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Points of Order

Volume 624: debated on Monday 27 March 2017

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like to raise the issue of correspondence between me and the offices of the Minister of State responsible for universities and the Minister responsible for energy, who is in his place. I first wrote to the Minister of State to request a meeting for a business in my constituency—the Underwater Centre—on 14 November. It took some time to get a reply from the Department. I finally received one on 22 December, with an apology for the lack of a response. There was an unwillingness to meet and a suggestion that I take the issue up with the Minister responsible for energy and industrial supply. I did so on 22 December last year. I have chased his office on several occasions, by email and by phone, and we have yet to receive an email. We indicated to the Minister’s office by email last Friday at 12.33 pm that, given the unsatisfactory nature of the situation, I would be raising it as a point of order. I would like advice on what a Member can do when a Minister’s office wilfully seeks to ignore a request from a Member for a meeting with a company in his constituency.

Persist, persist, persist, I say to the hon. Gentleman. That is the advice I give him. His attempted point of order has opened an interesting window into his life, the administrative support he enjoys and the diary commitments—not least around lunchtime last Friday—to which he was subject, for which I am sure the House is immensely grateful, but I do not think we can take the matter any further. He knows that my advice will always be to persist—he himself is nothing if not a dogged terrier.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the past few days, almost 1,000 people have been arrested, beaten or imprisoned in Belarus—a country still under an effective dictatorship here in Europe. How can we show our solidarity with those in Belarus who are fighting for democracy, for freedom of speech, and for the rule of law?

I struggle immediately to see how the right hon. Lady’s observations constitute a point of order. That said, I recognise and respect the seriousness of her concern, and I acknowledge on the Floor of the House her long-standing track record of support for the Belarus Free Theatre. My initial answer is that I think that, by persistence and the good fortune of the ballot, she has probably secured her own salvation, and possibly an opportunity to press for the salvation of those who need it more intensely and immediately, because she has Question 9, if memory serves, at Foreign Office and Commonwealth questions tomorrow. I cannot anticipate the sequence of events, but it wold be a very unfortunate and unsatisfactory Foreign Office questions if we did not get to Question 9. I think I can say with some confidence that we will, and that the right hon. Lady, speaking on behalf of those people who need her help and will value it, will have her chance. What is more, if she expresses herself with her usual force, clarity and eloquence, she might motivate other right hon. and hon. Members to spring to their feet with supplementary questions following her own. If so, I will be all eyes and all ears.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. As you know, at 4 o’clock the deadline passed in Northern Ireland. I do not want to make any accusations against the Government, but the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is making a statement elsewhere about what he expects now to happen in Northern Ireland, and I wonder whether you have had any notification of a statement to the House so that the House can express a view.

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman. The short answer is that I have not received any indication that the Secretary of State is minded to come here. From the record of dealing with this Secretary of State—this particular right hon. Gentleman—I can say that he has always been fastidious in wanting to come to the House, often telephoning me and trying to make contact. Indeed, I am advised that he has sought to make contact with me by telephone. I have, however, received no written communication from him at all and no indication of an early statement. I think that one would have been forthcoming anyway, and in the light of my exchange with the hon. Gentleman I feel even more confident that it will be.

Further to the point of order raised by the hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford), Mr Speaker. I am afraid that I did not have notice of it, and I was not clear from what he said whether it was me to whom he referred. If it was, I would of course be delighted to meet him to discuss the issue he raised.

No, no, no—no additional clarity is required. The hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford) is a very cheeky fellow. A simple nod of the head would suffice, which he has provided. In my experience, the Under-Secretary for Business, Industry and Industrial Strategy is as courteous as Members in this place come, so I think we will leave it that the hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber and the Minister will get together, possibly over a cup of tea, and discuss these important matters.