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Points of Order

Volume 637: debated on Thursday 8 March 2018

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can you advise me on the correct course of action when a private company gives commitments and assurances to Parliament and its Select Committees on issues that affect national security and public safety and then fails to meet them? There is widely available on YouTube this week a banned illegal propaganda video from the extremist proscribed organisation National Action, despite the fact that the Home Affairs Select Committee has raised this video with YouTube and Google seven times over the last 12 months, and despite the fact that they have promised us that the video is illegal and will be taken down and that they have the technology to prevent it from being put back up. Have you had any indication that the Government will look into this, Mr Speaker, and do you share my immense concern that one of the richest companies in the world is failing to meet its basic responsibilities to tackle extremism and protect public safety in this country?

I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for her point of order and share her intense concern about the matter. As I am sure everybody in the House will agree, National Action is a despicable, fascist, neo-Nazi organisation. My understanding is that it was proscribed by the Home Secretary. If those commitments have been made by those companies, they must be honoured. The right hon. Lady suggested that commitments have been given by those companies, not merely to her as an individual, but to the Home Affairs Committee. If that is so and those commitments have not been honoured, it is open to the Committee, although it should not be necessary, to demand, as a matter of urgency, the appearance of representatives of one or more of those companies before it to explain themselves. This matter must be sorted sooner rather than later. My strong sense is that that would be the will of the House, but the will of the House can also be expressed, and the public order considerations can most appropriately be articulated, by the Home Secretary, who thankfully is in her place.

The right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) is absolutely right to raise this issue. As you rightly said, Mr Speaker, National Action is a proscribed group—I proscribed it myself—and it is a terrorist organisation. The fact is that internet companies have made good progress in taking down Daesh-focused material. We have demonstrated that with our own system, which we showed them, they can take down 94% of material that goes up from Daesh-type terrorist organisations. We need to see much more effort put into the particular area of extreme right-wing groups, like the one the right hon. Lady has raised. We need to see more effort made using artificial intelligence. I hope that the right hon. Lady and I can work together to make sure that we hold internet companies more to account.

I am very grateful to the Home Secretary. We would not want a situation to arise in which the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) felt it necessary to write to me to allege a contempt of the House, although that is of course a recourse open to her if people do not comply and honour their undertakings. We very much hope that that will happen very, very soon.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Today, there are reports in the media that one in 10 councils could follow Tory Northamptonshire into technical bankruptcy, according to the National Audit Office. The main causes are the relentless 50% cuts in central Government funding to councils and the increasing pressures on children’s and adults’ services, which have resulted in the cutting of other vital services, unsustainable one-off sales of assets and the use of reserves.

Given that this is the worst crisis to face local government in the sector’s 170-year history, and given that the Government are unwilling and unprepared to give time to the Opposition to debate matters such as this, has the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government given you, Sir, any indication that he will come to the House today to make a statement, so that Members can question his disastrous slash-and-burn strategy and the findings of this most devastating NAO report in the fullest manner possible?

The Secretary of State has given me no such indication. I must say to the hon. Gentleman that the Secretary of State is a very willing fellow, but we would not in any way or case want to countenance the idea of him interfering with the time available for the debate on International Women’s Day. However, the hon. Gentleman has registered his concern, which will have been heard on the Treasury Bench.

I note what the hon. Gentleman said about the current absence of Opposition days, which would be a normal mechanism by which such matters could be aired. If the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues want such matters to be aired in the Chamber, he can rest assured that they will be aired. They can be aired on the terms of the Secretary of State, in the form of a statement, which it would be open to him to volunteer. If they are not aired in that way, they will be aired in another way.

Bills Presented

House of Peers Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Christine Jardine, supported by Tom Brake, Tim Farron, Layla Moran, Jamie Stone, Wera Hobhouse, Jo Swinson, Sir Vince Cable and Norman Lamb, presented a Bill to provide for the renaming of the House of Lords as the House of Peers.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 15 June, and to be printed (Bill 179).

Forensic Science Regulator Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Chris Green, supported by Vicky Ford, Damien Moore, Maggie Throup, Andrew Bowie, Mr William Wragg, Jack Brereton and Stephen Kerr, presented a Bill to make provision for the appointment of the Forensic Science Regulator; to make provision about the Regulator and about the regulation of forensic science; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 16 March, and to be printed (Bill 180) with explanatory notes (Bill 180-EN).