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Points of Order

Volume 726: debated on Wednesday 18 January 2023

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You may have heard that today the Church of England bishops have recommended no substantial change to the Church’s current ban on same-sex couples being married in church in England, although of course it is already possible in Scotland and will soon be possible in Wales. Many Members across the House—the majority, I would judge—believe that by continuing to exclude lesbian and gay people from its full rites, the Church is no longer compatible with its established status, which confers the duty to serve the whole nation. Has the Second Church Estates Commissioner indicated to you whether he will come to this House and make a statement on this very serious state of affairs and its potential constitutional consequences?

The answer is no—nobody has come to speak to me—but the Second Church Estates Commissioner is here with us and may wish to answer the right hon. Gentleman.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I hear exactly what the right hon. Gentleman says. He will know that I will be answering questions in this House next Thursday, and I will willingly take questions on that. I should also point out that the Church of England has not yet made a formal, full statement on the matter. That will happen on Friday; I myself am only being fully briefed on it tomorrow. I am available to this House next Thursday and at any time at your discretion, Mr Speaker.

Unless the right hon. Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) can get a question, he may not be able to get in as easily, so it may be appropriate for the Second Church Estates Commissioner to come forward with a statement rather than waiting for Church Commissioners’ questions. It would be helpful to have that statement on Monday; I would encourage that, because it is a topic that the House will wish to know about. I will leave that with the Second Church Estates Commissioner.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I hope you will forgive me for a boring, but important, administrative point of order—nothing new, do I hear you say?

Yesterday, we asked the Vote Office and the House of Commons Library for a copy of a Government report by Ben Goldacre for a meeting today. It is a very important report. We were told that it was too long for the Vote Office to print, so it was sent off-site to Waterloo. We were also told that the House of Commons Library does not keep copies of Government reports, which rather astonished me. When we received the report from the off-site printers, it arrived in random order—page 1, page 7, page 3, page 15 and so on—so it was a little difficult to use. When we called them, they said that that was because the Government had provided the document in the wrong format. It is important in this House that we have access to printed copies of Government documents, so can the House do anything to ensure that that happens in future?

Thank you for making me aware of that. I would have automatically assumed that the Library of the House of Commons would keep reports. “If not, why not?” would be my question to the Library, and I hope that it can review that. I am disappointed that the right hon. Member was not able to get hold of those papers; I am sure that that will be rectified very quickly, following his point of order.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wanted to notify the House at the earliest opportunity that I have written to the hon. Member for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Miriam Cates) to acknowledge that the tone of my remarks in the Chamber yesterday was a mistake. I stand by the words that I said, and I profoundly disagree with the comments that the hon. Member made, but our job as MPs is to channel passion and anger into considered debate to win our arguments—in this case, on the trans community and devolution. I recognise that I failed to control that passion during what was an emotional debate. I should have expressed my deep disagreement on what I believe is an abhorrent view in a more appropriate way. I want to particularly apologise to Madam Deputy Speaker, who had to preside over the debate.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving notice that he wished to come and make that point of order. It allows me to take this opportunity to remind hon. Members of the importance of good temper and moderation in contributions from all sides and all Members. We will disagree, but how we express that disagreement is important. Please, let us have moderate and temperate language going forward.

Bill Presented

Local Electricity Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

David Johnston, supported by Peter Aldous, Hilary Benn, Sir Graham Brady, Alan Brown, Simon Fell, Wera Hobhouse, Ben Lake, Clive Lewis, Selaine Saxby, Mick Whitley and Sir Jeremy Wright, presented a Bill to enable electricity generators to become local electricity suppliers; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 24 March, and to be printed (Bill 231).