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House of Commons Hansard
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24 April 2018
Volume 639

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rose

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rose—

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I am saving up the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey). It would be a pity to squander him at too early a stage of our proceedings.

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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy suggested in response to my earlier comments that I have never said what further undertakings he should have sought from Melrose. I know he cherishes our exchanges—there are many of them, so I forgive him for forgetting one of them—but on 27 March, in response to an update from him, I questioned the absence of numerous undertakings and was very specific about what they were. I would simply like to correct the record, and I accept his apology in advance.

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I am most grateful to the hon. Lady for her attempted point of order, which I would prefer to classify as a point of continued debate. I am sure it will be of intense interest across the House, and copies of this particular extract of today’s proceedings will probably be lodged in the Library. More particularly, I rather imagine that she will wish speedily to communicate what she has just said to many, many thousands of people across Salford and Eccles.

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rose—

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The Secretary of State has been prompted to come to the Dispatch Box. Who would dare deny him?

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Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I can only regret that I missed the extensive undertakings and the forensic examination by the hon. Member for Salford and Eccles (Rebecca Long Bailey). It is possibly down to the fact that she had prejudiced her consideration of this matter by saying that Labour would block the takeover, thereby making it completely impossible for her to have any role in it were she in my position as Secretary of State.

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The shadow Secretary of State and the Secretary of State have now had their little bit of fun, in which, with my characteristic generosity, I have been willing at this early stage to indulge them. I do not think we need to pursue the matter any further for now. Doubtless, they will preserve these little titbits for their children, or possibly for subsequent generations.

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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Indulging in the use of uncharacteristic language, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy suggested that no proposals had been put to him by me and others. Would he like to confirm that I and others met him and made representations to him in detail asking that the bid be called in under section 58 of the Enterprise Act 2002, with a particular focus on defence and strategic grounds? Would he therefore like to take the opportunity to correct the record?

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It is an extraordinarily eccentric impersonation of a point of order not to seek any procedural ruling from me, although the hon. Gentleman is wise not to do so in respect of the contents of the Enterprise Act, but to deploy the ruse of a point of order to whizz past me at an aeronautical pace in pursuit of some debating reply from the Secretary of State. That is very disorderly behaviour, but as the mood of the House is, on the whole, quite an amicable one, let us hear the mellifluous tones of the Secretary of State, I hope for the last time today.

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I have high regard for the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey), and what he says is uncharacteristic of him. I am disappointed that the limit of his request is to block the bid, rather than to specify undertakings that could have been made and to engage in greater detail than simply saying, “No. Block it.” It would have been more fruitful on behalf of his constituents if he had delved a bit more into its substance, and I regret his not doing so.

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I will sturdily resist any temptation to intervene further in that exchange. This private squabble may continue for a little while, albeit with good nature, I hope.

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rose—

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On the subject of good-natured points of order, I say more in hope than in expectation, I call Mr John Mann.

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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. After a debate on anti-Semitism a week ago today, I have received very many kind remarks from parliamentarians, their staff and, indeed, members of House staff, for which me and my family are very grateful. There is an exception to that: one member of the Press Lobby chose to put out on social media, without any communication whatsoever with me, the suggestion that I had misled Parliament in relation a criminal act of violence against my wife. May I repeat, on the record, that I have not misled Parliament and that my wife, who was the victim of this crime, has written to the media outlet concerned today clarifying this in some detail? This outrageous commentary has led to a wave of additional abuse against me, against my wife and against my daughter, including a threat of violence from a Labour party member from Sefton that is being referred to the police. Can you confirm my understanding that members of the Press Lobby have a privileged status within here? They have computers, telephones and lists of MPs, and if they are struggling to get hold of anybody they have the ability to wait outside this Chamber after a debate to speak to us. This member of the Press Lobby chose to use none of those things, and I just wanted your confirmation that the Press Lobby has the full ability to contact any of us, should they wish to do so, before putting out such scurrilous material.

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I can confirm that. Any journalist can contact any Member if said journalist is minded to do so. I think it is as simple as that; I have no responsibility for what has been said, and the hon. Gentleman is not suggesting that I do. To be candid, I have no knowledge of which individual or outlet he has in mind. In a way, that is an advantage; he is asking me a straightforward question and I can offer him a straightforward confirmation by way of reply.

Needless to say, I am very sorry to hear about the torrent of abuse that the hon. Gentleman, his wife and his daughter have experienced—that is very sad. Nothing is going to stop the hon. Gentleman, whom I have known for more than 30 years, from speaking his mind, and it is right that that should be so. But it is a pity when people feel it necessary not to play the ball but to play the man or the woman, indulging in ad hominem abuse of a frequently loathsome kind, and sometimes of a kind that would be of interest to the police. This is a very worrying development in our democracy, about which I have spoken before, but I thank the hon. Gentleman for what he has said and I hope my reply offers him some reassurance.