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Point of Order

Volume 662: debated on Wednesday 19 June 2019

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Since you took the Chair, you have been a stalwart defender of Back Benchers. You have also stood up to bad parliamentary behaviour like the use of the word “racism”. I am deeply upset that your chairmanship has been undermined dramatically because of the very calm and polite advice you gave to hon. Members—leaders of political parties—that was ignored. Please will you do all you can to ensure that words such as “racist” are not common parlance in this House?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. I am always appreciative of kind words and, in so far as he is proffering sympathy for me and expressing concern about my reputation, I am deeply obliged to him, but I am not a delicate flower and I do not feel any concern on that front. I am simply trying to do the right thing by the House. There was originally, as colleagues of long service will know, a list of unparliamentary words, but that list was discontinued, not least on account of its potentially infinite scope. It was therefore discontinued. The word in question is not of itself unparliamentary. The issue is to judge context and to make an assessment of what is seemly in the Chamber, and I made my own assessment and advised the House and the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford) accordingly. It was only when I heard the full flow of the words that I was able to make an assessment, and I think it would be wise for colleagues to bear in mind the general principle that one does not impute dishonour to another Member. That is the first point.

The second point is that I know that there is a degree of latitude in respect of questions to the Prime Minister, but I think it would be appropriate, in the remaining weeks before the summer recess and before a new leader of the governing party takes office, to have some regard to that for which the Prime Minister is responsible. She is responsible for her own policies and for the conduct of her Government and their administration of their affairs, and it is important that questions should be put with that overarching consideration and ambit of responsibility in mind. However, I have said what I have said, and the hon. Gentleman has made his point in his question. I have no wish to prolong the argument, and knowing what a naturally good-natured fellow he is, I feel sure that he has no such ambition either. We will leave it there for now.