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Points of Order

Volume 701: debated on Monday 20 September 2021

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I would like to raise a point of order about ministerial correspondence. Over the weekend, I received an email from Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon. It said:

“To date, we do not have any record of correspondence relating to Afghanistan from you or your office.”

I seek your advice, Mr Deputy Speaker, on what on earth I should do. My office has contacted the Foreign Office directly on four occasions regarding a constituent and his family; the first of those contacts was on 20 August, a month ago today. We have contacted the Home Office about the case on five occasions. We have contacted the Ministry of Defence about the case twice. The SNP’s foreign affairs spokesperson also raised the case on my behalf with both the Home Secretary and the Foreign Secretary.

My constituent’s family were visited by the Taliban on 17 August. They were warned, and they were threatened. My constituent is a Chevening scholar and his father is a public prosecutor. How can I ensure that I receive a response to my queries so that I can give my constituent and his family appropriate advice? As you can imagine, I am deeply concerned for their wellbeing. They are literally living with the threat of death hanging over them every day, as they have been for the entire month since I was first in touch with the Foreign Office about this.

This is an urgent matter, and I thank the hon. Lady for giving me forward notice of her point of order. I am sorry to hear about the stress that her constituent is now facing and the circumstances in which they find themselves. I am also concerned by the response that the hon. Lady has described from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. Mr Speaker has said repeatedly from the Chair that responding in a timely and accurate way to Members’ representations is of the utmost importance, especially in the case of Afghanistan, which, as I have said, is urgent and critical. The hon. Lady has put her point on the record and I trust and expect that Ministers will respond to it quickly. If not, I know that she will pursue the matter; I am sure that the Table Office will be able to help and to suggest ways in which she might be able to do so.

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I know that the hon. Member for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman) delivered her point of order with all sincerity, but the letter from the Foreign Office also said that it had received more than 200,000 emails in a very short period of time. The letter from the Member of the House of Lords also gave MPs a direct email address to which to send any further information that might have been missed. For people watching these proceedings, I think it is important to explain the entire letter, not just the selected points from the hon. Lady.

That is definitely not a matter for the Chair. The hon. Gentleman has put his point on the record, but in the case of Afghanistan, clearly these are life and death matters. The correspondence, irrespective of how it has come, has got to be addressed properly.

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I ask your advice regarding the Elections Bill, which, as you know, is probably one of the most important Bills to come through Parliament in the past 50 years or more. I act as the Opposition Whip on the Bill, and it has been very difficult to sort things out with it, particularly now. The Bill Committee has already had four evidence sessions and we are due to start line-by-line scrutiny on Wednesday. We learned over the weekend not only that the Minister and the Government Whip have been moved to a different Department, but that the Cabinet Office will no longer have responsibility for the Bill. I ask what advice you can give me to ensure that we have the appropriate pieces of the jigsaw in place for the Bill Committee to sit on Wednesday and begin going through the Bill.

I thank the hon. Lady for her point of order. Fortunately, the Chair has many powers, but determining which Minister responds to which piece of legislation happens not to be one of them. However, the hon. Lady has made an important point. I am certain that those on the Treasury Bench will have heard it, and will ensure that she is informed as quickly as possible of which ministerial team happens to be in place, so that some progress can be made on the Bill, and indeed so that the dialogue that takes place behind the Chair on many occasions can take place in this instance.