Points of Order

Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 12:47 pm on 16th January 2019.

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Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Conservative, Bexhill and Battle 12:47 pm, 16th January 2019

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. First, thank you for your clarity with regard to taking photos in this place. It was put to me this morning by my local BBC station that MPs in this place are not quite getting the seriousness that the country is feeling when they behave in such a frivolous manner. I take that one stage further: we set rules and laws in this place and expect people to abide by them, but we cannot seem to do that ourselves—not a great look. May I therefore ask you, Mr Speaker, not so much for a reminder of the rules we already know are in place, but to say what the sanctions will be for those who break them? If there are no sanctions, might we change the position to reflect the fact that the rules are being flouted?

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

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order and his courtesy in warning me of his intention to raise it. I take seriously these breaches of privacy, and that is what they are—breaches of privacy by one colleague against others—which is why I made my statement earlier today. I do not expect to have to apply, or ask the House to apply, sanctions on colleagues for breaches of this sort, but as a supporter of England’s finest football club the hon. Gentleman will know that the referee has several weapons in his arsenal before resorting to yellow or red cards and he can be assured that the Chair keeps a beady eye on offenders.

Photo of Anna Soubry Anna Soubry Conservative, Broxtowe

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. A member of my staff was abused this morning as he sought to come to work. There were no police officers outside the Embankment entrance to Portcullis House. It was not just a random piece of abuse; he was called a “spineless” C-U-N-T. I will not use that word in any circumstances. There is no excuse for abusing him or any other member of staff in that way. Some of us have broad shoulders—I am not going to make a fuss; we all know what happened last week, and I am grateful that the police are finally doing something about it—but it cannot be right that those people are standing outside this place. The man who abused my staff member had been spoken to on three occasions this morning by police officers, but they had then left their post to go somewhere else.

Mr Speaker, I am grateful to the police who keep us safe, and you know the sort of conversations that I and many others have had with them. I do not doubt that they want to do a good job, but unless the Metropolitan police at the most senior level now do their job and make sure that our staff have exactly the same rights as any other worker in any other business, trade or profession, we will have a situation where our members of staff will simply no longer work for us. Mr Speaker, what more can we do?

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

I was shocked to hear of that incident, and I concur entirely with everything that the right hon. Lady has said to the Chamber today, as I have done on a number of recent occasions. No one should be subjected to vile abuse of the kind that she has described. I hosted a meeting in Speaker’s House last week with the Commissioner of the Metropolitan police, and I referred to the fact of that meeting in the Chamber, I believe last Friday. I have written to the Commissioner, and I have received a very full and encouraging reply from Cressida Dick. I will not read it out to the House, but she, while quite properly explaining how seriously she and her officers take their responsibilities, went on to seek to assure me of an increased police presence and, to some degree, a changed mindset in terms of the importance of proactive measures. Quite why there were no police officers outside Portcullis House at the time I do not at this point know, but I intend to raise the matter, because it is absolutely vital that the aspiration to achieve security is realised, if at all possible, in every particular case. Does the Leader of the House want to come in on that?

Photo of Bob Seely Bob Seely Conservative, Isle of Wight

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I ask for clarification? Are you intending to alter the Standing Orders of the House in order to change the way in which business is conducted in the upcoming days and weeks, or are you going to allow those Standing Orders to be changed by a vote of the House? Excuse my ignorance on this, sir. I ask because if the control of business is taken away from the Government, for example on the issue of Brexit, that has significant ramifications for how we do business in this House and for what is likely to happen in the days and weeks ahead.

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

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and I can answer him very simply. No, I have no intention of trying to change the Standing Orders of the House. With the very greatest of respect to the hon. Gentleman, whom I have known for a long time and for whose intelligence I have very high regard, that is not a power of the Speaker. The House is in charge of its Standing Orders, but in so far as he—[Interruption.] No, I am not debating this with him. He raised the point and I am furnishing him with an answer, upon which he can reflect. The later parts of his point of order were frankly hypothetical, and I cannot be expected to treat of hypothetical questions. He asked a specific point in the first part of his inquiry, and I have given him a specific reply. We will leave it there.

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Labour, Wallasey

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Do you agree that the way in which the rules of this House have evolved, and the way in which the current Government have taken to ignoring Opposition motions and not even deigning to vote on them—coupled with the difficult circumstances in which we in the House of Commons now find ourselves in the aftermath of yesterday’s crushing defeat of the Brexit deal—demonstrate that our Standing Orders are probably in need of some evolution, even though I understand that you cannot change them? Will you perhaps think about bringing the Procedure Committee into play at some stage, so that we can take back some control from a dysfunctional Government and make certain that the will of this House can be properly put into effect?

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

It is not for me to bring the Procedure Committee into play. However, I am in the hands of the House, and the House can take a view on these matters and may well choose to do so. More widely, I think it is fair to say that quite a number of Members of Parliament on both sides of the House—particularly some very senior and experienced Members—have relayed to me over the last several months their disappointment, concern and in some cases I would go so far as to say distress that what they previously regarded as givens seem no longer to apply. I simply make the point factually that a number of senior Members on the Government Benches have told me that, whatever they think of a particular vote—for example, a vote on an Opposition motion—it should be honoured, because they are putting their commitment to Parliament in front of their commitment to party. So I put that out there. These matters will be aired in this Chamber, and ultimately decided upon in this Chamber, if Members want that to happen. The idea that that can be blocked—I am not saying that that is what is intended—by Executive fiat, for example, is for the birds.

Photo of James Heappey James Heappey Conservative, Wells

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is entirely understandable that you do not want to answer hypotheticals, but for those of us who are trying to understand what might be afoot and to explain it to our constituents, could you confirm whether it is the custom or the rule that rulings on money resolutions are the sole domain of the Chairman of Ways and Means?

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

I have made the position clear on money resolutions in the past, and I am not going to entertain hypothetical questions. I have tried to be—[Interruption.] Order. I am not debating the issue with the hon. Gentleman. He has made a point of raising points of order on a number of occasions, and if he wants to have a discussion at some stage, he is perfectly welcome to come to see me, but I am not going to detain the House now with endless exchanges on this matter with people who really want to stage a form of Question Time—[Interruption.] No, I do not require any gesticulation from him; I am telling him that that is the situation.