Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 1:57 pm on 19 January 2022.

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Photo of Zarah Sultana Zarah Sultana Labour, Coventry South 1:57, 19 January 2022

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I have informed Craig Whittaker that I will be referring to him.

In July 2020, the hon. Member for Calder Valley told LBC that

“sections of the community…are not taking the pandemic seriously”.

When asked if he was talking about Muslims, he said, “Of course.” When challenged, he refused to apologise.

We now know that just a few weeks earlier the Prime Minister had attended a boozy party in Downing Street and No. 10 staffers had been wheeling suitcases of drink to work, but I note that the hon. Member for Calder Valley has not condemned that behaviour as

“not taking the pandemic seriously”.

This weekend a member of the public wrote to the hon. Member, copying me into the email and raising her concerns about his comments. He replied, not apologising for his divisive remarks but insulting me instead.

Can you advise me, Madam Deputy Speaker, on how I can bring the hon. Member for Calder Valley to the Chamber to apologise, not just for insulting me but, more important, for his offensive slur against British Muslims?

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Chair, Standing Orders Committee (Commons), Chair, Standing Orders Committee (Commons)

I thank the hon. Lady for her point of order, and for giving me notice that she intended to make it.

It will, of course, be obvious that the Chair is not, and cannot possibly be, responsible for the content of Members’ correspondence with members of the public, but I understand why the hon. Lady is upset by that exchange. Let me simply say that all Members should bear in mind these words in “Erskine May”:

“Good temper and moderation are the characteristics of parliamentary language.”

Of course, when one is acting in the capacity of a Member of Parliament, parliamentary language extends beyond this Chamber and this House to correspondence and other matters as well. I will simply recommend that all Members adopt a tone of “good temper and moderation”.

I am afraid that I cannot give the hon. Lady advice on how to bring Craig Whittaker to the Chamber, as he is not responsible to the Chair or to the Chamber but, of course, to his own constituents.

Photo of Munira Wilson Munira Wilson Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Education)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I seek your advice and guidance on how I can secure some substantive answers from the Department for Education on three very important written questions that I tabled following the Secretary of State’s recent announcement on air purifiers, regarding the data and criteria that were used in deciding how and where they should be distributed. Unfortunately, all my questions were grouped together and given one broad, evasive answer that provided no clarity and did not address the questions, and nor did it suggest that the data was either unavailable or too costly to provide. You will be aware that experts have been recommending these air purifiers for many months, and parents and school staff are anxious about reducing covid transmission and covid absences in schools, so I look forward to your guidance on how I can go about securing some substantive answers from the Department for Education.

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Chair, Standing Orders Committee (Commons), Chair, Standing Orders Committee (Commons)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for her point of order. I say yet again, as Mr Speaker has said on many occasions, that responses to questions are of course a matter for the Government, not the Chair. However, Mr Speaker has very often made it clear to those on the Treasury Bench that when Members ask perfectly reasonable questions on behalf of their constituents, answers should be given in a proper and timely manner. If she wishes to pursue the matter, the Clerks in the Table Office will certainly be able to offer her advice on how she might require the relevant Minister to come to the House to answer her questions. She has also put on the record her view of the Government’s answer, and she might wish to write to the Procedure Committee, which monitors the Government’s performance in responding to questions. I am aware of a number of similar points of order that have been raised in the Chamber, as I am sure are Ministers, so I have every confidence that her points will be listened to.