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Points of Order

Volume 611: debated on Tuesday 7 June 2016

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. As you know, the SSI plant on Teesside closed, with the loss of 9,000 jobs. Lord Heseltine, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and the northern powerhouse Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the hon. Member for Stockton South (James Wharton) are in my constituency at the Riverside stadium, launching the noble Lord’s much-awaited report in response to that crisis. I received notification of that by email at 3.33 yesterday and a copy of the report at 6.20 this morning. In fairness, having contacted the Secretary of State, I accept that he is under the impression that I was contacted properly. However, I assure the House that I was not. I have searched for those emails. Colleagues have received them, but I have not.

All I am asking for is some guidance, Mr Speaker. A report about my constituency is going to be delivered in my constituency. Can better direction be given to Ministers on how best they can communicate such activity to Members of Parliament, rather than assuming that it has been properly communicated through emails?

I say to the hon. Gentleman and the House that there is a firm convention that if a Member intends to visit the constituency of another Member on official business, as opposed to purely private or personal business, the Member whose constituency is being visited should be notified in advance. Nothing is written down anywhere, but it would be a courtesy to notify the Member sufficiently in advance that he or she could be present, or at least in the vicinity, in his or her constituency if it was so wished. That would rather depend on the circumstances of the event, but there should be proper notice.

In the case of Ministers, the requirement is stipulated in the ministerial code. If that has not been complied with in this case, it is regrettable. The hon. Gentleman has made his point and it will have been heard by those on the Treasury Bench. Doubtless it will be communicated, in the forceful terms in which he typically expresses himself, to the Secretary of State.

I hope that it will not be necessary for this point constantly to be raised and then underlined by me from the Chair. It is an elementary courtesy and I think that a lot of people who are listening to our proceedings will think, “Surely colleagues can treat each other in a civil and grown-up way, as would happen in other institutions.” Indeed, I note in the distance some agreement with the point I have just made.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I fear that I am going to disappoint you, because my point of order follows on from that exact point, although it does not relate to Ministers. I discovered that the hon. Members for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) and for Corby (Tom Pursglove) were in my constituency last week with the Grassroots Out campaign. They were not on official business, but were campaigning, and they failed to advise me in advance. Will you remind all Members that, by convention, we notify each other in advance? I might not have wished to be there alongside them, however.

Another issue is that factually incorrect information was shared with my constituents. I am sure that the hon. Member for Wellingborough would be horrified to learn that he misled my constituents, in the same way that I am horrified. How can he correct that?

I am very grateful to the hon. Lady for her point of order. With reference to her last point about allegedly factually incorrect information being disseminated to her constituents, I am bound to say to her that that is a matter of politics. Although I do not know the people of Great Grimsby, I dare say they can bear with stoicism and fortitude the proffering of views to them with which their locally elected Member of Parliament may disagree. That is not a matter for the Chair. [Interruption.] I do not think it is fishy. However, a visit was undertaken, admittedly not by Ministers, but by Members engaged in professional business, and the hon. Lady should therefore have been notified.

Given the context of the EU referendum campaign, I recognise that there will be Members—including doubtless the hon. Members for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) and for Corby (Tom Pursglove)—who may well visit a great many constituencies in a concentrated period. Nevertheless, the convention is an important courtesy and should continue to apply. It is not very difficult or time consuming to comply with it, so I hope that colleagues on both sides of the House will do so from now on.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The issue we have just discussed in the urgent question on pre-exposure prophylaxis is one that I and many other Members consider to be of huge national importance. Despite the effect of the drug, the numbers of people involved and the great national interest, Parliament has not actually substantially debated the issue aside from that urgent question. As a new Member of the House—I confess that I am still trying to get my head around this place, although I suspect I never will—may I ask whether it would be in order to seek a debate on PrEP under Standing Order No. 24 and, if it would be in order, how one might go about that?

It is certainly open to the hon. Gentleman to seek such a debate—there is nothing improper about it—but I know that he would not seek advance agreement from me in respect of an application that has not yet been made, the terms of which therefore cannot be known to me and upon which it would therefore be wholly unreasonable to expect me to adjudicate. Apart from that, his point was all right.

I also say to the hon. Gentleman that, as the Minister mentioned perfectly properly from a sedentary position, the issue is a devolved matter and can therefore be considered elsewhere, as well, but it is perfectly proper for it to be considered here. There are a range of opportunities for its consideration. The mechanism he mentions is a possible approach; there are also Backbench Business Committee debates, Adjournment debates and debates in the name of the relevant Opposition party. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is on very good terms with the powers that be in his own party; if they judge it a sufficient priority, they might choose to nominate it as a subject for such a debate. Knowing the Minister as I do, I am sure that she would very courteously come along, if it was her responsibility to do so, to listen to the hon. Gentleman’s sonorous tones and speak as appropriate.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. You might be interested to know, as might other Members, that the all-party parliamentary group on HIV and AIDS is holding its own debate and inquiry on the issues under discussion in the urgent question this afternoon and tomorrow. I encourage all Members to attend.

What a helpful soul the hon. Gentleman is. He is a purveyor of public information, and we owe him a debt of gratitude.

Bill Presented

Wales Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Secretary Alun Cairns, Secretary Stephen Crabb, Secretary David Mundell, Mr Oliver Letwin and Greg Hands, presented a Bill to amend the Government of Wales Act 2006 and make provision about the functions of the Welsh Ministers, and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 5) with explanatory notes (Bill 5-EN).