Points of Order

– in the House of Commons am 2:37 pm ar 22 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Debbie Abrahams Debbie Abrahams Llafur, Oldham East and Saddleworth 2:37, 22 Mai 2024

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Today, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the country’s equalities watchdog, launched an investigation into the Department for Work and Pensions over its potentially discriminatory treatment of sick and disabled people within the social security system. This is absolutely unprecedented. The investigation has been escalated following two years of the EHRC trying to agree remedial action with the Department, following the section 23 notice issued to it by the EHRC regarding potentially discriminatory action against disabled people.

The EHRC will investigate whether the Department has acted unlawfully by failing to protect disabled people over a number of years, including by failing to prevent their deaths by suicide or other means. With a recess fast approaching, the next DWP orals over a month away, and discussions this week in the Chamber about the importance of a duty of candour for all public servants, has Mr Speaker been given information about when we can expect to question the Government regarding this?

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

I thank the hon. Lady for giving notice of her point of order. She raises the issue of whether a Minister will come to the House to make a statement. I am not aware that Mr Speaker has received any such notification, but the hon. Lady has put her views on the record and I know that those on the Treasury Bench will feed back her comments.

Photo of Neil Coyle Neil Coyle Llafur, Bermondsey and Old Southwark

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker, the DWP’s permanent secretary told the Work and Pensions Committee this morning that he was unaware of the nature of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s challenge to his Department, but in January last year he told the Select Committee that the negotiations with EHRC were “going well” and an agreement would be secured. The Secretary of State also told the Committee in November 2022 that negotiations were “constructive” and that he expected agreement to be reached. It is wholly unprecedented that a full formal investigation is now under way.

The ministerial code makes clear that the Secretary of State is responsible for

“correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity”, and that

“Ministers should…require civil servants who give evidence before Parliamentary Committees…to be as helpful as possible in providing accurate, truthful and full information”.

Has the Secretary of State requested a statement to set out why the House has inadvertently not had access to an accurate representation of the negotiations? How can we as Members ensure that the House is updated on why those negotiations have failed and on the impact for disabled people and for the Treasury of this full EHRC investigation?

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for his point of order and for giving notice of it. Obviously the Chair is not responsible for the accuracy or otherwise of evidence given to Select Committees; again, I know those on the Treasury Bench will take on board his comments about a Minister coming to make a statement. The other way that he may wish to get further clarification is through the Select Committee itself, given what he has said about the evidence being given to it.

Photo of Thomas Tugendhat Thomas Tugendhat Minister of State (Home Office) (Security)

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. With apologies, I used some figures I was not entirely sure of. I have now had them confirmed and just wanted to correct the record very slightly. I said that there had been more than 600 arrests from those protests, and that is correct, but it was 15, not 50, under the Terrorism Act 2000. My apologies.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

I am grateful to the Minister for correcting the record so quickly. Thank you.