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Points of Order

Volume 657: debated on Wednesday 3 April 2019

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Liaison Committee, which consists of all the Select Committee Chairs, is the only Committee that can call the Prime Minister. She has said on several occasions this afternoon that she is willing to sit down with Members from across the House, but I regret to say that, despite repeated requests, the Liaison Committee has been unable to secure a date for a hearing with the Prime Minister. Could I please seek your advice, Sir?

The hon. Lady can do and has done. I thank the hon. Lady, the Chair of the Liaison Committee, for giving notice that she intended to raise this matter on a point of order with me. I appreciate that the Prime Minister’s diary will have been even busier than usual recently, but I am sure the Prime Minister recognises that her regular appearances before the Liaison Committee form an important part of her accountability to Parliament.

The hon. Lady asks how she can persuade the Prime Minister to confirm a date. I suggest that by raising the matter today, the hon. Lady may have helped to achieve that objective. If she is not immediately successful, I have no doubt that she will—following, perhaps, my repeated advice to colleagues—persist, persist and, if necessary, persist again until she accomplishes her objective. Those sessions matter. They are part of respect for, and the proper functioning of, the legislature.

I will come to other colleagues. We do not have a lot of time, because we have to move on to other business, but I will do my best.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Thank you for taking this point of order at this stage in our proceedings. My concern is the accountability of Network Rail to Parliament. You may recall that twice in the last month I have raised the issue of the closure of Suggitts Lane level crossing in my constituency. Yesterday, Network Rail moved in and put up security barriers to close that crossing, despite objections from me and from North East Lincolnshire Council, a petition signed by 4,000 residents and a request from the Rail Minister to review the decision. In view of that, can you offer guidance about how I, or indeed Parliament, can hold Network Rail accountable for this action?

My advice to the hon. Gentleman is that he should obtain a copy of the Official Report—the transcript of today’s proceedings—as soon as it becomes available. He should send it with a robust—Lincolnshire robust—covering letter to Network Rail in the hope that Network Rail will respect the force as well as the sincerity of what he has said, and that it will, in the process, take due note of what the Rail Minister has said.

If that effort is unavailing again, I suggest to the hon. Gentleman, as I did to the hon. Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston), that he should make the short journey to the Table Office to table questions, he should appear at business questions tomorrow and he should, in all appearances before the Chamber, persist.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I crave your indulgence? With only sentencing left, I would like to take the opportunity to thank the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and every single Member of this House for the kindness they have shown me over the last two difficult years. I would also like to thank Robbie Mullen and Hope not Hate, because without their actions I might not be here. I thank the parliamentary authorities, the Parliamentary Liaison and Investigation Team, Lancashire and Merseyside police, and my new family friends, the national and Lancashire counter-terrorism units. I thank them all for continuing to protect me.

Beyond thanking so many kind people, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a serious point. I was to be murdered to send a message to the state, and to send a message to this place. Members of this House are regularly abused and attacked. Our freedoms, our way of life, our democracy is under threat, and we must do our utmost to defend it. While the Home Secretary is in his place, perhaps I might ask him to consider the Diplock process for terrorist trials. [Applause.]

I think the spontaneous reaction on both sides of the Chamber, joined in by the Leader of the House and other colleagues, speaks volumes. I hope that I speak on behalf of the House in saying that we have the most enormous respect and admiration for the hon. Lady. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] She has displayed courage and fortitude of which many people, and probably most of us, can only dream. In the most harrowing of circumstances, faced with an explicit and very real threat to her life from neo-Nazis, she has not wilted for a second. She has defended her own rights, she has defended the rights of her constituents, she has defended the rights of all her colleagues, and she has defended the rights of Parliament as an institution.

By this sort of poisonous, fascistic bile we will not be cowed, and the sooner the purveyors of hate, of fascism, of Nazism, of a death cult realise that, the better. I salute the hon. Lady, and I know that others will do so too—

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. On behalf of those on the Government Benches, I pay tribute to the hon. Member for West Lancashire (Rosie Cooper) for her courage in facing this down. We all absolutely stand with her.

I warmly thank the Leader of the House for what she has said. I think that she speaks for us all.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. May I take this opportunity to thank the hon. Member for West Lancashire for what she has said? She has the support of the whole House and beyond, and we all absolutely stand with every word that she has just shared with the House.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for West Lancashire for the brilliant statement that she has made today, and for the incredible fortitude with which she has stood up against this appalling threat. I also thank you, Mr Speaker, for your clear declaration. We will not tolerate fascism and Nazism in our society. We will stand up for the pluralistic, multicultural, multi-ethnic Britain of which we are all, I believe, very proud.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder whether you could guide me on how I can place on record the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Slough (Mr Dhesi) has become the first black, Asian or minority ethnic Member to be elected to the NATO Assembly from this Parliament.

I do apologise to the hon. Gentleman. I cannot listen to two people at once, but I should have been listening to him. Would he care to put the point again, very briefly?

I wonder whether you could guide me, Mr Speaker, on how I can place on record the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Slough has become the first black, Asian or minority ethnic Member to be elected to the NATO Assembly from this Parliament.

The hon. Gentleman has achieved his objective with me only once—[Interruption] As the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) indicates from a sedentary position—[Interruption.] Well, I am trying to get the pronunciation of his constituency right. I will have lessons from him later.

As far as the House is concerned, however, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr Mahmood) has achieved his objective twice, and I join in those congratulations. As the House will know, I have often referred approvingly to President Moon—the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mrs Moon), who is president of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. To be able to record our admiration for the hon. Member for Slough for what is a first is a privilege, and I thank the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr for giving me the chance to do so.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Do you share my alarm and dismay at the footage that appeared on social media today depicting members of the Parachute Regiment firing weapons at an image of the Leader of the Opposition? The situation is alarming, because Parliament is supreme in our democracy and the armed forces serve at the pleasure of Parliament as per the Bill of Rights. Let me say, as a former reservist as well as a Member of Parliament, that this flies in the face of all the values and standards that members of the British Army should uphold. Should the House not express its deep dismay and disgust at the conduct of those soldiers?

It should, and I believe that the hon. Gentleman has done so on behalf of colleagues across the House. My understanding is that the matter is being investigated—I believe I am right in saying that the Ministry of Defence has signalled that an investigation will take place—and that seems to me to be absolutely right. What he has said is 100% correct. I would be horrified if our service personnel were to behave in such a way in relation to any Member of the House, or the representative of any political point of view embodied in a democratic political party. It is simply an unconscionable way in which to behave.

I entirely endorse what the hon. Gentleman has just said. I have no wish to raise the temperature, but rather, in the most solemn way, to underscore the importance and utter validity of what he has said.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Hillsborough trial has ended without the jury’s reaching a conclusion. Have you had any indication from the Government yet as to their willingness or desire to make a statement on what will happen now to honour the victims of the Hillsborough tragedy and ensure that those responsible are actually held to account?

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman, because the matter is of intense interest across the House, not to mention in very large parts of the country. The short answer is no, I have received no indication of an intention on the part of a Minister to make a statement on the matter to the House. However, Ministers on the Treasury Bench, and the Patronage Secretary, will have heard—or will very soon hear—what the hon. Gentleman has said. If the matter is as he has described it—and I have no reason to doubt what he has said—I should be very surprised if a Minister were not shortly to offer to come to the House to make a statement. The hon. Gentleman is well familiar with what I might call the backstop option, which he could deploy if he were concerned that a statement might not be forthcoming. I will leave it at that.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Have you received any notice of a statement from the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, given the appalling news this morning that the Government of Brunei are intending to introduce the stoning to death of members of the LGBT community? Given our close links with that Government—not least our military and business links, and our links through the Commonwealth —do you not agree that such a statement would be very useful to the House?

I agree. Such a statement would indeed be very useful. I have had no indication that the Foreign Secretary or one of his colleagues is minded to come to the House for that purpose, but the hon. Gentleman is an assiduous contributor to our proceedings, and I am sure he will have noted that the matter was aired in the Chamber yesterday during questions to the Foreign Secretary. I sensed that there was very much, as one would expect, a cross-party feeling on the subject, and I very much hope that it will be possible for it to be aired further in the Chamber.

I do not mind telling the hon. Gentleman that there was an application for an urgent question on the matter earlier in the week. As I knew that Foreign Office questions were coming and we were very heavily consumed by other business, I declined it at that time. However, many people would judge that the matter remains urgent, and the opportunities exist for colleagues—perhaps I may use this analogy again—to deploy the backstop option in order to ensure that there is a ministerial presence in the Chamber, and to focus on the matter very soon.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Am I right in thinking that it would not be possible to have a statement after 2 o’clock today when Parliament has sort of been taken over by the alternative Government? Is that not one of the problems with doing statements at the moment?

That is indeed a valid observation. The hon. Gentleman is right as far as today is concerned. To be fair, I do not think I was—and I do not think the hon. Member for Cardiff South and Penarth (Stephen Doughty) would suggest this—signalling that the matter could be aired by the mechanism either of an urgent question or a statement today, but of course there is always the possibility of subsequent days.

Further to the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) in relation to Hillsborough, Mr Speaker. May I put it on record that the gentleman in question is one of my constituents, and this will be the second occasion on which he has faced a long trial that has not resulted in any verdict and has resulted in the jury being discharged? I hope that will be taken into account if anybody thinks it reasonable for such a person to be put through a third trial.

I rather imagine the point the hon. Gentleman has made on behalf of his constituent will be heard in the appropriate quarters. If he is concerned that it might not be, it is always possible for him to send the Official Report to those whom he believes need to read his words in it. I think we will leave it there for now, but I thank him; he has raised a serious point of a legal character, and he is representing his constituent, and I respect that.

I remind the House that under the Order of the House of 1 April I must interrupt any proceedings at 2 pm, when I will call a Member to move the business of the House motion. I therefore intend to bring proceedings on the statement to a close at approximately 1.45 pm to allow time for the presentation of the Bill and the ten-minute rule motion.