Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 6:31 pm on 21st February 2022.

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Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Labour, Middlesbrough 6:31 pm, 21st February 2022

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether I might seek your guidance and advice. In recent days, there has been widespread coverage of the settlement of an extremely high-profile court case. There are undoubtedly significant sensitivities and difficulties here, so I am conscious of the need to proceed with care. My concern is whether such a significant settlement could be satisfied by the use of public funds. I seek your guidance on how I might elicit clarification and assurance from a Government Minister that no public funds have been used, or will be used, in satisfaction of part or all of the settlement.

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. Gentleman for his point of order. He is absolutely right that it is a sensitive matter. He has been quite ingenious in raising it in this way, and we must proceed with sensitivity. If he were to table questions for ministerial answer in the Chamber, there could be difficulties, because questions are based on ministerial responsibility, and there is no obvious ministerial responsibility for the expenditure of public funds in the way that he suggests. It might therefore be best if he were to write to Ministers for the assurance that he seeks. I hope that that helps him.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I seek your advice on raising the matter of the removal of a title when it impacts on a geographical location, such as my city of York.

The understandable restrictions set out in paragraph 22.15 of “Erskine May” prohibit the discussion of matters appertaining to the sovereign or the royal family, except for those concerning costs to public funds of royal events or palaces. This matter does not concern those. The reason why this is relevant to Parliament is that the removal of a title, such as that of duke, can be achieved only by passing legislation. According to the Clerks of the House, this was achieved in 1798 in respect of a certain individual through legislation, and in 1917, under the Titles Deprivation Act, in relation to treason.

The sovereign does not have powers to remove a title unless Parliament confers such powers on them. Nor does Parliament have those powers, except under specific legislation that is very limited in its application. In order to make such powers available, new legislation would need to be introduced, which appears to be impossible under the rulings of “Erskine May”. This is a matter that 88% of my constituents have asked me to pursue, and I therefore seek your guidance, Madam Deputy Speaker, on how the removal of a dukedom can be achieved.

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. Lady for her point of order. She is correct that questions cannot reflect on the sovereign or members of the royal family, but she rightly said, there are other means by which the matters she has raised can be brought before the House. She rightly says that the issue that she described can be resolved by legislation, and she knows that there are ways in which she can introduce legislation to the House—by a private Member’s Bill and under the ten-minute rule procedure. I am quite sure that if she were to ask the advice of the Clerks, they would guide her on how she might take this matter forward.