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Points of Order

Volume 645: debated on Wednesday 18 July 2018

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am seeking your advice and help in getting a clear understanding of the circumstances in which a Member can seek parliamentary time to make a statement and the circumstances in which that would be granted. You will agree that it is rare for a Member to make a personal statement explaining their resignation, just as it is rare for a Member securing the services of a photographer to record for posterity the signing of their resignation letter at a remarkably empty desk. Would it have been in order, for instance, for a Member or Minister to have sought to make a personal statement to apologise for endangering a British citizen detained abroad, to apologise for repeating financial claims about NHS funding that had been comprehensively demolished by an independent, respected, authoritative body, or to explain what involvement they had in a campaign that has been heavily fined for breaking electoral rules—

Order. The right hon. Gentleman will resume his seat. I indulged him and allowed him to develop his thinking.

Well, maybe I erred on the side of generosity. I will treat of the point in more detail, because it is of importance to the House, but let me say two things to the right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake).

The right hon. Gentleman, the former Foreign Secretary, was absolutely in order to request that he be allowed to make a personal statement, and utterly in order also in its delivery. Secondly—forgive me, colleagues, but it is important for the authority of the House that this point be made—I, too, was absolutely right to allow him to make that personal statement, and it would have been quite wrong for me to seek to stand in his way.

Good order has applied but, in so far as the right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington is interested not in point scoring, as I am sure he is not, but in asking a genuine question of the Chair, let me say to him on the point of procedure that it is the long-standing practice of the House that Members may make a personal statement with the leave of the Speaker. It is not especially common in recent times for such requests to be made, but when they are made, it is right that they should be acceded to by the Chair.

Moreover, I note that the former Foreign Secretary, former Leader of the House and former Deputy Prime Minister, the late Sir Geoffrey Howe, resigned on 1 November 1990—I remember it well—and delivered a personal statement on 13 November 1990, so nothing disorderly, nothing irregular and, in procedural terms, nothing objectionable has occurred. I thank the right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington, and it was perfectly legitimate for him to raise the point of order, but I think it right that I leave it there.

I will be generous to the hon. Gentleman, because to stray would be to misbehave, and I do not think he would misbehave. I cannot believe he would.

Mr Speaker, you are always generous. You will know there are very clear rules in this House on the issue of sub judice. I seek your guidance on whether that applies to British citizens abroad who are currently going through what I think is a bogus judicial system in Iran. I mention that because the right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) suggested the former Foreign Secretary had endangered the life of a British citizen, and you will know that the family of that person are rightly very worried about her fate. It is not the right hon. Gentleman’s place to make party political capital when somebody is facing a bogus judicial system in Iran.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order, and I respect the sincerity with which he speaks and the extensive interest he takes in international affairs. What I would say to him, in all seriousness, is that the responsibility of the Chair for oversight of the sub judice rule applies in the context of cases in the British courts. I am satisfied that nothing disorderly or threatening to a British judicial process has transpired.

In so far as the hon. Gentleman wanted to make a wider point, I think he knows that he has succeeded in doing so.

I think it is on an unrelated matter, and I will take a point of order on an unrelated matter.

Mr Speaker, I would be grateful for your guidance. I have written to the Prime Minister regarding a constituent of mine who fell afoul of the undercover policing inquiry. I wrote to her on 20 March setting out that, on 12 March 2016, when she was Home Secretary, she established an inquiry into undercover policing. I have not had the courtesy of a reply, and I do not know whether there is anything you can do or any way you can direct me on how to get a response to my letter.

Historically, it has often been effective for Members who have not received a reply, either to a written question or to a letter, to complain about that fact on the Floor of the House. On many such occasions, a reply has then winged its way to the complaining hon. Member with remarkable rapidity.

That was the experience of the late Member of Parliament for Manchester, Gorton. Sir Gerald Kaufman was much given to raising on a point of order the fact that he had not received a reply to a question or a letter, and he would sometimes table a written question asking a Minister when they intended to get round to responding to his question. I was advised by Sir Gerald that that practice was, more often than not, successful. There is a notable lineage here, and the hon. Lady is following in the footsteps of one of her illustrious parliamentary predecessors. If she is still unsuccessful, I have a feeling, knowing her—she is not shy—that she will beat a path to my door to seek counsel on how further to proceed.

Bill Presented

Counsellors and Psychotherapists (Regulation) and Conversion Therapy Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Geraint Davies, supported by Mr Nigel Evans, Caroline Lucas, Norman Lamb, Mr Ben Bradshaw, Catherine West, Ged Killen, Jo Stevens, Tonia Antoniazzi, Dr Paul Williams, Daniel Zeichner and Thelma Walker, presented a Bill to provide that the Health and Care Professions Council be the regulatory body for counsellors and psychotherapists; to prohibit conversion therapy; to make related provision for the protection of children and adults; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 26 October, and to be printed (Bill 252).