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Points of Order

Volume 643: debated on Wednesday 20 June 2018

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. This month is Gypsy Roma Traveller History Month, yet as we celebrate the distinct and important contribution of our Gypsy, Traveller and Roma community —an ancient history across these islands—one of our closest allies, through the office of the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Italy, is systematically targeting the Roma community of Italy. Can you advise Members how the House can express its utter dismay that one of our close allies is targeting one of Europe’s most distinct communities, and one of its most vulnerable, in such a heinous fashion?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order and for his characteristic courtesy in giving me advance notice that he wished to put it. The matter will be of concern to hon. and right hon. Members across the House. The hon. Gentleman will recall that the matter was raised in questions to the Prime Minister. I am confident that Members of this House—the hon. Gentleman included—will continue to find ways to express their opposition to these developments and, as they think fit, and if appropriate, to press the Government for action or representations on the matter.

More specifically, in so far as the hon. Gentleman in his point of order inquired what a Member could do to flag up concern, the answer is that, beyond statements in the Chamber and the opportunities that might be presented by debate, hon. Members are perfectly at liberty to table and sign early-day motions. I think the hon. Gentleman will require no further information or encouragement than I have already provided.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Last Wednesday, in a debate I called in Westminster Hall, the Minister for Immigration responded on the Home Office’s treatment of highly skilled migrants by saying:

“no applicants have been successful at judicial review, and…38 appeals have been allowed, mostly on human rights grounds.”—[Official Report, 13 June 2018; Vol. 642, c. 420WH.]

First, my understanding is that appeals can be allowed only on human rights grounds under section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998. More worryingly, several sources have been in touch with me to say that people have been successful at judicial review, either because the Home Office decision has been overturned, or because the Home Office settled via a consent order and then granted indefinite leave to remain.

I am very concerned that the Minister for Immigration has misled the House in Westminster Hall, either through omission or through deliberate misuse of a statement. Would she be able to bring this to the House—

Order. The hon. Lady must not suggest that a Minister has, by calculation, misled either this Chamber or Westminster Hall. If she wants to suggest that there might have been inadvertence involved, that would be orderly, and then she can conclude, very safely, her point of order. I think that would be best.

Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. The Minister may have inadvertently misled the House, but she certainly read from a prepared statement to Westminster Hall, as far as I could ascertain. I think it would be useful if the Minister could come to the House to explain the statement that she made last week, because it is deeply concerning that while people have quite clearly won at judicial review, the Minister either did not know that or did not share it with the House.

I am very grateful to the hon. Lady for her point of order. The short answer is that every Member of this House is responsible for the veracity of what he or she says to it. That includes Ministers. If a Minister feels that he or she has erred—and to err is human—and has inadvertently given incorrect information to the House, it is open to, and it would I think be thought incumbent upon, that Member to correct the record. It is not for me to act as arbiter of whether that is required, but the hon. Lady, who is now a relatively experienced and certainly a very dextrous Member of the House, has found the means to register her concern. I feel sure that that concern will be communicated to the relevant occupant of the Treasury Bench ere long. As to what then happens, we await events.

If there are no further—[Interruption.] Yes, I am coming to that. I am extremely grateful to the Clerk, who is very on the ball as always, for his procedural expertise. I was just going to say that if there are no further points of order on other matters, we come now to the point of order from Mr Craig Mackinlay.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like to make an apology to the House. In 2001—some 17 years ago—I incorporated a company, Mama Airlines Ltd, on the back of a business idea: the potential for a low-cost airline, with Manston to Malaga a possible route. The company has never traded, has never had a bank account, and has 2p of share capital that I own. That is the entirety of its balance sheet. I have never received reward or remuneration of any kind. It was an idea of its day and, following the tragedy of 9/11, it never came to anything and plans ceased.

It remains a dormant company and, personally, I have never had any subsequent thoughts of creating an airline, nor of using the registered company for any other activity. I had not considered, under any common-sense interpretation of the rules, that such a shareholding of 2p in a dormant company that has never traded would require registration under the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. I was wrong to rely on common sense, as there is no de minimis value threshold once the 15% shareholding limit has been reached.

This business idea is no secret, Mr Speaker. I mention the fact with some pride on public platforms, in the local press, in election literature and to whoever will listen. I would be surprised if there was anyone in South Thanet who was unaware of this long-past business idea. Not surprisingly, Manston airport is a relevant local issue, and I will continue to speak up for an aviation future for Manston, which would bring with it jobs and investment to east Kent.

The registration of my interest will now be recorded appropriately in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests under the rectification procedure. The interest should have been registered from 8 May 2015. Given the registrable interest, it also becomes a declarable one. It would now appear that, under the rules, my shareholding in a dormant company with no assets and certainly no aircraft makes me the ongoing owner of a quite unique airline that is never going to fly. I identify two occasions when a declaration might reasonably have been made. I should have prefaced my speeches on 28 May 2015 and 11 June 2015 with a declaration that I hold 2p worth of shares in the dormant company. I most sincerely apologise to the House for my error and oversight.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for the apology he has given to the House and, if I may say so, for the good humour he has displayed in the course of making his statement. I think it is acknowledged and accepted by the House.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Have you been made aware of reports in the past few minutes that seriously sick Labour Members might be prevented from voting this afternoon because of Government Whips breaking with the usual convention of allowing them to be nodded through? This would constitute a serious breach of the conventions of this House. I would be grateful if you could make a ruling, Mr Speaker, so that the Government Whips could hear it.

I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his point of order. The short answer is that I had heard nothing of that until he sidled up to the Chair and mentioned it. The practice has long taken place on the basis of co-operation between the usual channels. There is nothing unusual about the arrangement —it is very long-established and commonplace—but it does not bear upon or speak to the functions of the Chair. It is a matter that has to be agreed between the different sides of the House. The right hon. Gentleman is a very experienced Member of this House and he has registered, with some force and alacrity, his strength of feeling on the matter.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is it in order for former Members of the Houses of Parliament to take a seat at the Conservative table in the Tea Room and plot against the Government that they were once a part of? Would not those former Members be better off tending to their moats?

What I say to the hon. Gentleman is that who turns up at which table and says what to whom in the Tea Room might be a matter for the Administration Committee. The hon. Gentleman, who is himself an experienced denizen of the House, could potentially raise it, with advantage, with his hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Sir Paul Beresford), who is not merely a distinguished ornament of that Committee, but in fact chairs it. As the hon. Member for Monmouth (David T. C. Davies) knows, I am not myself these days in the habit of going into the Tea Room and I am not privy to these matters, but he has raised his point in his own delightfully understated way, with which Members on both sides of the House are well familiar.

Bill Presented

Offensive Weapons Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Secretary Sajid Javid, supported by the Prime Minister, Secretary David Gauke, Secretary Greg Clark, Secretary Damian Hinds, the Solicitor General and Victoria Atkins, presented a Bill to make provision for and in connection with offences relating to offensive weapons.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 232) with explanatory notes (Bill 232-EN).