Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 1:22 pm on 25th March 2021.

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Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Labour, Kingston upon Hull North 1:22 pm, 25th March 2021

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I thank Mr Speaker for granting me the opportunity to raise this point of order regarding the NHS contaminated blood scandal, the biggest treatment disaster in NHS history. The vast majority of Members of Parliament will have at least one constituent infected—or have had one constituent, because those infected die at an average of one every 96 hours.

Madam Deputy Speaker, you will know that it took many years of cross-party campaigning before the NHS infected blood inquiry was announced in 2017. Alongside the public inquiry, the Government agreed to undertake a review of financial support available to those infected and affected, and to work on a compensation framework if later required by the inquiry’s findings.

Last week, Caroline Wheeler of The Sunday Times reported that Ministers planned to make a statement this week on financial support for infected blood victims. A written ministerial statement appeared this morning, on the last day before the Easter recess and, crucially, after the deadline to secure an urgent question today. This leaves no opportunity for Members’ questioning of a Minister in the House for at least two weeks.

The failure to make an oral ministerial statement in the House today, allowing Members to ask questions, may not be disorderly, but it is grossly insensitive to people who have suffered so much for so long at the hands of the state. I seek your advice on how we can get this issue discussed in the House at the very earliest opportunity.

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

I thank the right hon. Lady for notice of her point of order. As she well knows, and as Mr Speaker has said many times, it is a matter for the Government whether they make a written or oral ministerial statement; the occupant of the Chair has no say in that matter.

The right hon. Lady asks the question always asked during points of order, but I appreciate that it is a way for her to bring to the attention of the House and those on the Treasury Bench her concerns about how this matter can be brought before the House. There are, of course, many ways in which the right hon. Lady can do that: she can seek an Adjournment debate; ask for an urgent question; go to the Backbench Business Committee; urge a Select Committee to have an inquiry; and write to Ministers. I think she knows about all those. I am quite sure that, given her experience and determination—for which she is renowned in this particular matter—she will find one of those ways of bringing this matter to the Floor of the House.

Photo of Seema Malhotra Seema Malhotra Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) (Employment)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I thank you and Mr Speaker for allowing me to make this point of order.

On 8 March, in Department for Work and Pensions questions, the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Mims Davies, told me that in Feltham and Heston there were 77 kickstart vacancies and 11 starts. She also shared kickstart data for Tower Hamlets with my hon. Friend Rushanara Ali. On 17 March, I tabled a written question asking for kickstart placements and vacancies by constituency; I was surprised to be told that that data is not currently available by constituency.

Three other colleagues—my hon. Friends the Members for Blaenau Gwent (Nick Smith), for Ilford North (Wes Streeting) and for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard)—have been similarly rebuffed when asking about their own constituencies. MPs have also been told that the Department is unable to publish data below regional level.

Madam Deputy Speaker, if the Minister told me figures for my constituency in this House, the data does exist and could be published. Given that young people’s jobs have been worst hit, transparency matters so that Parliament knows where opportunities are reaching and where they are not. Could you advise me on how Members can seek to get this important data published by the DWP?

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

I thank the hon. Lady for giving me notice of her point of order. As I said to her right hon. Friend Dame Diana Johnson a few moments ago, it is not for the Chair to comment on the accuracy or completeness of ministerial answers; that is a matter entirely for Ministers. But it is fairly obvious that if the Department holds the information that she has requested, it should provide that information to her.

The hon. Lady has used her point of order to draw her concerns to the attention of the House and Ministers. Of course, she will also be aware that the Procedure Committee monitors departmental performance. I suggest that she considers drawing the matter to the attention of the Procedure Committee if the Department’s response remains unsatisfactory.

Photo of Owen Thompson Owen Thompson SNP Chief Whip

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. In answer to my question about the ACAS report on fire and rehire, the Leader of the House indicated that the report had been presented to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy a week ago. However, it has come to my attention that a parliamentary answer to Grahame Morris said that the report was actually presented on 17 February—a number of weeks ago.

I have no doubt that the Leader of the House did not intentionally give the wrong date. However, given the pressing deadlines involved, can you give me advice, Madam Deputy Speaker, on how we can further press the issue to make sure that it is reasonably considered and that action is taken urgently?

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his very reasonable point of order.

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

I can see that the Leader of the House agrees that it is reasonable.

I may be mistaken, but after the hon. Gentleman asked his question of the Leader of the House I am pretty sure that I heard the Leader of the House give an answer to Christian Matheson saying that he had been slightly mistaken about dates and confirming that the relevant date was in fact 17 February.

Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons

Yes, that is what I understand from the questions I received. I thought that the hon. Gentleman indicated a week ago and then the hon. Member for City of Chester indicated 17 February. I think, but this is not an absolute statement on oath, that 17 February is the accurate date.

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Thank you. I heard the Leader of the House say that in answer to the hon. Member for City of Chester and I hope that the matter has now been cleared up. I thank Owen Thompson for giving us all the opportunity to make sure that the information given here in the Chamber is always accurate.

I will now suspend the House for three minutes in order that arrangements can be made for the next item of business.

Sitting suspended.