication that a Minister intends to make a statement on the matter. What I would say provisionally, having learned of this matter only a small number of moments ago, is that significant announcements of changes of policy should be made first to the House. That means, save in cases of emergency, that they should be made to the House while it is sitting. Of course, right hon. and hon. Members and others can and do access reports whether or not the House is sitting and may pursue their contents in debate and in questions. I will cause further inquiries to be made on the content and timing of this particular announcement.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) may inadvertently have misled the House when referring to parliamentary sovereignty and its effect across the United Kingdom. Specifically, I seek your guidance on how we can put it on the record that parliamentary sovereignty, according to Diceyan jurisprudence, applies equally in Scotland and England, notwithstanding the 1953 MacCormick case, which was obiter dicta of course?

I say two things to the hon. Gentleman. First, I say very gently—I am trying to be kind to him because he is a new Member, albeit an extremely distinguished fellow—that if he wants to raise points of order and argue the toss about the proprieties of parliamentary procedure, perhaps he might learn that he should refer to the Leader of the Opposition as the Leader of the Opposition, not call him by name. People have to be careful that they are on sound ground if they start playing the procedural card.

Secondly, I say very kindly to the hon. Gentleman, whose intellect and eloquence are evident to all, not least to the hon. Gentleman himself, that this does not seem to be a point of order. It is an argument, albeit a cerebral and doubtless high-minded argument, between opposing lawyers. We will leave it there for now.