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Points of Order

Volume 629: debated on Monday 16 October 2017

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. On Friday, I emailed the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union’s office at 12:08. The email was acknowledged by his office at 12:21. At 15:03 precisely, my letter was on the Guido Fawkes website. Mr Speaker, you may be aware of Guido Fawkes, and I am sure that he will get pleasure from the fact that I am mentioning his website here today, but could you explain how I can ensure that the Minister’s office is just as prompt in giving me a reply to my inquiry as it appears to have been in giving that inquiry to the Guido Fawkes website?

The right hon. Gentleman has raised his concern in a very reasonable tone, and I am grateful to him for giving me notice that he wished to raise this matter. I understand his concern and—all attempted jocularity aside—this is in fact quite a serious subject. The handling of Members’ correspondence by Government Departments is of course a matter for the Ministers concerned rather than for me, and I do not know how his email to the Department for Exiting the European Union found its way to a third-party website, but I strongly agree with the principle that Members of this House should be able to assume that their correspondence with Departments will be treated in confidence and with respect. It should not be lobbed in the direction of some website. That is a pretty extraordinary state of affairs and I would hope that the Secretary of State will at some point have something to say about the matter. The Secretary of State himself is a very long-serving and distinguished parliamentarian, and he treats the House with respect, so he might well have a view on the matter. I hope that we will hear that view sooner rather than later.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I hope that this is a point of order that you can deal with. Yesterday, I drove into the House of Commons car park because I was going to do some constituency work. I pulled in, and next to my vehicle was a car being recharged. It was an electric car, and there is nothing wrong with that; it was also a foreign car. The problem is that it appeared to be a Labour campaign vehicle. It had “Labour” all over it, and it clearly did not seem to be a Member’s car. I understand that the Labour party has had some problems with parking at its new offices, but I do not think that it is correct, sir, that we should have its cars parked here. Is it perhaps the case that Labour is interested in the many paying for its electricity bill?

I am most intrigued by the point of order raised by the hon. Gentleman, for two reasons. First of all, I think he invests me with an immediate wisdom that I cannot claim to possess on a matter which, in the previous eight years and four months of my Speakership, has not been raised with me in this Chamber in that way. I am therefore bound to say that I must reflect upon the matter. Secondly, I am even more intrigued by the sense on the part of the hon. Gentleman that it is possible to distinguish a car that belongs to a Member from any other car. My car is a very ordinary car and I do not think that there is anything to suggest that it belongs to a Member rather than to some other person, but I will look into this matter. I hope that that provides satisfaction to the hon. Gentleman and of course, very importantly, to Mrs Bone.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Earlier this afternoon, my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) asked the Home Secretary an important question about why the Intelligence and Security Committee had not been reconstituted since the election, and indeed had not met since April. I do not think that she can have heard or understood the question correctly, because she did not give my hon. Friend an answer. This is incredibly serious—as I am sure you appreciate, Mr Speaker, as the champion of this place—because that Committee scrutinises the important work of the Government and the intelligence services. We have had a number of dreadful terrorist attacks and all sorts of allegations about Russian interference in our democratic process, and the Committee needs to get on with its job. Will you please ensure that my hon. Friend gets a proper response from the Home Secretary or the relevant Secretary of State? It is unacceptable for the ISC not to be doing its work for such a long time?

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his point of order. I certainly agree that the hon. Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) ought to have an answer to the question that he did ask, rather than perhaps to one which he did not. If there was a failure to answer, I am sure that it was inadvertent rather than calculated. More widely, I point out to the House that the method of composition of the Intelligence and Security Committee is different from that of other Committees. It is a Committee of Parliament, but it is not a Select Committee, so it was not constituted in the same way or at the same time as the other Committees. However, its work is just as important and as pressing as the work of any of the Select Committees of Parliament, so I agree that it is important that it should be constituted and up and running as quickly as possible. This is a point that I am happy to mention to the Leader of the House myself, but I rather hope that Members who feel strongly about it might be inclined to raise the matter with the Leader of the House, perhaps at the upcoming business questions, at which time I eagerly anticipate that the right hon. Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) will be in his seat and leaping up and down with enthusiasm from it.