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Points of Order

Volume 662: debated on Thursday 4 July 2019

Oh, a veritable flurry of points of order! I call the person who leapt to her feet with exemplary alacrity, speed and athleticism—Thangam Debbonaire.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I seek your guidance on the need for Ministers of the Crown to speak accurately about the actions of Members of this place and the other place in legislative processes and to seek to correct the record as soon as possible when they inadvertently give information that turns out not to be correct.

The Prime Minister has been given several opportunities by me and others to correct the record and clarify that, contrary to what she said in reply to my question and one other last week in Prime Minister’s questions, which must have been misinformation that she had been given, the Labour Lords did not block or attempt to block the statutory instrument for the UK to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Despite emailing the Prime Minister, tabling a written question and asking her again yesterday following her G20 statement, the Prime Minister has chosen not to correct the record, but merely to repeat some of her previous statement.

Mr Speaker, what guidance do you have for the next Prime Minister on the subject of either giving accurate information about the actions of colleagues or, when misinformed and therefore inadvertently saying something that turns out not to be correct, correcting the record as soon as possible? The public deserve to know that all of us here do our very best to uphold the traditions of truth and accountability.

The short answer is: be accurate, and if you are not, acknowledge the fact and make amends. I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving me notice of her intention to raise that matter and for informing the Prime Minister. In responding to the hon. Lady’s point of order on 27 June, the Deputy Speaker encouraged her to pursue the matter by means of a written question. I note that the answer to her first question was disappointing to her, but that is, I regret to say, not an unusual experience for Members tabling questions to Ministers.

The best advice that I can give the hon. Lady in such circumstances is: persist, persist, persist—note my use of the word three times, its repetition twice. Quantity, persistence and, above all, repetition are at least as important as the quality of an hon. Member’s argument. The quality of the argument, of course, must pass muster, but it is a great mistake to think that if a point is made once and has the advantage of being true, it will be readily acknowledged as such by all colleagues or outside observers. Sadly, in my 22 years in the House, my experience has been that that is not unfailingly the case. It is therefore necessary to keep going—if necessary, on and on and on until satisfaction is achieved. The Table Office would be happy to advise the hon. Lady on further options available to her, and this process can potentially continue indefinitely until she has secured an outcome that suits.

I will come to the right hon. Gentleman, but it would be a pity to squander him at too early a stage in our proceedings. The House will want to savour the experience of hearing him in his characteristically poetic form and mood, so we will come to him erelong. Meanwhile, we will hear a point of order from Marsha De Cordova.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Following the High Court ruling in 2017, the Department for Work and Pensions is now reviewing more than 1.6 million personal independence payment cases, to identify people entitled to additional social security support. Today the Department has released an update on its review, and the figures are deeply concerning. The Government had estimated that 14% of cases would see an increase in their award—an estimate that was cited multiple times in this place and outside it. But the figures released today show that just 0.8% of the cases reviewed have led to an increase in award. That is a significant disparity, and given the Department’s shambolic record, we need confidence that it is not yet another error. I seek your guidance, as I believe this is such an important issue that an oral statement should have been made to the House.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving me notice of her intention to raise a point of order on that matter. I am bound to say that I have not received notice of an intention by Ministers to make an oral statement—

Oh! That is very helpful. The relevant Minister is in his place and veritably champing at the bit. Let us hear from the fella.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I notified the hon. Lady on 24 June about the latest stats publication, with an invitation to meet officials, which, I am pleased to say, has been accepted. We will continue to keep the House updated through regular statistical releases, as is the usual practice.

I cannot be expected to act as arbiter on this matter. What the Minister has told the House is of interest and relevance, and doubtless the meeting, which I assume is scheduled, will go ahead, and it may well provide enlightenment or satisfaction. If not, and the hon. Member for Battersea (Marsha De Cordova) wishes to return to the matter, she can do so in the first instance, having alerted those on the Treasury Bench to her continuing interest, through the judicious use of the Order Paper, upon which she will be advised by the Table Office. It is perfectly possible that these matters will be aired again in the Chamber erelong.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I waited in vain during business questions to hear any mention of the plight of those who suffer from spinal muscular atrophy, such as my constituent, 12-year-old Rae White. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence approved a treatment for this condition in May, yet it now has become clear that the roll-out has been delayed and the allocation may be partial. Quite simply, those who suffer deserve better.

I had no advance notification of that point of order, but the right hon. Gentleman has brought to the attention of the House an extremely serious and pressing matter. I do not know whether he is suggesting that there is any mismatch between a public statement of what would happen and what is now happening. If so, that is a matter of real parliamentary concern.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I say that there is some analogy or parallel between what he has just raised and the matter that has been raised on a couple of occasions in recent months by the hon. Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg), in relation to a different but very acute and serious condition and the availability or non-availability of the appropriate drug treatment. If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to raise that matter further in the Chamber before the summer recess, I think I can say with complete confidence that he will have the chance to do so.

I thank colleagues for what they have said and the Minister on the Front Bench for helpfully springing to his feet to assist us.