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Points of Order

Volume 611: debated on Monday 6 June 2016

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. There are now some 30 hon. Members being investigated by 18 different police forces across England in relation to the very serious allegation that the Representation of the People Act 1983 may have been contravened in the declaration of candidate expenditure. Can you make a ruling on what may or may not be raised in this House in reference to those allegations, given the deep concern among the public and the fact that any successful prosecution may result in serious consequences for the hon. Member involved, and even call into question last year’s general election result?

What I would say to the hon. Gentleman, to whom I am grateful, is as follows. First, the matter is not sub judice—he was not suggesting that it is, but I understand that it is not. Secondly, however, I think it prudent and wise to leave the investigating authorities to conduct their investigations, and not to seek to do so ourselves in this Chamber with an imagined expertise and authority. Last, when the hon. Gentleman seeks my wider guidance, I think it best to avoid the hypothetical and to deal with these matters as and when—but only as and when—they arise. We will leave it there.

On a different and unrelated matter, I am sure. The hon. Gentleman is nodding solemnly and sagely.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I seek your advice for the second time in a matter of months. A ministerial visit has been organised to the excellent Makkah mosque in Headingley in my constituency. On this occasion, I had to drag it out of the office of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government what the visit was for. I was delighted he was doing it, but can you make it clear to Ministers that, while we welcome their visits, they should have the courtesy to tell us where they are going and what they are doing?

First, I think it best that Ministers who are going to visit colleagues’ constituencies are explicit and candid about these matters, subject only to security considerations. It is much better to tell colleagues what the visit is about than to deprive them of that information. Secondly, I must say that I have always found the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, who visited my own constituency recently, the very embodiment of courtesy.

That has been my experience of the Secretary of State—an extremely courteous individual. The right hon. and learned Lady says, “To you,” but generally I find the Secretary of State is courteous to most people. If there has been a lapse in this case, I regret that.

Thirdly, I just say that is not worth the hassle with the hon. Gentleman, who is a very persistent terrier. My advice to anybody who is going to wander into his constituency on anything that might be considered to be official business is: tell the bloke in advance.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. It relates to the non-disclosure of Government-held information to the House. During the response to the urgent question on the deportation of foreign and EU prisoners, at 5 minutes past 4 this afternoon my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Crispin Blunt) asked the Home Secretary if she would tell the House how many EU prisoners had been transferred compulsorily from this country to their EU country of origin under the terms of the EU prisoner transfer agreement, which the Home Secretary prayed in aid in her response to the urgent question. The Home Secretary said in answer to him that she did not have that information readily available. I repeated the question 10 minutes later, at quarter past 4. The Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous), was on the Front Bench, there were seven officials in the box, and there were other Home Office Ministers on the Front Bench. I find it inconceivable that the Home Secretary was not apprised of that information, and withheld it from the House. What can be done, Sir, to make sure that that information is released to the House before it rises later today?

I did not quite hear the tail end of the hon. Gentleman’s question, but I am sure that he would not suggest that a Minister would deliberately refuse to give information that she had at the time. As for exactly what was known by the Minister, or what was available to Minister, or what was proffered to the Minister, I do not know. If a Minister has not given a correct answer it is incumbent on them to correct it as quickly as possible. If the hon. Gentleman is dissatisfied, as he clearly is, he has the resources of the Table Office open to him to table a question, including a question for a named day. If he is dissatisfied with the answer to that named day question, or does not receive a substantive answer, there is an arsenal of parliamentary weapons available to him, especially if he judges the matter to be urgent. I will leave the hon. Gentleman, who is a wily and experienced parliamentarian, to his own devices.