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Points of Order

Volume 635: debated on Wednesday 24 January 2018

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your guidance on how to impress upon the Prime Minister her duty to respond to the First Minister Carwyn Jones’s offer of financial help for the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon.

The hon. Lady has transmitted her opinion on this matter through the attempted route of a bogus, albeit mildly ingenious, point of order. I dare say the Prime Minister will learn of what the hon. Lady has said, and it is up to the Prime Minister to decide by what means, and when, to respond.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Pursuant to the urgent question that was tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Jess Phillips), the Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills has answered very competently on the issues for the Department, but a number of issues are still outstanding regarding the conduct of the Under-Secretary of State for Education, the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi), and it would be wrong for the right hon. Lady to try to answer on that. Will you suggest to me, Mr Speaker, how we may be able to get those answers about the Minister’s personal conduct in relation to this event, and how that may be tabled in this House so that we can all see whether he is fit for office?

It is open to the hon. Gentleman to table questions. The Minister, very fairly, pointed out that the Under-Secretary of State had not attended in an official capacity. However, the Under-Secretary of State is a Minister, and it is perfectly within the wit and sagacity of the hon. Gentleman to table questions to him. That is one route open to him. If he wants to raise the matter in other ways, I am sure he can consult his colleagues and decide whether, and if so how, to do so.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Yesterday evening, it was confirmed by No. 10 that Defence would be coming out with a national capability review, and that there would be a statement in the House today from the Defence Secretary. We were told this morning in the armed forces debate in Westminster Hall that there would be no such statement. It now appears to be back on. Can you help us cut through the Government confusion and confirm whether or not there will be a statement today on the armed forces defence cuts?

I have received no notification of any ministerial statement on that matter taking place today. Whether there is a plan for a written ministerial statement, by which I would be surprised, I do not know, but I can certainly confirm that I have received no indication at all that there is to be an oral statement, and if there were to be an oral statement today, I think I can safely say that I would now be aware of it. But one of those to whom I look for worldly wisdom and procedural sagacity is enthusiastically waving a paper at me, though sadly, from the hon. Gentleman’s point of view, on this occasion—perhaps correctly—the inscribed word consists of two letters, of which the first is N and the second of which is O.

What I would say further to the hon. Gentleman—I do not scoff at the issue he has raised, which is an issue of great importance to Members in all parts of the House—is that I am sure other Members will be pursuing this matter. The right hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis), who chairs the Defence Committee, is extremely well known to me, and he is as persistent a colleague as I know and takes a great interest in this matter. I rather imagine that if he is discontented about it, or simply in eager pursuit of ministerial answers, he will seek to ensure that the attention of the House is focused on it. So I think the hon. Gentleman will not be alone or isolated in his interest, and in his determination that this matter be aired sooner rather than later.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. During a Westminster Hall debate I led last Wednesday, on drug consumption rooms, the Minister made some comments that must be queried for their validity. First, the Minister said:

“In terms of Spain, the evidence I am given by those who sit behind me is that there is one room open in Catalonia for one hour a day from Monday to Friday.”

However, according to the House of Commons Library briefing that I was given, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction stated that in February 2017 there were 13 in seven cities in Spain. The Minister also said:

“Canada has kept its provider, Insite, not because of the evidence that the services provided by Insite work, but because the users of Insite brought two court actions”—[Official Report, 17 January 2018; Vol. 634, c. 406-407.]

However, the Canadian Supreme Court said that

“during its eight years of operation, Insite has been proven to save lives with no discernible negative impact on the public safety and health objectives of Canada”.

Plainly, the Minister was inadvertently misrepresenting the facts on these two issues. Could you, Mr Speaker, indicate how I could get the Minister to set the record straight?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his courtesy in giving me notice of this point of order. He will not, I imagine, be astonished to hear that I do not regard this as a point of order for the Chair, and I will happily explain why.

Each Member of this House is responsible for his or her contributions to debates, and these contributions are frequently open to interpretation and differences of opinion. In the spirit of transparency, I will say to the hon. Gentleman that I have heard detailed representations from the Minister concerned. The Minister is satisfied in her own mind that she has not misled anyone. There is obviously a genuine difference of opinion about this matter. The hon. Gentleman has expressed himself with his usual eloquence and alacrity, but I know that he will not expect me to adjudicate on this matter between him and the hon. Lady. We will leave it there for now, but he has ventilated his concern with some force.

If there are no further points of order, perhaps we can now move to the 10-minute rule motion.