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Points of Order

Volume 620: debated on Monday 30 January 2017

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I find myself in the unfortunate position of having to make this point of order, of which I have given prior notice to you and to the right hon. Member for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas Soames). I understand that during my response from the Scottish National party Benches to the Foreign Secretary’s statement, the right hon. Member for Mid Sussex, who has always afforded me courtesy and respect, was making “woof, woof-sounding” noises at what I was saying, which of course I find extremely disrespectful. This is an opportunity, through you in the Chair, for the right hon. Gentleman to set the record straight if that is not the case. If it is the case, perhaps you would be able to rule whether that is in order.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her point of order and for giving me the courtesy of advance notice of it. The right hon. Gentleman is in his place and of course I would want to hear from him.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Like you, I thank the hon. Lady for her kindness in warning me that she was going to complain of this. I thought that in her question to the Foreign Secretary she snapped at him a bit at the end, so I offered her a friendly canine salute in return. No offence was intended, and I apologise to the hon. Lady if she was offended. [Interruption.]

Order. I think we should leave it there. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for what he has said.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wish to raise a point of order about the certification by the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill under section 19(1)(a) of the Human Rights Act 1998. He made the following statement:

“In my view the provisions of the…Bill are compatible with the Convention rights”—

the convention being the European convention on human rights. His statement is incorrect, having regard to the terms of the Supreme Court’s judgment, which made it clear that the triggering of article 50, for which the Bill provides, will affect the rights of “UK residents granted through EU law”

and that withdrawal from the EU will remove some of their existing rights, including the right to freedom of movement. This means that the provisions in the Bill will interfere with the rights of UK residents under article 8 of the convention, which guarantees the

“Right to respect for private and family life”,

and with the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of national origin set out in article 14. If I am correct, that means that the provisions of the Bill are incompatible with the convention and that the Secretary of State has made his declaration of compatibility in error. I seek a ruling to this effect and/or clarification on what procedure I might follow to ensure that this mistake is rectified and that the declaration is withdrawn before the Second Reading debate of the Bill.

I am grateful to the hon. and learned Lady, to whose point of order I shall come momentarily. I do not wish to dwell on the previous matter, but my response was, if truth be told, incomplete. I thanked the right hon. Member for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas Soames), and I stand by that, for his courtesy in remaining for the point of order, which was proper, and for his apology. However, I neglected to respond to a particular part of the point of order from the hon. Member for Ochil and South Perthshire (Ms Ahmed-Sheikh), which was: would such a statement have been in order? The short answer is no, it would not have been in order; it is discourteous and that expression should not have been used. That said, the right hon. Gentleman has apologised, with considerable grace and very succinctly, and for today we must most certainly leave it there.

I beg your pardon, but I am getting ahead of myself. So enticed was I by the prospect of hearing a further point of order from another hon. Member that I neglected to respond to the previous one.

The hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West has raised her point of order, and I thank her again for her courtesy, but the issues to which she refers are matters for debate. However, what I would say to her is that the Joint Committee on Human Rights not infrequently reports to both Houses on the human rights implications of Bills, and I have a feeling that this Bill may be no exception.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Last Friday, the world lost a giant of British politics, and I feel that I must put on record my sorrow and sadness, and that of my constituents and I am sure of the whole House, at the passing of the former MP for West Lothian and for Linlithgow, Tam Dalyell. He served this House and his West Lothian constituents with immense dedication and distinction for some 43 years. Latterly, he was Father of the House, and he was known locally, in particular, for his absolute commitment to his constituents. Our thoughts at this very sad time should go to his wife, Kathleen, his daughter, Moira, and his son, Gordon, as well as their wider family and friends. Tam brought us the West Lothian question, which, for the time being, remains unanswered, and he was famous for grilling the then Prime Minister, Mrs Thatcher, about the sinking of the Belgrano. I know he will be a desperately sad loss to his colleagues and friends across the political spectrum, particularly those in the Labour party.

On a brief personal note—

Order. May I gently say to the hon. Lady that I absolutely respect her sincerity and very proper generosity of spirit in taking the opportunity, but I hope she will understand when I say that I have to be sensitive to the wider interests of the House? What she has said already has been very powerful, and I think it will be widely echoed across the House. I have, of course, written to Tam’s widow, Kathleen and to both of the children to express my condolences. He was a parliamentary giant whose contribution was enormous. He never held ministerial office but achieved a great deal, and we thank him greatly for that service. I hope the hon. Lady will not take offence, but we must move on.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is it discourteous to the House for the Foreign Secretary to leave during an application for an emergency debate in his area? I appreciate that this did not come up on the screens, but it had been widely telegraphed. Indeed, in case there was any doubt about it, I wrote him a note to tell him it was coming.

The short answer is that these are matters upon which Members can form their own views. As to whether there is anything disorderly about the conduct of the Foreign Secretary, the answer is no, there is nothing disorderly about it. The Foreign Secretary was here for exchanges lasting approximately an hour and a half, and the question of which Minister is fielded by the Government is a matter for the Government. They have fielded the right hon. Member for Rutland and Melton (Sir Alan Duncan). The hon. Lady can form her own view of him, but he is certainly not disorderly; nor is he in any way, on any occasion that I have ever observed him, remotely dishevelled.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. How do we get on the record our thanks to you, Sir, for allowing that statement to run for so long that everything was discussed that could possibly want to be discussed? We do have important other business, such as the Pension Schemes Bill [Lords], to continue with. How do we get that on the record?

The hon. Gentleman has found his own salvation. If he is implying that the appetite for commentary, and possibly even speech making, on a matter of immediate interest has been satisfied, I can say only that he is a braver man than I am.

On the assumption that points of order have indeed been exhausted, I call Mr Edward Miliband to make an application for leave to propose a debate on a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration under the terms of Standing Order No. 24. The right hon. Gentleman has up to three minutes in which to make such an application.