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Points of Order

Volume 667: debated on Monday 28 October 2019

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The revealing internal documents leaked to the Financial Times over the weekend go to the very heart of the issue with the withdrawal agreement Bill and give us a glimpse of the Government’s true intentions on workers’ rights. Last week, the Prime Minister stood up and said time and again that they would keep the “highest possible standards” on workers’ rights. However, in private, members of the Government are discussing the very opposite among themselves.

Just to be clear, these documents talk about “binding commitments” on workers’ rights being “successfully resisted”. I want to know how we get to the truth and how working people get to the truth. I would like to know how we get either the Prime Minister or the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to clarify this vital matter of national importance.

I have not received any indication of an intention by a Minister to make an oral statement to the House, but the hon. Lady’s words will have been heard by those on the Treasury Bench. In so far as she seeks my counsel on how best to proceed with this matter, that advice is persist, persist, persist. Use the Order Paper. Go to the Table Office. Air the concerns. As I often say in this place, repetition is not a novel phenomenon in the House of Commons. Keep going. Do not give up. Never say die.

I will come to the hon. Gentleman. I am saving him up as a delectation of the House and a special taste.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. We all come to this place to fight for our constituents. From the very first day, I have used every avenue afforded to me to fight to keep A&E and women and children’s services in Telford. I have had 25 parliamentary questions, six parliamentary debates, 15 meetings with Ministers and 29 letters. Is it in order for the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to announce his decision on a six-year-long campaign of such importance to my constituents without meeting Telford’s elected representative to advise me of his decision, without notifying me by letter of his decision and without responding to multiple letters on the subject? Am I correct in my understanding, Mr Speaker, that all Ministers, as a matter of courtesy to the constituents we represent, have a duty to respond to and engage with Members on important constituency matters, no matter how junior the Member and no matter how important the Minister?

Well, I am certainly not suggesting that the hon. Lady is junior. She is now an experienced Member of the House. But in any case, in one very important respect—the most important respect—all Members in this place are equal: all Members have a responsibility to seek to advance the interests of their constituents. This is not, strictly speaking, a matter of order for the Chair. I am most grateful to her for ventilating her concerns and for her courtesy in giving me advance notice of her intention to do so—as well as informing me that she has given notice to the Secretary of State—but I can certainly confirm that the way in which Ministers respond to hon. Members on important constituency matters should in no way be affected by length of service of the constituency Member. I am moderately surprised by this, because the right hon. Member for West Suffolk (Matt Hancock) is a very keen Minister and he has not suffered over the years from a deficit of ambition. I think that the right hon. Gentleman would be gravely concerned to have incurred the hon. Lady’s wrath. My hunch is that a letter of concern and possibly even of apology will be winging its way to the hon. Lady, accompanied by offers of cups of tea and urgent meetings, because of the solicitous concern of the Secretary of State for the hon. Lady’s constituents, and, possibly, for his own future wellbeing. We will leave it there for now. She has done a very sensible thing in raising it in the Chamber. I congratulate her on her foresight.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. There has been much discussion about whether a general election will or will not take place in the near future. I am concerned that any general election campaign might cover the Remembrance weekend. It is enormously important to many people to pay our respects to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice and to veterans, families and others. Can you give some guidance on the position we can take, as an MP or as someone standing to become an MP, in laying wreaths on that day?

I think the safest answer to that question—I appreciate the hon. Gentleman’s concern—is that it would very much be a matter for local determination. There is, of course, a difference between a sitting Member and a selected or re-selected candidate for Parliament. How that matter is treated in individual constituencies will, I think, rather depend on those organising the services. My advice to the hon. Gentleman is that, with the beatific smile for which he is renowned in all parts of the House and appropriate courtesy at local level, he should make inquiries and he may find satisfaction.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. That is an important point. It is in your gift I believe, Mr Speaker, to determine whether Members, or perhaps former Members in the case of an election, are allowed to use the Portcullis wreaths. Could you determine that for us, please?

I will certainly take advice on it—I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman—and if, having taken advice, I have something to report to him and to the House, I will.