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Points of Order

Volume 683: debated on Wednesday 4 November 2020

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I seek guidance on the powers of the House to summon witnesses to attend Select Committee inquiries and answer questions on their businesses’ involvement in UK matters? I ask this because there is a very real public concern about Disney, which made the film “Mulan” among the Uyghur slave camps in Xinjiang, and is therefore implicated in the mass human rights abuses of the Uyghur people by the Chinese state and may be profiting from them.

You might have thought that Disney would want to come in front of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee to explain its position, but Disney—a firm based in Hammersmith and with a substantial footprint in the UK—and its representative, Jan Koeppen, are refusing to attend. Can you advise what steps can be taken to ensure that Disney fulfils its obligations, not only to Parliament but to the public? Can you confirm that the House can require Disney to attend and that a refusal could be a blatant contempt of Parliament? What should the Committee do next?

I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving me notice of her intention to raise this matter. It is very important that Select Committees have access to witnesses to assist them in carrying out their important work, and I am sure representatives of Disney will have heard what she has said. What I would say to Disney is that it is a major corporation, and it is good at communications, so I would expect it to reflect what it does as a business. If witnesses refuse to attend when invited, it is open to Committees to summon them formally. If a witness fails to appeal when summoned, I would expect that to be reported to the House. Consideration could then be given to how the matter could be taken forward. As I understand that the Committee has not yet taken the first step, which only it can do at this stage, it is therefore a matter for the Chair of the Committee. With the hon. Lady’s good offices, I do not think this will rest here today.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The suggestion has been raised on the Floor of the House this week that in the current pandemic we should have a special coronavirus Select Committee. I thought it would be helpful for hon. Members to know that the Science and Technology Committee and the Health and Social Care Committee are together embarking on a large inquiry into all aspects of the pandemic and all the lessons that need to be learned. On the issue of whether we should have lockdowns and what their scientific basis is, we will be having a session later this month to which we will be inviting the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.

Once again, let me thank the right hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of his point of order. As he knows, it is not really a point of order for the Chair, but it is now on the record. Quite rightly, he has made his point, which follows Monday’s point of order. I do not want to get into a debate between the two—it is a matter for the House, not a matter for the Chair—so I think we will leave it at that, but I thank him for giving me notice.

In order to allow 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 House for three minutes.

Sitting suspended.

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