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Points of Order

Volume 691: debated on Monday 22 March 2021

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I have given notice of my point of order. This week, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee on which I sit published a report on supply chains linked back to Xinjiang. I raise this point of order to gain your advice and judgment on the situation I now find myself in. Officials from the Chinese embassy in London are accusing Members of Parliament, the Committee and, therefore, the House of lies. I have been bombarded by tweets. One claims that:

“Some politicians chose to believe the lies made up by a few… They chose to dance with the few anti-China elements in their clumsy dramas”.

Another states:

“Such frivolous and preposterous farces aimed to discredit and smear China will only end up undercutting their own reputation as a laughing stock.”

It goes on about facing

“the condemnation of conscience and the reckoning of justice.”

Madam Deputy Speaker, I need you to provide me with some guidance on whether this goes against the grain of allowing MPs to conduct their work without fear. Is accusing a Select Committee report of being “full of lies” a contempt of Parliament? Colleagues have noted that the language to which I have been subjected publicly could be considered threatening, but I seek your guidance. I hope you agree that we should not allow foreign interference to challenge the House, a Select Committee or any MP for doing what they were elected to do.

I thank the hon. Lady for giving notice that she wished to raise this point of order. It is clearly unacceptable that members of Committees of this House should feel in any way threatened as a result of the views they express. Any kind of intimidatory behaviour directed at members of a Committee is wrong and this House should take it very seriously. In this case, I note that the official concerned has stated that he is not seeking to be threatening. However, if the hon. Lady feels that the issue is not resolved, I would encourage her to pursue it with the House authorities.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I too gave notice that I would raise this point of order. I understand that the Northern Ireland Secretary will lay matters before this House to take upon himself powers to direct the Northern Ireland Department of Health and, indeed, the Assembly on the devolved and controversial matter of abortion. This will have grave implications for the “New Decade, New Approach” agreement and the devolution settlement. It would be unprecedented for a London Department to direct a devolved Northern Ireland Department. Has the Secretary of State indicated to the Chair that he intends to make a statement on this? How can we scrutinise this properly and hold this Government to account?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving notice of his point of order. I cannot speak for the business managers, and I am not aware of notification of a statement, but I am sure that Government Front Benchers will have heard what he has said about the desirability of notice of a debate on such matters.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Further to the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Wealden (Ms Ghani), I do not think that it is a case of whether one feels intimidated; surely it is a case of somebody attached to a foreign embassy sending an electronic message directly to the Twitter account of a parliamentarian that would make anybody feel intimidated. I do hope that you and Mr Speaker will consider whether some representations can be made about conduct, or misconduct, of this sort.

As I think I made clear, it is extremely important that members of Committees or Members of Parliament in general do not feel threatened. As I say, I would suggest that any further representations should be made to the House authorities if there is a feeling that this is in any way continuing or has not been resolved in a satisfactory manner.

I will now suspend the House for three minutes for arrangements to be made for the next business.

Sitting suspended.