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Points of Order

Volume 705: debated on Tuesday 14 December 2021

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Twice in the last couple of days I have been confounded in my attempts to represent my constituents by public authorities—[Hon. Members: “Who?”] NHS England and National Savings & Investments. They have refused to deal with me because they tell me that I do not have the permission of the constituents to share their details. Now, I do not know about your office, Mr Speaker, and I do not know about the offices of other hon. Members, but we are far too busy dealing with plenty of genuine cases to get a phone book, pick a name at random and make up a bogus case to write to these public authorities.

So can you confirm, please, Mr Speaker, that if a constituent comes to see us and asks us to make representations on their behalf, that should be considered by any public authority—not just NHS England or National Savings & Investments—to be permission granted by the constituent, and they should stop hiding behind such rules that do not exist?

I thank the hon. Member for giving me notice of his point of order. Although I cannot comment on individual cases, I am aware that the data protection regime recognises the importance of constituency casework and that schedule 1 to the Data Protection Act 2018 allows that data to be shared with elected representatives in certain circumstances. I am surprised that public authorities such as NHS England—which should know better given how many cases it deals with—and other public authorities do not appear to be aware of this. I am very disappointed that NHS England in particular should prevent hon. Members such as the hon. Member for City of Chester (Christian Matheson) from getting on with their duties. I hope that it will get the message quickly and reflect on what we are saying in this House.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. At Defence questions on 15 November, I raised the plight of nearly 200 Afghans who had worked with the British Council but are still hiding in Afghanistan in fear of their lives, moving from safe house to safe house, often with no money, as they flee the Taliban. These individuals are eligible for the Afghan relocations and assistance policy scheme, but are facing long delays in their applications being processed. At Defence questions, the Secretary of State committed to arranging a meeting with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and the Home Office, but despite regular chasing through the normal channels, this still has not taken place.

Mr Speaker, I seek your guidance as to how we can ensure that this meeting takes place, because a number of us across this place want to ask why there is such a delay in the processing of applications. I opposed and voted against the Afghanistan intervention once al-Qaeda were evicted, but I believe that we are now compounding our error by not honouring our debt of honour to these individuals—and it needs to be put right now.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of his point of order. I am sorry to hear that the meeting with the Secretary of State that was offered almost a month ago has not yet happened. I am sure that this matter will be brought to the attention of the Secretary of State, and I expect the meeting to take place as quickly as possible. The hon. Gentleman has certainly put it on the record, and I would like to hear from him if the meeting does not happen.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. On 6 December, I tabled two named day questions to the Cabinet Office, asking about a simple matter: have air filtration systems been installed in rooms in No. 10 and No. 11; which rooms have they been installed in; and how much did that cost? Of course, the motivation was to see whether No. 10 has better protections than, say, schools. There are two days left before the recess and I am keen to get an answer before the House rises to those simple questions, which should have been answered by now. What more can I do to get the answers that we need before we all go on our Christmas break?

I thank the hon. Lady for giving me notice of her point of order. I am disappointed that the answers to named day questions were not given on the day specified, as they should have been. The hon. Member may well want to raise the issue with the Procedure Committee, which monitors the performance of the Government in this area. In the meantime, I am sure that the exchange will be brought to the attention of the Department, and hope that the answers will be provided quickly. The rules should be taken seriously by the Government. I am sure that everybody will be listening, and I am sure that the disappointment will be reflected on and responded to with an early answer.