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House of Commons Hansard
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01 November 2018
Volume 648

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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. One of the biggest issues facing the UK economy is whether our financial services sector will have access to the EU once we leave next year. The degree of that access and the terms under which it takes place will have a significant impact on our tax base and employment. Following press reports this morning that a deal may have been agreed, can you advise us whether you have had any notice from the Treasury about a statement coming before this House with details of what that deal might entail?

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The short answer to the hon. Gentleman is that I have received no such indication or any approach on the matter, but he has put his point forcefully on the record and it will have been heard by those on the Treasury Bench. For now, we shall have to leave it there, but I am grateful to him for alerting us to his concerns.

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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. We were surprised and shocked to hear the announcement this morning that the Appledore shipyard in Devon is to close. It will mean the loss of 200 jobs. I wonder whether the Government will make a statement to the House on Monday about this very serious situation.

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That is a matter for the Government, although it is perfectly legitimate for the hon. Gentleman to raise the matter through me. I am not aware of any intention to make a statement, but we have until Monday for the Government to choose to do so, if they so wish—they may wish to do so, they may wish not to do so. He will be familiar with the procedures of the House that could be used if he wishes to ensure that the matter can be aired in a suitable fashion and at such length as he thinks appropriate in advance of Monday. He knows what options are open to him.

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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. With the Budget debate so heavily subscribed, as you said earlier today, would it not be possible for the Whips on both sides to do something useful for a change and push back the moment of interruption so that more Members can speak?

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The hon. Gentleman asks whether it would be possible. The short answer is that it would be unimaginable for such a thing to happen today, because the Order Paper is set for today, and there are good reasons, in the name of the protection of the House more widely, why the Order Paper cannot suddenly be messed around with by Executive fiat. It is not my normal practice to think it necessary to rush to the defence of the Whips. Let them defend themselves as best they can and with such resources as they have available to them. In advance of today—that is to say yesterday—in the knowledge or likely expectation of large demand, however, it would have been open to the Government to do that. But they did not, and we are where we are. The role of the Speaker is to take account of the different interests in the House and the level of concern about particular subjects and to operate accordingly. In that respect, am I much bothered about the views of the Whips on either side? No.

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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. On Monday at Home Office questions, I raised concerns about the UK visa and citizenship application service being operated by the private firm Sopra Steria. An immigration lawyer based in Newcastle has told me that, even though the new centre is opening on Monday, she cannot find out where it is. The Glasgow Scotland and Northern Ireland MP service has told me that it does not know where the Glasgow service is due to be located, and Sopra Steria has told my office that it has not been told anything about it and that it should be on the UK Visas and Immigration website, where I cannot find any information whatsoever. Have you had any indication from Home Office Ministers of a statement or written statement? If people are expecting to turn up at a service on Monday and nobody knows where it is, it seems an excessively high bar for a visa.

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Sadly, I cannot advise the hon. Lady. My strong advice to her is that she should contact a Home Office Minister today, either directly, if she can, or perhaps with the help of the Leader of the House. It would be a perfectly proper request for her to make of the Leader of the House, although it would be entirely up to the latter what she does in response. That would be the pragmatic course of action that I would commend to the hon. Lady.

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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You will know that there is nothing more unsettling than being uncertain about the future of local government in one’s area. I notice on the Order Paper today that the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government will be making a written statement on a local government update. As we are waiting in Buckinghamshire to hear the decision on whether we are to have a unitary authority or two authorities in Buckinghamshire, have you had any notification that the Secretary of State will come to the House to discuss this so-called local government update in relation to Buckinghamshire?

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I will answer the right hon. Lady as succinctly as I can but candidly. The short answer, in the name of transparency, is that I have had conversations with the Secretary of State about this matter purely in my capacity as a constituency Member of Parliament, which other Buckinghamshire Members may also have done, but if she is asking me whether I have been given any indication by the Secretary of State or anyone acting on his behalf that he intends to broach that matter in the Budget debate today, the answer is that I have had no such indication. In my experience in the House, the Secretary of State is among the most courteous and accommodating of Cabinet members, and if he was planning on saying something today, he would probably have told me and would certainly have told somebody as illustrious as the right hon. Lady.

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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise for not giving advance notice of my point of order. I am not normally here on a Thursday and the moment just took me. Lots of people have been in touch with me in the past week or so who wanted to speak to me, as either their local Member of Parliament, or a Member of Parliament about whether they can talk to MPs about non-disclosure agreements that they have signed. Can you give me some advice—I am happy for it to be given to me afterwards because I did not give notice of this point of order—about whether those agreements can stop people seeking advice from their Member of Parliament?

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I am very grateful to the hon. Lady for her point of order, which, as she acknowledges, is new to me. I had no notice of it whatsoever. I have a general principle as a serving Member of Parliament about the primacy that should be attached to the relationship between a constituent and his or her Member. However, I could not offer the hon. Lady off the top of my head a legally sound answer. Rather than pretend to know, I say to her that it is a very fair and reasonable point and I understand why she raises it. If she is content, I will reflect on it, take advice and revert to her as soon as I can.

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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. It has been suggested to me that Doorkeepers are not allowed to wear poppies. Will you advise me whether that is the case and whether, if Doorkeepers wish to wear poppies for remembrance, they are allowed to do so.

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I am advised that the normal arrangement is that Doorkeepers wear the poppy only on 11 November if that is a sitting day. Again, off the top of my head, if the hon. Gentleman is asking me whether I personally would have any objection to a Doorkeeper wearing a poppy in the way that Members of Parliament frequently do, for a period of days running up to 11 November, I would have none whatsoever. However, the difficulty in these cases—I hope the hon. Gentleman will understand me when I say this—is that there are normally procedures for determining particular courses of action: what members of staff are or are not entitled to do, and I have to have some respect for the fact that there may have been a process, a procedure or a discussion that led to a decision. Not everything comes across the Speaker’s desk. I certainly do not want to say anything that is critical of a member or group of members of the House staff, or a collective of members of staff who at some time made a decision on the matter. If the hon. Gentleman is asking me personally whether I think it reasonable for Doorkeepers to wear poppies in the run-up to 11 November, I do, but these are matters better dealt with outside the Chamber, rather than through points of order of which one has not had notice. I thank the hon. Gentleman and we will leave it there for now.