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Points of Order

Volume 657: debated on Tuesday 26 March 2019

We cannot have a replay of Question Time because people are disappointed with the answers they got or whatever, but if there is some material point of order to be articulated briefly, I will hear it.

Can you advise me, Mr Speaker? I think the Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, the hon. Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price), might have inadvertently misled the House in her response to Question 3 on health inequalities when she stated that there was an increase in life expectancy. In fact, the latest figures show that life expectancy has been revised downwards. Public Health England has done an investigation into this trend. Can you advise me, Mr Speaker, on how she might correct the record?

What I would say to the hon. Lady is that every Member in this place is responsible for what he or she says in it. If a Minister believes that an error has been made from the Treasury Bench, it is of course incumbent upon that Minister to correct the record. We shall have to wait to see whether the Minister judges that that is necessary in this case. If it is and it happens, I dare say the hon. Lady will be at least partly satisfied. If it is not thought to be required and therefore does not happen, my advice to her is to persist, if she wishes, through the use of the Order Paper, repairing to the Table Office to table questions, and seeking opportunities to ventilate the matter further at appropriate junctures in the Chamber.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. As always in Health questions, you did your level best to get as many Back Benchers in as possible, so that we could put questions on behalf of our constituents, but obviously the desire of Members of this House to hold the Government to account on the NHS is such that Health questions are oversubscribed, as always. Every time we have Health questions, there are more people standing than the time allows. As Back Benchers, what can we do either to get more time for Health questions, which are so important, or to have them more regularly, so that Back Benchers can properly represent their constituents?

There are two possibilities. One is that Members can table further written questions—if they have already tabled some—or table them for the first time on the matter about which they are concerned and in relation to which they did not have an opportunity at oral questions. That is one avenue open to the hon. Gentleman and other Members.

Secondly, if the hon. Gentleman has a bigger concern, which I detect perhaps he has, and thinks that the salience of the issues and the level of interest in them are such that they warrant a greater allocation of time in the Chamber, my advice is to write to the distinguished Chair of the Procedure Committee, his hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Mr Walker), to inquire what the Committee might think about allocating greater time to these matters by comparison with others. For my part, as the hon. Gentleman would know, I would happily sit in the Chamber all day and probably all night, listening to nothing other than the dulcet and mellifluous tones of my colleagues in relation to these important matters.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Could you further clarify your advice to the House about the processes to be followed tomorrow, and your suggestion about tabling proposed amendments before the rise of the House? There is a risk—we do not know—that the business on the Order Paper might collapse early. Would it not be more opportune to set a time by which all amendments should be tabled in case the business were to collapse and the House rise early?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I confess that I had not considered that point. The Clerk at the Table, having consulted his scholarly cranium with characteristic speed, has swivelled around to advise me on this matter, and he does not think it necessary; on balance, I do not think it necessary either. The hon. Gentleman is obviously concerned about the possibility that the business of the House might conclude early, but it is not automatically to be assumed that that will be so. If that eventuality were to arise and Members were to be disadvantaged as a consequence, I would have to revisit the issue because my concern is to facilitate colleagues.

As things stand, I am working on the assumption—considering matters lying ahead, and playing for time as I do and as colleagues can see—that this need not arise. We have an urgent question on the situation in Yemen, consideration of the Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill and a number of other items of business, including the consideration of Lords amendments to the Offensive Weapons Bill and a motion regarding section 5 of the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1993 that is amendable. I give the hon. Gentleman a hint that hon. Members may have expressed an interest to me in amending that motion. I can therefore see some hours of learned and eloquent debate ahead of us. I hope that allays his concern.

Sorry to disappoint you, Mr Speaker. It appears that hon. Members are able to submit oral questions for the weeks beginning 8 April and 15 April. Is that accurate, and has future business been amended?

I am advised that it may be a glitch in the system. The short answer is that the business for those weeks has not been announced. As I think the puckish grin on the hon. Lady’s face testifies, she knows that the business is a matter of some uncertainty at this stage. I do not know any more than she does, and as of this moment I possibly do not know any better than Members on the Government and Opposition Front Benches as to whether the House will be sitting in the weeks of 8 April and/or 15 April. It is a matter still to be determined.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sure that the whole House will join me in condemning the abhorrent racist abuse directed at England footballers during their match last night. I know that you will agree that we must do everything we can to stamp out this vile behaviour. Can you advise me whether it would be reasonable to expect the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to come to the House and make a statement on what the Government are doing to protect our players abroad and what action they are taking to push for the strongest possible punishments?

It is certainly perfectly reasonable for the hon. Lady to hope for a statement. Whether the Secretary of State has a plan to do so imminently—in truth, I do not know. It may be intended. There are other ways in which the House can air its concerns on the matter. I share entirely the hon. Lady’s view. Any and all racist abuse is to be utterly and unreservedly condemned, and all of us who have public voices—if I may put it that way—should take the opportunity to make it clear that there can be no justification for that behaviour by anyone, anywhere and at any time. A huge amount of work has been done by anti-racist organisations in football and more widely across sport to try to change behaviour and change the attitudes that underlie abhorrent behaviour. It is only a pity to note that, despite some fantastic work—of which the hon. Lady will also be well aware—much still remains to be done.