On a point of order, Mr Speaker. John McDonnell and his shadow Treasury team, whose names escape me right now, visited my constituency of Hastings and Rye over the weekend, yet failed to alert me to the fact that they were coming. Could I ask for your advice, Mr Speaker, on how I might encourage Members to come in a personal capacity to the fantastic town of Hastings, which has had record investment since 2010, but to alert me perhaps earlier if they are coming on a political visit?
I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for her point of order. Such points of order are by no means uncommon—in fact, they are very frequent in the Chamber—and it is regrettable that this should be the case. I understand that she has alerted John McDonnell to her intention to raise this point of order. I can confirm readily that it is a well established and important convention that Members should alert each other to prospective visits to the other’s constituency if those visits are of a public or potentially public character. It is in all our interests that this courtesy should be observed. It has to be said that it is frequently observed in the breach rather than in the observance, and by Members on both sides of the House. The right hon. Lady has drawn attention to a breach. I hope that it will not be repeated, and I thank her for what she has said.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I raised in the House the case of my constituent who had his personal independence payment stopped. He has an inoperable brain tumour; he has intractable epilepsy, which means that he could collapse without warning; and he has the onset of Parkinson’s disease. On
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. The very short answer to him is that if an offer of a meeting is made, whether in response to a point of order or, as in this case, in an answer to an oral question, that commitment should be honoured sooner rather than later. If the hon. Gentleman is asking me—[Interruption.] Order. Mr Kerr, I am dealing with a point of order.
With the greatest respect, I am usually very interested in what Stephen Kerr has to say, but at the moment I have not got the foggiest interest in what he is burbling about from a sedentary position, because I am responding to a point of order, and I intend so to do. If he is interested in listening, he can listen quietly, and if he is not interested, he is welcome to leave. I do not really care which of those courses of action he follows, but it had better be one or the other.
In response to Clive Efford, I would say that the offer of a meeting should be honoured sooner rather than later. If the hon. Gentleman wants an idea of a broad rule of thumb, I should have thought that it was reasonable within 24 hours of an oral exchange for contact with his office to have been made by a ministerial office, which is a well-staffed office. I would very much hope, particularly in a matter of very great sensitivity and potentially great urgency, that a meeting would be arranged within a week or so.
If the hon. Gentleman is telling me that three weeks later such a meeting has not been arranged and there has been no substantive contact, frankly that just isn’t good enough. That would apply whichever party was in power, just as it is not good enough if weeks after a Member has tabled a written question there has been no substantive reply.
There is a Whip sitting on the Treasury Bench, who might as well perform a useful function. One useful function that the Deputy Chief Whip, which I think is his current title, could perform would be to contact the Department concerned and say, “Get it sorted.” The right hon. Gentleman, if he is a right hon. Gentleman—I am pleased if he is, and if he is not, no doubt it is a matter of time—should get it sorted today. I hope that that is what will happen.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Four and a half weeks ago, Bishop James Jones published a report on Gosport War Memorial Hospital that indicated at least 460 elderly people had died inadvertently by infusion of opiates. I immediately wrote to the Prime Minister expressing my gratitude that the relatives had finally got to the truth, but expressing their desire and demand for justice. I invited the Prime Minister to implement a criminal inquiry. Parliamentary protocol states that the Prime Minister or No. 10 must respond to MPs’ letters within 20 working days. Mr Speaker, it is now 22 working days and I have yet to hear anything. I ask your advice on how I could pursue this matter, so that No. 10 responds to my letter.
I must say I am disappointed to hear of the hon. Gentleman’s experience. I have always found the Prime Minister to be a person of unfailing courtesy. That has been my personal experience. I am sorry if he has had a bad experience. In a sense, I think my response to him is not altogether dissimilar to my response to Clive Efford, who has also just raised a point of order.
By raising this on the Floor of the House in this way, which Stephen Lloyd was obviously loth to have to do, he should elicit a reply sooner rather than later. As we go into recess tomorrow, I would certainly expect that he would get an answer from the Prime Minister’s office within the next day or two. If that is not the case, I rather imagine he will be putting down a named-day question, but it should not be necessary for the hon. Gentleman to have to do that.
At one time, there was a considerable improvement in the speed of replies to written questions. It is important that standards are maintained. If standards slip, conventionally it has been the responsibility of the Leader of the House—I know she takes it seriously—and possibly the Whips Office to ensure that those standards are restored. This is not a trifling matter; it is important. I hope the hon. Gentleman will be afforded the courtesy that is warranted.