Skip to main content

Points of Order

Volume 664: debated on Monday 30 September 2019

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The Supreme Court ruled that Parliament had not been prorogued, and it was clear that the Prime Minister’s intention was to stymie the ability of this House to hold him and his shambolic Government to account and that parliamentary business should be resumed so that we could hold them both to account.

Madam Deputy Speaker, I seek your advice regarding the provision of Opposition days. Standing Order No. 14(2) provides for three allotted Opposition days

“at the disposal of the leader of the second largest opposition party”.

That has been the Scottish National party since 2015. This has been the longest Session of Parliament in history, yet in over two years the SNP has been granted only one and a half Opposition days for debate on subjects of our choosing. We have repeatedly asked through the usual channels, and my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) has been asking the Leader of the House at business questions since the summer for an SNP Opposition day. Another attempt at Prorogation and a new Queen’s Speech looms, with the prospect of this Session being brought to a close without the third largest party in this House being provided with a type of debate that we are entitled to under Standing Orders.

Can you advise me, Madam Deputy Speaker, on whether my understanding of the Standing Orders is correct, and could you suggest what, if any, remedies are open to us to ensure that we are able to exercise the rights provided to us under Standing Orders? Would the Government’s refusal to comply with a legitimate request for Opposition time, when there are still allotted days remaining, be grounds for considering whether the Government were yet again in contempt of the House and its Standing Orders?

I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his point of order, and for giving me notice of it and highlighting the Standing Order to which he refers. I hope he will appreciate that it is not for the Chair to become involved in the timing and allocation of Opposition days. I would advise him to continue to use the channels that he and his colleagues have been using so far to press his case for the time he is seeking. He may also wish to use other devices for raising the specific issues that he has wanted to raise on any Opposition days. On the issue of contempt, if he believes that there are any grounds for a possible contempt, the course is to write to Mr Speaker about the issue. I do hope that that is helpful.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Earlier this afternoon I raised a conflict of interest that I believed the Leader of the House had. Before I did so, I wrote to him. During the Urgent Question, the Exchequer Secretary revealed that he had visited my constituency without telling me. Furthermore, the Minister without Portfolio, the right hon. Member for Braintree (James Cleverly) was in my constituency recently: he did not notify me of that beforehand either. I know we have had some constitutional innovations recently, and I know that the Government are not interested in convention, but has the convention of informing other hon. Members of visits been set to one side, or is there some way we can get members of the governing party to abide by it?

I thank the hon. Lady for her point of order. I assume that she has notified the Members involved that she intended to raise it, as that is certainly one convention—

She has stuck to that, so that is good. It is important that right hon. and hon. Members notify each other if they are visiting other constituencies. If that breaks down, it will be difficult for all of us. I urge those on the Treasury Bench and everyone else to try to observe that convention. The hon. Lady has raised the issue and done the right thing by informing the Members involved that she intended to do so.


Justice (Equality of Access) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Frank Field presented a Bill to place a duty on the Lord Chancellor to ensure equality of access to legal representation and the justice system for people of all socio-economic groups.

I wanted to call it the “Gina Miller (Poor People’s Access to Courts) Bill” and if you could change the record in that respect, Madam Deputy Speaker, I would be very grateful.

I am not sure that that is entirely within my powers. Well done for getting it in there anyway.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 436).