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Volume 728: debated on Friday 24 February 2023

The Chairman of Ways and Means took the Chair as Deputy Speaker (Standing Order No. 3).

I beg to move, That the House do sit in private.

Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 163).

Question negatived.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I hate to bring to the beginning of the day something that comes at the end of the day, but as you know my private Member’s Seizure of Russian State Assets and Support for Ukraine Bill could be up for its Second Reading later. As I understand it, the Government, although they have perhaps not made a final decision on this, are toying with objecting to the Bill; if a single person objects, it will not go forward to its Second Reading today.

Everybody knows that the whole House stands completely united behind Ukraine and is fully in support of making sure that Putin fails in his mission to seize it. I gather that the Government’s briefing to the press overnight was that they might object because it is not suitable for such a measure to be introduced in a private Member’s Bill, even though it has cross-party support, including from lots of Conservative Members and the Conservative Chairs of two prominent Select Committees.

Madam Deputy Speaker, would you clarify that the Bill is perfectly in order—otherwise it would not be on the Order Paper; that in the past many very significant issues have been introduced through private Members’ Bills, so there is nothing to preclude this being a matter for such a Bill; that if the Bill were to get Second Reading today, it could be amended many times in Committee, including by Government amendments; and furthermore, that if the Government wanted to, they could of course introduce legislation of their own? My Bill only asks the Government to introduce proposals to seize Russian assets currently frozen in British banks and give them to Ukraine.

As we just heard during prayers, the lamentation over Israel could equally easily be said of Ukraine today. We want to do everything we possibly can as fast as we possibly can to support the people of Ukraine.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving notice of his point of order. I can confirm that his Bill is orderly; otherwise, as he said, it would not be listed on the Order Paper. It is, of course, up to all Members, including Government Members, whether to object to the Bill or not. That is not a matter for the Chair.

I will not comment on the content of the Bill, but the House will have heard the hon. Member’s points; it is true that it could be amended in Committee. It is not appropriate for me to offer a view about whether a private Member’s Bill is an appropriate vehicle for the hon. Member’s objectives—that is a matter for the House—but I can confirm that such Bills have been used for a variety of purposes, as he described. Obviously, we will wait to see what happens later.