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Points of Order

Volume 641: debated on Monday 14 May 2018

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Earlier today, the High Court in Belfast ruled that a civil servant who had granted planning permission for an incinerator in Mallusk in County Antrim had acted beyond his powers. The specific event does not concern the House today, but there is now an implication for all decision making by civil servants in Northern Ireland. You will be aware that there has been no devolved Assembly or governance in Belfast for nearly a year and a half. On the back of this ruling, we now need certainty about how decisions can be taken forward. Have you had any indication as to whether the Secretary of State plans to make a statement to the House or whether there are, in any case, other ways in which I can pursue this fundamental constitutional question?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order which, as he knows, is not a point that I can answer now from the Chair, but I appreciate the importance of the matter that he has drawn to the House’s attention. Those on the Treasury Bench will have paid attention to his important point, and it will undoubtedly be conveyed to those who have responsibility for such matters. The hon. Gentleman is well aware that if he wants to attempt to bring the appropriate Minister to the Chamber to answer questions on this topic, various routes are open to him to do so.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am sure that you will have gathered that quite a deal of concern has been expressed by Members on both sides of the House about the general data protection regulation, which comes into full force on 25 May. Some of the training that was provided last week by another organisation on behalf of the House authorities gave MPs’ staff the impression that they should be deleting all electronic information relating to their constituency casework from before the 2017 general election. Indeed, the organisation, IT Governance, encouraged Members’ staff to do so and organised for the material to be deleted.

I do not know whether this is your impression, Madam Deputy Speaker, but my anxiety is that our casework is an essential part of doing our job. Being able to remember and have a record of what representations were made for a constituent 10 or 15 years ago is important, and some cases last a long time. As for our personal security, there are times when we want to know the pattern of who has turned up to our surgeries, how often, what anxieties they had and whether their issues were addressed.

I understand that a letter has gone out from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to some Members, but not all. There is some uncertainty and a lack of clarity about what the proper advice should be, and—I notice that an inspirational piece of paper has been handed to you—I just wondered whether you might be able to provide a bit more clarity. In the end, we have to be able to do our job properly, and we cannot let silly laws get in the way.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. On his last point, there are no silly laws; there are only laws that are passed by this Parliament. Therefore, it cannot, by definition, be a silly law. However, I completely take his point about the importance of Members of this House complying with the rules while continuing to do our work for the people who live in our constituencies in an efficient and correct manner. He has made a good point.

I do not have an inspirational piece of paper, but I do have the knowledge that the House of Commons Commission is due to meet later this afternoon. I would be surprised if the Commission does not consider the hon. Gentleman’s points. In fact, I am pretty sure that the Commission will consider those points shortly, and I am sure that the outcome will be that any Member who wishes further guidance on how to apply the new law will get it and that all Members will be properly helped in ensuring that they carry out their duties correctly.