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Points of Order

Volume 618: debated on Wednesday 14 December 2016

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Government plans were announced last week to close half of Glasgow’s jobcentres. We were supposed to be getting a consultation on three out of eight of these closures. I have raised the matter of access to that consultation with the Leader of the House and with the responsible Department for Work and Pensions Minister. A week later, it still does not appear on the DWP website. Given that this is happening over Christmas, I am sure you can understand my frustration and that of my constituents, Madam Deputy Speaker. Can you give me some guidance on how I can make the Minister get this up on the website? It is really not on that, a week later, it is still not there for public consumption.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order and for his having indicated to me that he intended to make it. He will appreciate that it is not, of course, a matter that I can address from the Chair. The Chair has no power whatsoever to make Ministers do what Members ask them to do. I know that the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have, with some passion and understandable commitment, raised this matter several times in the House. I understand that the hon. Gentleman has an Adjournment debate in Westminster Hall next week. I hope that is right, because that is the correct place in which to air a matter such as this in some detail. At the same time, with the hon. Gentleman having raised the matter now at this busy time in the Chamber, I am quite sure that those on the Treasury Bench will have noted what he has said. They will have appreciated that the matter is one of great importance in his constituency, so action might come soon from the relevant Department.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. During Prime Minister’s Question Time, the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) raised the important issue of Southern’s appalling service and the present strikes that are victimising passengers. However, the hon. Lady failed to condemn the RMT and ASLEF unions and failed to declare an interest in the Chamber as a recipient of RMT funding. As a new Member, can you please advise me on the protocol for such declarations of interest in the Chamber?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising an important matter. In order to keep the proceedings of this place open and accountable, it is vital that, when appropriate, Members always declare an interest where they have one. However, it is not a matter for a Chair or for me to make a judgment as to whether any particular Member should have declared an interest at any particular point. I say to the hon. Lady, and more generally to the House, that Members would be advised to err on the side of openness and accountability. When they think that there might be an interest to declare, they really ought to declare that interest.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. You will understand my delight and pleasure at coming out at No. 2 in the shuffle for International Trade questions tomorrow. My question was about whether the Department had made an assessment of the potential effect of leaving the EU customs union on levels of employment. I subsequently received an email from the Department saying that the matter had been transferred to the Department for Exiting the European Union. However, my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland Central (Julie Elliott) has a question on the Order Paper about the impact of leaving the customs union on levels of foreign investment into the UK, and my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Christina Rees) has a question about the potential effect of leaving the customs union on future trade agreements. How can we know to which Department to address our questions? I can quite understand why the Department for International Trade does not want to answer my question, which relates to a large increase in unemployment, but can we have some consistency from the Government?

I fully appreciate the hon. Lady’s point, but she knows that it is not a matter for the Chair to decide which Department should answer which question. That is, and always has been, a matter for the Government to allocate. I understand the hon. Lady’s disappointment and that she was hoping to have her question addressed on the Floor of the House tomorrow, but I will say two things. First, regardless of which Department answers her question, I am sure that she will get the same answer. Secondly, having so eloquently made her point today, I hope that Mr Speaker will look favourably upon the hon. Lady when he calls the hon. Member for Sunderland Central (Julie Elliott) or the hon. Member for Neath (Christina Rees) to ask their questions tomorrow of the Secretary of State for International Trade and that the hon. Lady might well have an opportunity to ask her question. Whether she gets an answer is not a matter for me.