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Points of Order

Volume 736: debated on Wednesday 19 July 2023

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. It would have been out of order for me to have asked a question during the statement, because I am afraid I was upstairs with some youngsters from my constituency at the beginning, but would it be in order for me to join the general approbation of the Secretary of State for Defence? I note that Elton John has said several times that he has done his last performance, but now that the Secretary of State for Defence is a gay hero, we will all be buying him some LGBT jackets, shirts and rainbow flags.

May I make a serious point about the right hon. Gentleman? He has been one of the very few people in this House who has been clear-sighted about Russia from the beginning—from the very outset. I feel sometimes that if the whole House had listened to him a bit more on Russia, Ukraine might have been in a better place than it is today.

If it is not too obsequious, may I add my obsequies to those of everybody else and praise the Secretary of State. Is that in order?

The Chamber will appreciate that it is not in order at all, but I have exercised some leniency, as we come to the end of this long sitting period and approach summer, to allow the hon. Gentleman to make his remarks, because I know that he makes them with sincerity. I think that most of us would agree with him. It is not at all in order for me to say from the Chair that I agree with anything, but the Secretary of State knows that he leaves with the very good wishes of the whole of the House of Commons.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Earlier this morning, a note on parliamentary headed notepaper and a mug was sent to the press lobby from the Scottish National party leader in Westminster, referring to China’s one-child policy. Madam Deputy Speaker, this is not what I came to Parliament to do, but sadly I have become used to calling out Sinophobia and misogyny in this place and I would be grateful for your guidance.

Official statistics confirm that as a result of the Chinese one-child policy there were 196 million sterilisations and 336 million abortions. It was a policy that broke families and led to infanticide, mostly of baby girls. In 2017, there were still 33 million more men than there were women in China. When can our diverse communities expect better from Members of Parliament, especially in understanding the history and trauma of other countries? Madam Deputy Speaker, is it appropriate for the SNP leader in Westminster to use parliamentary stationery to make crass political jibes that speak to Sinophobia and misogyny? Should we, especially the east and south-east Asian communities, not expect better on this issue?

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Maybe you could clarify two points for me. Is the British Labour party more rattled by a minor breach of the rules than it is by child poverty? And critically, in June 2018, the following was said:

“The cap reminds me of Communist China’s morally abhorrent one-child policy. Now, even the Chinese have abolished that; perhaps the Tories can bring themselves to follow China’s example and abolish the two-child cap.”

That was said by the deputy leader of the Scottish Labour party. So in answering those two questions, maybe we can find the hon. Member for Luton North (Sarah Owen) the telephone number of the Labour sub-branch office in Glasgow.

Order. Neither of these matters are points of order for the Chair. I appreciate that they are matters on which Members feel very strongly, and that they wish to find an opportunity to criticise and to debate what is right and what is wrong in this matter. It is not for the Chair to take any responsibility for Members’ correspondence with journalists, for example, but I would always, as the Speaker has done many times, urge that responsible language is used by Members in this House and outside this House. If the hon. Member for Luton North (Sarah Owen) has a specific point about the use of parliamentary stationery, the way to deal with that is to write, with evidence, to Mr Speaker, rather than to raise it on the Floor of the House.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Please could you advise me of how I can get hold of a response to my letter to the Minister for Immigration and the international development Minister, dated 2 March—that is four and a half months ago—about the ballooning bill of aid for asylum hotels under their watch? Last year, in-donor refugee costs ballooned to £3.7 billion. The cost per person per night in asylum accommodation has gone up fivefold in four years and the case backlog still stands at 170,000. As we are a day from recess, can you advise me on how I can get a timely response, Madam Deputy Speaker?

Will the hon. Lady clarify her question? Was the letter written personally by her on behalf of a particular constituent?

The letter was written in my capacity in my current role, but it was on behalf of many people who have written to me raising concerns.

As has been said from the Chair many times—the Speaker has repeatedly said it—it is essential that Ministers answer correspondence in a timeous fashion; four and half months is too long to wait. However, if every time a Member of Parliament wrote a general letter about a general matter to a Minister and did not get an immediate response, they raised a point of order here in the House, then we would have points of order for two hours every day. It is not a point of order. I hope that the hon. Lady will get an answer to her letter, but it is not a point of order and Members should not come to the Chamber to complain about a general matter that is a matter for debate.