Points of Order

– in the House of Commons am 4:30 pm ar 27 Tachwedd 2023.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice) 4:30, 27 Tachwedd 2023

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I have advised the respective offices of the Members of this House whom I will refer to in this point of order.

It is extremely sad that the Home Secretary has not the guts to admit to his appalling remark made about my Stockton North constituency from the Front Bench and apologise to the people I have the privilege of representing. There was quite a chain of events last week. After I raised the matter on the Floor of the House, the Home Secretary first denied he had said anything at all. The Government then sent out the Tory party chairman, Mr Holden, to tell the media that no words had been uttered from the Treasury Bench. Next up, the Leader of the House said she had been told by the Home Secretary that he had not said anything and she believed him. She did not help matters by referring to Billington instead of Billingham.

The Home Secretary clearly took them both for fools, as he later admitted his foul language but tried to minimise the damage to his reputation by claiming his remark was aimed at me. Well, that is all right then, but it is untrue and has been shown to be untrue. My thanks go to The Mirror and the other wizards out there who have proved that to be the case.

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

Order. I am listening carefully to the hon. Gentleman, who used the word “untrue.” I think he could find another way of expressing that, as I am sure he would not wish to say that a right hon. Member of this House had uttered something that is untrue.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

Madam Deputy Speaker, you offer me a considerable challenge. Perhaps the Home Secretary has inadvertently misled people across the country in relation to this particular matter.

This matters: people take notice of what the Home Secretary says and his talking down of Stockton and Teesside can have consequences. He may have whispered in your ear, Madam Deputy Speaker, but can you advise me on whether you have any powers to order him to return to the Dispatch Box to apologise in person for insulting Stockton, rather than hiding behind the half-truths uttered on his behalf by an official?

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

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. He will recall that I answered a similar point of order last week, when he raised one aspect of this matter. At that point, I reminded all Members of the need for good temper and moderation in the language they use in this Chamber.

The hon. Gentleman asks me if I have power to require the Home Secretary to return to the Chamber. I do not need such a power; the Home Secretary has voluntarily returned to the Chamber, and if he would care to make a point of order, further to that point of order, the Chamber will hear him.

Photo of James Cleverly James Cleverly The Secretary of State for the Home Department

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. For the avoidance of doubt, Alex Cunningham accused me of making derogatory remarks about his constituency. My response, issued through my office, was that I did not, would not and would never make such comments about his constituency. What I said was a comment about him. My apology was for using unparliamentary language, but I will make it absolutely clear, for the avoidance of doubt and with no ambiguity, that I did not, would not—

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

Order. Alex Cunningham asked the Home Secretary to come back to the Chamber to issue an apology, and he is doing so. [Hon. Members: “No, he isn’t.”] Enough. Hon. Gentlemen ought to hear what the Home Secretary has to say and not shout from a sedentary position—please.

Photo of James Cleverly James Cleverly The Secretary of State for the Home Department

I know what I said. I rejected the accusation that I criticised the hon. Gentleman’s constituency. My criticism, which I made from a sedentary position about him, used inappropriate language, for which I apologise. But I will not accept that my criticism was of his constituency, because it was not.

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

Order. This is not a debate, and the matter is now closed. The Home Secretary has rightly come to the Chamber. He has apologised to the hon. Member for Stockton North. That is an apology rightly due to him, and I hope he will accept it.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

I do not require any apology for an insult against me, because it did not happen. You have just intimated, Madam Deputy Speaker, that the Home Secretary has apologised to me. He has not apologised to me. He has not apologised to the people of my constituency. He has apologised for using unparliamentary language.

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

The right hon. Gentleman has issued an apology. I require an apology for the use of unparliamentary language, and the right hon. Gentleman, the Home Secretary, has given that apology. It is my understanding that he has also apologised to the hon. Gentleman—whether the hon. Gentleman accepts it or not is a matter for him. I require an apology, the Home Secretary has issued that apology, and the matter is now closed. I must say that the people who elected us to this place expect us to concentrate now on the very serious matters that we have been discussing and that we are going on to discuss.

Photo of Shaun Bailey Shaun Bailey Ceidwadwyr, West Bromwich West

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. In response to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor’s autumn statement, Rachel Reeves, whom I have informed of this point of order, stated that the economy would be “£40 billion smaller” in 2027 than the Chancellor forecast in March. The Office for Budget Responsibility has stated that in fact in 2027 the economy will be £15 billion larger than the Chancellor stated in March, so there is a £55 billion gap between Labour’s words and economic reality. Let me ask a procedural point. If the right hon. Lady were a Minister, we could call for an urgent question or demand a statement, but how can Members of this House compel her to come here to correct the record and apologise for inadvertently misleading Members of this House?

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

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s point of order and for his having given me notice that he intended to make it. Will he confirm that he has informed the right hon. Lady of his intention to raise this matter?

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

I see that he is nodding to say that he has informed her. I am glad that he has done so. I have no ability to require a shadow spokesman to come to the House. It is Ministers who are responsible for answering to the House. I also say to the hon. Gentleman that it is not for the Chair to adjudicate on the interpretation of statistics. One person’s statistic is another person’s non-statistic. I have discerned that over many years in this Chamber. The hon. Gentleman has used the opportunity of a point of order to make his point.

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood Ceidwadwyr, Bournemouth East

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am grateful that the Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, my right hon. Friend Mr Mitchell, is still in his place because, as the urgent question illustrated, there is huge concern about unfolding events in the middle east. In the spirit of the updates and briefings to the House about Ukraine, would it be in order for the House to request regular statements on ongoing and unfolding events in the middle east, in order that it can reflect the concerns expressed from across the House, as illustrated by the responses to the urgent question?

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

I thank the right hon. Gentleman, but I think he knows that was not a point of order for the Chair but a question he can ask of the business managers and the Leader of the House on Thursday mornings, when the Leader of the House takes questions. I see that the Minister is eager to answer the point. It is not a point of order, but given the sensitivity of the subject that we are discussing, I will allow the Minister to make his point.

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa)

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I assure my right hon. Friend Mr Ellwood that we in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office are the servants of the House. We will do anything that the House requests in respect of fulfilling the role that he has identified, which we fulfilled in the early days of the Ukrainian war.

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

I have never known the Minister not to relish an opportunity to come to the Dispatch Box and I am sure that we will hear from him many times in forthcoming weeks. Let us hope that it will be with good news, to counteract the bad news that he has had to deal with today and on other days.