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Points of Order

Volume 714: debated on Tuesday 17 May 2022

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I humbly beg your advice on a matter of significant importance. On 25 February 2019, my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock) wrote to the then chair of the Conservative party, the right hon. Member for Great Yarmouth (Brandon Lewis), expressing genuine concerns regarding issues of sovereignty and national security related to the activities of the then Conservative party treasurer, Sir Ehud Sheleg. The right hon. Member responded that my hon. Friend should consider any accusations he was making against an individual carefully so as not to risk libel, with the implication that legal action would be forthcoming should he pursue his genuine concerns.

Last Thursday, however, an article in The New York Times suggested that my hon. Friend was right and that there are genuine questions to answer about whether a donation from Sir Ehud to the Conservative party complied with UK law, given that it appeared to have originated from Sir Ehud’s father-in-law, Sergei Kopytov, a former senior pro-Kremlin politician in Ukraine and apparent owner of significant assets in Crimea.

Additional serious questions arise. Did Sir Ehud host a reception with the Russian ambassador to the UK following the annexation of Crimea? Are assets apparently owned by Mr Kopytov, such as a Mercedes-Benz car, used by individuals involved in the Russian state? Did the bank transfer at issue in the New York Times article originate from a Russian bank? Were sanctioned entities involved? Exactly what current and former links do the Sheleg-Kopytov family hold with key actors in the Russian state? Finally, has electoral law been broken and, relatedly, has our national security been compromised?

I have written to the current co-chair of the Conservative party, the right hon. Member for Hertsmere (Oliver Dowden), asking for an apology to my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon and, above all, for a response to these very important questions. However, when I have previously written to the right hon. Gentleman—I have written to him six times—I have never received a response. I live in hope of a response this time but, should I not receive one in the coming days, what recourse might I have, given the gravity of these matters?

I thank the hon. Lady for her point of order. First, I assume that she has notified the right hon. and hon. Members named.

I am afraid that correspondence between Members on a party basis is not a matter for the Chair. I am sure that the hon. Lady knows, or will acquaint herself with, the many ways of pursuing the substantive point in proceedings, as well as by perhaps raising concern with the Electoral Commission, given what she has said.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. On Wednesday 27 April, I asked the Prime Minister, at Prime Minister’s questions, whether he would apologise to bereaved families and care workers in the light of the High Court ruling that the Government had broken the law when in 2020 they discharged patients to care homes without testing them for covid first. I believe that in his response he inadvertently misled the House, by claiming that

“the thing we did not know in particular was that covid could be transmitted asymptomatically”—[Official Report, 27 April 2022; Vol. 712, c. 762.]

This matter was raised as a point of order by the hon. Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire) on Thursday 28 April. Madam Deputy Speaker, I appreciate that you are not responsible for the content of the Prime Minister’s speech, but I am sure that none of us wants the record to be inaccurate. As such, I was wondering whether you had received any indication from the Prime Minister that he intends to correct the record, for example at the start of Prime Minister’s questions tomorrow. If not, what further avenues might be available to me and other Members to ensure that the Prime Minister returns to the House and corrects the record, if he chooses not to do so when he appears tomorrow?

I thank the hon. Lady for her point of order. First, I have not received any notification about anything the Prime Minister might be saying tomorrow. As she knows and indeed mentioned, this matter was raised on 28 April, and I am afraid there is nothing further I can add to the response given then.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. On 3 March, the World Health Organisation’s Inter-governmental Negotiating Body opened talks on securing global arrangements in respect of its management of future pandemics. Given the far-ranging implications of such a thing, and the fact that on 1 August that body will meet again before bringing forward formal proposals, what indication have you had that a Minister will attend the House to outline the Government’s position?

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his point of order. I have not had any indication and do not know anything about whether the Government wish to make a statement on this subject, but I am confident that Ministers on the Front Bench will have heard the points he has made and I am sure they will be fed back through the appropriate channels.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Today’s Daily Mail carries a story that Dignity in Dying, the campaign group that wants to bring assisted suicide to this country, has been boasting to its donors that it can buy a debate in this place. It suggests that for £40,000 it can secure the 100,000 signatures that are required for a petition to get a debate on the Floor of the House. Can you advise me as to how we can ensure that this bought debate does not take place and how we can protect the petitions system from this kind of abuse?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. Obviously, people are entitled to campaign for support for their point of view, and petitions are a recognised campaigning tool. The point he raises is an important one. Obviously, it is the Petitions Committee’s role to consider petitions for debate, and I suggest that he may wish to raise this particular matter with it.

Bill Presented

Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Secretary Brandon Lewis, supported by the Prime Minister, Secretary Dominic Raab, Secretary Ben Wallace, Secretary Alister Jack, Secretary Simon Hart, the Attorney General, Conor Burns, David T. C. Davies, Leo Docherty and Iain Stewart, presented a Bill to address the legacy of the Northern Ireland Troubles and promote reconciliation by establishing an Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery, limiting criminal investigations, legal proceedings, inquests and police complaints, extending the prisoner release scheme in the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act 1998, and providing for experiences to be recorded and preserved and for events to be studied and memorialised.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 10) with explanatory notes (Bill 10-EN).