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Points of Order

Volume 721: debated on Wednesday 2 November 2022

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. November marks the beginning of Islamophobia Awareness Month, which is a call to tackle this insidious hatred. This time last year, to mark the month, I made a similar point of order, highlighting the then Prime Minister’s failure to respond to my letter urging him to better safeguard British Muslim communities. A year on, we have had another two Prime Ministers, and each has failed to respond to my letters on Islamophobia. That is wholly unacceptable and it is an insult to British Muslims. Is it in order for consecutive Prime Ministers to ignore Members’ correspondence? If not, what action can I now take? Perhaps the Prime Minister could come to this Chamber to make a statement on Islamophobia Awareness Month.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving notice of his point of order. I can confirm that I have not had a statement from the Government on this matter, although Ministers on the Treasury Bench will have heard his points. I am not responsible for ministerial correspondence, but the right hon. Members he mentioned were written to in a ministerial capacity and I would have expected replies to have been provided. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will continue to pursue the issue that he has raised. If he does not, he should please let me know. If he would like to drop me a line to tell me which Ministers have failed to reply, I will take that up in private.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your guidance. ITV has made a drama series about the heinous plan to murder the hon. Member for West Lancashire (Rosie Cooper), whose permission I have to make this point of order. What advice can you give Members in such a situation, to ensure that the facts are fairly presented, that threats on the lives of our colleagues are not treated as entertainment through the use of the public interest defence, and that such series do not risk re-victimising those of us still living under a significant threat to life?

I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving notice of her point of order. As the House will know, the safety of Members, our families and our staff, and of this House, is one of my highest priorities. Like all hon. Members, I would hope that any depiction of threats made against parliamentarians is undertaken responsibly, based on the facts and mindful of the impact on those subject to such threats.

I am also very concerned that a friend of mine was subject to those threats. We all stand in awe of the bravery that she has shown and her courage in ensuring that she is still a Member of Parliament, even if she might be going to new pastures.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I am appalled at ITV’s recent treatment of the threats to MPs. I have been used as a marketing tool by both Hope not Hate and ITV. What excuse is there for a press release that says, “Who is Rosie Cooper and who wanted to murder her?” There is no defence to that.

Let us test the public interest defence to this despicable behaviour. I call on Hope not Hate and ITV to donate all moneys and profits generated from this TV series, both here and abroad—every single penny should go to the Jo Cox Foundation. We should not tolerate this kind of behaviour.

May I crave the indulgence of the House, Mr Speaker? Obviously, I have not had an opportunity to speak to people about this. If I may, I want to quickly thank some people. I will not spare your blushes, Mr Speaker, in saying that I would not be here today without your support and unfailing kindness. I have had to call on you and your advice many, many times as a result of death threats, all piggy-backing on the original threat; in fact, one case is with the Director of Public Prosecutions right now. How many more will come from this stupid, stupid, stupid series?

I thank you primarily, Mr Speaker, but I also thank Jeremy Corbyn and Karie Murphy, who allowed me the use of a Government car to get me into the Old Bailey during the second trial for the sentencing, simply because ITV’s despicable cameraman chased me up and down the road at the end of the first trial. I thank the then Prime Minister Theresa May for the really kind handwritten letter she sent me; I would have hoped to have said that while she was here, but I have not been able to tell people as I did not know I was going to do this. I thank the Minister Ben Wallace, action man—he was absolutely brilliant—and the former Home Secretary Priti Patel, who was unstinting in her support. Finally, I thank all my colleagues, right across this House from every party, who have been absolutely kind and supported me throughout.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The current situation at Manston asylum processing centre in Kent came to light as a result of the Home Affairs Committee’s oral evidence session with Home Office officials last Wednesday, which is part of the essential work of scrutiny that we undertake. Immediately after that session, we asked the Home Office to facilitate a visit by the Committee to Manston so that we might scrutinise what had happened there since we last visited in June, when the site was fully and properly operating. The Chairs of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the Women and Equalities Committee, and the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and a member of the Justice Committee have all asked to join our visit. As of now, nearly one week later, the Home Office has agreed in principle to our visiting, but has, in spite of repeated requests for a visit this Thursday, refused to agree any date or to enable our visit this week to see what is happening on the ground.

Visits by Ministers and others are being enabled. A visit by the Committee, which this House has charged with scrutinising the Home Office, is not. What action will this House be able to take to remind the Home Secretary and the Home Office that parliamentary oversight of their actions is essential and should be facilitated with all due speed?

First, I thank the right hon. Lady for giving me notice of her intention to make a point of order. I agree with her about the importance of Government Departments being open to parliamentary scrutiny. That is the role of Select Committees. I hope that people are listening and that they recognise that need, because scrutiny is so important. It is also important to recognise that it involves Back Benchers from all parts of the House. This is not about Members from one political persuasion. Why Ministers or anybody would want to block the role of Members, I do not understand.

As I have said, I agree about the importance of this, but scrutiny and enabling it to happen at an appropriate speed is essential. This is a matter for the Home Office rather than the Chair. However, those on the Treasury Bench will have heard what the right hon. Lady has said, and I am sure that she will continue to pursue this cause with vigour. Please keep me informed; I will be having a meeting later with certain Government officials and I will personally raise the issue.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. As you know, the energy bill’s support scheme payments are landing in accounts across the UK, yet doubt abounds in Northern Ireland. There was an agreement with the Government to advance lump sum payments to Northern Ireland in November, but the utility regulator said yesterday that that may no longer be the case. Have the Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland and for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy advised you, Mr Speaker, of an intention to make a statement on this issue? Could you advise me on the avenues I can pursues to get the answers that my hard-pressed constituents so desperately need?

I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving me notice of her point of order. I can confirm that I have not had any notice of a statement on this matter. However, Ministers will have heard her views on the matter and I know that she will certainly pursue it.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise for not giving you notice of my point of order. I had hoped to raise this yesterday in Health and Social Care questions. Thousands of children worldwide are dying of measles. The measles, mumps and rubella vaccine is critical for children’s health in this country. May we have an inquiry into what exactly happened in a recent debate in Westminster Hall, which was, it seems, taken over by anti-vax people? There was much shouting, screaming and carrying on. May we have an investigation into what happened when Westminster Hall was taken over by anti-vaxxers who made a spectacle of this House?

It might be easier if I could try to answer the first point of order. Let me just say that I was not aware of that. If the hon. Member was there, and I am not convinced that he was because that is not the report that I received about the incident—

Mr Speaker, I am glad that I was present in the Chamber when the hon. Gentleman made that ridiculous allegation. He was not present in Westminster Hall for that debate. I was present and there were many people in the Public Gallery, one or two of whom may have been, as he put it, anti-vaxxers, but most of the people present in the Public Gallery were those who were vaccine injured—people who had suffered as a result of having covid-19 vaccines and who are seeking compensation.

Order. I do not think we will carry on the debate. You have certainly got your point across and corrected the position of what happened on the day, so I am not going to continue with it.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker, you will be aware that Royal Mail workers had intended to undertake strike action. I have the largest delivery office in Scotland in my constituency. That action was postponed, but new dates have been rolled out. Have you been given advance notice of a Government statement from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy about the plans for Royal Mail to sack 10,000 staff and the upcoming industrial action?

I have not had notice of a statement on the dispute with Royal Mail. As the Government are a shareholder within the organisation, at some point no doubt they will wish to make a statement to the House as a matter of urgency.