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Points of Order

Volume 619: debated on Monday 9 January 2017

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Have you been informed whether the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has any intention of making a statement to the House on the resignation of the Deputy First Minister and the implications for the Assembly?

The short answer to the hon. Gentleman is that I have not received any indication of an impending statement by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on the matter to which he refers. I appreciate that it will of course be of great interest to many Members of the House. The fairest thing I can say is that we must await the development of events. I am conscious that there is a Westminster Hall debate tomorrow afternoon. The possibility of an oral statement by the Government must clearly exist.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Over the past number of weeks in Northern Ireland, we have witnessed continuing political instability, which has been characterised by a scandal of immense proportions in relation to the renewable heat incentive and the continuing failure of the First Minister to step aside while an investigation, which my party had called for, takes place. As a consequence, we see the Deputy First Minister resigning today, which means that the house of cards will fall. As a consequence of that, what other avenues are available to hon. Members to discuss this particular political instability and difficulty, which will probably result in further Assembly elections or new negotiations?

This is an extremely sensitive situation, and I do not want to say anything that adds to that sensitivity. Suffice it to say that the hon. Lady inquired as to what other avenues are open to ensure discussion of this matter. In using the word “other”, I assume that she is referring to other avenues beyond the possibility of a Government statement, which, of course, it would be for the Government to decide whether to make. She is well familiar with the mechanisms available for scrutiny of the Executive in this place. The fairest thing I can say is that I would be extremely surprised if this matter were not fully aired in the next few days in this Chamber. As Speaker, I would want to facilitate the House if that is what is desired. My senses are that it will be desired and that it will happen.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Many will be alarmed by the recent reports of attempts by a foreign Government to “take down” Members of this House, including a senior Minister. Given the very serious implications of this matter, what measures will you take to investigate it, not least because one party to the discussions, according to the press coverage, was, or is, at least partially a paid employee of this House?

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his point of order and for notice of it. At this stage, in direct response to his inquiry, I am not aware of anything that has happened that is a matter for the Chair. If it transpires that something has happened that is a matter for the Chair, I will of course consider what action to take. The matter of concern is serious—I do not dispute that for one moment—but it is important to be accurate in the use of terms and language. To the best of my knowledge and belief—I do not doubt the good intentions of the right hon. Gentleman—the individual to whom he has indirectly referred has not been an employee of this House. The individual concerned was an employee of a number of institutions and people. My understanding is that she has resigned from one full-time post and from another part-time post. The part-time post, which had caused her to work administratively with a Member of the House, has ended and the pass that was available to her is being returned. I think that is a pretty full answer to the right hon. Gentleman, which it is intended to be, and I hope that it is helpful, but I do not think that it would be helpful further to dwell on the matter now. I thank him for raising the matter, which is obviously of concern to him.

I do not want to invite trouble, but the hon. Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley), who is a very senior Member of the House—I know that he would not take liberties—is looking at me in a state of great perturbation. If he really wants to raise a point of order, I am not going to stop him.

He does not. What a remarkable display of self-restraint by the hon. Gentleman. It might catch on—you never know. I think that colleagues would probably say to me, “Good luck with that one.”