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Points of Order

Volume 663: debated on Wednesday 17 July 2019

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. You were not in the Chair at the time, but the word that the Minister heard was “indefinite”. My recollection is that the word that I used was “indeterminate”. Thank you for indulging me so that I could get that on the record.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his brief and precise point of order. He has corrected the record. There is a distinction between the two words, and I am sure that his point will have been taken into consideration.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The Minister’s answer to my question just a few moments ago regarding the unreliability of statistics was actually misleading. I accept that she may inadvertently be misleading the House, but she will know that I only got the answer on the numbers because I pointed out to her that a previous Minister had been asked the very same written question and gave the answer. As I said, I waited seven months, but the Minister did not give me an answer because she was unsure of the statistics. I do not know whether it is incompetence, inadequacy or what.

Order. I appreciate the right hon. Lady’s point, but she will know that it is not a point of order for the Chair; it is a point of debate. The right hon. Lady has asked a question and the Minister has given an answer. It is not for the Chair to adjudicate as to whether any answer is acceptable or pleasing to the Member who asked the question. It is the Minister’s answer and I will give her the opportunity to expand on it if she wishes to do so.

The Minister does not wish to expand on it; she has given her answer. The right hon. Member for Enfield North (Joan Ryan) is not satisfied, but c’est la vie—that’s life.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I seek your advice on a very important matter for my constituents. Two in five pensioners do not claim the pension credit that they are due. My elderly constituents are now contacting me to tell me that the telephone line provided by the UK Government through the Department for Work and Pensions to apply for pension credit over the phone is not properly staffed. Some people are kept on hold for over 30 minutes to speak to an adviser, before giving up. I tried to find online application forms to download in order to allow my constituents to apply for this benefit by post, but it turns out that no application forms are available, except for those living in Northern Ireland. That means that many of my elderly and financially challenged constituents are facing considerable obstacles to claiming the support for which they are eligible, which would go some way to explaining why two in five pensioners do not claim pension credit. Madam Deputy Speaker, I seek your advice and guidance as to what action I can take to ensure that the Government make it as easy as possible for pensioners in my constituency and across the UK who are eligible for pension credit, and who need this important support, to claim it without encountering these obstacles.

I thank the hon. Lady for her courtesy in giving me notice that she intended to raise that point of order. She raises a very important and serious matter about which the House has shown its concern on at least two occasions in the past few weeks—that I can recall—in the form of an urgent question and a debate. It is a matter of significant importance. I cannot give her any further advice from the Chair today, except to say that those on the Treasury Bench will have heard what she has said and I am quite sure that the appropriate Minister will be informed of her concerns. Of course, there are various ways in which the hon. Lady can bring this matter to the Floor of the House once again. If she cares to visit the Table Office, I am sure that she will be given the appropriate advice. I look forward to hearing her raise the matter with the Minister on the Floor of the House in due course.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. You may be aware that yesterday the National Records of Scotland released the drug deaths figures for Scotland, which stand at a record high of 1,187 deaths—souls lost to drug addiction—in the past year. There is nothing to this effect on the Order Paper today, but have you been given any indication whether a Home Office Minister will come to the House and make a statement on this issue? Some of the responsibility lies with the Home Office, as these matters are considered to fall under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, so it may be helpful for a Minister to enlighten the House on what their part may be in dealing with this crisis.

I thank the hon. Lady for her point of order. The answer to the first part of her question is that, yes, I am aware of these very worrying and serious statistics, which I am sure all Members will take very seriously. On her second point, I am not aware that a Minister is at this moment planning to come to the House to make a statement. I will say to the hon. Lady what I said to the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson) just a moment or two ago, which is that there are various ways in which she can bring this matter to the attention of the House in a formal way, and if she cares to visit the Table Office, I am sure that she will be given advice on how to do so. I look forward to hearing her raise these matters with the appropriate Minister in due course, because I am sure that it is a matter about which the House would like to hear.