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Points of Order

Volume 711: debated on Tuesday 22 March 2022

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. As you know, this afternoon we will consider Lords amendments to the Nationality and Borders Bill. One of many complaints about the Bill is that it could cost an extraordinary sum of money to achieve not very much. For that reason, some hon. Members have been trying to get hold of the Government’s economic impact assessment for the Bill for some time. The Home Affairs Committee has been told on three occasions by Ministers and staff that it will be published “shortly” and at least two written questions have had the same answer. At a Committee hearing on 2 February, however, the Home Secretary, after first insisting that she would not publish anything at all, said that she would

“happily write to the Committee Chair and provide cost estimates, and even some of the cost estimates based on future projections”

within two weeks. In subsequent correspondence, however, she has invoked prejudice to negotiations with potential partners in disclosing offshoring costs. She did say:

“When the time is right, I would be delighted to provide details on cost estimates”.

When will the time be right? Is there anything that I or you can do to ensure that hon. Members see that important document before our debate this afternoon?

I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving me notice of the point of order. There is no formal procedural requirement for the House to have access to the information that he mentions before its consideration of Lords amendments today, but if Ministers undertake to provide information, they should do so.

I have no powers to compel the Government to provide the information sought by the hon. Member, but I always encourage Ministers to provide as much relevant material to the House as possible. He has put his point on the record and it will have been heard by Ministers. I encourage them to consider whether they can give more information to the House even at this late stage. I do hope that they will listen.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. On 2 March, I tabled a named day question to the Home Office about Ukraine. It raised a policy question about visas and was relevant to my constituent and, no doubt, the constituents of many other hon. Members. It was due for an answer on 8 March. My staff chased it up twice last week but I have still had no answer. What else can we do to ensure that we get timely answers to our questions through the appropriate procedures of the House?

First, I thank the hon. Member for giving me notice of the point of order. It is important that Members receive timely answers to questions, especially named day questions—it is in the nature of the named day question that it tells Ministers when they should be answered. The hon. Member’s point is on the record, and it will no doubt be drawn to the attention of the Leader of the House, who I am sure will pursue this matter. I know the previous Leader of the House was very concerned when the Government were letting down Members of this House by not answering those questions on time—or within what we would say was the right time—which is in the nature of named day questions.

The hon. Member may also consider whether she wants to draw this to the attention of the Procedure Committee, which monitors the performance of the Government in timely responses to questions. I have to say that we seem to be going backwards again. We were doing really well, so I appeal to all Departments to treat Members with respect, because in the end they are answerable to the constituents who are asking the questions of them. Please, let us get our act together within the Government.