Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 12:36 pm on 17th November 2021.

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Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Conservative, Lichfield 12:36 pm, 17th November 2021

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have just received word on the wires that the Leader of the Opposition—I did not hear this at the time, because there was so much noise—called the Prime Minister a coward. Surely that is in breach of “Erskine May”, is improper and should be withdrawn.

Photo of Tim Farron Tim Farron Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Alongside the hon. Members for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Neil Coyle) and for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (David Simmonds), and our friend in the other place the Bishop of Durham, we have been pressing Ministers in the Home Office to permit a cross-party visit to the Napier barracks.

On 7 September, the Minister for future borders and immigration—the Under-Secretary of State, Kevin Foster—declined our request for an in-person visit. The Select Committee on Home Affairs was refused a visit in July. On 27 October, we again requested an on-site visit and asked the Minister to respond by 10 November; we have yet to hear anything. Despite the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration and Her Majesty’s inspectorate of prisons finding early this year that there were serious concerns and failings in the provision of accommodation at Napier barracks, the Government have extended the use of the barracks until 2025 and have stated that the site will be used to pilot the design of future accommodation for asylum seekers.

You can see that a visit is now more than pressing, Mr Speaker. Could you advise me whether it is in order for the Government to refuse Members of Parliament access to this important site?

Photo of Lindsay Hoyle Lindsay Hoyle Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, House of Commons Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving notice of his point of order. It is for the Government to decide whether to invite Members to visit the barracks. That said, the use of the barracks has been a matter of public concern and debate, and of course I would always encourage the Government to agree to such requests from right hon. and hon. Members, not least to ensure that they are able to hold the Government to account in a well-informed manner.

I accept that there are occasions when it is legitimate for the Government to refuse a request for a visit—on security grounds, for example—although I should stress that I do not know of any reason for a refusal in this case. However, those on the Government Benches will have heard my view, namely that in principle I would hope that such requests for visits could be accommodated. At the very least, I hope that Home Office Ministers will discuss the matter properly with the hon. Gentleman, and I hope that it does not take too long to contact him.

Photo of Martin Docherty Martin Docherty Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Industries of the Future and Blockchain Technologies), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs Team Member), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Defence Team Member), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (PPS to the Westminster Leader)

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I had had no intention of raising a point of order until I heard the Prime Minister’s answer to my hon. Friend Sarah Atherton who chairs the Defence Sub-Committee on Women in the Armed Forces. The Prime Minister indicated that there would be a parliamentary inquiry, based—I think—on that report. Given that we have seen a tenfold increase in reporting of rape and sexual assault of women under the age of 18 in the armed forces, Mr Speaker, can you tell the House why the Government, and the Prime Minister in his answer today, have not met the demands of my hon. Friend, and are not implementing the Wigston review?

Photo of Lindsay Hoyle Lindsay Hoyle Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, House of Commons Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

That was actually a continuation of an earlier question, but I will say that we take seriously the point that has been made. If the hon. Member for Wrexham feels that she needs a statement, or that an urgent question could possibly provide an answer to her wishes to continue this, I am sure that it could be viewed favourably.

I assume that there are no further points of order. It is certainly very quiet.