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Points of Order

Volume 637: debated on Wednesday 7 March 2018

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. In an oral statement on social care on 7 December 2017, the then care Minister, the hon. Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price)—as it happens, she is in her place on the Front Bench at the moment—replied to a question I asked about the Government abandoning the carers strategy, which had been due to be published in summer 2017. Of the thousands of carers who had responded to a consultation and then been left waiting, the Minister said:

“We have listened to them, and we will consider what they have said in bringing forward the Green Paper. In the meantime, it is very important to pull together exactly what support there is at present and then respond to that, and we will publish our action plan in January.”—[Official Report, 7 December 2017; Vol. 632, c. 1238-39.]

It is now March, and this is the second time I have raised this on a point of order. Not only do we no longer have any prospect of a carers strategy from the Government, but they have not met their own target to publish an action plan. That is a shabby way to treat carers. Mr Speaker, have you had any indication that the current Minister for Care or, indeed, any Health Minister plans to come to the House to update us on what, if anything, the Government propose to do for carers?

I have certainly not been advised of any intention on the part of a Minister to make an oral or, indeed, written statement to the House. There is a Health Minister on the Treasury Bench, who has heard what the hon. Lady said. She is welcome to respond if she wishes, but is under no obligation to do so.

Not at this time. I say to the hon. Member for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley), who is an experienced denizen of the House, that there will be opportunities through the business question and subsequently for her to draw the attention of the House again, and perhaps in more detail, to her concerns and to elicit a ministerial reply.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask your advice on how the House can put on the record its concern that the Conservative manifesto in 2017, with its promise to scrap Leveson 2 and section 40, pre-empted the results of a consultation that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport was carrying out. How can we be sure, particularly given the comments of Sir Brian Leveson, that that decision was reached fairly and reasonably and will not be subject to judicial review?

I will say two things in response to the hon. Gentleman. First, he seeks and perhaps over-generously expects from me a degree of reassurance and even of wisdom that it is not within the capacity of the Chair to provide. Secondly, in asking how we—meaning the House as a whole—can be sure, I simply say that the hon. Gentleman, who is no stranger to these matters, raises something of a philosophical question. Whether, when and to what degree Members can be confident of certainty are not matters that can be broached now from the Chair. However, in so far as he was seeking—as the puckish grin on his face suggests—to register his own concerns, he has found his own salvation.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. At Prime Minister’s Question Time on 31 January, I asked for a meeting with a Minister and was promised that I could have one. I received a letter two or three weeks ago saying that the matter had been passed to the Department of Health and Social Care. I seek your guidance—or anyone’s guidance, really—on how I can progress that, because I have had no meeting and no date so far. That was five weeks ago, so I think I have been fairly patient.

The hon. Lady has certainly been patient. Sometimes, raising a point of order in the Chamber and reminding those on the Treasury Bench of a promised meeting that has not yet been delivered can be a remarkably effective way of bringing about said meeting. The other device that I recommend to the hon. Lady, who is a new Member of the House, is the tabling of a written question. If she is interested in exploring historic copies of the Official Report, she will know that the former Member for Manchester, Gorton, our late and dear friend Sir Gerald Kaufman, was fond of highlighting unanswered correspondence to which he demanded a reply, unanswered questions to which he demanded a reply, or undelivered meetings that he had been promised and on which he still insisted by tabling written questions to remind Ministers of those matters and inquire when the promised reply or meeting would take place. In my experience, Sir Gerald was remarkably effective at obtaining such responses, as indeed was the former Member for Walsall North, Mr David Winnick. The hon. Lady may usefully learn from their and many other examples.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. In January, the Government announced plans to incentivise local communities to agree to explore the possibility of storing radioactive nuclear waste near their homes—an initiative that was widely reported in the media. I was anxious that it could revive proposals to store nuclear waste in the anhydrite mine under thousands of homes in Billingham in my constituency. I raised the issue at Prime Minister’s questions on 31 January. Sadly, the Prime Minister’s substitute that day, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, despite the publicity and it being Government policy, knew nothing about that initiative by his Government. However, he promised to investigate the matter and write to me. That was five weeks ago. Will you advise me whether it is unreasonable of me to have expected an answer by now?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order and for his courtesy in giving me notice of it. It is not unreasonable for an hon. Member to expect a response from Ministers within five weeks. Ministerial correspondence is of course, as colleagues will know, the responsibility of the Minister concerned. The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the right hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr Lidington), who happens to be my constituency neighbour, is normally most courteous. I am sure that his colleagues on the Treasury Bench, including the representatives of the Patronage Secretary, will swiftly alert the right hon. Gentleman to this outstanding action. The hon. Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham) certainly should have had a reply and he should now get one, sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, he has placed his concern on the record.