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Points of Order

Volume 662: debated on Wednesday 26 June 2019

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Diolch yn fawr iawn. On Monday, I received a letter from the Chief Whip confirming an intention to move the writ for the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election on Tuesday 25 June. Yesterday came and went, but no writ was moved. It was claimed that an issue with Powys Council, specifically the returning officer, was delaying the process. Powys Council confirmed within a matter of hours that that was not the case, and that it was waiting for the writ to be moved. ITV Wales’s political editor, Adrian Masters, has speculated that the Government have not moved the writ for the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election not because of problems in Powys but because they could not guarantee that Powys would not—as would be its right—hold the election on 25 July, that being of course the first full day of the new Prime Minister’s premiership.

Can you confirm that you have had notification that the Government intend to move the writ today, or will they continue to miss their own deadline and make highly questionable excuses for sparing the blushes of a new Prime Minister by delaying moving the writ?

I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for her point of order and for giving me notice of it. I was advised yesterday that the plan to move the writ yesterday had been aborted. Instead, I was advised at that stage, approximately 24 hours ago, that the plan was to move the writ today. However, I was informed earlier that the writ would not be moved today. If the right hon. Lady is asking me, as the Chair, whether I am clear about when the writ will be moved, the honest answer is that I am not aware. It is certainly regrettable for her to have received information privately that it transpired was not borne out by events. If she was given to understand that it would be moved but it was not—and indeed has not been—that is regrettable. I suggest that her best recourse is directly to approach the Government Chief Whip on the matter.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Many of us have visited Richard Ratcliffe, who is now in his 12th day of hunger strike in support of his wife, Nazanin, wrongly jailed in Tehran. The number of messages, flowers and visitors shows that the House and the country are strongly in sympathy with the Ratcliffe family’s long ordeal. Is there anything that you can do to spread the word that other Members visiting him would be extremely welcome?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman: it would be very welcome if Members had time and felt inclined to visit Richard Ratcliffe. I am not in the business of announcing my travel plans, and the hon. Gentleman would not expect me to do so, but I have heard what he has said and I have my own thoughts on the matter. I have indicated that I think it a very good idea, and it would be very welcome if Members from across the House, simply as human beings to another human being, felt inclined to demonstrate solidarity and support. I agree unreservedly with the hon. Gentleman and I rather imagine I will be having another conversation with him at a later date to tell him more.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. As you know, people travel far and wide to come to Prime Minister’s questions. Today the imam from the university mosque, Sheikh Mohsen, and his colleague, Mahaboob Basha, are here. Given that people have to travel so far and that the public and private travel networks are not that great, might you consider in the future the possibility of delaying the start time of PMQs to enable more people to travel from further afield to view the proceedings?

That is an ingenious idea. I am not sure that if it were a divisible proposition before the House it would necessarily command a majority. I say that because I noticed some furrowed brows at the suggestion that we should start late. We often start late anyway because I am keen to ensure that Backbenchers have a full opportunity in the previous session. The hon. Gentleman is a discerning and observant fellow, and I feel sure that he will have noticed that I also often allow a full opportunity for Back Benchers in Prime Minister’s questions. Even if someone is a bit late for Prime Minister’s questions, there is a good chance that they will still witness a goodly proportion of them. I will reflect on the hon. Gentleman’s idea, but he should not ring me and I cannot guarantee to ring him.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am always troubled when I hear any allegation of bad faith in the Chamber, and today we heard an allegation that a Member has made a career out of lying. Would you please guide me on whether it is in order for Members to accuse others of lying?

I did not hear any allegation of dishonesty. I did not hear that. If there was an allegation of dishonesty, I did not hear it. I heard used another that I do not think was particularly tasteful but that I did not judge to be disorderly. What I would say to the hon. Gentleman—apart from that obviously I can rule only on that which I hear there and then, and there was a great deal of noise in the Chamber—is this: if there is to be an allegation of dishonesty against a Member, that allegation should be made on a substantive motion. That is the long-established procedure in the House and it should not otherwise be done.

Very well, I am happy to hear it, but that is the answer to the hon. Member for Witney (Robert Courts). Such allegations should be made on substantive motions and not otherwise. That is the answer. As far as each individual situation is concerned, the Chair obviously has to deal with the circumstances as he or, in the case of one or other of my deputies, she finds those circumstances.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. On Monday, we passed legislation to set net zero by 2050 as our decarbonisation target. It is a hugely important thing to have done and our constituents are very interested in the matter. Mr Speaker, you have done great things to make the proceedings of the House more intelligible to the public beyond, and websites such as TheyWorkForYou have done likewise, yet because there was no Division on Monday, the unanimous support for that legislation will go unrecorded by TheyWorkForYou. At a time when the public think that our politics is hopelessly divided, do you agree that at moments when the House is unanimous in its support for such legislation, TheyWorkForYou should record that, not just the occasions on which we disagree?

We here are not responsible—the Chair is certainly not responsible—for the modus operandi of TheyWorkForYou. If memory serves, there will have been wording at the end of the debate saying that the question was agreed to, which is itself revealing. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is a pity, to put it no more strongly, if a situation of consensus in the House is not regarded as noteworthy. I think that is noteworthy. I do not have an immediate solution, but knowing the perspicacity—indeed, the indefatigability—of the hon. Gentleman, I feel sure that he will now beetle back to his office and pen a note or, better still, send an email to TheyWorkForYou, drawing attention to his efforts in the Chamber and imploring them to up their game.

Bill Presented

Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Secretary Michael Gove, supported by the Prime Minister and David Rutley, presented a Bill to make provision about the mode of trial and maximum penalty for certain offences under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 410) with explanatory notes (Bill 410-EN).