Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 12:38 pm on 26th June 2018.
A flurry of points of order. What a joyous occasion.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Yesterday evening, the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work published a written statement on the personal independence payment. The statement covered a range of issues, including an announcement that a new process to identify people affected by last year’s High Court ruling concerning PIP mobility activity 1 has begun. The statement raises some real concerns and leaves many questions unanswered. In light of that, have you, Mr Speaker, had any indication as to whether the Minister will be making an oral statement on these important issues so that Members of this House can properly question her?
I am very grateful to the hon. Lady for her point of order. The short answer is that I have received no indication of any plan on the part of a Minister to deliver an oral statement to the House on the subject. However, she has flagged up her very real concern and dissatisfaction, which will have been heard on the Treasury Bench. There are many days to go between now and the summer recess and it is a matter to which, I suspect, she will wish to return, quite conceivably, on the Floor of the House.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your guidance on a matter of procedure. Is there any provision in the Standing Orders of this House that defines the notion or action of flip-flopping? If not, could “Erskine May” be updated to include this, because it happens increasingly frequently in this House? Yesterday, within 24 hours, the Scottish National party orchestrated the most spectacular political flip-flop, as it backed Heathrow expansion but then abstained when it came to the vote. I would be very grateful if you could look into this issue to see whether we can define flip-flopping in the Standing Orders.
No looking into the matter by the Chair is required. I will not say that the visage of the hon. Gentleman displays a puckish grin. Rather, I would say that he is finding it difficult to contain his own excitement and hilarity at the point that he has just made. The notion of flip-flopping, as the hon. Gentleman describes it, has never found its way into the Standing Orders of the House, and I would not advise him to bet a large sum of money on the likelihood of it doing so. He has made his own point with his customary alacrity and he looks well pleased with his efforts.
Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker.
I am not sure that there is anything further, but in my experience the hon. Gentleman often thinks that he has the last word—and occasionally does—so we will give him a chance.
I am sure that you will have the last word on this, Mr Speaker. It would of course be available under “Erskine May”—I know this is deplored, but none the less it is sometimes enacted—for people to shout one thing and vote another, which is deprecated by the Chair. For that matter, sometimes people walk through both Division Lobbies, which could be described as flip-flopping, surely.
It could be. The hon. Gentleman is right that the first practice that he mentioned is very much deprecated. Members should not shout in one direction and vote in the opposite direction; he or she can choose not to vote, but should not vote in the opposite direction. The hon. Gentleman is also right that, although it does happen from time to time—one suspects, sometimes with a degree of official encouragement from some quarters—the practice of Members voting in both Lobbies, thereby cancelling out their vote, is very strongly deprecated from the Chair. It seems to me to be not a proper way to conduct oneself in the House. Anyway, the hon. Gentleman has got across his point about the meaning of flip-flopping. I dare say that it will be heard by many people across the Rhondda and possibly elsewhere.
Not on the subject of flip-flopping?
No; it is altogether more serious. At the start of the sitting, you announced that Royal Assent had been granted to the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. I wonder whether you can advise how we can get it on the record that this is the first time that that has happened without the legislative consent of the Scottish Parliament. This is a very serious issue, with which I know that the House has dealt. The Government had been repeatedly requested not to send the Bill for Royal Assent until an agreement had been reached. Will you further advise what opportunities exist for Members to interrogate the Government’s decision-making process around that matter?
I am not sure that my advice is required. The hon. Gentleman has found his own salvation; he has put the point forcefully on the record. As to opportunities for scrutiny, the hon. Gentleman is the most eager of beavers in this Chamber and he also has very, very important responsibilities regarding his colleagues, in relation to whom he exercises discipline and offers career development opportunities if they comply. I therefore feel sure that the hon. Gentleman will be able to arrange for colleagues to air this matter between now and the summer recess, and the glow of contentment that he is displaying suggests that he knows that I am right.