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Points of Order

Volume 742: debated on Tuesday 19 December 2023

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is a well-known matter of parliamentary protocol that when hon. Members carry out visits and duties in another Member’s seat, they notify the Member prior to their visit. Time and time again, other hon. Members have visited my seat on official duties and not notified me. They include, recently, the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Louise Haigh) and repeated unnotified visits by the right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey). Perhaps the shadow Transport Secretary’s notification got delayed, just like the woeful bus service the Mayor of South Yorkshire is presiding over, and perhaps the shadow Defence Secretary did not want to announce coming to Brexit-voting Rother Valley on the back of Labour’s new plans for closer military ties with the EU. Madam Deputy Speaker, please can you confirm that MPs on official visits to other Members’ seats should always notify sitting Members?

Before I—[Interruption.] Thank you very much. We do not need any further interventions, but I will take a further point of order if the right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne would like to make one.

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Unlike the hon. Gentleman, me and my family actually live in Rotherham and if I notified him every time I was in his constituency, I would simply swamp his inbox.

Madam Deputy Speaker, my family live in Rother Valley as well and he knows that. To say my family do not live there is disgraceful. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman was embarrassed about standing next to councillors who did not report the child sexual exploitation in Rotherham. Perhaps that is why he is smiling and doing that. That was reported by the Guido website.

Order. We will now calm down. [Interruption.] I do not need the right hon. Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) at the back to tell other Members to sit down. If the hon. Member for Rother Valley has to sit down, I will tell him to sit down.

Let us just clear up this matter in its various aspects. First of all, it is understandable that the hon. Member for Rother Valley is angry about his family being brought into it. I am quite sure that the right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne, on the Opposition Front Bench, will wish to withdraw that part of his remarks and allow the House to concentrate on the fact that he does enter privately the hon. Gentleman’s constituency frequently. [Interruption.] Will the hon. Member for Rother Valley please be quiet and allow me to answer the question that he raised? Now, will the right hon. Gentleman remove from his remarks the mention of the hon. Gentleman’s family? [Interruption.]

I think we are getting a little confused here, largely because there is noise and when people shout I cannot hear what other people are saying. I think there has been some confusion, so let us just sort it out. The right hon. Gentleman did not say anything about your family, Mr Stafford. He said something about his own family and where they live. It is up to him—[Interruption.] Will you stop talking while I am answering the question? The right hon. Gentleman did not say anything about Mr Stafford’s family. If he had done that, that would be quite wrong and I would be the first to defend Mr Stafford. What we are talking about is a situation where Mr Stafford is quite rightly annoyed that the right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne and the hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley have, on several occasions, gone into his constituency not on private business, but on party business or otherwise. Where that occurs, it should not.

For the guidance of Members—although I know that the right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne does not need it, because he is a long-standing Member of this House and one who normally behaves with absolute honour in all that he does—we have the “Rules of behaviour and courtesies in the House of Commons”. This little booklet was recently sent, in its newly amended version, to all Members of the House. Quite often, when Mr Speaker and those of us who occupy the Chair have to deal with points of order here in the Chamber, it is because Members have not read it, or they might have read it or looked at the cover but not taken in its contents. I would be most grateful if everybody would look at it. It was sent very recently. This is a new version, published in November 2023. It is one of my few published books! I joke that it is mine, but it is not mine. It was put together by the House, but Mr Speaker and the Deputy Speakers had very considerable input into it. It would be helpful if Members were to take on board what it says.

The hon. Gentleman, Mr Stafford, has made a perfectly reasonable point of order. It has been responded to by the right hon. Gentleman, Mr Healey. I think we can leave it at that. Thank you.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. On 22 November, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the right hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Laura Trott) said in this Chamber that

“taxes for the average worker have gone down by £1,000.”—[Official Report, 22 November 2023; Vol. 741, c. 360.]

On 30 November, she said:

“Taxes for the average worker will have gone down by £1,000 since 2010.”—[Official Report, 30 November 2023; Vol. 741, c. 1084.]

In a subsequent letter to me, on 15 December, she effectively admitted that taxes had not actually gone down as she earlier claimed. She now claimed instead that taxes for the average worker are £1,000 lower than they would have been. However, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury has refused to correct the record so far. I would be grateful for your advice, Madam Deputy Speaker, on whether there is any guidance available to Ministers on the circumstances in which they should seek to make such a correction.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of his point of order. As Mr Speaker has said many times from this Chair and I have repeated, the accuracy of Ministers’ statements in the House is not a matter for the Chair. The interpretation of statistics is a matter of interpretation and it is very often the case that one Member views a statistic from one angle and another Member views the same statistic from a completely different angle. The hon. Gentleman has made his point very clearly and I am sure that those on the Treasury Bench will have heard it.

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. It may be helpful to the House if I draw its attention once again to paragraph 3.13 of the autumn statement document, which outlines exactly how that £1,000 tax cut is calculated.

I thank the hon. Lady for her point of order, which I think proves what I have just said. The hon. Gentleman and the hon. Lady are looking at the same statistics and interpreting them in slightly different ways. That is what politics is about; that is what this Chamber is about. It is about having a discussion from one side to the other. Thank you very much.