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Points of Order

Volume 670: debated on Thursday 30 January 2020

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Weighing just 4½ stone, the body of Errol Graham was found eight months after his employment and support allowance had been stopped. The Department for Work and Pensions subsequently said that an independent serious case panel would look into Mr Graham’s case to judge the Department’s failures in relation to his death. However, it has emerged that the panel will consist only of senior civil servants from the Department itself, and it is unclear whether its conclusions will be made public. The lack of scrutiny and independence is unacceptable. Given the public interest and the seriousness of the issue, Madam Deputy Speaker, can you advise me on how to ensure that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions comes to the House and makes an oral statement on the issue at her earliest convenience?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving me notice of her wish to raise this matter. She has set out her case clearly. However, as I suspect she will realise, this is not a point of order for the Chair. If she wishes to pursue the matter further, she may wish to seek advice from the Table Office, but obviously Ministers will have heard what she has said about this distressing case.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Thank you for calling me earlier in business questions. It is a session that Back Benchers greatly value, as it is the one opportunity in the week when they may be able to raise matters. I understand the time restrictions applying to our business on Thursdays, but during the session that we have just had, the Front-Bench exchanges took 16 of the 45 minutes that you had allocated, and it was due to a brilliant effort on your part that so many Members could contribute in the remaining time. Could anything be done to ensure that more Back Benchers who wish to contribute to business questions are able to do so?

I am sure the hon. Gentleman is aware that there is a feeling that it is quite helpful for colleagues to have a rough idea of when business is starting so that they can be fairly certain of when they need to turn up for debates. I think many colleagues agree on that. So that is why there are firmer time limits for statements and urgent questions. However, I am sure that Front Benchers will take account of the points that the hon. Gentleman has made about the importance of getting Back Benchers in as well. Obviously, business questions are a very important part of the week—I accept that—and we did manage to get most people in today, which was because there were shorter questions and shorter answers. I think we should bear that in mind for the future.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Given that the Select Committees are soon to be established, will you use your good offices, through the Speaker, to ensure that every Committee that wants one has the chance to employ an apprentice to help it in some capacity? The Education Committee has an apprentice, but I think that if all Select Committees employed them, it would send a very good signal in relation to building an apprenticeships and skills nation.

That is not actually a matter for the Chair, but obviously the right hon. Gentleman has put on record his views about Select Committees and apprentices, and I will certainly pass them to the Speaker and other appropriate authorities.

Bill Presented

Environment Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Secretary Theresa Villiers, supported by the Prime Minister, Michael Gove, Secretary Stephen Barclay, Secretary Andrea Leadsom, Secretary Robert Jenrick, Secretary Grant Shapps, Secretary Alister Jack, Secretary Simon Hart and Secretary Julian Smith, presented a Bill to make provision about targets, plans and policies for improving the natural environment; for statements and reports about environmental protection; for the Office for Environmental Protection; about waste and resource efficiency; about air quality; for the recall of products that fail to meet environmental standards; about water; about nature and biodiversity; for conservation covenants; about the regulation of chemicals; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Monday 3 February, and to be printed (Bill 9) with explanatory notes (Bill 9-EN).