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Points of Order

Volume 664: debated on Tuesday 8 October 2019

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. It has come to light that the Department for Work and Pensions is issuing ill and disabled people with positive health guidance statements, asking them to describe their disability or health condition. In these statements, disabled people are being asked

“to avoid words that sound worse than they are”

to describe their disability. This includes avoiding words such as “chronic”, “degenerative” or even “depression”. In essence, the DWP is encouraging disabled people to downplay their disability or health condition. Can you advise me on how the Secretary of State can come to the House and make a statement on this issue at the earliest convenience? It cannot be right that the Department expects disabled people to downplay their disability or health condition.

I thank the hon. Lady for giving me notice of the point of order. As she well knows, it is not the responsibility of the Chair, but what we can guarantee is that Government Members have absolutely heard what you have to say. The hon. Lady will be coming back next Monday, and I am sure that she will ensure this House is aware of the issue and that she will pursue it in the rightful way.

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I wondered whether you had had any indication before we are prorogued again imminently of whether the Home Secretary intends to come to the Dispatch Box to make a statement on the revelations that came out overnight via a freedom of information request that the review her Department ordered into buffer zones around abortion clinics to stop the harassment of women contained disturbing flaws. The review was ordered in 2017, and it reported last year, but ITV, LBC and The Independent newspaper are reporting that evidence was suppressed and that civil servants were instructed that the main aim of the game was to be seen to be doing something. In the light of the letter that the Home Secretary has received today from 30 different groups, from Mumsnet to the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Nursing, and in the light of the moving statement made by my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) on the same subject last week, as well as the daily distress women are still suffering up and down the country, can we please get the Home Secretary to right this wrong and have a fresh inquiry to clear up the mess made by her two predecessors?

I thank the hon. Lady for giving me notice of her question. The matter she raises is not a matter for me in the Chair today, but I know that the responsible Ministers in the Home Office have absolutely heard what you have to say. I am sure the Home Office will be taking that on board. Once again, I know that you, through your good offices, and colleagues of your good self will ensure that, when we return on Monday, this matter will be raised again.

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I apologise that I could not give advance notice of my point of order, because I had to remain in my seat hoping to catch Mr Speaker’s eye. In his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh East (Tommy Sheppard), who was on the SNP Front Bench earlier, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster clearly accused the Scottish National party of being a sectarian organisation. That is the second time he has done that from the Dispatch Box. I appreciate that it is not a question of order whether remarks are offensive, although I hope that, on reflection, the Minister will understand that those comments are not only deeply offensive, but a highly irresponsible accusation to throw at any organisation that works so tirelessly to rid Scotland of the cancer that is sectarian bigotry—a cancer that was very prominent in the community in which I and a number of my colleagues grew up. Can you advise me whether it is still the case that a Minister who says something untrue from the Dispatch Box must be given a reasonable chance to correct the record and that, if they refuse to do so, it is not possible for them to remain as a Minister in the Government?

In fairness, it is up to the Minister whether they wish to. I do not know whether the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster would want to speak or not—that is his choice. If he does, of course I will give way. What I would say is that you would not expect me to comment on that. I was not chairing the debate, and, in fairness to Mr Speaker, if it was disorderly, he will have said so. That is the one thing I want to be clear on. In fairness to Mr Speaker, he will have done the right thing at that moment.

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Parliament is expected to prorogue today, but, unusually, the Privy Council website still does not list an Order in Council as having been approved for Prorogation. The matter is listed on the Order Paper and in the House of Lords on the Order Paper, yet, for some reason, an Order in Council does not appear to have been passed so far according to the Privy Council website. Normally, Orders in Council for Prorogation are passed several days before it actually occurs. It is 3.26 pm. I wonder what is going on.

That is not a matter for the Chair. It is not for me to speculate on the Privy Council. I am sure that you will not take your eye off your mobile phone, to ensure that that first-line knowledge will be through to your good self once you see it there. But it is not a matter for the Chair, as much as it is frustrating. As a member of the Privy Council, I have to say that I have no further information to add.

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Lots of people will be watching Parliament on television today, but, of course, that was not possible 30 years ago. Twenty-seven years ago, Baroness Betty Boothroyd became the first female Speaker of the House of Commons. Today is her 90th birthday. I wondered what pieces of advice you could give on how we could all go about wishing her a happy birthday.

One of them is not to sing in the Chamber. I would say that I have the greatest respect for Baroness Boothroyd. She is one of my idols. She is somebody who I look up to and who set an agenda in this House that we can all respect—the first woman Speaker. It is a privilege to have known her; it is a privilege to have been in this House when she was in this Chair. Everybody who ever worked with her held her in the highest esteem and respect. The one other thing I would say is happy 90th and many more to come, because she is a great lady who I will always respect. I always remember her fighting the by-elections of Nelson and Colne, which my father took over as the MP afterwards. So, yes, we do have a great affinity.