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Points of Order

Volume 627: debated on Tuesday 11 July 2017

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Would it be in order for a Minister to attend the House and make a statement on why there is no one authority with responsibility for the safety of rivers and canals? Last night, my 12-year-old constituent Owen Jenkins drowned at Beeston weir. It appears that he went into the River Trent to assist another youngster who had got into difficulty in the water. This seems to have been an act of great courage by a remarkable young man, and I am sure that the whole House will join me in sending our heartfelt condolences to his family, his friends and all the other pupils at Chilwell School. Summer is here and the schools are now breaking up for the holidays. Our rivers, canals, quarries, ponds and lakes are potentially dangerous places, especially for children and youngsters, yet there is no one authority that has responsibility for safety in those areas. I think that a Minister should come along to the House and explain how we can ensure that all those places are safe for all of us, and especially for young people.

I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for her point of order, and for her courtesy in giving me notice of her intention to raise it. She has paid warm and eloquent tribute to young Owen Jenkins, and I am sure she speaks for all of us in saying that we send our deepest condolences to all his friends and family. We shall remember the remarkable courage that he showed. I am not aware of the intention on the part of any Minister to come to the House to make a statement on this matter, but the right hon. Lady asked whether it would be in order for a Minister to do so. It certainly would, and we still have several sitting days before the recess. If a Minister were to come to the House to make a statement on that matter, to explain the delineation of functions and the allocation of responsibilities and to answer questions about this, that would be very well received by the House and, I dare say, by the family of young Owen Jenkins.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I understand that the Prime Minister has announced that there is to be a judge-led public inquiry into the contaminated blood scandal. Would it not have been better if, just for once, such an announcement could have been made to hon. Members in this House?

The short answer is that it is better if key announcements of policy or other Government intent are communicated first to the House when the House is in session. I have been attending to my duties in the Chair, so I am unaware of the announcement. It may well be that it will be warmly welcomed, and I do not cavil at that, but the hon. Gentleman asked me a specific question, to which I have given him a specific answer.

Yesterday, when the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) sought leave to secure an emergency debate on a specific and important matter, namely her sense of the need for a full public inquiry into the contaminated blood scandal, there had obviously been no such announcement. I judge that it was indeed a proper matter to be debated under the terms of Standing Order No. 24. Notwithstanding any announcement outside of the House, an indication of parliamentary opinion on the subject remains extremely germane and arguably just as urgent. I agreed to it yesterday but, more particularly, the House gave its approval to the hon. Lady to pursue this matter, and I felt and still feel that it warranted and warrants up to three hours of debate today. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan), but the announcement certainly does not in any way dissuade us from a proper and comprehensive focus on this matter now.