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Points of Order

Volume 733: debated on Thursday 8 June 2023

11.47 am

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. It is about communication today between the shadow Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), and the Home Secretary. To give a quick recap, on Monday the Home Secretary gave what I understand to be inaccurate information to Parliament when she claimed that the asylum decision backlog is down by 17,000 since the Prime Minister’s statement. That contradicts what the Home Office’s published statistics say; they seem to make it very clear that the “asylum initial decision backlog”—it uses those precise words—has increased from 131,292 to 137,583 for the main applicants since the end of November and from 160,919 to 172,758 for total applications in the first quarter, which is clearly an increase. The shadow Home Secretary raised this with the Home Secretary first in the House on Monday, and the record was not corrected by the Home Secretary then or since, to my understanding. My right hon. Friend then wrote to the Home Secretary this morning.

Mr Deputy Speaker, have you received any notification from the Home Secretary of her intention to correct the record since Monday’s statement, and can you confirm that the ministerial code requires that

“Ministers should give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity”?

I thank the hon. Lady for forward notice of her point of order. In response to question No. 1, no; and to question No. 2, yes. However, as she knows—this has been noted before—Ministers are responsible for the content of their answers, and it is therefore not a matter for the Chair. Those on the Government Front Bench will have heard her concerns and the Table Office can advise further on how she and other Members may pursue the matter.

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. On 16 October 2019, the Government published their annual update to the rail network enhancement pipeline. Regular RNEP updates are crucial for certainty for the rail industry and for our communities, who are desperate to see improvements in their local rail infrastructure. In September 2020, the then rail Minister confirmed that the RNEP would be updated “on an annual basis” and that

“An update of this will be published following the Spending Review.”

That was the November 2020 spending review.

In fact, through research by Ross McLaren and Holly Gosling in my office, we have discovered more than 40 subsequent occasions where Ministers have stated in Parliament that the RNEP will be published “very shortly”, “as soon as possible”, “in the near future”, “in the coming months”, after spending reviews or financial statements that have long come and gone, or similar. It is coming up to four years since the last annual update, and the House is still being informed—including this morning—“shortly” by Ministers. Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek your advice on what more I and other Members can do to ensure that Ministers stick to what they have committed to in their answers in this hallowed House and finally publish the annual RNEP.

I thank the hon. Member for forward notice of his point of order. It certainly gives a new interpretation to the word “shortly.” However, I am afraid that I will have to give him a similar response to that I gave to the hon. Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire): those on the Treasury Bench will have heard what he has said and I hope that they will bring it to the attention of the relevant Ministers. The Table Office will help him to pursue the matter in other ways, should he not be satisfied.