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Points of Order

Volume 721: debated on Monday 31 October 2022

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. In July, the Prime Minister was recorded saying that, as Chancellor, he had changed funding formulas to benefit better-off communities at the expense of deprived parts of the country. On Sunday, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities told Sky News that this was a direct response to a question from someone from Thanet, one of the most deprived parts of the south-east. It has since become clear that that is not the case. A video emerged yesterday showing that the questioner is a councillor from Tunbridge Wells who did not once mention Thanet, as the Secretary of State claimed.

So far, nobody in Government has come to this House to clarify which funding formulas were changed, with which justification, on whose authority and why the only explanation offered by any member of this Government has now turned out to be false. Mr Deputy Speaker, have you had notice from either the Secretary of State or the Prime Minister of their intention to make a statement to this House? If not, can you advise the House on how to pursue this very serious matter on behalf of communities across the country that have been deprived of funding?

I thank the hon. Lady for giving me advance notice of her point of order. I have had no indication of any such statement, but the Government Front Bench will have heard her comments. Of course, comments made outside the House are not a matter for the Chair. She is free to pursue this matter through other means, and I am sure she will.

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am sure you will be aware of the tragedy off the Teesside, County Durham and North Yorkshire coast, where crustaceans and other wildlife have been decimated and have washed up on our beaches. More dead creatures have washed up today and, according to the Government, there is no definitive cause of this devastation, which is effectively killing our sea and polluting our beaches.

Last week, the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs took evidence from both the Government and eminent university scientists. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs says it may have been an algae bloom, whereas the scientists believe it to be pollution, likely linked to the dredging of the River Tees. Given this, Mr Deputy Speaker, are you aware of a planned statement from DEFRA Ministers? If not, can you guide me as to how I may secure one?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for advance notice of his point of order. I can confirm that I have had no notice of a statement being made tonight. If that changes, Members will be notified in the usual manner. Ministers, again, will have heard his point of order, and I am sure he will pursue the matter. The Clerks in the Table Office are available to offer advice on how he might do so.

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. At the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Dr Gary Caldwell, a marine scientist at Newcastle University, expressed his concern that there is a causal link between the mass die-offs and pyridine. That concern is shared by three scientists from different Government agencies who have written to him asking for the data. They think the capital dredging should be paused while further investigations are carried out. I seek your guidance, Mr Deputy Speaker, on how we might secure sight of the letters from those scientists, with an explanation from DEFRA Ministers about why, in these circumstances, capital dredging is justified without further investigation.

I have nothing to add to my response to Mr Cunningham, but you will be able to pursue the matter through the Clerks in the Table Office.

Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill: Programme (No. 2)


That the Order of 15 June 2022 (Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Bill (Programme)) be varied as follows:

(1) Paragraphs (4) and (5) of the Order shall be omitted.

(2) Proceedings on Consideration shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion three hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order.

(3) Proceedings on Third Reading shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion four hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order.—(Mark Spencer.)