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Points of Order

Volume 712: debated on Wednesday 27 April 2022

Order. I believe that the Father of the House also wishes to make a point of order, but I will come to the shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport afterwards. I assume that her point of order relates to something that happened in the urgent question, so the Minister for Media, Data and Digital Infrastructure might like to stay for it.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Could you advise me on whether you have received notice that there will be a statement tomorrow? If not, what advice would you give the House about the very important White Paper, given that we are expecting Prorogation today, that the business will fall very early, and that there will be very little opportunity for statements and oral interrogation?

I thank the hon. Lady for that point of order. My understanding, from what the Minister said, was that there had been a plan to make a statement tomorrow to coincide with the publishing of the White Paper. Obviously, if tomorrow is a sitting day, it is possible to have urgent questions or statements. Does the Minister want to add anything to that?

We are awaiting confirmation of whether it will be written or oral. We put in notice of our intention to publish the White Paper tomorrow, and are waiting to hear whether there will be a written or oral statement.

It will be possible to make an oral statement tomorrow, should the Minister wish to, and for there to be an urgent question then, if tomorrow ends up being a sitting day. There are a number of imponderables, but I hope that that explains the various options available. I call the Father of the House.

May I say first, Madam Deputy Speaker, that I think we have the sense from both the Chair and the Chamber that the House would wish this to be an oral statement that the Government do actually manage to make, so that those of us who want to do so can question the Government on it?

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker—and this is a separate point. During the exchanges on the urgent question, I saw a copy of a personalised letter delivered by post from the Labour leader to named constituents of mine, asking them to vote on 5 May, the day of the local elections. I want to know whether the Electoral Commission has approved this as part of a local election expense, or whether it is a national election expense. I should like to know whether the Electoral Commission will answer that question this week rather than next week, whether it would require evidence to be gathered both by itself and by the police lest there should be a case afterwards, and whether Mr Speaker might be able to take this up at 4 pm, when he is due to have a private meeting on the Electoral Commission.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order, but it is not really a matter for the Chair. Obviously, as he mentioned, there are questions that he can raise with the Electoral Commission. I rather think that letters are sent out during election campaigns, from different party leaders—but, as I have said, this is not really a matter for the Chair, and as the hon. Gentleman said, he could raise it with the Electoral Commission should he so wish.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I seek your advice. In last week’s privileges debate, the right hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (Ed Davey) mentioned a number of constituencies in the House, and supposedly quoted constituents. May I ask first, Madam Deputy Speaker, whether it is normal practice to inform Members that their constituencies are to be referred to in that particular way, and secondly, whether it is normal practice to advise Members representing the constituents whom they are quoting? I should add that I notified the right hon. Gentleman of my intention to make this point of order.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving notice of his point of order. Obviously the Chair is not responsible for the content of hon. Members’ speeches. The guide to courtesies in the Chamber says that Members should notify colleagues if they are going to refer to them in the Chamber, other than making passing references to public statements; if they intend to table questions that specifically affect those colleagues’ constituencies; or if they intend to visit a colleague’s constituency. It may therefore be felt that Members should inform colleagues if they intend to quote extensively from one of their constituents, but I think that that would apply especially if a Member was intending to make a political point about the colleague concerned, as opposed to, perhaps, quoting from correspondence that might have been received. Obviously the hon. Gentleman has informed the leader of the Liberal Democrats of his point of order, so he may wish to pursue the matter further with him.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. During Prime Minister’s questions today, the Prime Minister repeated his claim that there are more people in employment now than there were when the pandemic began. However, the chair of the UK Statistics Authority wrote to the Prime Minister when he made that assertion previously in February, telling him that it was misleading. May I seek your advice, Madam Deputy Speaker, on what the House can and should do if a Minister repeats a claim which that Minister has been directly and categorically told by a relevant authority is misleading?

I must stress again that the Chair is not responsible for the content of Members’ speeches, but obviously it is important for information given to the House to be accurate. I am sure that those on the Treasury Bench have heard the hon. Lady’s point of order, and that, if necessary, the matter will be addressed appropriately and action taken to correct the record if it is considered necessary.