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Points of Order

Volume 708: debated on Thursday 3 February 2022

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. On the front page of The Daily Telegraph yesterday, I was surprised but pleased to read that the Government intend to extend or make permanent the current legal approval that allows women to undergo early medical abortions at home. I was pleased because this is a welcome development based on strong clinical evidence and the opinion and experience of women who have needed access to abortion during the pandemic. I was surprised because I have not seen an announcement anywhere in the business of the House, a written ministerial statement or any promise of business in the coming weeks, and I am mindful of what Mr Speaker said about Government announcements being made first to the House. The current approval expires at the end of March, and the Government have had a year since they closed the consultation on the matter to place a decision before the House. Have you received notice of a statement on this topic, or will women have to rely on The Daily Telegraph for information about access to their essential health care?

Secondly, Madam Deputy Speaker, if you will indulge me, in business questions today I referenced the morning-after pill. I made a perfectly, as I understand it, orderly request for a debate on access to contraception. In response, the Leader of the House made a misinformed comment about abortion. The World Health Organisation states:

“Emergency contraceptive pills prevent pregnancy by preventing or delaying ovulation and they do not induce an abortion… Emergency contraception cannot interrupt an established pregnancy or harm a developing embryo.”

How can I ensure that the Leader of the House corrects the record, as I think that what he said is a harmful clinical falsehood that I am sure does not represent the Government’s policy?

I thank the right hon. Lady. She has elided two points of order. Let me take her second point first. What a Minister says at the Dispatch Box is, of course, not a matter for the Chair, and I have no authority to correct the Minister. However, if a Minister has inadvertently given information that is not absolutely correct, the right hon. Lady will be aware of the many ways in which she can ask for that Minister to be required to come back and correct the record. Indeed, it is open to her simply to ask that Minister to correct the record. It appears to me that if there is a factual inaccuracy in the matter to which the right hon. Lady has just referred, it is rather important. It is a matter about which I would judge that anything that is said in this Chamber should be 100% correct, because it is not a matter on which we should allow people who would be affected by it to be misled. The facts ought to be straight and I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for bringing that matter to the House’s attention. I hope that Members on the Treasury Bench have noted what she has said and that the message will be passed on to the Leader of the House.

The right hon. Lady’s first point is much simpler. Mr Speaker has made it clear on many occasions—and I have echoed it many times—that announcements about significant matters of Government policy must be made first to this Chamber, so that the duly elected representatives of the people of this country, not the press, are the people who question the Minister. If the right hon. Lady would like to pursue that matter, I am quite sure that Mr Speaker will look favourably upon her request.

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. When at-home abortion medication was issued by the Government, it was because of a crisis due to covid. Now that the crisis is coming to an end, have the Government given any indication to the Chair that they intend to bring forward measures to remove those medications as crisis medications?

No, the Government have not at this point given notice of an intention to bring that matter before the House. As I said to the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Dame Diana Johnson), if the hon. Gentleman wishes to pursue the matter, I am sure that Mr Speaker will take his request seriously.