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Points of Order

Volume 736: debated on Tuesday 11 July 2023

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I have written to the Treasury twice without a substantive reply about Sea Lanes, the first new public lido opened in my constituency in 30 years, and the National Open Water Swimming Centre. They are owed a VAT rebate of over £170,000, which was due back on 19 April. I am sure that Government Front Benchers understand the importance to new businesses of getting speedy rebates.

His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs has no hotline for MPs to ring up. If our question is on VAT matters, we have to ring up the public line, and every 48 hours, Sea Lanes has to reauthorise my office to speak on its behalf. On 25 June, we were told that there was nothing delaying that payment, yet three weeks later, no payment has been received. Madam Deputy Speaker, as there is no hotline and HMRC has not responded to my letters, could you advise me how best to pursue this matter with the Treasury?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. From what he has said, I can understand his concern. Miraculously, he has managed to raise his point of order when he has a Treasury Minister right in front of him, and I have a feeling that Ministers may well take back his comments.

The Minister is nodding in agreement, so I think the hon. Gentleman has succeeded in raising his case effectively. We will leave it at that.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I distinctly remember that during last week’s Second Reading of the Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill, when the Communities Secretary was asked in an intervention whether there had been any advice against the Bill from diplomatic posts, he replied that he was not aware—that he knew of no such advice. It has now become clear that a senior official in the Foreign Secretary’s own office sent a letter to No. 10 expressing such concerns about the consequences of the Bill. I wonder whether, Madam Deputy Speaker, you have had any notice that the Foreign Secretary intends to correct the record, or whether he will rely on the fact that the Foreign Secretary’s office is not a diplomatic post in any formal sense.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. He did not give me notice of it, so I have not been able to get any other information. There were two parts to his point of order: first, that the Foreign Secretary answered by saying that he was not aware, and then that there had been no such representations. The hon. Gentleman has raised the issue; if any correction is necessary, I am sure it will be made, and I am confident that those on the Government Front Bench will pass back his comments. However, it was a little difficult to work out whether the hon. Gentleman was saying that there was no awareness, or that there had been no representations.

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Crispin Blunt) hon. Friend misspoke; it was the Communities Secretary.

I am sorry—that is probably my fault. At first we had the Communities Secretary, then we had the Foreign Secretary. Whoever it is, I am sure they will be on this immediately, unless Mr Blunt wants to be more specific.

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The Communities Secretary gave the assurance to the House that he was unaware of any such advice in the context of diplomatic posts. It appears that that advice did exist, and that it came from the Foreign Secretary’s own office.

I am sure that between those points of order, we can sort out the various channels that need to be fed back to. The hon. Gentleman has raised the issue, and I am sure it will be taken back.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Through you, may I express my thanks to Mr Speaker for his support yesterday? There was a very unpleasant social media posting containing a threat. I can report that the gentleman concerned has unequivocally and unreservedly apologised, and has made a significant donation to the Jo Cox Foundation.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for informing the House of that. I will certainly pass his thanks back to Mr Speaker, and I am glad to hear that there has been a satisfactory outcome.