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Points of Order

Volume 626: debated on Tuesday 27 June 2017

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Yesterday, I raised the lack of clarity from the Communities Secretary on the Government’s plans to introduce local retention of business rates to replace the revenue support grant to local authorities. In reply, the Secretary of State indicated that today’s Queen’s Speech debate may be an opportunity to raise the matter. Has the Secretary of State given you, Sir, any indication that he intends to make an oral statement on these matters during the forthcoming debate? How might Members with an interest in this matter adequately question him if they have not put in to speak in the debate?

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. The relevant Minister will, I think, be making a speech to the House. That, of course, does not constitute a statement as such, but it is nevertheless a full treatment of the issues of which the Minister wishes to treat.

In answer to the hon. Gentleman’s second inquiry—how do Members probe the Minister if they have not put in to make a speech?—the short answer is, by intervention. It is not for me to try to set myself up as an executive coach, and the hon. Gentleman would not wish me to do so, but the idea of Members proceeding collectively with the same line of inquiry is not entirely a novel idea, and if the hon. Gentleman wishes to encourage his colleagues to focus on a particular theme or point and to keep repeating that theme or point until they are satisfied, it is perfectly open to him to do so. I feel sure the hon. Gentleman’s followers, or his disciples, will listen to his advice with the very closest interest and respect at all times. We will leave it there for now.

With your prodigious memory, Mr Speaker, you might recall that the final point of order in the last Parliament was about a worry that the electoral system in this country is more open to corruption than at any time since 1880, and it is possible now to buy an election.

I do not know whether you saw the Channel 4 programme about the activities in Wales of a call centre that was employed by the Conservative party throughout the election to concentrate on my constituency, among others. It was not carrying out any kind of market research; it was being used to give information that was damaging to the Labour party to as many voters as possible. One hundred people were employed to do that, and they were paid to do it. The allegation was also made—I can confirm it from what happened in my constituency—that canvassing was also done from this call centre on polling day, and I had many complaints about people getting repeated calls.

We have an electoral system that is not fit for purpose. We are in an age where neither the Electoral Commission nor the Information Commissioner can handle the election. To restore integrity to our electoral system, we need major reforms, and I am sure you will use your office to ensure that that is accelerated.

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. I think he invests me with powers or influence that I might not currently possess, but I am very grateful to him for encouraging an increase in the said powers or influence.

As it happens, I do recall the last point of order of the last Parliament, and it is very reasonable of the hon. Gentleman to draw my attention to it. My pithy advice is that if he has ongoing concerns about what might constitute an offence, he should notify both the Electoral Commission and, indeed, the police.

I did not see the Channel 4 documentary to which the hon. Gentleman refers, although I have a feeling that he will exhort me to view it sooner rather than later. What I would say is that if there have been egregious activities taking place in his constituency—I do not suggest that this invalidates his concern, because it does not—manifestly those activities have not been successful if they were directed against the hon. Gentleman. That is not altogether surprising, as he has been a consistent presence in this House for three decades—he might not yet have reached the halfway mark in his parliamentary career attained by the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr Skinner), but he is getting a bit nearer to it. We will perhaps leave it there for now.