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Points of Order

Volume 618: debated on Thursday 15 December 2016

Order. We have two points of order that are exactly the same, more or less, from Chris Stephens and Stewart Malcolm McDonald. But okay, let us start with Chris Stephens.

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. First of all, I refer Members to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests and my position as chair of the Public and Commercial Services Union parliamentary group.

Mr Deputy Speaker, you will be aware that an issue exercising Members who represent the great city of Glasgow is the proposal to close half its jobcentres. Yesterday my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow South (Stewart Malcolm McDonald) raised in a point of order the fact that it was day seven with no information at all referring to this matter on the website of the Department for Work and Pensions. Today is day eight with no information on the DWP website about a public consultation on the proposed closure of half the jobcentres in our city. That is of great concern. We are now entering the Christmas and new year period, when public consultation is already curtailed.

The consultation is a morass. In my view, it shows contempt not only for hon. Members of this House but for the general public. Mr Deputy Speaker, can you advise me whether a Minister could come before the House today to outline the processes of public consultation on the proposed jobcentre closures in the great city of Glasgow?

My understanding is that this was dealt with from the Chair yesterday, when it was fully aired. I have great sympathy and recognise the importance of the matter. I think the hon. Gentleman is aware that there is a debate at 4.30 pm on Tuesday in Westminster Hall, which I think will be the right avenue to pursue the matter. It is certainly back on the record.

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. When I raised this issue during business questions earlier, I think the Leader of the House inadvertently misled Members by claiming at the Dispatch Box that the DWP was actively consulting on the issue. That is false. There is no consultation. I cannot find it because it does not exist. Can you try to find an opportunity sometime this afternoon for the Deputy Leader of the House to come and correct the record from the Dispatch Box?

It is not for the Chair to correct the record. If there was an inaccuracy or misstatement, the hon. Gentleman has put the point that what was said was not correct. But it is a matter for the Leader of the House. I am sure he feels that if it was wrong it is up to him to correct it. If nothing else, the Chamber is aware of the issue, as am I. As I said just before, there is a debate next Tuesday. I am sure that this will not have gone away, and the hon. Gentleman will be able to bring his point forward once again.

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I need to bring a very troubling matter to the House’s attention. One issue that has exercised us has been the activities of corporate lobbyists, which at times have cast a dark shadow over the political process. A brief was circulated on 13 December by the British Beer and Pub Association, which represents the large pub companies and wishes its members to be allowed to continue to convert pubs into supermarkets without needing planning permission. The briefing the association circulated to some MPs made an entirely false claim, which was then repeated by the Minister for Housing and Planning at the Dispatch Box as a reason for not accepting a new clause to a Bill; hon. Members were clearly influenced by the briefing in the way they voted. The Minister said on Tuesday:

“A briefing note from the British Beer and Pub Association makes the point that removing permitted development would not only stop the conversion of pubs to supermarkets and whatever else we would want to stop, but might prevent pubs from doing improvement works to their premises, which we clearly would not want.”

I challenged the Minister, who then said:

“I am well aware of what the BBPA is, but I tend to take the approach that, when I see briefings, I look at the points they make. If they make a sensible point, they are worth looking at. The BBPA makes a serious point.”—[Official Report, 13 December 2016; Vol. 618, c. 744.]

No—the BPPA made an entirely false claim. It is very troubling that civil servants did this, but this corrupts the legislative process—

Order. Points of order are meant to be short. They are not meant to be speeches that go through the whole of the debate. [Interruption.] Does the hon. Gentleman want a reply, or should I move on to the next point of order? May I just ask Members to please try to bring points of order to the attention of the House briefly and quickly?

If there is something significantly wrong in what the Minister for Housing and Planning said, I am sure, knowing his good character, he will want to put the record straight. The hon. Member for Leeds North West (Greg Mulholland) has brought this matter to the attention of the House and it is now on the record. As he well knew when he raised the point of order, this is not a matter for the Chair, but we have allowed it. It is on the record and it is now up to the Minister to reflect on what he has said. I am not going to continue the debate. I am going to move on. I have another point of order to deal with.

I merely ask your advice about the corruption of the legislative process, which was clearly inadvertent on the part of the Minister. What can we do to make the British Beer and Pub Association apologise, and to stop this kind of corruption of our legislative process in future?

I cannot do that as the Chair. I am not here to decide whether it was correct or incorrect. What I will say is that it was quite right for the hon. Gentleman to put it on the record. It is there for all to see and to recognise. I know the Minister well. If he was significantly wrong, I am sure he will want to put that right. I cannot do more than that. I am not responsible for accuracies or inaccuracies. I can only help by trying to see how we can move the matter on. I do not think the hon. Member for Leeds North West can do more than he has done today. I know the good Member, so I do not think he will give up on this matter—that is the one thing on which I rest assured.

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am sorry I have not given you notice of this point of order, but it occurred today. We had two very important departmental Question Times: the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for International Trade. We tried to cram in, in an hour, two Departments, with topical questions lasting only seven minutes. It clearly did not work. I am pleased the Leader of the House is in his place. Many Members were left disappointed and unable to scrutinise the Departments, which is what they came in to do. I am not sure whether this is something you control, Mr Deputy Speaker, or whether it is some other organisation, but it would seem sensible if we could go back to having an hour for DCMS questions and an hour for International Trade questions.

As the hon. Gentleman knows, this is not a matter for the Chair, but it is certainly a matter for the usual channels. I am sure they can have a discussion and reflect on it. There is a nod from the Leader of the House. I know what a great man he is and I am sure that that will all be looked into as a matter of course and duty.

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Leader of the House is now present. Further to my earlier point of order, I wonder whether you would allow him to correct the record.

If the Leader of the House wishes to do so, I am always willing to hear him, but if not—[Interruption.] It is up to the Leader of the House. As much as the hon. Member for Glasgow South (Stewart Malcolm McDonald) wants to entice the Leader of the House, it is for the Leader of the House to choose.

The right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) has been very, very patient. His patience is now running thin. He has been up and down waiting to present his Bill—he is going to wear out the carpet!

Bill Presented

Diabetes Inpatient Care

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Keith Vaz presented a Bill to require the Secretary of State to ensure that all diabetic patients are identified on admittance to hospital and have their diabetes condition monitored while in hospital by a specialist diabetes team; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 24 February 2017, and to be printed (Bill 115).