Point of Order

– in the House of Commons at 2:01 pm on 30th April 2019.

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Photo of Marsha de Cordova Marsha de Cordova Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) (Disabled People) 2:01 pm, 30th April 2019

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. In 2017, the Department for Work and Pensions changed the wording of the ESA65B letters to GPs, wrongly informing them that they no longer needed to provide fit notes for ill and disabled patients who had been found to be “fit for work”. On 18 March this year, in response to an oral question from me, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions said that the letter had been

“cleared by both the British Medical Association and the Royal College of General Practitioners.”—[Official Report, 18 March 2019;
Vol. 656, c. 769.]

However, letters published yesterday by the BMA and the RCGP state that they do not have the authority to clear, approve or otherwise sign off DWP policies.

The “Ministerial Code” clearly states:

“It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity.”

I have written to the Secretary of State urging her to come to the House and correct the record. I seek your advice and guidance, Mr Speaker, on how to ensure that that is done promptly.

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. Lady for her point of order, and for her courtesy in giving me notice of her intention to raise it.

I have received no indication from the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions of an intention to come to the House to say anything about this matter. It is, of course, incumbent on each and every Member to take responsibility for words spoken in the Chamber—that is to say, for their accuracy. In the event that the Secretary of State feels that it is necessary to correct the record, I expect that will happen. Meanwhile, because I cannot be the arbiter of whether such a correction is required, all I can say is that the hon. Lady has made her point with force and alacrity, and it will have been heard by those on the Treasury Bench.