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Points of Order

Volume 630: debated on Tuesday 24 October 2017

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You will be aware of the growing level of abuse and intimidation in many parts of our political system. Such toxicity endangers a considerable progress on equalities that this country has made and that you have commendably championed. It could dissuade many decent people from taking part in legitimate political debate. Have you received any indication from the Minister for Women and Equalities that she wishes to make a statement to the House to clarify the legal obligations of political parties under the Equality Act 2010? In the absence of such an indication, could you advise me on how such matters might urgently be considered by the House?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order and for his courtesy in giving me advance notice of it. The short answer is that I have received no such indication as yet from the Minister for Women and Equalities, whom, as it happens, I saw last night at an event that I hosted in Speaker’s House, at which she spoke eloquently and with conviction on the importance of inter-faith harmony. It is open to a Minister to volunteer a statement. Such has not, to date, been proffered.

The hon. Gentleman is referring to an ongoing problem, arguably of greater salience, scope and prominence than in the past. If there is no such statement, but the hon. Gentleman—possibly supported or accompanied by colleagues from across the House—wishes to debate the issues, it is open to him to seek either a one and a half hour debate in Westminster Hall or to approach the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee and seek a debate under its auspices. That is the best and most practical advice that I can give to the hon. Gentleman, who has raised a serious matter in a very measured way. [Interruption.] Is the Government Whip muttering something of importance? I am sure that he has something to say, but it does not need to be said in the Chamber; it can be held for elsewhere, where I am sure it will be of great interest.

I am not sure that there is much to add. If the hon. Lady wishes to raise a point of order on the same matter, the answer is no, to be honest.

Order. The hon. Lady raised a point of order with me yesterday. She sought my guidance, which I offered her. If the point of order is on a similar matter to that which the hon. Member for Milton Keynes South (Iain Stewart) has just raised and to which I have responded with crystal clarity, there is nothing to add.

Further to that point of order and the point of order I raised yesterday, Mr Speaker. I would like to seek some clarification. Yesterday, you suggested that I apply for an Adjournment debate. I was wondering what mechanism—

Order. Forgive me, but I think it is extremely clear that I have dealt with a serious matter raised in a very measured way by the hon. Member for Milton Keynes South and given clear advice. If there are people who are unclear on the basis of what I have said, I am frankly surprised by that, but it is open to them to approach me for further guidance. What they should not seek to do—I am sure that the hon. Lady would not knowingly seek to do this for one moment—is to abuse the procedures of the House. I have tried to help the hon. Lady, and we will leave the matter for now.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Where an MP is elected by Parliament to represent us on a foreign delegation and is subsequently sent home from that delegation for inappropriate behaviour, will such cases always be reported back to the body that elected them—that is, to Parliament—and have they been in the past?

What I would say to the hon. Gentleman is as follows. He has raised an extremely important matter, and, again for the avoidance of doubt, I do not consider or treat it lightly. That said, the House will note that the hon. Gentleman raised the issue in extremely broad terms—I do not knock him for doing that, but I say it by way of factual response.

I say to the hon. Gentleman, on advice, that raising a point of order in the House is not necessarily an effective way, or even necessarily a proper way, of pursuing an allegation of impropriety against anybody, whether a Member of the House or anybody else. If the hon. Gentleman has grounds for supposing that there has been impropriety by an hon. or right hon. Member, falling short of possible criminality, which would obviously be considered elsewhere, I ask the hon. Gentleman to write to me, because I am sure he is interested in the issue, rather than in, for example, securing parliamentary attention—I know that would not motivate the hon. Gentleman. [Interruption.] No, no, I have known the hon. Gentleman for over 30 years, and I know that would not motivate him in any way. If he is concerned about the issue—and I respect that—and he has a particular point that he wants to raise with me in writing, I assure him, and, more widely, I assure the House, that I will give the matter my urgent attention. I hope that is helpful to the hon. Gentleman.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. No, my motivation is to clarify what is the policy and procedure of the House in a circumstance where a Member has been elected at any stage by this Parliament. Will these things be reported back?

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman. As I have just been advised—and it would seem to me fairly clear—where a question is hypothetical, it is actually quite difficult to provide a concrete answer. I would certainly expect that if a suspected abuse had taken place, that would be reported, in all likelihood, to the political party of which the suspect was a member. Depending upon the nature of the visit—that is to say, whether it was a visit organised by, or with sponsorship in some way from, a parliamentary body—it might well also be reported elsewhere. I would certainly hope and expect that such occurrences, or alleged occurrences or abuses, would be reported, and if they are reported, those who are reporting them can expect them to be investigated.

I hope the House can see that, far from brushing aside the hon. Gentleman’s concern, or that of any other Member, I am keen that those matters should be properly explored, but they are not necessarily best explored via the point of order procedure on the Floor of the Chamber. The hon. Member for Milton Keynes South sought my guidance. I gave him very clear and practical guidance, which I have every expectation he will follow. If practical guidance is what people want, that is what I am seeking to provide.

If there are any further points of order that are unrelated, I am happy to take them; if not, we should proceed to the ten-minute rule motion.