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Points of Order

Volume 639: debated on Thursday 19 April 2018

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. We discussed in Transport questions the cancellation of line electrification throughout the country. The Secretary of State said in the recess last summer that the bi-mode alternatives could achieve the same significant improvements to journeys. The National Audit Office, on which we rely—it is not Opposition Members saying this—has said that

“bi-mode trains with the required speed and acceleration”

to meet the timetable

“did not exist”.

The Secretary of State has had the opportunity today to correct the position. The two statements are mutually exclusive and he cannot maintain that position. It is important that Ministers of the Crown come to the Dispatch Box and say things that are grounded in fact. There is a danger, however inadvertent, that the House has been misled about these trains’ ability to deliver, as my hon. Friends have pointed out repeatedly, yet the Secretary of State will not take the opportunity to clarify the position. I seek your advice as to how that clarification might be achieved, Mr Speaker.

The Secretary of State is now poised, like a panther ready to pounce, so the hon. Gentleman may have secured, if not pre-empted, at any rate, early gratification, in that the Secretary of State is marching towards the Dispatch Box.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. It is self-evident that last January, when we discussed these issues, the trains that will run on the midland main line had not been ordered and therefore did not exist. As things stand today—as things stood last summer and last April—there are already 120 mph-plus bi-mode trains operating on the Great Western main line. I have manufacturers beating a path to my door to build the trains for the midland main line; of course they are going to run.

What I would say to the shadow Secretary of State is that he has made his point with force and alacrity, it is on the record, and the Secretary of State has responded in a similar vein. This dispute—it is a genuine dispute about what the facts are—can and doubtless will continue, but by means other than the point of order procedure. I hope that honour is served.

Just as I am about to proceed to the next business, I see leaping to his feet, with his characteristic energy and suppleness, the young representative from Stone, Sir William Cash.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Do you regard the outrageous abuse and intimidation that has been levelled against the hon. Members for Stoke-on-Trent North (Ruth Smeeth), for Liverpool, Wavertree (Luciana Berger) and others as sufficient evidence of a contempt of the House? Page 262 of “Erskine May” states that it is a contempt of the House to molest and intimidate MPs by abusive language outside or inside the precincts of the House. Is there a prima facie case for contempt in the circumstances that I have described, with this completely and totally outrageous behaviour by members of the public towards those Members?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order, which I treat extremely seriously. I do so partly because of the content and partly in deference to his renowned parliamentarianism. The short answer is that there could be such a case. The particulars would have to be studied and it would be imprudent, and therefore inappropriate, for me to seek to venture a judgment here and now. However, as he will know, if there is an allegation of contempt to be made, it should properly be made in writing to me and I will then reflect on it, taking such professional advice as I think I need, but I thank him for raising this point of order, which I know he does out of a concern to protect the rights of Members in all parts of the House. Any Member could be similarly affected, and he has done a public service. Knowing his dogged tenacity and his insistence on following through, I imagine that his letter will be winging its way to me ere long.