Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 6:19 pm on 25th April 2016.

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Photo of Carol Monaghan Carol Monaghan Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Public Services and Education) 6:19 pm, 25th April 2016

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise to you for attempting to raise it earlier, at an inopportune moment, but I was so outraged by events that took place during our exchanges on the urgent question about shipbuilding on the Clyde that I became over-enthusiastic. In 20 years of teaching in a comprehensive school in Glasgow, I was never subjected to language such as that to which SNP Members were subjected by John Woodcock. May I ask you, Mr Speaker, how we should go about making an official complaint?

Photo of John Woodcock John Woodcock Labour/Co-operative, Barrow and Furness

I am sorry that you are being troubled with this, Mr Speaker. To my knowledge, I was not given any prior warning of this point of order. I can only hope that this is a genuine mishearing by Carol Monaghan and that it is not malicious. I have learned my lesson from my misplaced social media in the last couple of weeks, and I certainly did not use any language that she could complain about. I am slightly at a loss for what to say. Further to this point, although I might have raised this matter in a separate way, I have heard growing concerns about the tactics of those on the Scottish National party Benches, who seem, to an extent, to believe that it is acceptable to bring into the Chamber the kind of intimidation that was practised on the streets of Scotland to shut down free debate during the referendum campaign. In my view, that is acceptable neither on the street nor here.

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 shall come to Sue Hayman, who has a wholly different point of order, in a moment. Let me first respond to the initial point of order and to the hon. Gentleman’s response to it. I am at a disadvantage for the very simple reason that if anything offensive or unparliamentary was said by the hon. Gentleman—I emphasise the word “if”—I did not hear it. If I had heard what I have subsequently been told was said—which I have no intention of advertising to the Chamber because it was unparliamentary—I would have deprecated it. Suffice it to say that immoderate language is always to be deprecated, whether it is uttered from a sedentary position or when a Member is on his or her feet. I did not hear it, and I cannot therefore comment on it. [Interruption.] Order. I am not prepared to get involved—or to subject the House to getting involved—in an ongoing exchange. Suffice it to say that at the time there was some discontent between the two sets of Benches and I did urge people to calm down. I stand by that. I am genuinely sorry if there are Members who feel offended, but I cannot condemn that which I did not hear. The hon. Member for Barrow and Furness has made his point, which I have heard, and no further exchange is required on that matter.

Photo of John Woodcock John Woodcock Labour/Co-operative, Barrow and Furness

But I have been named in the Chamber and I do not know what I am supposed to have done.

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 will tell the hon. Gentleman: a complaint was made to me that he had used bad language and that he had deployed an expletive. I did not hear any such deployment and therefore the hon. Gentleman has been convicted of nothing. An allegation has been made. It was reported to me—[Interruption.] Order. There is no reason to accuse anybody of dishonesty. A Member whom I respect reported to me her understanding that bad language had been used, but I did not hear it. A complaint has been made and the hon. Gentleman denies any such impropriety. I think the most sensible thing is to say that we let it rest there. However, for the avoidance of doubt—I am referring not to the hon. Gentleman or to any other particular Member—bad language should of course not be used in this Chamber, whether out loud or sotto voce. We ought to conduct ourselves in a more seemly manner. I thank the hon. Gentleman for his response and the hon. Lady for her courtesy. Please let us park it there for today.

Photo of Sue Hayman Sue Hayman Opposition Whip (Commons)

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. During Prime Minister’s questions on Wednesday last week, in his response to my question about support for independent pharmacies, the Prime Minister stated:

“We are supporting rural pharmacies—there is a specific scheme to help there”.—[Official Report, 20 April 2016;
Vol. 608, c. 916.]

Since then, I have seen a letter from the National Pharmacy Association to the Prime Minister, advising him that this is untrue and asking him to set the record straight. Can I ask your advice, Mr Speaker, on how I can best go about correcting the record as to the existence of this fund in order to ensure that rural pharmacies do not waste their time looking for a fund that does not currently exist?

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 am grateful to the hon. Lady for her point of order and for her courtesy in giving me notice of it. The truth, as I think she knows, is that she has found her own salvation. She has put her view on this matter on the record, and it will have been heard by those on the Treasury Bench. No doubt it will be conveyed to the Prime Minister’s office. If the Prime Minister feels that what he said was inaccurate or misleading in any way, he will doubtless take steps to correct what was said. But it may be—I simply emphasise that it may be—that these are matters more of interpretation or opinion than of fact. I would stress that what Ministers say in this House is the responsibility of Ministers and not of the Chair. The hon. Lady has registered her point with force and alacrity.