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Points of Order

Volume 744: debated on Thursday 1 February 2024

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise for my misunderstanding earlier, but I seek your advice on how Back Benchers who have successfully applied for a Backbench Business debate can have ample and adequate opportunities to take part in debates that are given adequate time.

Last week, the right hon. Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt) put forward an alteration to the business of the House, which was fine. This week’s business has also been altered, again understandably, given the importance of the Northern Ireland motion for approval and the United Kingdom internal market motion for approval. Perhaps they could have taken a whole day; I am sure that would have been welcomed by Northern Ireland Members. However, the reality is that we might have only an hour for two debates: the general debate on miners and mining communities, and the motion for freedom and democracy in Iran. Frankly, that is not acceptable. Can you advise the House, Mr Speaker, on how Back Benchers can have their voice heard in this place?

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I am happy to respond to the hon. Gentleman, and I understand his disappointment. I hope there will be a good amount of time for Backbench Business debates. The Chairman of the Backbench Business Committee, the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns), who is sitting next to the hon. Gentleman, will know that I am keen to accommodate and give time for these important debates and to support the innovation that is the Backbench Business Committee.

It will be for the House to decide the length of time it takes on these two statutory instruments. Yesterday, there was considerable representation for more time to be given, and for the House to have a mechanism to allow the SIs to be taken individually. The Government listened, and on this important matter we think it is important that the House has that time.

The only thing I can add is that the hon. Gentleman is sitting next the hon. Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns), who I am sure will offer a very sympathetic ear and, I hope, could schedule more time for that very important issue.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I raise the infected blood scandal and inaccuracies in what Ministers are saying to Parliament, which is causing me a great deal of concern. On 18 January, the Paymaster General said to the House during Cabinet Office questions, in relation to Sir Brian Langstaff’s recommendations in his report:

“The psychological support is now in place”.—[Official Report, 18 January 2024; Vol. 743, c. 1015.]

I then submitted a question to the Department of Health and Social Care asking it to publish details of that support. The answer came back:

“A bespoke psychological support service for infected blood victims, commissioned by NHS England, is currently being developed, and planned to go live in early summer 2024.”

It seems, therefore, that the Minister misspoke. During those questions, he also said to the House:

“I have recognised the need to ensure that we get the clinical, legal and care experts in place. They are in place, and they are working on some of the complex issues the hon. Lady alludes to.”—[Official Report, 18 January 2024; Vol. 743, c. 1015.]

Again, I tabled a question asking for further details. The answer came back on 29 January:

“The Government is in the process of appointing clinical, legal and social care experts to advise the Cabinet Office on detailed technical considerations of the Government’s response to the Infected Blood Inquiry and will update Parliament in due course.”

It is totally unacceptable for Ministers to give information on the Floor of the House that is then contradicted in written answers to Members. Will you comment, Mr Speaker, on what steps I can take to ensure that accurate information in this really difficult scandal, where people are dying, is relayed correctly to the House, Members and the wider general public?

I thank the right hon. Lady for giving notice of her point of order, which is a very important one. As she well knows, I am not responsible for the accuracy of statements that Ministers make in this House or in written answers, nor have I been given the power to police their accuracy. However—and I think this is important— I am sure that those on the Treasury Bench will have heard her remarks, and the Table Office will be able to advise her on how to pursue this matter. One thing I do know is that the right hon. Member will not stop here today, but will take all avenues open to her to ensure that she gets a response to the remarks she has made. Again, I am sure that those on the Treasury Bench will have taken that on board.