On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. First, I would like to apologise to you and to the House. I was not expecting to be in the Chamber today and my attire is that of somebody who does not like the heat in London, so first I should apologise for that. I wanted to ask whether you could enable me to seek an apology from the Prime Minister—who has inspired me, in my attire, to come to the Chamber today—for referring today at Prime Minister’s Question Time to questions about the pitiful rape conviction rate in our country as “jabber”. When questioned about the falling rape conviction rate, the Prime Minister asserted that this was merely “jabber” and not something that sees, for every 60 people who come forward to say that they have been raped, one charge—and that does not even cover convictions.
I would also like to ask you whether you could help me correct the record on some of the other things that the Prime Minister said today at Prime Minister’s questions. He asserted that clauses 106 and 107 in the new Bill would increase convictions. They have absolutely nothing to do with that; they are about sentencing, and I speak as an expert in the field. He also stated that the Labour party had not supported the Domestic Abuse Bill. As one of the key authors of many of the clauses in it, I must say it was a huge surprise to me to hear that the Labour party had not supported the Domestic Abuse Bill, so I am not entirely sure why the Prime Minister asserted that. But more than anything, what I seek today is an apology from the person who is meant to keep our streets safe. Currently, if you are a woman or a girl in this country, the Government are failing.
I thank the hon. Lady for her point of order, and for giving me notice of her intention to raise it. May I also say that I greatly appreciate her apologising for her attire, which of course in places other than this Chamber would be perfectly chic, but she is right to note that there is a certain dress code for the Chamber, which it is important that we all observe. However, I fully appreciate that the hon. Lady was not planning to come to speak in the Chamber today, and there is always the exception that proves the rule.
As to the very serious matter that the hon. Lady has raised, she asked me if I can take steps to correct the record about what the Prime Minister said, and the answer to that is no; answers given and statements made by Ministers, or indeed by any other Member of this House, are not a matter for the Chair. The hon. Lady clearly has one opinion and the Prime Minister has a different opinion, and the purpose of this Chamber is to allow both of those opinions or evaluations of the facts to be freely expressed. The hon. Lady has taken the opportunity to put her interpretation of the facts and to point out that that differs from the Prime Minister’s interpretation of the facts.
The hon. Lady raised another matter which is of importance, and that is the use of language. It was so noisy in the Chamber today—I suppose that is refreshingly good in some ways, because at last we can have a significant number of Members present—that I certainly could not be quite sure exactly what was said at any one point, but if it is the case that the Prime Minister or, indeed, anyone else speaking in this Chamber is in danger of giving offence by the actual words that they have used, especially on a very sensitive subject—undoubtedly, the subject of rape and the prosecution of rape is the most sensitive—I simply encourage all Members to remember the words of “Erskine May”:
“Good temper and moderation are the characteristics of parliamentary language”,
and that moderation should be observed at all times.
Having said that, the hon. Lady has made her point very well and I am sure that it will have been noted not only on the Treasury Bench but more widely. I thank her for that.
Planning (Proper Maintenance of Land) Bill
Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
Jonathan Gullis presented a Bill to make provision for increased fines for failures to comply with a notice under section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 14 January 2022, and to be printed (Bill 130).
Plastic Pollution Bill
Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
Mr Alistair Carmichael, supported by Ed Davey, Wendy Chamberlain, Wera Hobhouse, Tim Farron, Layla Moran, Sarah Green, Daisy Cooper, Jamie Stone, Christine Jardine, Munira Wilson and Sarah Olney, presented a Bill to set targets for the reduction of plastic pollution; to require the Secretary of State to publish a strategy and annual reports on plastic pollution reduction; to establish an advisory committee on plastic pollution; and for connected purposes.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 4 February 2022, and to be printed (Bill 131).
ARMED FORCES BILL: PROGRAMME (No. 2)
Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7)),
That the Order of 8 February 2021 in the last Session of Parliament (Armed Forces Bill: Programme) be varied as follows:
(1) Paragraphs 4 to 6 of the Order shall be omitted.
(2) Proceedings in Committee of the whole House on recommital, any proceedings on Consideration and proceedings on Third Reading shall be taken in two days in accordance with the following provisions of this Order.
Committee of the whole House
(3) Proceedings in Committee of the whole House shall be taken on the first day and shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption on the first day.
Consideration and Third Reading
(4) Any proceedings on Consideration and proceedings on Third Reading shall be taken on the second day.
(5) Any proceedings on Consideration shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour before the before the moment of interruption on the second day.
(6) Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the moment of interruption on the second day.—(James Morris.)
Question agreed to.