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Points of Order

Volume 667: debated on Tuesday 5 November 2019

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is a great pleasure to see you in the Chair. My point of order, which I gave notice of to the Speaker’s Office, relates to the written statement on shale gas that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy put out yesterday. It said a lot about the past but very little about the immediate future. The Government were forced to introduce a so-called moratorium on fracking at the weekend because of the tremors that affected my constituents in Blackpool in August, with the Oil and Gas Authority subsequently saying that they were unacceptable.

However, in a Radio 4 interview and in that statement, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has rather hedged her bets, undermining that promise. The Government have not provided any response to the National Audit Office report that talked about the real problems of decommissioning, which should be taking place at Cuadrilla’s site on Preston New Road as we speak. Madam Deputy Speaker, have you received any information about whether the Government are going to answer those big questions? The Secretary of State is in the Chamber, so she may like to respond now.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. He will be well aware that the making of a written statement is perfectly in order, so I can make no criticism of it from the Chair. I cannot give him answers to his questions, but he has taken the opportunity to alert the House and the Treasury Bench to his concerns. Of course, there are other ways in which he would normally be able to take forward his inquiries, but I do appreciate that this is the last day on which he can do so. He has done his best.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Ministers have been in the media today talking about the issue of the 2,250 autistic people and people with learning disabilities detained in mental health in-patient units. In the press and on broadcast media, Ministers have talked about demanding reviews of all those people who were detained, but in today’s written statement on the training of staff working with autistic people and people with learning disabilities there is no mention of what Ministers talked about in the media. We have therefore not had the chance to question Ministers on it, nor have we had a chance to talk about the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

Last week, the Committee described the horrific reality of hospital in-patient units, with its report stating that

“we are inflicting terrible suffering on those detained in mental health hospitals and causing anguish to their distraught families.”

I have raised the case of Bethany, an 18-year-old autistic woman who was locked in a cell in a secure unit in Wales many miles from her home. This morning, her father said the following in response to the Care Minister, talking about those reviews of the 2,250 people like Bethany—

Given the sensitive nature of the hon. Lady’s point of order, I will allow her to finish it, but let us not create a precedent.

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. The Care Minister has been around the media but has not been here to talk about the reviews, and Bethany’s father said the following in response:

“We have had review after review after review. We need action, not reviews.”

In the light of the extensive coverage in the press and broadcast media, have you had an indication from Health Ministers that they plan to come to the House to make an oral statement and answer questions?

The straight answer to the hon. Lady’s eventual question is that I have had no such notice, but I get the impression that what the hon. Lady really wanted to do is to raise this matter in the Chamber to bring it to the attention of Ministers. We are about to have a general debate during which any Member can raise a wide range of points, so the solution for the hon. Lady is immediately available to her—as soon as we are finished with the Bill that we are about to discuss.

Further to the point of order from my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool South (Gordon Marsden), Madam Deputy Speaker. Perhaps through your good offices, I can ask the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, who is still here, about not only the fracking that affects my hon. Friend’s constituency, but whether planning applications for fracking will be withdrawn as a result of the Government’s moratorium. If I could get that on the record, I would be extremely grateful because the matter also affects my constituency.

The hon. Gentleman is not really making a point of order, and he really ought to come back and make that point during the debate.