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Points of Order

Volume 630: debated on Thursday 26 October 2017

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Leader of the House may have inadvertently misled the House by saying that her written ministerial statement was available at 10.30 am. In fact, we have heard numerous times at which it became available. Some say they only received the alert at 11.42 am and others say 11.30 am. When a written statement is produced, could she ensure that we all receive it at the same time—when she presses that button?

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am not alleging anything about the Leader of the House, but the truth of the matter is that the statement was not available on the parliamentary website, nor in the Vote Office, until 11.30 am. The only reason why this matters is that none of us would want the Leader of the House to be ill-advised by others and to be living in a state of ignorance about what is actually going on. Of course, the written ministerial statement was about the timeliness of responses, so it would seem appropriate to get it right.

I might be able to help. I am sure that the Leader of the House will take the point, that the timings will be put right and that nobody wants to mislead the House in any way, shape or form.

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Leader of the House seemed to suggest that part of the responsibilities of a Member of this House is to hold the Scottish Government to account. Short of getting Nicola Sturgeon at the Dispatch Box to answer questions from hon. Members, can you advise how we discharge these responsibilities?

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I have informed the hon. Member concerned—the hon. Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman)—that I intended to raise this matter.

According to many of today’s news outlets, the hon. Gentleman hosted anti-Muslim extremist Tapan Ghosh in Committee Room 12 last Wednesday. Mr Ghosh holds abhorrent views, is on record calling on the United Nations to control the birth rate of Muslims and praising the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Burma, and also said that Muslims should be forced to leave their religion if they come to a western country. Only this Monday, Mr Ghosh was pictured with UK far-right extremist leader Tommy Robinson. It is incredible to me that any Member would think it acceptable to host a meeting with this individual, let alone invite him to the House of Commons. Mr Deputy Speaker, would you please advise us all on our responsibilities to protect everything that this House stands for, and not to allow it to be used as a platform to propagate and legitimise hate and extremist views?

I do, Mr Speaker. I thank the hon. Lady for notifying me that she was going to raise this point of order. She has inadvertently misled the House. Let me be clear: I did not invite Tapan Ghosh to the House of Commons. I hosted, in my capacity as chairman of the all-party parliamentary group for British Hindus, two functions last Wednesday, which Tapan Ghosh attended. One was the annual Diwali celebration on the House of Commons Terrace, which a number of hon. and right hon. Members attended. Subsequently, in the evening, we had the launch by the National Council of Hindu Temples of a report into Hindu minority rights in Bangladesh and Pakistan. Tapan Ghosh was invited by the National Council of Hindu Temples to attend that meeting and present evidence of physical attacks, rapes, forced marriages and forced conversions that have taken place in West Bengal and other places. I have made clear, and the National Council of Hindu Temples has made clear, that it was only in that capacity—as presenting that evidence—that that individual was invited to this House. He made no abhorrent remarks at the meeting, and I am quite clear that I and the National Council of Hindu Temples do not agree with the views he previously stated. We do not accept them, and we do not endorse them in any shape or form, but it is right that this House has the opportunity, and that Members have the opportunity, to hear evidence from people of what is happening in other countries.

It might help if I give you some of the facts about where the House stands. Obviously, I thank the hon. Lady for notice of the point of order, and I also thank the hon. Gentleman for clarifying his position.

The Speaker’s principal responsibility for access to this estate by members of the public relates to security, in which I have a particular role. Subject to that, it is open to an hon. Member to see who they wish, and we all value the exercise of the right of free speech here on the estate and elsewhere. We do not control the views of those who visit here. All hon. Members will inevitably hold meetings with individuals whose views they do not share.

That said, I want to place firmly on the record the abhorrence that I know is shared by all colleagues of all racism and bigotry. Such views have no place here. On the eve of International Freedom of Religion or Belief Day, I know that all colleagues want to do everything possible to foster tolerance and respect.

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. In the social care debate yesterday, the Minister claimed that the number of people working in social care has increased, yet the Office for National Statistics workforce data say that the number of people working in

“other health and social care”

has decreased every quarter consistently for the last five years. Is it in order to ask the Minister to confirm in writing the evidence base that informed that comment?

You have put it on the record. You have certainly put that request forward. I am sure that you will find another avenue. You may wish to put a written named-day question down to help solve that problem.

Further to the earlier point of order about the written statement, Mr Deputy Speaker. This does tend to be a perennial issue. Would it be possible for the Leader of the House, when she investigates what happened this morning around her written statement, to place a letter in the Library of the House of Commons to be clear about exactly what the sequence of events was? There is clearly a dispute about the facts in terms of when the written statement was actually released. She is convinced it was released at 10.30 am, and I am sure she was given that information, but other hon. Members have had other experiences.

It is not for me to put right, but I am sure that the Leader of the House will take on board the views of the House and will wish to check what information was given. Obviously, the House matters not only to the Leader of the House but to all Members. Therefore, I would like to think that things will be put in place to make sure things like this do not happen again.