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Points of Order

Volume 720: debated on Wednesday 19 October 2022

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am grateful for catching your eye on this, and I seek your guidance. Yesterday, the Minister for the Americas and the Overseas Territories was, in a way, dragged to the House to answer a question about what the Government would do over the brutal attacks that took place inside a consulate in Manchester, in which Chinese representatives were assaulting an individual, and also tearing things down and creating vandalism outside.

The Minister said that the officials would be called to the Foreign Office to meet a Minister of the Crown, instead of which we discover today that they met an official, who simply rapped them over the knuckles by saying they should stand by the freedoms we have in this country. Can I therefore ask whether it is feasible for us to get the Minister back to the Dispatch Box to ask why they were not told that, if they do not follow our rules, they will get expelled, and to say that all those responsible for the assault in Manchester will be expelled from this country?

Obviously, it is not a direct matter for me, but what I would say, and I think there are many avenues that could be pursued, is that an urgent question could possibly and likely be submitted. I am not saying it would be accepted, but it could be looked on favourably, because I think we were all appalled by those images and, quite rightly, action needs to be taken.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. This morning, the Transport Committee heard from the Transport Secretary that the Government will axe their commitment to create Great British Railways in this parliamentary Session. There has been no written statement to announce the decision, and I am not aware that an application has been made to you for an oral statement by the Secretary of State. We were expecting a transport Bill in this Session to facilitate the transition of the operations of rail to Great British Railways and to create a controlling mind for the railways out of the chaos that has existed since the Conservative Government fragmented and privatised rail in 1993. As part of the process, the former Transport Secretary launched a competition with huge fanfare for a future headquarters of the railway. Some 42 locations applied, and six were shortlisted and have expended huge amounts to win this—

Order. A point of order is meant to be a point of order, not a full statement about Government policy and everything. I am sure you will come to the end quickly.

Thank you for your guidance, Mr Speaker. Thousands of jobs could be at stake as a result of this matter, so could you please advise me on how I can take it forward, since the Secretary of State seems to have failed either to issue a written statement or to bring forward an oral statement to the House?

I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving me notice of her point of order. She has put her point on the record, and I recognise that it is a very important issue, including for other Members. If there is an important policy development on this issue, I would expect it to be announced to this House first. I am sure that those on the Government Benches will have heard this exchange, and that the hon. Member will pursue the matter through the different avenues available to her.

On a point of order, On a point of order, Mr Speaker. On a procedural matter, yesterday morning I was successful in securing a debate in Westminster Hall on the motion

“That this House has considered British passport ownership by Northern Ireland residents.”

I have taken this matter up over many years and it remains unresolved. On every other occasion that I have taken the matter up, Home Office Ministers responded, and I had hoped that the words “British passport ownership” might have given the Home Office a clue, and ensured that a Home Office Minister replied to the debate. While I was glad to have a reply from a Northern Ireland Office Minister, can you ensure, Mr Speaker, that the appropriate ministerial Department responds to such debates in future?

I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving notice of his point of order. The decision about which Minister should respond to a debate is unfortunately a matter for the Government rather than the Chair. I am sure, however, that those on the Government Benches will have heard those comments and will bear them in mind. I know the hon. Member will also pursue the matter through different avenues.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You may be aware, Sir, that today the Government Deputy Chief Whip, the hon. Member for Calder Valley (Craig Whittaker), has written to Conservative Members telling them with regard to the debate this afternoon on fracking that:

“This is not a motion on fracking. This is a confidence motion in the Government.”

Will you give guidance to all sides of the House, and to the Prime Minister in particular, about what would happen in the event that the Government were to lose that vote this afternoon? If the Government have lost the confidence of the House, surely—and I would be grateful for your guidance, Mr Speaker—that would mean that the Prime Minister must then go to the palace, see His Majesty the King, and ask for a dissolution of Parliament and a general election. Am I right? Will you give clarity on that?

First, I am not going to enter into a debate on internal communications. I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman will have had some communications of his own. That happens within in all parties, and if it doesn’t, I would be shocked. Let us not pre-judge the decision that may take place later. You asked the question because you knew the answer.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. In response to some of the questions today, the Prime Minister claimed that no household would pay more than £2,500 a year. That £2,500 is an average, and therefore almost half of households will pay more. How do we go about getting the Prime Minister to correct that on the record? She said that no one would pay more, and that is incorrect.

I am not going to continue the debate. It is not for me to answer, but the hon. Lady has certainly put the point on the record. Let us come to—

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Clearly, UK politics now more resembles Germany, with a Chancellor effectively in charge. So why was the right hon. Member for South West Norfolk (Elizabeth Truss) answering for the Government during Prime Minister’s questions, when in fact the right hon. Member for South West Surrey (Jeremy Hunt) is in charge?

That is not a point of order, as you well know. That was a poor effort; you are better than that normally.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is further to the point of order made by the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron). You are, of course, quite right that it is not for you to comment on internal communications among Conservative MPs. However, by tradition, when a motion is declared a motion of confidence by the Government, the Prime Minister makes that announcement at some point during the debate. Is there any means whereby the Prime Minister could do so today? That is how I understand it and, as I look across to the faces on the Conservative Benches, they all seem to think that it is a motion of confidence.

Historically, lots of different things have been made confidence motions, including the conduct of war and various Bills. Traditionally, every single time that happened and the Government lost, that led to a general election. Is that not just factually correct?

You have certainly put that on the record. I would say, once again, let us wait and see what unfolds this afternoon. We will see where we go from there.