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Points of Order

Volume 733: debated on Monday 22 May 2023

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Last Thursday, there was a debate on psilocybin access rights, a technical and detailed area of policy, changes to which are hoped to transform the effectiveness of current mental health treatments. How can Back Benchers successfully use the procedures of this House to enable debate to hold the Government to account for proposed policy changes they will not make if the responsible Minister will not reply to the debate, particularly when the debate is led by colleagues who have long made personal study of that particular area of policy, such as the hon. Member for Inverclyde (Ronnie Cowan) and myself, and not least when they are reinforced by the harrowing personal experience of hon. Members of this House such as the hon. Member for Warrington North (Charlotte Nichols)?

The Minister is here and I believe that he would like to respond, so I suggest we ask him to make a brief response.

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Very briefly, I regret that I was not in Parliament at the time of the debate. I did give my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Crispin Blunt) advance notice of that. I was at the defence establishment in Porton Down at the time. As often happens, another Home Office Minister, the Minister for Immigration—a very capable Home Office Minister—replied. I have previously met one to one with the hon. Member for Warrington North (Charlotte Nichols) to discuss this in detail, and I replied to an Adjournment debate just a few weeks ago. As I said at the time, I have, subsequent to the debate and the meeting, asked the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to accelerate its work on removing barriers to research for all schedule 1 drugs, including psilocybin. So I take this opportunity to assure my hon. Friend that I have asked for that work to be accelerated, and the calls that he and other Members have made have been heard.

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I regret to say there was an inaccuracy in my right hon. Friend’s response. When I alerted him to the date of the second debate on psilocybin access rights, on 18 May, he told me that he had an engagement that day. However, it never occurred to me for a moment that he would put that engagement ahead of his duty replying to this House. I certainly got no communication at all that he had made a decision not to attend Parliament to reply to that debate.

I hope the hon. Gentleman will accept that it is not my responsibility to decide which Ministers respond to debates, but I think it is courteous that the Minister has come here today and given an explanation. If the hon. Gentleman is not satisfied with that response, I am sure he will pursue it with the Minister. Perhaps a meeting might be arranged.

I do not want to prolong this too much further because we are in danger of going backwards and forwards over the same issue. The hon. Gentleman is clearly not happy that the Minister was not there for the debate, but the Minister has explained his reasons. The hon. Gentleman may not be happy with those reasons, but there is not a great deal I can do about that. But his point has been heard and I suggest we move on.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Earlier this afternoon at Home Office questions, the Immigration Minister, who I have notified of this point of order, appeared to suggest that it was my responsibility that no asylum seekers, through the dispersal scheme, had been housed in Midlothian. Midlothian is a warm and welcoming community and we look forward to welcoming anyone from anywhere at any time. Despite the Minister suggesting that there had been no attempt to have any asylum seekers, through the dispersal scheme, housed in Midlothian, on 22 February, I was notified of the Home Office’s intention to house asylum seekers in my Midlothian constituency, but, on 1 March, the Home Office notified me that it no longer intended to proceed with that dispersal. Perhaps it is not for me to say, but if the Home Office were to engage with local authorities, local councils or the Scottish Government, these sorts of issues could be dealt with. I ask for your advice, Madam Deputy Speaker, as to how I can best ensure that the record is correct and that there is no slur on the Midlothian constituency through the suggestion that it is not welcoming of anyone from any background coming to it, and as to how the record can be corrected to reflect that.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that point of order. He does not have to notify Ministers that he intends to raise a point of order. I do not know whether he did or not—

Okay. The hon. Gentleman has made clear his view about what the Minister said. I know that there are hon. Members and Parliamentary Private Secretaries present who, it feels to me, are going to report back what the hon. Gentleman has said very quickly, as I am sure will the Whips. He has put his point of view on the record and I am sure that, if any necessary corrections need to be made, the Minister will do so, or he may communicate directly with the hon. Gentleman.