Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 1:38 pm on 29th June 2011.

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Photo of George Young George Young The Leader of the House of Commons 1:38 pm, 29th June 2011

On a point of order, last Thursday at business questions, I announced to the House that the first business tomorrow, Thursday 30 June, would be consideration of a motion for a resolution on which a Bill is to be brought in. Following what you have just said, Mr Speaker, I inform the House that hon. Members will have the opportunity to debate Her Majesty’s Gracious Message at tomorrow’s business.

Photo of Vernon Coaker Vernon Coaker Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. On Monday, the case of Raed Salah was brought up in the House. Yesterday, I brought it up as a point of order and, indeed, there have been questions about it in the House today. Whatever the rights and wrongs, the man was said by the media to have been excluded, and we find today that he had been excluded, but none the less came into the country—apparently almost strolling through.

Yesterday, I asked for a statement from the Home Secretary to allow hon. Members to question her about what was happening in the case. We now find through a press release on the Home Office website that, although the Home Secretary does not normally comment on individual cases, she has done so in this case. She confirms that Raed Salah was excluded but that he managed to enter the UK. He has now been detained, and the UK Border Agency is making arrangements to remove him. She announced through the press release that a full investigation is taking place into how he was able to enter.

I do not know whether you have had any message from the Home Secretary, Mr Speaker, but instead of announcing through a press release that a full investigation will take place into the matter, she should have come to the House to make a statement so that hon. Members of all parties could question her about the rights and wrongs of the case and what actually happened. Have you had any indication from the Home Secretary of whether she intends to come to the House, or to continue to make announcements through the press?

Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Labour, Islington North

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Raed Salah entered this country four days ago without any problem. He has been here for four days and he spoke at a public meeting in Conway hall on Monday evening, which was apparently attended by immigration officers who did not recognise him even though he spoke from the platform. I also understand that he met Members yesterday and briefed them on the situation. This man is an Israeli citizen, who has no restrictions on his life or activities in Israel. Indeed, he addressed a public meeting at Tel Aviv university only last week. Following complaints in the Daily Mail, the Home Office seems latterly to have decided that there was a travel ban on him, even though it did not confirm that on Monday or on any other occasion, but announced it on a website a couple of hours ago, following media inquiries.

Is that a satisfactory way for the Home Secretary to behave? She seems more interested in responding to the Daily Mail than to the House, and incapable of coming here to make a statement or, indeed, answering telephone calls from Members this morning who were trying to ascertain Mr Salah’s exact status. He was due here this evening to address a meeting upstairs in one of the Committee Rooms to promote dialogue and peace to bring about a resolution of the middle east conflict. Surely the House deserves a statement on the matter at the very least.

Photo of David Davies David Davies Chair, Welsh Affairs Committee, Chair, Welsh Affairs Committee

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. If the Home Secretary is to come here to make a statement, could we find out whether the ability of the racist and homophobic individual whom we are discussing to enter the UK was in any way aided by the fact that he was apparently getting a warm welcome from some Labour Members?

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not take it amiss if I say that that last series of observations represented not a point of order, but a point of frustration, propaganda or an expression of views. Anyway, he has said his piece, and we are grateful to him.

Let me try to respond to the two points of order that were raised from the Opposition side. The Home Secretary informed me late last night that Sheikh Raed Salah has been arrested with a view to deportation on the ground that his presence is not conducive to the public good. Accordingly, I instructed the Serjeant at Arms that he should not be admitted to the parliamentary estate. I know that Members will not expect me to discuss issues of security and access any further on the Floor of the House—I will not do that.

However, in response to the hon. Members for Gedling (Vernon Coaker) and for Islington North let me say that if the Home Secretary wishes to make an oral statement to the House, she is perfectly at liberty to do so. That is a choice for her, and she will have heard the points that have been made.

Photo of Barbara Keeley Barbara Keeley Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government)

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The media were briefed this morning that the Deputy Prime Minister was announcing to a conference in Birmingham a significant policy change on business rates in local councils. Mr Speaker, you have said that the Government should explain and answer first to Parliament, so can you tell us whether the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government intends to come to the House to do just that on a major policy change on local government finance?

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her point of order and for giving me notice that she intended to raise it. However, I have not been informed of any ministerial statement today on the matter. Perhaps it is worth emphasising that if a new policy or a change in existing policy is to be announced, one would ordinarily hope that the House would hear it first. I am not familiar with the detail of that particular matter, and therefore I cannot say whether it should so qualify, but the general requirement is very clear. The Deputy Prime Minister will be aware of it and the Leader of the House has regularly heard it and communicated it to ministerial colleagues. I am sure that the hon. Lady will find other ways in which to pursue the matter.

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Labour, Manchester, Gorton

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Members of the Cabinet are developing a track record for making statements to the press in the morning, with a Minister coming to the House in the afternoon. I drew your attention to the press conference that the Prime Minister held about the national health service before the statement in the House. Last week, before the Lord Chancellor’s statement about changes in sentencing and other matters, the Prime Minister again held a press conference before the House met and told the public what the Secretary of State later told the House of Commons. My hon. Friends on the Front Bench have provided two further examples. Is it not intolerable that the Prime Minister and the Government show continuous contempt for the House of Commons?

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

The right hon. Gentleman is a very experienced Member. I think that I am right in saying that it is 41 years 11 days since he was elected to the House. He has seen a lot. He will understand that the Chair must consider those matters on a case-by-case basis in that some cases are egregious and others are not. I recall the right hon. Gentleman’s previous point of order. He might recall—if not, I shall tell him—my response to the shadow Leader of the House last week. I said that statements should be made first to the House and that I was perturbed by a growing practice of a written ministerial statement followed by a press conference, and, only after that, an oral statement to the House. I hoped that that practice would be nipped in the bud. On that occasion, I also made the point, the significance of which will not escape the right hon. Gentleman or the House, that if that unfortunate and inappropriate practice persisted, there would be mechanisms available to Members who wished to allocate a considerable amount of parliamentary time on a particular day to the study of the matter of urgency, and that that would cause all sorts of problems with programming Government business, which I know the Leader of the House would not want to encounter. I hope that that is clear to the right hon. Gentleman and the House.

Photo of Jack Dromey Jack Dromey Shadow Minister (Housing)

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Last year, the Government announced the termination of the housing market renewal programme, depriving depressed communities of hope for the future. Here and subsequently in another place, Ministers said that application can be made to the regional growth fund. However, only this week, the chair of the independent evaluation panel, Lord Heseltine said:

“There is no way in which we are doing housing renewal” or anything of that sort. We are 48 hours away from the deadline for regional growth fund bids. Has the Minister for Housing and Local Government indicated his intention to come to the House and clear up the confusion?

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

The short answer to the hon. Gentleman is that the Minister has not indicated to me any intention to make a statement on the matter. However, until a very few moments ago, the Leader of the House was in his place, and will have heard the start of the point of order. I imagine that the Deputy Leader of the House will communicate the rest of it to him. My advice to the hon. Gentleman, in view of the pressing timetable, is that he might wish to raise the matter at business questions, if he can catch my eye, and secure some sort of clarificatory response from the Leader of the House. He has to wait fewer than 24 hours for his opportunity.

Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I recently became aware that recently the Liberal Democrats, on a day when they should have been in Parliament representing their constituents, decided to have an away-day in my constituency, and stayed there overnight; I certainly commend them for their taste. I cannot claim to be the most assiduous in this regard myself because I have occasionally forgotten to inform a colleague that I have been in their constituency, but it is, I am sure you would agree, rare that 50 MPs would forget to inform a colleague that they were engaging in political activity in somebody else’s constituency. Could you give any guidance as to what is expected of hon. Members when visiting other people’s constituencies?

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

I think it was what would be characterised by the party concerned as an official visit to the hon. Gentleman’s constituency; in other words, it is not a private activity, and although I do not think it would be reasonable for the hon. Gentleman to expect 50 communications from individual Members who would be attending that gathering, I do think it is reasonable for the hon. Gentleman to expect to be informed in advance by a representative of that party, so I hope that the self-styled voice of Shipley is reassured by my response to his point of order.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Shadow Home Secretary, Shadow Minister (Equalities Office) (Women and Equalities)

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. It has emerged this afternoon that the police were informed in the last few days that a court judgment means that the current operation of police bail, which has operated since 1986, has now been thrown up into the air. I have spoken to the West Yorkshire chief constable within the last half hour, who says he may now not be able to recall thousands of suspects who are currently on police bail, and that it is possible that some emergency action or emergency legislation may be needed. We stand ready to discuss any emergency legislation that may be needed to help the police do their business and carry on with the important work that they do, but have you been informed by the Home Secretary that this is an urgent issue, and that there may be a need for a statement to the House?

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

I have not been so informed, and it is not strictly a point of order, although it is a point of very serious and pressing concern to the right hon. Lady and to others, and that concern will have been heard by Members on the Treasury Bench. If she judges it necessary, it might be a subject to which, if she is dissatisfied with it, she will want to return before long.