Points of Order

Oral Answers to Questions — Communities and Local Government – in the House of Commons at 3:37 pm on 16th January 2017.

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On a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Photo of Jon Ashworth Jon Ashworth Shadow Secretary of State for Health

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You will have seen reports at the weekend that the Prime Minister is now blaming family doctors for the NHS crisis. It is not the fault of GPs that social care has been cut or that general practice is underfunded. Has the Prime Minister or the Health Secretary given you notice that they are going to come to the House to make a statement, or should we assume that they want to avoid scrutiny for their floundering response to this NHS crisis?

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

The answer is that I have received no indication of an intention for a Government Minister to make a statement on that matter. I have received notification of other intended statements for the coming days, but that is not among their number.

Photo of Tommy Sheppard Tommy Sheppard Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Last Tuesday at Foreign and Commonwealth Office questions, the Foreign Secretary was asked whether the UK would be participating in yesterday’s summit in Paris on the Israeli-Palestine peace situation. He told us that we would be participating and would “reinforce our message”, yet we read in press reports today that, alone among the western nations, the UK had no Minister present, and only a civil servant was sent to observe without the authority to sign the final communiqué. Have you been given notice that the Foreign Secretary intends to make a statement on the summit, and if not, what can Members do to compel the Foreign Secretary to divulge the full intentions of his Department when answering questions?

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

In the short time—approximately 20 months, I think—for which I have known the hon. Gentleman, I have come to realise what a persistent fellow he is. In response to the last part of his observations—about what can be done, and what facilities or recourses are open to him—let me say that the hon. Gentleman is familiar with the concept of the written question and, I think, with the location of the Table Office, in which he can submit such questions. Knowing the hon. Gentleman, I rather suspect that he will keep raising the matter.

I am, of course, grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of his intention to raise this matter. He has registered it with force, and what he has said will have been heard on the Treasury Bench. If the Foreign Secretary feels that inadvertently the House has been misled—it is not immediately clear to me that the words were inaccurate; it may be that there has been a change of mind, which is not without precedent in our proceedings—no doubt he will take steps to correct the record. Meanwhile, the hon. Gentleman can go about his business with an additional glint in his eye and spring in his step in the knowledge that he has put his point forcefully on the record.

Photo of Ian Austin Ian Austin Labour, Dudley North

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sure that the whole House, but you in particular, will want to join me in paying tribute to the great Professor Anthony King, who was one of our country’s foremost political academics, psephologists and commentators, and who made a huge contribution to public life. He helped to educate thousands of young people in Britain, including yourself, Mr Speaker, the Secretary of State for International Development, my hon. Friend Siobhain McDonagh and, of course, me—although, as I recall, Mr Speaker, you were the only one who got a first. I am sure that you and the whole House will want to pay tribute to the late Professor King.

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

I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order, and, more particularly, I rather imagine that Professor Anthony King’s widow, Jan, will be especially appreciative when she hears of the noble step that the hon. Gentleman has taken today. Colleagues will doubtless have noted that Professor King died last week, aged 82, after a stellar career and vocation as one of the most distinguished political scientists of this generation. He was a brilliant teacher, he was an outstanding communicator, not least on television when giving his analysis of by-elections, and he was a prodigious and illuminating writer. Personally, I feel every day a sense of gratitude to Tony for what he did for me; and God, I must have been an awkward student to teach 30 years ago—[Interruption.] And, indeed, I still am. He stuck with me, and I am hugely grateful.

The hon. Gentleman and I got to know each other at the University of Essex 30 years ago, and I say in affectionate tribute to him that he is as noisy today as he was when he used to heckle me in student union meetings between 1982 and 1985.

Tony King was a great man who did wonders for the study and teaching of political science in the United Kingdom, and we should honour his memory.