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Points of Order

Volume 651: debated on Thursday 13 December 2018

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I apologise for not being able to raise this matter with you in advance—the Policing Minister may be interested to hear this—but I am aware of concerns about harassment targeted at some of the peaceful demonstrators who have been outside Parliament for many weeks, months or years protesting about issues around Brexit. I am always unclear about the boundaries of the parliamentary estate, but I am sure that you would agree, along with many Members, that people should be able to express themselves and protest freely and peacefully outside Parliament’s buildings.

I am told that some of those protestors, particularly those from SODEM—the Stand of Defiance European Movement—including Steven Bray, are being harassed by people holding potentially defamatory placards targeting individuals and by the activities of the far right. This is a relatively recent development and, as I think you will be aware, these good-natured protests have been going on quite peacefully for a long time. Could you use your offices to speak to the parliamentary security authorities to ensure that protestors are kept safe, that their right to protest is respected and that contact is made with the Metropolitan Police to ensure that those protests are able to continue in a safe and secure way?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that point of order. It is matter of concern for Parliament and for Members that peaceful protests should be allowed in the vicinity of Parliament. Exactly what constitutes peaceful protest and what crosses the line into a breach of the peace is another matter, and one on which I obviously cannot comment without knowing further details. The hon. Gentleman has targeted his point of order well in raising it while the Policing Minister is still in the Chamber.

I take it from that nod that the Minister has listened carefully to the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty). I will also ensure that the Serjeant at Arms knows about what the hon. Gentleman has said, as I am sure Mr Speaker would wish me to ensure.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. On 6 November, I tabled a written parliamentary question to the Ministry of Justice regarding the number of appeals involving special educational needs cases and tribunals, asking for that material to be provided on a local authority basis. On 12 November, I received a response from the Department saying that such information would be placed in the Library. It is now 13 December and that information has not been provided despite regular calls from my office to the Library and the Ministry of Justice to try to secure it. Given that so few sitting days remain, I wonder whether you can advise me on how best to secure that information so that I may update my constituents, who are worried about special educational needs tribunals.

I thank the hon. Lady for her point of order. As she will know, the Chair has no power whatsoever over the way in which Ministers operate their Departments, but I will echo what Mr Speaker has said many times. There is a duty upon Ministers and their Departments to answer hon. Members’ questions in a timely fashion, and it would appear that the hon. Lady has waited quite some time for her answer. By raising the matter right now, she has brought it to the attention of those on the Treasury Bench, and I am sure that her points will have been noted. If she still does not receive an answer, I am sure that she will come back to Mr Speaker for further advice and that he would be happy to help.