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Points of Order

Volume 723: debated on Monday 28 November 2022

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I would like to follow up on the question asked in the statement by the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry), the Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. Four Chairs of Select Committees—the hon. and learned Lady; I as the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee; the Chair of the Justice Committee, the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill); and the Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, the right hon. Member for Romsey and Southampton North (Caroline Nokes)—wrote a letter to the Home Secretary on 2 November in which we asked for a response by 16 November. At the Home Affairs Committee last week, I asked where the response was. It worries me that the permanent secretary had no idea about the letter, the Home Secretary had no idea about the letter, and today the Minister for Immigration had no idea about the letter. What can we do to assist the Home Office in dealing with correspondence that comes from this place and from four Select Committee Chairs, as it seems not to be able to deal with it?

I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for that point of order. I can see that it is a serious issue if the correspondence of Chairs of various Select Committees, who are, after all, there to hold the Government to account and to scrutinise Government action, is not getting through. The Minister for Immigration has heard her point and may wish to say that he will look into it.

The Minister is nodding. I hope that means that a reply will get through as quickly as possible. If there is anything that the Minister wants to add, he can; otherwise, we will leave it at that.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. In response to my question at Education Question Time about extending the free school meal entitlement, the Secretary of State said:

“We have put in place generous protection that means families on universal credit will also retain their free school meal eligibility.”

That statement is misleading, because it implies that families on universal credit receive free school meals. In fact, more than 800,000 children whose parents are on universal credit do not receive free school meals, because their parents earn more than £7,500. I informed the Secretary of State of my intention to raise this point of order, and I had hoped that she would come to the Chamber to correct the record herself, but perhaps you can enlighten me, Madam Deputy Speaker, as to how I might correct the record?

I thank the hon. Lady for giving me notice of the point of order. I am sure that she meant to say “inadvertently misleading”.

Thank you. The hon. Lady talked about putting the figures on the record that she might have hoped would have been put, which she has done. I am also aware that Ministers on the Treasury Bench will have heard what she said. I am glad that she notified the Secretary of State. I am sure that it will be fed back and that any necessary corrections will be made by the Secretary of State if she deems it necessary to do so.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. We all suffer from false news in the media. Last week, I was accused by the online media of not giving a proper declaration of interest in this place. I checked with your offices as to whether I had made a mistake and it was confirmed that I had not. When an Opposition shadow Cabinet member and Whip repeats such a thing on social media as an attack on my integrity, should that be apologised for here?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that point of order. I am not responsible for social media, oddly enough, as he may appreciate.

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I totally respect and fully take on board the advice from Mr Speaker’s office for conduct in this Chamber, but outside this place thousands of people are struggling to pay their mortgage or to afford one home, let alone 17, and they may have found that not declarable, but relevant. I would be grateful for your advice—[Interruption.] I would be grateful for your advice—[Interruption.]

Order. The hon. Lady has the right to have her say—[Interruption.] Members should not challenge me.

I would be grateful, Madam Deputy Speaker, for your advice on how Members like me should respond when the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Paul Howell) tells me to “shut up” in this Chamber, where I speak for my constituents. Now he is attempting to shut me up online as well. What message does this send to women who want to be in politics when they see men like that? [Interruption.]

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The hon. Lady has just turned around and said, “Do you want to tell me to sit down out there?” To me, that sounds quite threatening. Is that in line with the code of conduct of Members of this House?

Well, I have to say to the hon. Gentleman that I found his conduct about 30 seconds ago not very courteous.

I think that the two hon. Members have put their points of view on record, and I suggest that we leave it at that. That was not a very good advert for how our Parliament should work, so we will move on.