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Points of Order

Volume 724: debated on Thursday 15 December 2022

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Slough has a low uptake of diphtheria vaccination—not enough to accomplish herd immunity—yet the Home Office has designated a Slough hotel as a place for asylum seekers with diphtheria. We have people staying for months in accommodation designated as a 48-hour reception facility. Families with young children are split across different rooms and different floors. There are safeguarding concerns, with vulnerable women and children placed alongside large numbers of single men; overcrowding issues; numerous instances of people absconding; and insufficient laundry facilities, leading to scabies infections. Our already stretched local children’s services are having to find extra money from who knows where to provide clothes and school equipment for unaccompanied children. The council is getting only 24 hours’ notice—if that—from the Home Office when it commandeers a new site to host asylum seekers.

Madam Deputy Speaker, in your esteemed capacity, could you please advise me on how I can finally secure a reply from the Home Secretary, on behalf of the local agencies in Slough that have written to me, to explain how Home Office Ministers intend to fix this mess and put some humanity back into the way that they are caring for the people in their care?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. As I think he knows, it is not a point of order for the Chair; it does not concern order in this House. He is, however, raising a very serious matter. I appreciate it from the point of view of what happens in my constituency, and many Members of this House will appreciate the point he makes and share his concerns. His question to me is about how he can bring this matter to the attention of the appropriate Minister. There are various ways in which he can do that, and I am sure that those in the Table Office will help him if he goes to seek advice there. I am also certain that Ministers currently on the Treasury Bench will have heard what he has said and that the matter will, we hope, be conveyed to the appropriate Minister. I must also point out to him that on Tuesday we have the general debate on matters to be raised before the Adjournment and it would be perfectly proper for him to bring forward his concerns then.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Successive Speakers have agreed that Members should receive responses from Departments in a timely fashion, yet last week my office received a response from the Home Office to an inquiry made on 1 October 2021. That represents a gap of 14 months and one week. I wonder whether you agree that that is simply unacceptable and that the Government are failing in their duties to this House.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order and, yes, I agree that that is simply unacceptable. Mr Speaker has said from the Chair on countless occasions, and those of us who echo his words have also said this on countless occasions, that it is essential that Departments should support Ministers in giving answers to Members of Parliament in a timely fashion. Fourteen months is not a timely fashion. The hon. Gentleman has put his concerns on the record and the whole House agrees that it is a matter of concern.