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Points of Order

Volume 643: debated on Wednesday 27 June 2018

Order. I will come to the hon. Gentleman when there is an appropriate air of hush, anticipation and respect for the hon. Gentleman—to which we are gradually approximating. [Interruption.] I know the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Emma Hardy) used to be a teacher, but she does not have to raise her hand in the Chamber, as though she was asking a question. We will come to the hon. Lady and her point of order in due course. First, I hope the House will be quiet as we hear the point of order from Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for taking my point of order earlier than normal. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition referred to me in his comments earlier. He has only been a Member of the House for 35 years, so he may not have learned the form—it is considered good form for a Member to tell another Member in advance when they are going to refer to them—but that is not the point. What the right hon. Gentleman said was false in all respects. My company does not actually run any hedge funds, so to have moved a hedge fund out of this country would have shown a remarkable acrobatic nature within the business; we have not in fact done so. I wondered whether he might like to take this opportunity, as he is still in the Chamber, to set the record straight, rather than otherwise be a peddler of false news or perhaps guilty of terminological inexactitude.

Ah, I know that terminological inexactitude is of unfailing interest to the hon. Gentleman, who appreciates the historical significance of the term that he has just used. It is perfectly open to the Leader of the Opposition to come to the Dispatch Box if he wishes to do so. [Interruption.] Order. All this hand waving is rather unseemly. However, the right hon. Gentleman is not under any obligation to do so. The hon. Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg) has made his point, and it is on the record. I thank him for making it, and we will leave it there.

If there are other points of order, I will exceptionally take them now, before we proceed to the urgent question.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I rise to ask your advice on a matter of exceptional importance to my constituents. As you know, I have been seeking for quite some time now to get a simple, clear answer to what I believe to be a simple, clear question. I have written to Ministers, put in written questions and asked questions during oral questions, and so far I have been unable to get a straightforward answer to this question: when will this Government release the money for the child and adolescent mental health services unit in my constituency that they have long promised? In fact, to the last written question I put in, I received what can only be described as the slightly offensive reply that

“details of ministerial discussions are not…disclosed.”

They have not even had the decency to give me some kind of timeframe. How can I get the Department of Health and Social Care to tell me when it will release the money for the CAMHS unit that is so desperately needed in my constituency?

I thank the hon. Lady for her point of order, and for giving me notice that she wished to raise it. I can understand her frustration at the responses she has received from the Treasury. I believe that the practice of Departments in responding to questions about ministerial discussions varies somewhat. I would be most concerned if Departments were not giving equal treatment to questions from Members on both sides of the House. This point will be heard—if not immediately, then in due course—by the Leader of the House, who is the custodian of the rights of all Members, or one of the important custodians of the rights of all Members.

The hon. Lady may wish to raise her concerns with the Chair of the Procedure Committee, the hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mr Walker), as his Committee keeps a watchful eye on Departments’ patterns of answering parliamentary questions. Meanwhile—I know this is frustrating and irritating for her—I encourage her to persist in questioning. My almost failsafe advice to a Member seeking guidance about how to proceed in relation to some unresolved matter is: persist, persist, persist! There are many examples of Members on both sides of the House who have specialised in such an approach. I feel sure that the hon. Lady will not mind my praying in aid the late and, to many, great Sir Gerald Kaufman, who was not to be dissuaded from the pursuit of what he thought was proper by non-answers, delay or procrastination. That right hon. Gentleman simply went on and on and on until he secured the satisfaction that he sought, and I commend such an approach to the hon. Lady.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Before the Leader of the Opposition leaves the House, may I raise the point already raised by my hon. Friend the Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg)? You, Mr Speaker, are very much against our using the word “lie” in the House, and I understand why, but what about “misleading”, because there is no doubt that the Leader of the Opposition has misled the House and the country? Normally, it is the tradition for a Member to apologise if they mislead the House. I seek your advice on this urgent matter, Mr Speaker.

It is an important matter, but I have the benefit of the Clerk, who has instantly consulted his scholarly cranium, having swivelled round and advised me, “No”. The reason why I say no to the hon. Gentleman—I accept that the point is serious—is that to say that the Leader of the Opposition has misled the House and committed an offence is to accuse him of having deliberately misled the House. There is no suggestion of that, even from the hon. Member for North East Somerset.

Although I completely understand both the support of the hon. Member for South Dorset (Richard Drax) for his colleague and his genuine concern about this matter—he is himself unfailingly polite at all times—it is not for the Chair to seek to arbitrate in such a matter about whether a parliamentary error has been committed. Each Member of this House, whoever that Member is and whatever post he or she occupies, is responsible for words uttered in this Chamber and, as appropriate, for the correction of them; I am not the umpire of whether he or she is required to make a correction. That is not just a doctrine evolved on the spot, but the very long established practice of this House. The hon. Gentleman has made his point and it is on the record, and it may even wing its way to the people of his Dorset constituency.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is my first point of order in three years, so I am actually quite excited.

It is about a serious matter, however. At Prime Minister’s questions on 14 March, the Prime Minister instructed the Home Secretary to meet me to discuss the epidemic of gun crime in Haringey. A further meeting with a junior Home Office Minister was promised in connection with the totally separate case, involving mistaken identity, of an anti-terror raid in my constituency in April. It has now been 15 weeks since the first promise was made, and neither of these meetings has materialised. Mr Speaker, teenagers are dying in my constituency from knives and guns, and I urgently seek your advice about whether there are any parliamentary mechanisms by which I can ensure that the Government fulfil the promises made to meet me on behalf of those constituents.

My instant response to the hon. Lady is to mention to her—she will be aware of this fact, but it may not be known to people observing our proceedings—that an important Bill, the Offensive Weapons Bill, is about to be debated on Second Reading. If I may politely say so, that would be a convenient opportunity again to flag up her discontent on the matter. I thank her for giving me notice of this point of order, and I would say, more widely, that I entirely understand her—and, in her position, I would feel—great annoyance that it seems to be taking an inordinately long time to arrange a meeting with Home Office Ministers to discuss these very serious matters, and specifically to honour, as I understand from what she has said, a commitment to her. The concern will have been noted by those on the Treasury Bench, and I hope that a meeting will be swiftly arranged. It would be unfortunate—not just in terms of inconvenience to the hon. Lady, but of embarrassment to the occupants of the Treasury Bench—if it were necessary for her to raise this matter in the Chamber on a subsequent day, so I hope that help will be at hand sooner rather than later.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Perhaps surprisingly, the Prime Minister did not choose to tell the House during Prime Minister’s Question Time about the resignation this morning of the leader of the Welsh Conservative party over remarks he made about Brexit and business. This was despite their being indistinguishable from the remarks made by the Foreign Secretary, apart from the swearing. Is there any means by which this matter could be put on the record?

The hon. Gentleman, who is a very experienced and dextrous Member of this House, has found his own salvation. Furthermore, he has not just stumbled into finding it; he knows that by the utterly bogus device of a contrived point of order he has achieved his objective, as his demonstration of amusement evidently testifies.