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Points of Order

Volume 745: debated on Wednesday 21 February 2024

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether you could clarify for the House how we could get some transparency in relation to the questions that the Prime Minister failed to answer today about the Business Secretary’s dispute with the former chair of the Post Office, and about whose recollection of that meeting is in fact correct. Have we, as Members of the House, any recourse to the minutes of that meeting? The Business Secretary said that at no point was anyone told to delay compensation payments by an official, by a Minister or by any Government Department. What we have heard this morning—and the Prime Minister failed to answer during Prime Minister’s questions—does not clarify the matter for us. I do not know whether you could help to clarify it, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I thank the hon. Lady for her point of order. It really is not a matter for the Chair, but she has come in very quickly after Prime Minister’s questions to put her point on the record, and I know that it will have been heard by those on the Treasury Bench.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Could you advise me on how we can get to the bottom of exactly what is going on with our Canadian trade talks? On 25 January, Politico broke a story about a breakdown in our trade talks with Canada. When I asked the Secretary of State for Business and Trade about this, she said:

“This is a good opportunity for me to state explicitly that the talks have not broken down.”—[Official Report, 29 January 2024; Vol. 744, c. 657.]

On the Business and Trade Committee, we trust but verify. Madam Deputy Speaker, you will be as surprised as I was to hear the following relayed in a letter from the Canadian high commissioner:

“As far as I am aware, since the U.K. announced its pause on January 25th, there have been neither negotiations nor technical discussions with respect to any of the outstanding issues”.

Canada is a NATO ally, a Commonwealth partner and one of our biggest export markets. How do we get to the bottom of whether these trade talks are going on in the Secretary of State’s mind or happening in real life?

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his point of order and for giving notice of it. As he knows, I am not responsible for the accuracy of Ministers’ statements in the House, but I am sure, again, that those on the Treasury Bench will have heard his remarks. As Chair of the Select Committee, he will have further opportunities to pursue the matter directly with the Secretary of State. I am pretty sure that is what he intends to do.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Large numbers of our constituents have come to lobby Parliament today because the issue of Gaza is so close to their hearts. Only a limited number are being allowed into Westminster Hall, even though there is quite a sizeable amount of space, so many constituents are being forced to stand out in the rain. Would it be possible to see what could be done to accommodate more in Westminster Hall as they come in and filter on the green card system?

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his point of order. This is obviously a matter that the House authorities will be dealing with, but I will ensure that his comments are fed back to see if anything further can be done. I am sure that he will appreciate that large numbers of people trying to gain entrance can inevitably cause some delays, and I am sure we are all sorry about that. As I say, I will feed back his comments.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Later today we will be voting on very sensitive matters that affect the whole House. At the start of that debate, Mr Speaker will no doubt announce which amendments, if any, he will allow to be put to the House. When he was elected, Mr Speaker gave a solemn promise that he would publish the advice he got from the Clerk of the House when he made controversial decisions. I do not know what he will decide or what his recommendation will be, but could you prevail on Mr Speaker, when he comes back to the Chair, to release the advice he is given by the Clerk on whatever decision he comes to on the amendments to the SNP motion we are debating this afternoon?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. I am sure that his comments will have been heard and that Mr Speaker will make his decision in due course, with all the comments the hon. Gentleman has raised about publication. I think we will leave it at that.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I wonder if you could give me some advice. My office wrote to the Home Secretary more than six weeks ago and we have still not received a response from him about an issue raised by a constituent. It is becoming increasingly clear that Ministers are either wilfully refusing to respond to Members of Parliament or simply, rather worryingly, just treating Members of Parliament with sheer contempt. What do we do to force Ministers to do their duty and respond appropriately to Members of this House?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. This issue has been raised with the Leader of the House at business questions and I know she takes it very seriously. The hon. Gentleman might like to raise it again on Thursday at business questions, but I have confidence that those on the Treasury Bench have heard his comments, have written them down and will feed them back.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. You will know that yesterday in the House there was an urgent question on border security. Later on that afternoon, it became public that the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration had been sacked by the Home Secretary. It is claimed that the Home Secretary lost confidence in the Independent Chief Inspector. It was clear from the urgent question yesterday that one of the issues the Chief Inspector was most exercised by was the 15 reports he has lodged with the Home Office since April 2023, which have not been published. The agreement with the Chief Inspector is that reports he submits to the Home Office should be published within eight weeks. Clearly, a number of those reports are well overdue. Have you, Madam Deputy Speaker, had any indication from Ministers about whether they were planning to come to the House to make a statement about Mr David Neal and the fact that he was sacked yesterday afternoon? More importantly, what has happened to the 15 reports the Independent Chief Inspector has lodged since April last year, many of which are on important issues?

Further to that, Madam Deputy Speaker, there is an issue about the Government introducing legislation, which this House is very concerned about, on the Rwanda policy and asylum seekers being moved to Rwanda to have their claims processed. With the lack of anyone now in the role of the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, that will mean there is no independent oversight or scrutiny at a time when a major policy decision will be implemented by the Government. The Home Affairs Committee is particularly concerned by any delay. We saw in The Times a report that it will be six to nine months before an new Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration is appointed. Can you advise on the best way forward?

I thank the right hon. Lady for her point of order. She raised a number of points. I have not received any notification that a statement is forthcoming—she did refer to an urgent question yesterday. I know the right hon. Lady regularly attends business questions, and this may be something she might like to press the Leader of the House on. Those on the Treasury Bench have heard what she has had to say and will feed it back. I am sure that in her role as Chair of the Home Affairs Committee she may have other means to pursue the issues she has raised, in particular in respect of reports that she may be able to ask for, but she will possibly know more than me about that.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. A year ago tomorrow, I raised with the Prime Minister a really important point about the payment of a fine to the EU of £2.3 billion. Following that question to him, I wrote to the Prime Minister asking for an explanation. A year on, I have not had a reply. I would have thought it would be in the interests of all in this House to understand how it was that a payment of £2.3 billion was paid as a fine for late payment to the EU. It is in our interests to understand what happened, so is there any recourse I can take to understand what happened?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. Again, I do not have responsibility for answers given. It may well be that he could pursue the matter through further questions to the Table Office. Again, those on the Treasury Bench will have heard what he has had to say, and I very much hope that they will feed back this rather long list of messages to the Government.

I hope it will be quite a short point of order. [Interruption.] It will not be quicker if people are shouting. I ask for some silence, so I can hear the point of order and deal with it quickly.

Thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker. On the Treasury Committee, we have been considering the work of UK Government Investments across a range of issues. We have now got to a situation where quite complex decisions, which appear to have been referred to at board meetings of the Post Office, are obtuse to us. I wonder, given that the disagreement between Ministers and representatives from UKGI who are on the board of the Post Office is very obtuse and hard to unravel, whether you have any advice on how we can bring these important issues to the Floor of the House.

The hon. Lady is a senior member of the Treasury Committee. Again, we have noted what she has said and it will be fed back, but she might like to pursue the issue either through the Treasury Committee, or even perhaps by talking to the Chair of the Business and Trade Committee, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Liam Byrne), who I know is looking at this at the moment.