Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 11:33 am on 21st April 2022.

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Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Labour, Hayes and Harlington 11:33 am, 21st April 2022

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise to Members for delaying the debate, but this is the first opportunity I have had to do this, and it has to be done promptly after the event itself.

Yesterday, I was on a Statutory Instrument Committee dealing with a Department for Work and Pensions matter, and I simply asked a question about the rationale of the urgency of the proposal brought forward by the Government. The Minister’s response was that I would know more if I visited my local jobcentre more frequently, and to accuse me of not visiting it for about five years. That is completely untrue; I am a regular visitor to the jobcentre, as I am to other institutions. However, the issue this raises is one of privilege. Does this mean that the Government are now monitoring the visits of Members of this House to Government Departments for use in political debate? If that is the case, let me just say that I have a brilliant working relationship with my local jobcentre, where the staff work incredibly hard, but most of our communication is via emails, telephones and so on. However, if our visits to Government offices are to be monitored, it will no longer be emails or telephones: I will insist on a meeting at the tax office, the jobcentre, the border office and every other Government agency in my constituency. This is a matter of parliamentary privilege, Mr Speaker, and I would like you to look into the matter.

Photo of Keir Starmer Keir Starmer Leader of HM Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister’s comments on Tuesday night to his Back Benchers were briefed to journalists by his spokesperson. Those comments were reasonably interpreted by several media outlets, including The Daily Telegraph, as being criticisms of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the BBC for their comments on and coverage of Ukraine. Ministers were out on broadcast rounds yesterday and they did not seek to correct that interpretation, but since then, the Government have corrected the record and said that the Prime Minister’s comments referred only to the Archbishop and not the BBC. I am more than happy to echo that correction and withdraw my comments of yesterday.