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Point of Order

Volume 700: debated on Wednesday 8 September 2021

On a point of order, Mr Speaker, you will know that, last week, the Foreign Secretary told the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs that he would be making sure that all MPs had direct responses to all the emails that we had sent to the Foreign Secretary, the Home Secretary and the Defence Secretary about Afghans and those friends and relatives of our constituents who have been caught in the situation in Afghanistan. You will know, Mr Speaker, because you were in the Chair, that the Prime Minister repeated that on Monday. He said that we would all have responses by the end of the day, and the Foreign Secretary then repeated that commitment later that day. Unfortunately, that just has not happened. In so far as there has been any response at all from the Government, it has been a single email from a junior Minister in the Foreign Office that says that we can go and look at a website.

I know that you, Mr Speaker, have said repeatedly that Ministers have to give proper, substantive answers, and I just hope that you might be able to speak to Government Ministers. So many of our caseworkers, for Members in all parts of the House, are in tears every day because they are having so many cases brought to them. On Monday, I mentioned three people out of the 143 cases I have raised, one of whom has been shot, one of whom has been raped and one of whom has been tortured. We are all facing these things. I wonder whether there is anything you can do in your powers to make sure that we get proper answers. We cannot just abandon these people.

Further to that point of order, very unusually I completely concur with the hon. Gentleman. It is really unfair on our staff, let alone our constituents, that we cannot give them answers. This is the first time since I have been in the House that I have not been able to give them the sort of answers that I would expect a Minister to give. I have been a Minister myself in many different Departments, and I know this is difficult for the Department, but it is fundamentally also difficult for the families and loved ones and our staff, who cannot give them the truth.

Further to that point of order, I reiterate and support what the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) and the right hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Sir Mike Penning) have said. Last week, I had, as others have, constituents contact me on behalf of people who they served with in Afghanistan. Last week, there were gun attacks on the houses of some of the people to whom the hon. Member for Rhondda referred. I sent three urgent emails and have hand-delivered letters this week. I do not want to embarrass anyone—it is not about that; it is about getting the answers. May I just say that I would really appreciate, as others would, having immediate, urgent answers on those issues, because for these people it is a case of life or death? It is really important. Let us see if we can get the answers from Ministers.

It is quite right for Members to raise this matter; it is very important. The fact is that commitments were made by the Government to deal with the issues and respond accordingly. MPs have a duty to pursue on behalf of constituents’ cases that are brought to them. We might have been discussing this matter if the Opposition day had not been pulled. Given that it has, let me just say to those on the Government Front Bench that it is not acceptable to make pledges that are not carried out, and in fact, if this continues, it may be that we need an urgent question to discuss why we are not getting responses. That is not from one side; it is from both sides of the House. Ministers should reply to MPs. They are accountable to this House. I expect Ministers to reply accordingly to MPs.

Bill Presented

Social Security (Up-rating of Benefits)

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Secretary Thérèse Coffey, supported by the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Amanda Milling and Guy Opperman, presented a Bill to make provision relating to the up-rating of certain social security benefits payable in the tax year 2022-23.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 158) with explanatory notes (Bill 158-EN).