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Points of Order

Volume 666: debated on Wednesday 23 October 2019

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker, of which I gave Mr Speaker notice earlier today. During an urgent question on 7 October, on US tariffs being imposed on single malt whisky, I asked the Minister of State, Department for International Trade, the right hon. Member for Bournemouth West (Conor Burns), what discussions his Department had had with both the European Union and the United States specifically between 2 October and 7 October. The Minister was particularly unclear from the Dispatch Box. I therefore submitted no fewer than 15 written questions, seeking to find out exactly what discussions had taken place between those dates. The Department replied yesterday, having grouped the questions together, and palmed me off with what was, essentially, no answer at all, instead telling me what it is currently doing.

Will you advise me, Madam Deputy Speaker, on an issue of such huge importance to my Argyll and Bute constituency and the Scottish and UK economies, on how I can find out exactly what engagements the Department for International Trade had between 2 October and 7 October with the European Union and the United States on the imposition of US tariffs on malt whisky?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order, but he will not be surprised to know that it is not technically a point of order for the Chair. However, I appreciate—and I mean appreciate—that he is a great champion of the Scottish whisky industry, and so he should be. He and his colleagues have raised this matter in various ways in the Chamber over the last few weeks, so I fully appreciate how important it is and would like to give him whatever help I can. In the first instance, he may wish to seek the advice of the Table Office on how to pursue the matter, as he has tried to over the last few weeks. If he remains concerned about not receiving answers, or about not receiving them on time, he might wish to consider referring the matter to the Procedure Committee. I know that he will persist, and that he will have a lot of support in persisting on this subject.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. My constituent Robert Urwin has been held against his will in the Ukraine for over a year after an Interpol red notice was issued by HSBC for a historical bounced cheque in Dubai. Robert has been found innocent and a victim of forgery. Yesterday, it was confirmed that Interpol has removed the red notice, yet the warrant for his arrest and extradition to the United Arab Emirates remains. Robert is in deep despair. I have already raised this many times with Government Members, but he is still stuck in the Ukraine. Can you advise me on what on earth I can do next to help to force this Government to help me to get Robert home?

Once again, the hon. Lady is right to take the opportunity to raise the matter through a point of order in the Chamber. She has partially achieved what she wants to achieve, which is to bring the matter to the attention of the Chamber and of Ministers. I am sure that her points will have been noted by those on the Treasury Bench and that she will, like the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Brendan O’Hara), persist in asking such questions and acting quite properly on behalf of her constituent, for whom we all have very great sympathy.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Will you guide me on how I can place on the record an inaccuracy in the question from the hon. Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) to the Prime Minister? He stated that the demonstration on Kashmir on 27 October has deliberately been held to be in line with Diwali. It has not: 27 October is the day when India occupied the free state of Kashmir in 1947—that is historically correct.

The hon. Gentleman also mentioned—as my hon. Friends mention from the Front Bench—Pakistan being involved in this demonstration. As far as I am aware, a huge number of constituents across the country, including my constituents from Kashmir and of Kashmiri origin, are organising this on their behalf with the Sikh community and with a number of people, including Muslims from the Indian community and from other countries across the world, so it is not Pakistan—there are all sorts of people who believe in human rights and civil liberties, which are not being upheld for the Kashmiri community in Kashmir at the moment.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order, but it is an attempt to correct the facts as he sees them. I can make no judgment on which of these facts that have been mentioned, either at the Dispatch Box or by him, are correct. It is not for me to make such a judgment, but he has taken the opportunity to correct the record. I am sure that if he wrote formally to the relevant Minister his points would be taken very seriously. He has put them very courteously.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Sunday is Diwali. On Monday, Hindus in my constituency and across the UK will spend time with their families and visit their local temple. Diwali, like Eid, however, is not a national public holiday, so for some it will continue to be difficult to get time off to mark this most spiritually significant day. What can I do to ensure that there is a debate in Government time, so that those of us who are sympathetic to the campaign for these two days to be made national public holidays can have our case heard by Ministers and, at the very least, get Ministers to work with business organisations to be sympathetic to staff requests for time off to mark these important days?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order, and I will try to help him. Once upon a time, a long time ago, when I sat on the Back Benches, I tried to introduce a ten-minute rule Bill to bring about a public holiday for Magna Carta Day. It was notably unsuccessful, so I do not recommend that he does it by that method, but I do recommend that he raises the matter at business questions tomorrow. I am sure that he will have every opportunity to do so.