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Points of Order

Volume 634: debated on Wednesday 10 January 2018

Order. It would not be a full day without a point of order from the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Angus Brendan MacNeil).

Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. May I congratulate you once again on your pronunciation of “Na h-Eileanan an Iar”, which was absolutely perfect?

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Both the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister talked about “the NHS” today, seemingly unaware that in fact there are four NHS services in the UK. I seek your guidance on what can be done to insist on knowledge and accuracy from the most senior parliamentarians in the Chamber, or is the Chamber indeed just the English Parliament?

If I did not know the hon. Gentleman as well as I do, I would think that he was being mischievous, but I cannot imagine that he would behave in that way. However, I am on the one hand flattered by his exhortation, and on the other hand at least a tad intimidated, for the idea that the Chair can be expected to insist upon knowledge and accuracy on the part of any Member or among any group of Members is an unrealistic ambition on the part of the hon. Gentleman. That is not a matter for the Chair. Members take responsibility for their statements in this House, but in so far as the hon. Gentleman was seeking to draw attention to what he regards as the singularity of the Scottish health service, I think he has accomplished his objective.

Or even the plurality of services, as he witters from a sedentary position. I think he has accomplished his objective.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your advice on how best I can raise the urgent issue of cancer treatment in Oxford with the Minister responsible. Seriously and terminally ill patients at the Churchill Hospital now face delays and cuts to rounds of chemotherapy due to a chronic shortage of specialist staff. The next Health questions are not until 6 February and the people of Oxfordshire need answers now. After all, cancer does not wait.

I will make a number of observations to the hon. Lady. First, the matter was at least raised at Prime Minister’s questions today with considerable force and alacrity, albeit not by the hon. Lady on this occasion. Secondly, I know that she will not take offence when I say this, but I was looking meaningfully at her and was very keen to call her to ask a question of the Prime Minister—admittedly not of the cancer services Minister, but of the Prime Minister—and the hon. Lady, in an uncharacteristic display of reticence, did not respond to my exhortations. She did not seem to wish to rise to her feet at that time. Thirdly, notwithstanding that Health questions are a considerable distance away, business questions are tomorrow, and if she wishes to leap from her seat with alacrity to put a question on this matter to the Leader of the House, she can. Finally, if she applies for an Adjournment debate, she might be successful.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I hope you might be able to advise me on how I can ascertain Government policy and action on an urgent matter that affects my constituency in Norwich. As you will know, hundreds of jobs could be lost with the closure of the Colman’s mustard factory and the Britvic factory in my constituency. I have repeatedly asked the Business Secretary to come to Norwich to meet the highly productive workers there and see the highly profitable factories. So far, he has not got back to me. Although I understand that he is still in his place at the Department, there are several new junior Ministers whose positions and responsibilities we do not know. May I ask for your guidance on how we might get clarification on that point and answers from the responsible Ministers very urgently, given the hundreds of my constituents who face losing their jobs?

I can and will respond to the hon. Gentleman. I preface my response by thanking him for his courtesy in giving me advance notice of his point of order. I say with great seriousness that I appreciate the importance of this matter to him and his constituents. I have two points to make. First, on the specific question that he raised—which member of the new ministerial team has responsibility for the matter—it is customary for the Government to publish from time to time a list of ministerial responsibilities. It would certainly be helpful to Members on both sides of the House if the division of ministerial responsibilities within Departments could be publicly clarified as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the hon. Gentleman has put his concern on the record and I am sure that it will have been noted on the Treasury Bench.

Secondly, on the back of my experience as a Member before I became Speaker, my advice to him about seeking a visit is: persist, man, persist. Make what I would call a polite nuisance of yourself. Keep going, keep asking, keep requesting, keep putting the matter in the minds of Ministers. On the whole, I tended to find when I was a Back Bencher that by making a nuisance of myself in that way, more often than not, I got at least a significant share of what I was seeking for my constituents.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. This point of order is pursuant to the one I raised last night, on which you made good, clear suggestions. I now understand that the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has issued a statement, but not an official statement. Given the words that were spoken on 6 December, have you heard from the Secretary of State whether he intends to come to the House to rectify the record?

The short answer is that I have received no indication of any intention on the part of a Minister to make an oral statement on this matter. However, I think that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office referred to the matter during his Question Time session, so I think there is an indication to the hon. Gentleman of how the Government intend to proceed on the matter. It may not satisfy him, but it is what we have got at present.

Moreover, it will not be beyond the wit and sagacity of the hon. Gentleman and some of his colleagues who are similarly exercised about the matter to highlight their concerns during the Report stage of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. I look forward with bated breath, eager anticipation and beads of sweat upon my brow to hearing him express his concern, for the simple reason that I intend to chair the bulk of those sessions on 16 and 17 January. Much excitement awaits me.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. In answer to my question on behalf of my homeless constituent, Ava, who is also a foster-carer, the Prime Minister appeared to suggest that there was some doubt that she would be deregistered as a foster-carer because of her poor homeless accommodation. I confirm that she has been deregistered for that reason. How will I put that on the record?

The hon. Lady has achieved her objective. It will appear in the Official Report and if she wishes to send a personalised and signed copy of said Official Report to the Prime Minister, it is open to her to do so.