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Points of Order

Volume 708: debated on Tuesday 1 February 2022

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Seventy-six days have passed since this House agreed to the terms of a Humble Address compelling the Government to publish the minutes and notes of the meeting of 9 April 2020 between Lord Bethell, Owen Paterson and Randox representatives, and all correspondence relating to two specified Government contracts awarded to that company. Sixty-seven days have passed since the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care promised, in writing, that the Government would respond to the House no later than the end of January. Given that today is 1 February, and taking into account the fact that the Chair has expressed an expectation on the Government to fulfil their obligations under that Humble Address in a timely fashion, is it in order for Ministers to fail to meet a self-imposed deadline to comply with the instructions of this House? If not, what consequences should befall those on the Government Benches who failed to keep their promise?

The Secretary of State for Health notified me yesterday that he will confirm that the relevant materials will be laid by the February recess. If not, I am sure that the hon. Member would use an urgent question and other ways to ensure that they are delivered, but that is the state of play at the moment.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Yesterday the Prime Minister answered questions in this House on the initial Sue Gray report, and we saw the usual bluster and thrashing-about stream of unconsciousness that we are used to. But in reply to one particular question, I think from my right hon. and learned Friend the Leader of the Opposition, in thrashing about, he threw in the question of Jimmy Savile—and actually I think it was found out that he was factually wrong on that. There are many, many victims of that awful, awful person, and I felt that for him to use that scandal and that tragedy in the way that he did was not only inappropriate and tasteless but perhaps out of order. I seek your guidance on his use of that awful, awful example.

I remind the House that I am not responsible for Members’ contributions and will seek not to intervene unless something is said that is disorderly. Procedurally, nothing disorderly occurred, but such allegations should not be made lightly, especially in view of the guidance of “Erskine May” about good temper and moderation being the characteristics of parliamentary debate.

While they may not have been disorderly, I am far from satisfied that the comments in question were appropriate on this occasion. I want to see more compassionate, reasonable politics in this House, and that sort of comment can only inflame opinions and generate disregard for this House. I want a nicer Parliament, and the only way we can get a nicer Parliament is by being more honourable in the debates that we have. Please let us show each other respect as well as tolerance going forward.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I rise in relation to media reports this morning of new education investment areas across England. This announcement was, once again, made to the press instead of to this House. The Government are disregarding their duties to Parliament and short-changing the people by preventing their representatives from questioning Ministers on this. Our constituents will be reading about these changes without access to information about which areas will be affected or the criteria for extra funding. I would be really grateful if I could have your guidance on this, please.

I thank the hon. Member for giving me notice of his point of order. He will appreciate that I have not had the opportunity to look into the detail of the case he has raised. I have made my position clear on the principle that important announcements of policies should be made first to this Chamber. I expect, Members expect and our constituents expect that we should hear it first—and the ministerial code, as we keep stressing, requires it. Unfortunately, I say to Members, I have not got power over the ministerial code, but that is where it lies.

I expect urgency in that anything of this type should be brought to this House first for constituents of all parties. You were elected to hear it here. We have got to remind the Government that they are accountable to this House and not to the media. I am very worried and very concerned about where this House is going. I take seriously the way that it is going. Unfortunately, the public out there somehow think I have got this magic power, but you, the Members, give me the power. If you are not happy with the power I have got, it is in your hands to change it.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I congratulate you on what you have just said. Is there anything we can do about Ministers who are serial offenders? The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport keeps doing this. Only this week, she announced a whole new package of investment in the arts in the northern regions without coming to this House. She is a serial offender. Could we do something about her?

I think I have made my position very clear, and I do not want to extend this into a debate. However, I recognise the frustration of Members in all parts of the House. This is a problem that we have to deal with: the House has the right to hear things first.

Let us not delay any more. We now come to the ten-minute rule motion.