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Points of Order

Volume 608: debated on Wednesday 27 April 2016

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I seek your advice on how I can express my deep sorrow about something to which the Prime Minister referred earlier?

As you know, Mr Speaker, if Ministers make a mistake, they can correct the record. I hope you will allow me to say that I fully acknowledge that I have made a mistake, and I wholeheartedly apologise to the House for the words that I used before I became a Member of Parliament. I accept and understand that the words that I used caused upset and hurt to the Jewish community, and I deeply regret that. Anti-Semitism is racism, full stop. As a Member of Parliament, I will do everything in my power to build relations between Muslims, Jews, and people of different faiths and none.

I am grateful, and very thankful, for the support and advice that I have received from many Jewish friends and colleagues, advice on which I intend to act. I truly regret what I did, and I hope—I sincerely hope—that the House will accept my profound apology.

The hon. Lady has found an opportunity to apologise. I thank her for what she has said, and it will have been noted by the House. I think that that is all I should say on this occasion.

I commend the hon. Member for Bradford West (Naz Shah) for the words that she has just spoken.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker—a wider point of order —would it be possible for us to develop in our procedures an opportunity for the Prime Minister rapidly to correct any misleading impressions that he inadvertently gives during Prime Minister’s Question Time? For example, I know that he would be incredibly anxious today, following his general attack on the procurement policies of the Scottish Government with specific reference to the Forth crossing, to acknowledge that, in fact, 45% of the total orders, which amounted to £540 million, were placed with Scottish companies.

I know that the Prime Minister would also want to correct the misleading impression that there was no Scottish steel in the contract by acknowledging that steel from the Dalzell plate mill was used in the girders at either end of the bridge. And I fully understand that he would want to acknowledge that the reason why there was no Scottish bidder for the main subcontract was the closure of the Ravenscraig steel mill by a previous Tory Government in the 1990s, which removed our capacity to supply such steel.

I know, Mr Speaker, that the provision of such an opportunity would swallow up the entire time of the House, given the many mistakes that this Prime Minister makes, but in view of the clarity of this particular example, perhaps you could consider my new, innovative prime ministerial correction procedure.

I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his point of order. It has been commented upon many a time and oft in recent years that I have sometimes judged it necessary and desirable somewhat to extend Prime Minister’s questions if I have felt that there has been excessive noise. I have done that because I have wanted Back-Bench Members to have their opportunity. However, there are limits. Even I would not seek to extend Question Time to absorb more than two and a half hours, notwithstanding the sedulous advocacy of the right hon. Gentleman and his obvious enthusiasm for my doing so.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your help in finding a mechanism whereby the House might be able to force a binding vote on the Government, as a matter of urgency, following the new Lord Dubs amendment to the Immigration Bill. Vulnerable unaccompanied children require help now, but it would seem that the House of Commons is not likely to consider the Bill for another two weeks, the intention being, presumably, to avoid further embarrassment to the Government.

Let me also say, Mr Speaker, that I should like to avail myself of that prime ministerial correction procedure in order to enable the Prime Minister to retract his comment that other European countries are able to cope with those children. They have, of course, asked the United Kingdom to participate in a relocation scheme, and Frontex has identified the issue of vulnerable children as one of the most concerning aspects of the refugee crisis.

I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his point of order. He is, in a sense, performing a kind of double act today with the right hon. Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond), two seats to his left. What I would say to the right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake), who is a very experienced denizen of the House, having previously served as its Deputy Leader, is twofold. First, as he knows, the scheduling of business is in the hands of the Government, notably in respect of Government business. Although his expectation, as things stand, as to when that matter will next be treated by the House may well be correct, it has not been announced.

Secondly, the scheduling will, in all probability, be announced at business questions tomorrow by the Leader of the House. If it is not, there will be an opportunity for that matter to be probed. I know I can say with complete confidence and with no fear of contradiction that just as the right hon. Gentleman is in his place now, so he will be at the appropriate time tomorrow, and I think there is more than a passing possibility that he will catch my eye.

I am not sure it is, but I always like hearing the hon. Gentleman, especially as he has such a beaming countenance today. So let us hear the attempted “further” from the hon. Gentleman.

We have heard the suggestion that the Prime Minister said something that was wrong. We heard from the right hon. Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond), from the Scottish National party, that the bit between the ends of the Forth crossing, which I would call “the bridge”, was actually made with steel that was not produced in this country.

Whatever else may be said, and it may be a point of enormous interest, that is manifestly not a point of order. We will leave the matter there for now. If there are no further points of order, perhaps we can now come to the ten-minute rule motion in the name of the right hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington. Whatever he may have to say tomorrow, I assume that today he intends to address his ten-minute rule motion.