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Point of Order

Volume 615: debated on Wednesday 19 October 2016

1.10 pm

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Yesterday at Foreign Office questions, the shadow Foreign Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Islington South and Finsbury (Emily Thornberry), asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the hon. Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood):

“When can we expect full, independent, UN-led investigations of the thousands of airstrikes on civilian targets in Yemen?”

In his reply, the Minister stated:

“There are not thousands, as the hon. Lady suggested—that is to mislead the House—but there are a number with which we are concerned that need to be clarified.”—[Official Report, 18 October 2016; Vol. 615, c. 667-668.]

However, I have discovered that on 16 September The Guardian newspaper stated that the independent Yemen data project

“records more than 8,600 air attacks between March 2015, when the Saudi-led campaign began, and the end of August this year.”

Moreover, Human Rights Watch lists dozens of airstrikes that have appeared to be “unlawfully indiscriminate” and have caused civilian casualties. Can you advise the House on whether the Minister needs to come to the Chamber and correct the inaccurate and rather dismissive reply that he gave to my hon. Friend yesterday?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice that he intended to raise this point of order. What Members say in this House—I often have to make this point, but it bears repetition—is their individual responsibility. This applies to Ministers, and indeed to Opposition Front Benchers, as it does to other right hon. and hon. Members. The hon. Gentleman believes that Ministers have been inaccurate in what they said yesterday—or, specifically, that the response to the shadow Foreign Secretary was inaccurate. He has made that view clear, and he has done so on the record. I am sure that it will have been heard by those on the Treasury Bench, and that it will be relayed to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I am also sure that if the Foreign Secretary and the Minister feel that the House has been inadvertently misled, the relevant Minister will take swift steps to correct the record. It is only fair to say, as it is not for me to umpire on whether a clarification is required, that a Minister may take a view of the facts of the matter that differs from that of the hon. Gentleman. As to whether that is the case, we will have to await events.