Skip to main content

Points of Order

Volume 677: debated on Wednesday 17 June 2020

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The House authorities have done a magnificent job in this time of covid-19 in terms of preparations for debates and voting in the House. Today, we are engaged in, and some of us have already cast our vote in, the deferred Division process, but much to my annoyance I discovered that there was no attempt by anyone to ascertain my identity as I voted. I cast my vote in the Members’ Library with a deferred Division slip, but there were no personnel present to establish that I was who I said I was, and I saw no means of identification other than a signature on the deferred Division list. Is that the process? Is it appropriate that that is how we should vote in a deferred Division Lobby?

Yes. The hon. Gentleman’s signature is unique, and it is recorded here in the House because he will at some point have put his signature in a book in front of the Clerks—when he swore in at the beginning of this Session of Parliament, he will have gone out there and given his signature—so his signature on that deferred Division form is his form of identity. If the hon. Gentleman were to suggest to me that there was some sort of forgery going on, we would have to look at that, but for the moment hon. Members are honourable and their signature identifies them.

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I do not in any way attempt to challenge your ruling—I accept it—but given the subject matter of the deferred Division, which is the abortion regulations in Northern Ireland, about which Northern Ireland people feel very strongly, I would have thought there should have been some way of personnel establishing that each Member is who they say they are, as we do in the normal process. There appears to have been no communication about this beforehand.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. We are not going to have a prolonged argument about it; the signature is the identity. If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that some sort of personation has occurred or some sort of fraudulent action has occurred, I hope he will come to see Mr Speaker about it privately, because it would be a very serious allegation. That not being the case, I am certainly satisfied that hon. Members are honourable and there is no suggestion that anyone has attempted to vote who does not have the authority to do so, on that subject or on any other subject.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. This is on a completely different matter. You will know that yesterday the Prime Minister announced that he intends to merge the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development. He said in the House that he was intending that there would still be proper scrutiny of both elements of that work by the House. I gather that yesterday the Foreign Secretary and the International Development Secretary wrote to the Chair of the International Development Committee to tell her that her Committee would be abolished. Can you confirm that that is actually a matter for the House? It is a matter for our Standing Orders whether that Committee exists. For that matter, the allocation of Chairs between the various Select Committees of the House is a matter that has to be arranged between the usual channels.

Yes, the hon. Gentleman, as usual in these matters, is absolutely correct. The House will be well aware that when changes are made to Select Committees—the chairmanship, the membership, the name, or any changes made to a Select Committee—they appear on the Order Paper and the matter comes before the House. There is the potential for a vote to take place upon it, so, yes, I can confirm that these matters will be dealt with in the proper manner.

Virtual participation in proceedings concluded (Order, 4 June).

As we have had a pause between the previous business and the next business, I do not propose to suspend the House for three minutes. It appears to me that everyone who was going to leave has already left, so let us go directly to the 10-minute rule motion.