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Points of Order

Volume 636: debated on Tuesday 20 February 2018

If the hon. Gentleman wants to raise a point of order, he may do so, but with sensitivity to the prevailing circumstances, with huge interest in the subsequent debate.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I understand the pressures on time, so I will be brief. I seek your advice on the public actions of a Member of this House. During a debate on 5 February on social security, the hon. Member for Stirling (Stephen Kerr), whom I have notified of this point of order, intervened on my speech to ask a question, which I was happy to answer. It later came to my attention that he had taken a video clip of his intervention and removed my reply, before stating publicly:

“I got no answer to my repeated question”.

We are left to speculate about the motive for the removal of my reply, but that is not the basis of my complaint.

By posting that clip and suggesting I had not answered his question, he mispresented the proceedings of this House, and he directly challenged my character and reputation. After being challenged, he did post a full transcript of the debate, but I understand that the original posting and statement remain, which I find deeply concerning. I have enjoyed frequent debates with him since he entered the House, and although we disagree politically, I get on well with him personally. However, I wonder whether this type of behaviour is acceptable according to you, Mr Speaker, or to the code of conduct. Can you therefore please advise whether it is in order for a Member to appear to publicly misrepresent the proceedings of this House, to deliberately or otherwise misrepresent another Member or to apparently attempt to mislead the public about proceedings in this House? Can you advise what powers you have to challenge this behaviour?

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I have just made a point about the constraints on time and it would be helpful if people would be sensitive to it, because it is about others; it is not just about what they want to do now. I am grateful to him for advance notice that he wished to raise this point. I note his concern and I understand what he has just told the House, which is that he has brought the matter to the attention of the hon. Member for Stirling(Stephen Kerr). I appreciate that Members in all parts of the House are increasingly using social media to draw attention to proceedings in this House, and that, of itself, is perfectly understandable. Moreover, broadly it is to be welcomed. That said, I urge all Members to take care to ensure that usage of selected clips of debates does not create a misleading impression of what has taken place. I might add that it is one thing for a Member to post a clip of what he or she has said, but to add evaluative commentary or to imply the absence of a reply to a point that that Member has made could fall into the category of knowingly misleading.

As for the code of conduct, what I would say to the hon. Member for Airdrie and Shotts (Neil Gray) is that in the circumstance that he thinks there has been a breach of it, the appropriate action is to write to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. I strongly suggest that he do so if he is so motivated and convinced, rather than pursuing the matter further on the Floor of the House. That ruling is relevant not just to the hon. Gentleman, to whom I am grateful for airing the issue, but to other Members. I must say to the House that it would not be desirable if we were regularly to have points of order of this kind. Already we have colleagues complaining about Members visiting their constituencies without prior notification and we do not want a whole new category of constant points of order on matters of this kind, so it is up to Members to help each other.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. In December 2016, the British Government adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of “anti-Semitism”. This definition explains that claiming that the existence of the state of Israel is a racist and illegitimate endeavour is anti-Semitic. Therefore, by the Government’s own measure, the words “Israeli apartheid week” are manifestly anti-Semitic and violate this country’s own definition of anti-Semitism. Given that the Secretary of State and his team are here and that yesterday marked the beginning of Israeli Apartheid Week, may I ask you, Sir, how we can have a statement from the Government condemning these actions and, if appropriate, bringing forward the necessary legislation to prevent them?

I do not know whether a Minister is minded to make a statement on the matter, and I am not entirely sure which Minister the hon. Gentleman had in mind. The Secretary of State for Education is in his place, but it is not obvious to me that the matter is for the Secretary of State. Other Ministers are also present on the Treasury Bench and they will have heard what the hon. Gentleman has had to say. I suspect that what he has had to say will be communicated more widely to members of the Government. I think that for today we will leave it there, but I thank him for saying what he wanted to say.