Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 5:52 pm on 7th September 2015.

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Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Father of the House of Commons

Mr Speaker, I wish to raise a point of order on the contempt shown towards this House by the Home Office, as evidenced by its treatment of a case that I wrote to the Home Secretary about last month. It relates to a constituent who came to see me and told me that she had moved into my constituency. She gave me her old address and her new address. I immediately wrote to the Home Secretary, on 17 August. I did not expect a reply from her, because in five years she has sent me only one letter, but I thought that my letter might be passed to a junior Minister. Instead, I received an undated letter from UK Visas and Immigration. The email date on the letter was 25 August. It stated:

“According to our records, Ms Smith is currently residing at 25 Thruxton Close… Therefore Ms Smith is not residing in your constituency.”

She is residing in my constituency. I wrote to the person who sent the email, J. Hughes, stating that if he did not reply to me by last week I would raise the matter in the House. He has still not replied to me. I will not be treated like dirt by the Home Office. More importantly, I will not allow my constituents to be treated like dirt. What can be done about it?

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 for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

May I say to the Father of the House that I think he is almost always, including today, the means of his own salvation? There were occasions in the previous Parliament when the right hon. Gentleman had occasion to bring to my attention his dissatisfaction with not having received a reply from a Minister, and I think that on more than one occasion he received a reply from someone who did not exist—the name on the letter was that of someone who did not exist.

Look, these are not matters in which the Chair ordinarily becomes involved, but I have the highest regard for the courtesy that the Home Secretary has always shown to me, and which ordinarily she has always shown to the House. I think that it is much easier to respect the traditions and courtesies of the House and to err on the side of speed of response and, if I may say so, also on the side of acknowledging a very senior and long-serving Member who has made an approach.

I do not think that there will be a division of the House, or even any great objection from the right hon. Gentleman, if I say that he is not always the easiest colleague to please, but he has a right to represent his constituents and to be treated with the utmost courtesy. I am sorry if he feels that he has not been. I know that the Home Secretary will do her best with her ministerial team to accommodate his various requests and, periodically, his demands.

[

Interruption.

]

She says from a sedentary position that she does. Let us leave it there for today. The right hon. Gentleman has not been in the House for 45 years for no reason.

Photo of Steve Pound Steve Pound Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland)

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. After those words, I must be very careful what I say. Earlier today you quite rightly amended the business for Wednesday to allow for special recognition of Her Majesty’s becoming our longest-serving monarch. Unfortunately, one consequence of that is that questions to the Secretary of State for Wales moves to the following week and questions to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, which we would have considered on that day, sadly fall. As these are dark and desperate days in Northern Ireland, and as it is very important that the House debate these matters and question Ministers, is there any mechanism whereby the timetable can be further amended so that we can have Northern Ireland questions before the conference recess?

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Leader of the House of Commons), Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee, Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think that we are all grateful that we will have an extra three hours to debate the refugee crisis, but the Labour party knew that the Scottish National party was giving our Opposition day to discuss the crisis, and it knew that because it requested us to make the whole day about the crisis. It is such an important issue that we must not play party politics with it. [Interruption.] It must not be a feature of the Labour leadership contest. The House deserves much better than that. [Interruption.] Will you make a ruling, Mr Speaker, that our debate will still stand—

Photo of Pete Wishart Pete Wishart Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Leader of the House of Commons), Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee, Chair, Scottish Affairs Committee

Mr Speaker, will you confirm that on Wednesday it will still be in order for the Scottish National party to table a cross-party motion to agree to debate the refugee crisis on a substantive issue, and that we should stop playing games with something so important, because it is more important than any feature of the Labour leadership contest?

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 for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order and appreciate his patience in waiting to be called. It will be entirely orderly for the hon. Gentleman or his party so to table. As Speaker, my responsibility is simply to hear an application and judge whether it has merit, rather than to become embroiled in what might be considered to be competitions between parties. He has asked me a straight question—will it be orderly?—and the answer is yes. That seems to satisfy not only the hon. Gentleman, but, very importantly—and I mean this—Philip Davies to boot.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Shadow Home Secretary

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I am saddened by the SNP’s response, as I think it important that all of us who want to debate this subject should be able to do so tomorrow and on Wednesday as well. On Wednesday, we will have the opportunity to discuss a motion and an opportunity to vote; that will be immensely important. I would just urge SNP Members to pause for a second to remember the gravity of the issue that we are discussing, and to make sure that all of us in this House are able to unite around helping thousands of people, rather than debate the timing of the motions.

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 for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

Notwithstanding what has just been said, one thing I can say which will command agreement, because it has the advantage of being factually true, is that there will be a debate under Standing Order No. 24 tomorrow, as a result of the successful application by the shadow Home Secretary, and there will be a debate on these matters in terms they choose led by the Scottish National party on Wednesday. That is the factual position, and I thank colleagues for what they said.

Now, Mr Dodds has been waiting very patiently to make his point of order.

Photo of Nigel Dodds Nigel Dodds Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Reform and Constitutional Issues), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs), DUP Westminster Leader

Further to the point of order raised by Stephen Pound, Mr Speaker. I support entirely what the hon. Gentleman said. Given the grave events in Northern Ireland, it is the wrong time for Northern Ireland questions not to happen. Have you had any communication from a Minister indicating that Government time will be provided to allow some sort of debate on the situation in Northern Ireland in these two weeks when Parliament is sitting? It will be too late when we come back in October.

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 for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

There may well be such an opportunity for a number of reasons, although I cannot guarantee it. First, it is possible that, having heard the right hon. Gentleman speaking with the authority of his office, and having heard what was said by the hon. Member for Ealing North, the Government may choose to provide such a debate. That is one possibility; another is a debate courtesy of the Backbench Business Committee; and a third—depending on the nature of the circumstances, and their urgency or otherwise—is a debate under Standing Order No. 24. So there are opportunities. The right hon. Gentleman is very experienced and I know he will keep an eye on the situation. I will be very sensitive to the legitimate claims that colleagues might have in these circumstances. I hope that that is fair. If a Minister wants to say anything, he is most welcome. No, not on this occasion.