Monday 7th June 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
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On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. This is not about the previous matter, and I have given you notice of the point I am about to raise.

As you know, “Erskine May” makes it very clear that any hon. Member visiting another hon. Member’s constituency on official business is required to notify that hon. Member. I know it sometimes sounds like we are being terribly pompous when we try to reassert that convention, but I think it is important that when Ministers in particular are coming to a constituency, they give full and proper notice that they are coming and explain why, not least because we are all friends here and we would all like to invite Ministers to visit our constituencies; we would like to welcome them fully and properly, especially in the Welsh valleys, and show off everything we have to show.

Unfortunately—I have notified the Member that I would raise this today—the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government did not notify me until 6.53 pm the night before his visit to my constituency last week. He did not tell me where in my constituency he was coming to, nor why he was coming or what he was going to look at, so I was not able to offer him tea and Welsh cakes or show him the things that we in the Rhondda would like to show him, so that we can get some money out of the shared prosperity fund. I think this was a gross avoidance of the precise rule that is part of the “Ministerial Code”. I just hope that you, Mr Deputy Speaker, will be able to reinforce the importance of this common courtesy from hon. Member to hon. Member.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Nigel Evans)
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There is nothing better than home-made Welsh cakes, Mr Bryant—

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant
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You haven’t eaten mine!

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker
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—and there is nothing pompous about the point of order you have raised. Thank you for giving notice of your intention to do so.

The document, “Rules of behaviour and courtesies in the House of Commons” deals with this exact matter. When a Member visits another Member’s constituency, except on a purely private visit—we all know what that entails—they should take reasonable steps in advance to tell the Member in whose constituency the visit is taking place. That guidance also states that

“failing to do so is regarded by colleagues as very discourteous.”

The guidance applies to Ministers as well as to other Members. Indeed, the “Ministerial Code” also states that

“Ministers intending to make an official visit within the United Kingdom must inform in advance, and in good time, the MPs whose constituencies are to be included within the itinerary.”

I trust that Ministers on the Treasury Bench will make sure that this is brought to their colleagues’ attention, but I should also make it clear that Mr Speaker and I expect all Members—not just Ministers—to inform their colleagues of such visits. Not to do so is discourteous.

Fleur Anderson Portrait Fleur Anderson (Putney) (Lab)
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On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I seek your advice on what parliamentary mechanisms are available to help to secure an expedited response from the Home Secretary and the Work and Pensions Secretary on an urgent constituency case.

My constituent is a pensioner who has been a British citizen since 1981, yet last week she received a letter from the Government informing her that her state pension will be stopped at the end of this month, and that once stopped it cannot be restarted. It has been, at best, challenging for me and my team to get prompt responses from the Home Office over the past year, including on constituent cases that are urgent and time-sensitive, as this one is. I would welcome any advice you can offer on how to secure a swift response to this instance of maladministration and an apology from the Minister for the distress caused.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker
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Again, I thank the hon. Lady for giving notice of the point of order. Although I do not know the specifics of the case, I can confirm that Ministers should deal with Members’ representations in a timely way, especially in a case that is time-sensitive. I think the Minister on the Treasury Bench will be very busy, because he has heard the point of order and my response. The hon. Lady should receive a reply as soon as possible. The Table Office will advise her if she wishes to pursue this matter.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds (Torfaen) (Lab)
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On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I seek your advice about an answer given by the Home Secretary earlier today in the House.

In an answer to me during Home Office questions, the Home Secretary said that data is available for the number of passengers that have arrived in this country from red and amber list countries. However, when looking for these statistics, it appears that the statistics on the Government website are not up to date and, indeed, they are for all arrivals generally, rather than specifically on who arrived from red list countries and who arrived from amber list countries.

This data is critical to our fight against covid, so I seek your advice, Mr Deputy Speaker, on how best I can ascertain where the data is located and on whether there is any way to ensure that the data is made available, given the very firm statement the Home Secretary made on the matter.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker
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I thank the right hon. Member for his point of order. While the content of Ministers’ answers to oral questions is a matter not for the Chair, but for the Ministers concerned, I am sure that his point has been heard on the Government Benches again—Mr Davies—and will be relayed to the Secretary of State. If the right hon. Member wishes to proceed with this matter, the Table Office will be able to advise him.

Zarah Sultana Portrait Zarah Sultana (Coventry South) (Lab)
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On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. On 26 January in the Chamber I highlighted to the Home Secretary the unsafe conditions at Napier barracks. She replied by telling me to “listen to the facts” and claimed that the barracks were of a “very high standard” and “in line with” public health guidance. Last week, the High Court ruled that the conditions at the barracks were unsafe and unlawful. The judge wrote:

“The ‘bottom line’ is that the arrangements at the Barracks were contrary to the advice of PHE”—

Public Health England. Today, at Home Office questions, I brought this to the Home Secretary’s attention, but she accused me of “misrepresentation” without specifying how anything I said was false. I ask for your guidance, Mr Deputy Speaker, on how to ensure that the record is corrected and that it was the Home Secretary, not me, who misrepresented the facts to the House.

Nigel Evans Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker
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First, I hope we are not saying that the Home Secretary intentionally misled the House, but I hear what the hon. Lady has had to say about the response that she received. There again, I am not responsible for those comments and I was not in the Chamber when they were made. However, those on the Treasury Bench will have heard the hon. Lady’s point of order, and if the Home Secretary needs to correct anything that was said in the Chamber, I hope that she will do so as quickly as is possible.

I now suspend the House for three minutes.

Sitting suspended.