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Points of Order

Volume 738: debated on Wednesday 25 October 2023

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The House rises tomorrow for 10 days, I believe. Regrettably and sadly, it may be likely that a ground invasion of Gaza will commence during that period. This not only has consequences for the Palestinians and the Israelis, but could create turmoil and destabilise the whole middle east. I appreciate that it is the Government who determine whether or not Parliament is recalled but, in your conversations with the Government, will you advise them that the House should be recalled to debate such a serious issue?

You are absolutely right that it would not be for me under the normal rules, although I recognise the importance of a major escalation and what could happen in the middle east. You are correct that it would be for the Government—not for me, unfortunately—to recall the House. I will work through the usual channels to try to ensure that, quite rightly, we look to see what can be done in what would be special circumstances, because obviously the House will have prorogued. I do not lose sight of what you have said, and I take it on board. I will work with others behind the scenes to see how we would manage such a situation.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I can assure the House that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, my office, and other Departments across Whitehall are very aware that this House will want to be kept updated about the ongoing situation. Many right hon. and hon. Members will have constituents directly affected, and we are working with the House of Commons Library to ensure that people are updated about the situation during the recess.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your guidance to understand how we can table written questions about the Government’s policy of evicting Afghans from hotel accommodation—a project run by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs out of the Cabinet Office. I have given the Minister notice that I would raise this issue.

Despite the Minister’s having given multiple statements to the House this year on the housing of our Afghan friends, my Front-Bench colleagues and I are unable to table written questions to the Cabinet Office, which instead are being reallocated to either the Home Office or the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. The Table Office staff are great, but I think a bit of parliamentary plumbing needs to be put in place to make sure that effective scrutiny via written question of the Minister leading this area is possible. Please could you advise how I can ensure that the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs can be successfully scrutinised by written parliamentary question for the area he leads on in Government?

I am concerned by what the hon. Member has raised and grateful to him for giving me notice of his point of order. He will know that the Table Office is guided by Government Departments about the matter of which Ministers respond to questions and on policy areas. I will look into the matter; I take it very seriously and I am very concerned. We all know that the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs is very concerned about veterans, so I am sure he will be disappointed to know that those questions are not reaching him. I will investigate.

The Leader of the House is here, and I am sure that she will assist me. I am sure that we can work together, because no Member should be unable to lay questions to the Minister. Ministers are answerable to this House. All Members, from whatever party, should have that ability. I am very disappointed by what I have been told. We will get to the bottom of it.