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Points of Order

Volume 699: debated on Tuesday 13 July 2021

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Select Committee on Home Affairs had been seeking to visit Napier barracks and Tug Haven reception centre for asylum seekers. We approached the Home Office four weeks ago. We had planned to visit today, but we have not received any response from the Home Office, and as a result we are here, not there. Given the importance of this, given the court judgments there have been about Napier barracks, and given our Committee’s ongoing inquiry into this matter, the whole Committee is very concerned about the lack of response and our inability to facilitate this visit. Please can you advise me and the Committee on the responsibilities of the Home Office to work with the Committee to facilitate scrutiny and visits such as these, and on what more we should do to try to get such a visit before the summer recess?

I am grateful to the right hon. Member and to her Committee colleague, the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), who I think also has a point of order. I will take that as well, and then I will respond.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I am grateful, because I think the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee slightly underplays the urgency of this matter. For the past month, we have been asking to visit Napier. We have been fobbed off numerous times, and I have to say that this is not an isolated incident: increasingly, it is becoming difficult to get responses from Home Office officials and Ministers, never mind to get them in front of us here in a timely fashion.

This particular visit is directly related to some evidence that was given to us by Ministers, which has now turned out to be highly questionable, and which impacts on reviews and reports that we are currently preparing. We wanted very urgently to visit Napier barracks, but that probably cannot now happen before the summer recess. How on earth can we get responses from the Home Office in a timely fashion without Committee members and officials wasting time in constantly chasing them, or having to raise it on the Floor of the House, as the Chair of the Select Committee and others have done on countless occasions?

I have repeatedly stressed the importance of Select Committees and the essential scrutiny work that they undertake. I am very happy to do so again. For the Committees’ work to be effective, Departments need to be constructive and helpful when Committees make responsible and reasonable requests, whether they are about finding time for Ministers and officials to give evidence or, in this case, facilitating visits. It is simply unacceptable that the Committee has not had a response to the request made four weeks ago about a visit. That is discourteous to the Committee and, therefore, the House. Ministers on the Treasury Bench will have heard this exchange. I hope the matter can now be resolved speedily. This is coming not from one side, but from both sides of the House. Select Committees are important for scrutinising the Government’s business. It is important for the Government to recognise that. The sooner this can be fixed, the better; the happier I will be, and so will the House.