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Points of Order

Volume 732: debated on Tuesday 16 May 2023

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker, I am deeply troubled by the recent admissions by the former Leader of the House, the right hon. Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg), regarding the introduction of mandatory voter ID, which have raised the prospect that Ministers may have misled the country about the intentions of the voter ID policy in the Elections Act 2022. Yesterday, the former Minister admitted that the proposal was a deliberate attempt to manipulate electoral outcomes in favour of the Conservative party, a strategy he termed gerrymandering —in other words, the deliberate bending of electoral rules or boundaries for partisan gain—although he said that it had backfired in the recent local elections. It is deeply concerning to see the blatant could-be politicisation of policies and organisations intended to ensure the fairness and security of our democratic process. A recent report by Omnisis for Byline Times indicated that the new rules may have deterred up to 2 million people from voting in the May elections. The justification for the policy was to combat voter fraud. It seems to me that there is a real possibility that the only fraud could be this Government. Can you advise me, Madam Deputy Speaker, whether I should report the matter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and the police?

Did the hon. Lady notify the right hon. Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg) that she intended to raise this matter?

Yes, I have notified him; I informed him I was raising the issue based on comments that he made yesterday at the National Conservatism conference.

I should say that if the hon. Lady intends to pursue those matters through the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards or through the police, she should not raise them in the House, so she might like to reflect on that. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman to whom she refers will have heard her comments. She has put her concerns on the record. I suggest at this point, given that those on the Treasury Bench will, I am sure, report back what she has said, that we leave it at that.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. At Transport oral questions on 20 April, I asked for an updated timeline on the electrification of the north Wales coast line. Even though the Rail Minister was on the Front Bench, the Roads Minister answered, ignoring the question entirely and asking me to work with him to help the people of north Wales. So I tried to do just that by writing to him to ask about road connectivity in Wales, referring him to page 47 of the manifesto upon which both he and I stood, which said:

“To support our Union, we will upgrade the A55 as the main road transport artery for North Wales”

I requested a meeting and also asked what discussions he had had with the Welsh Government about the promised A55 upgrades. I was surprised to get a brief email from an official saying my letter had been sent to the Welsh Government instead as the issues fell within their responsibilities.

These are serious matters that impact my constituents every day. They will be disappointed to discover not only that the Government intend not to follow through with that manifesto commitment, but that it never should have been made in the first place, as central Government have no responsibility for roads in Wales. What can I do not only to get an answer to my original question, but to have the Minister come to the Chamber to confirm that the commitment to upgrade the A55 made in the 2019 manifesto is no longer Government policy, and in fact, never was?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that point of order and for giving me notice of it. I hope he will appreciate that the content of answers to parliamentary questions or correspondence is the responsibility of the Minister concerned. The hon. Gentleman obviously feels that the answers the Minister gave were unsatisfactory. I suggest that he seeks the advice of the Table Office as to whether there are other ways in which the matter might be clarified, and again, I am sure that those on the Treasury Bench will report back his concerns to the relevant Minister.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Further to the point of order raised by the hon. Member for Brent Central (Dawn Butler), I think I speak for a number of Members of this House when I say that I was appalled to hear the right hon. Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg)—a former Cabinet Minister—suggest in his speech to the National Conservatism conference yesterday that the introduction of voter ID was an attempt by the Government to gerrymander. In response to my urgent question on 23 February, the Minister with responsibility for local government declared that it was a

“myth that this is some form of suppression.”—[Official Report, 21 February 2023; Vol. 728, c. 140.]

The comments from the right hon. Member for North East Somerset therefore contradict the Minister’s. Will you advise, Madam Deputy Speaker, on whether you have received notice that the Minister is coming to the House to correct the record or otherwise clarify that point? If not, how might we achieve that?

I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving notice of her point of order. She will have heard my previous comments on this. Mr Speaker and I—as far as I am aware—have received no notification of a Minister coming to the House to make a statement about that. It is up to Ministers to decide, having looked at points that are raised, whether they wish to make any clarification. She has put her views on the record, and those on the Treasury Bench, who will clearly be very busy this afternoon, will have heard them and, I am sure, will notify the relevant Minister of the points that have been made.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether you have received notification from the Government that they wish to issue a statement to celebrate today’s 80th anniversary of the Dambusters raid from RAF Scampton on 16 May 1943? Eighty years ago, those brave men were preparing to perform what many military historians consider one of the greatest air feats of the entire war, and half of them lost their lives.

If the Government were to give that statement, could they enlighten the House on why they are risking a fantastic £300 million investment in RAF Scampton to celebrate the heritage of the Dambusters and the Red Arrows by putting a migrant camp near the entrance, taking 15% of the entire area of several hundred acres, putting at risk 100 buildings and, above all, putting at risk our national heritage? It emerged last week in court that apparently the Home Secretary was advised by her own civil servants that this was a bad idea and not to go ahead with it. How can we progress this further?

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his point of order. He has reminded the House of the anniversary of the Dambusters raid and the very brave work done on that day. He has put on the record his worry that there may be changes to RAF Scampton. He asks how he can ensure that Ministers are aware of his disquiet about the change in use. I think that he has probably quite successfully done that, and I am sure that his concerns will, again, be reported back to Ministers, but he may wish to pursue it with them personally. He is a very experienced Member of this House; he knows that there are a few channels that he might use to raise his concerns.