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Points of Order

Volume 680: debated on Wednesday 16 September 2020

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your guidance on a matter that occurred in this House. Yesterday during Treasury questions, I asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer about the soaring numbers of first-time food bank users, and highlighted the correlation between that and the 3 million people who have not received significant financial support during the coronavirus pandemic. I asked whether any Government support was forthcoming for those millions of people.

The Chancellor is well aware of that group, who are commonly known as the excluded, yet in his answer he said that he felt that I had become “confused”. He suggested that I was asking about self-employed people who earn more than £50,000 a year in profit. People in these circumstances make up a small proportion of the excluded group. There are many others, such as the newly self-employed, pay-as-you-earn freelancers, those who earn less than 50% of their income through freelance work, and new starters.

I have no doubt that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not have intentionally dismissed the concerns of the millions of people I have sought clarity for, because I know that the issues of food and financial poverty are of the utmost importance to him, as they are to all Members. What advice can you give me, Mr Speaker, on how I can ensure that the Chancellor has the opportunity to put it on record that it was actually he who may have been confused during yesterday’s Question Time, and, more important, to answer my question in full, for the sake of the millions who are locked out of support?

I thank the hon. Lady for giving me notice of her point of order. As she is well aware, it is not a point of order for the Chair, but we have quite rightly ensured—this is the advice, which is simple—that she has got it on the record. It is there for everybody to see that it is corrected, and I am sure that the sound of her voice will be whirling around, on its way to remind the Chancellor of what has been said.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your advice on correcting an injustice. My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham East (Nadia Whittome) was wrongly accused of fabricating a shortage of personal protective equipment at the care home in which she used to work as a carer and to which she had returned to work to assist during the pandemic. Unfortunately, as well as my hon. Friend’s being accused of lying in the media and on social media, her account of the serious PPE shortage was called into question by the hon. Members for Rutland and Melton (Alicia Kearns), for Mansfield (Ben Bradley), for Mid Bedfordshire (Ms Dorries) and for North West Durham (Mr Holden), the right hon. Member for Braintree (James Cleverly) and the noble Lord, Baron Goldsmith of Richmond Park. I notified them in advance that I would be raising this matter.

Today the care home in question has confirmed to the Daily Mirror that there were shortages of PPE, that my hon. Friend had been telling the truth and that she was asked to record a video appeal for PPE donations, an issue that has been a source of national concern. Can you advise me, Mr Speaker, on how I might bring these facts to the attention of the House, and the hon. and right hon. Members concerned? In the short time that she has been here, my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham East has shown herself to be a principled, caring and compassionate Member of this House. The Government must listen to frontline workers and stop trying to distract from their own catastrophic failure to support care homes and their staff during this crisis.

Very much on the same lines, I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of the point of order. It is very important that it has been placed on the record. I hope Members will reflect on what has been said, and when they read it, they may quite rightly wish to speak with the hon. Member in question. I say to hon. Members in all parts of the House that we ought to be a little more careful before we point the finger at each other. If we think before we act, in the end, with a little more care and caution, we will not have to hear these points of order. However, I say to the hon. Member for Ilford North (Wes Streeting) that it is not a point of order for me, but it is certainly on the record, and I am sure that other Members will reflect on it.

You should have had notice of it, Mr Speaker, so my apologies if that has not reached you. I, too, seek your guidance. I am frequently getting tardy and irrelevant responses from Ministers in relation to constituency casework. I am afraid that the worst culprits are the Department of Health and Social Care, the Treasury, and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. In one case, I had to send two reminders to the Department of Health and Social Care concerning a constituent who had secondary—that is, terminal—breast cancer. This morning I received a standard reply from the Treasury about a constituent’s business that was three months late and had no relevance. This is incredibly disrespectful to my constituents. I appreciate that everybody is busy, but it is not good enough, so I wonder if I could ask your good self, Mr Speaker, how I might remind Ministers that they have an obligation and a duty to respond to constituents’ inquiries.

I do take this on board, and we are all concerned. Ministers have a duty of care to reply to Members. We are acting on behalf of the people who elect us. I have taken this up on numerous occasions with the Leader of the House, and he has also taken it up with Ministers and their offices. I think he might be behind the Chair, but I am sure that he will be listening very carefully, taking notes and already sending out the message: Ministers should answer the questions put to them fully and in time, otherwise it is not good enough, as I am sure we would all agree. I do not care what side of the House it is; Ministers have a duty of care to every Member of this House. They should be put first, so I will take the point on board.

For the safe exit of hon. Members participating in this item of business and the safe arrival of those participating in the next, I am suspending the sitting for three minutes.

Sitting suspended.

Bill Presented

Overseas Development Assistance Committee

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Wendy Chamberlain, supported by Sarah Champion, Harriett Baldwin, Chris Law, Layla Moran, Kate Osamor, Caroline Lucas, Claire Hanna, Mr Virendra Sharma, and Mrs Pauline Latham, presented a Bill to require a Minister to move a motion in the House of Commons seeking to establish a Select Committee to monitor overseas development assistance expenditure by Government Departments.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on 13 November and to be printed (Bill 182).