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Points of Order

Volume 630: debated on Monday 23 October 2017

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Over the weekend, various posts on social media and comments in the press suggested that we might be able to have an important debate about misogyny and the use of degrading language towards women—

Order. I do not think this is going to be a point of order for the Chair. I did indicate to another Member who made a wholly absurd and inappropriate application for a debate under Standing Order No. 24 that she should not raise this as a point of order. I will hear the hon. Lady out, but I am very uncertain—to put it mildly—that this is a responsibility for the Chair. It might be very important, but that is very different from it being a matter for the Chair. All I would say to the hon. Lady is that I will hear her out, as I always do, but please do not abuse the point of order procedure. That is not something to be done in this Chamber. [Interruption.] Order. I do not take such a matter lightly, but if the hon. Lady is in order, I will hear her.

I am grateful for your guidance, Mr Speaker, and in that case I would like to seek your advice on how we can bring such a debate to the House.

If the hon. Lady wants to apply for an Adjournment debate on a matter that falls within the aegis of a Minister, it is open to her to do so. Members can table motions in this place, as the hon. Lady—now a relatively experienced Member of the House—will be well aware, but that is different from a point of order, which this matter is not, or indeed the other form of exchange, which it most assuredly was not. I hope that that is a helpful clarification for the hon. Lady, who will use her adroit parliamentary skills to highlight such matter as she wishes in an orderly way.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. In your reply to the point of order made by my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston), you mentioned certain Committees that have not yet been constituted, including the Liaison Committee and the Intelligence and Security Committee, but you did not mention another one that has not yet been constituted, which is the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy. Since hearing your strong response to that earlier point of order, I have received a letter from the National Security Adviser, Mark Sedwill, in which he declines to appear before the Defence Committee to discuss the review of national security capabilities because as he points out, not unreasonably:

“As you note in your letter, the established procedure is that I appear before the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy on these issues. Although it has not yet been constituted in the new Parliament…you are an ex-officio member.”

What can I do to turn to practical advantage my being an ex-officio member of a Committee that has not yet been constituted this far into the new Parliament?

The short answer to the right hon. Gentleman is that the best thing he can do is to seek, in a matter of days, to persuade his colleagues who are in a position to do so to facilitate the establishment of those Committees without further delay. Traditionally, I do not think that it will be objected to—certainly not by any serious Whip—if I say that the Whips have not regarded it as their prime concern to establish Select Committees to scrutinise the Executive, of which they are the defenders. That is to put it mildly. However, they do have a responsibility in this matter. The Leader of the House, as the House’s representative in the Government, has a particular responsibility, supported by the shadow Leader of the House and the Opposition Chief Whip, to bring about the constitution of those Committees.

For those who were not here earlier, the matter was raised in respect of the Liaison Committee, and I pointed out that the same concern applied to the European Scrutiny Committee and to the Intelligence and Security Committee, which is not a Select Committee, but an important Committee none the less. The right hon. Gentleman has now identified how it applies with such force to the Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy. He has also explained how the failure to constitute the Committee has effectively created a void for an important potential witness. This is now an embarrassment and it needs to be sorted, preferably this week.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Knowing as you do that Whips are not able to speak, I thought that it might be helpful to say that I suspect that there will be some very good news on this subject in the foreseeable future. However, I believe that the usual channels are stuck and that there are certain names that the Opposition parties need to return to the Government.

I do not know about that. The hon. Gentleman says in the course of his contribution that Whips cannot speak. Well, they are not supposed to speak, but it does not stop them, now and again, doing so, sometimes from a sedentary position in a more or less orderly fashion. As to the subject of disputed names, that is not something with which he would expect the Speaker to preoccupy himself. My concern is simply to facilitate the constitution of the Committees, which are those of Parliament, and which, I suspect, most Members on both sides of the House want to see established. In short, let us get on with it.