Monday 26th February 2024

(4 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Hansard Text Watch Debate
17:21
Jonathan Gullis Portrait Jonathan Gullis (Stoke-on-Trent North) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. On 22 February, at 10.56 pm, in response to an accusation that Labour MPs had slowed down the day’s proceedings last Wednesday, the hon. Member for Rhondda (Sir Chris Bryant) posted this statement on social media:

“Labour did not slow it down.”

In an interview with Cathy Newman published on YouTube yesterday, he was asked:

“Were you put up to that filibuster, or did you take it upon yourself?”.

He responded:

“A bit of both if I’m honest.”

Mr Deputy Speaker, as you will know, the hon. Member for Rhondda was, until recently, the Chair of the Committee on Standards, and must surely be expected to hold himself to the highest standard of behaviour, including in relation to honesty. He even wrote a book called “Code of Conduct: Why We Need to Fix Parliament–and How to Do It”. Well, he certainly showed us how to do it last week. Can you advise me on what mechanisms are available for an immediate investigation of the hon. Member for Rhondda for bringing this House into disrepute?

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker (Sir Roger Gale)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of this point of order. The ten-minute rule, giving Members leave to introduce a Bill, limits speeches for and against to 10 minutes each, and those speeches are normally heard without interruption. It is not in order for Members of this House to act in an obstructive manner by speaking at inordinate length, which is what filibustering means. According to Hansard, the speech by the hon. Member for Rhondda (Sir Chris Bryant) took no more than seven minutes. As is clear from column 720, the Chair was, as always, listening carefully to that speech to make sure that it was in order—and for verification, I was the Chair. It is not for the Chair to go into Member’s motives for speaking in the House, or the motives behind when and for how long they choose to speak, as long as when they do, they remain within the rules.

Clive Lewis Portrait Clive Lewis (Norwich South) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Shell plc, a British company, has proposed the sale of its Nigerian subsidiary, the Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, raising serious concerns that its environmental responsibilities and obligations in the Niger delta could be evaded. This is one of the most significant business and human rights issues of our generation. Shell is responsible for some of the most brutal, violent, and repressive actions by a company, in this case against communities in the Niger delta. This includes complicity in the execution of the Ogoni nine, including writer and human rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa. Shell’s exit from the Niger delta could set a precedent for other British multinationals operating in the global south that may be seeking to evade responsibility for environmental destruction, leaving communities with little recourse to justice. In 2013, the UK committed to enforcing the United Nations principles on business and human rights. I ask your advice about how this House can ensure that the Government do not allow Shell to leave behind an environmental catastrophe as it seeks to exit the Niger delta.

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving notice of his point of order. As he will be aware, that is not a matter for the Chair. He has until 12.30 pm on Wednesday next week to table an oral question to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office for Tuesday 11 March, and of course, as an experienced Member, he knows how to table an early-day motion, and how to apply for a general debate in Westminster Hall, a half-hour Adjournment debate or a Backbench Business debate. The Table Office will be pleased to advise him on other options.

Dawn Butler Portrait Dawn Butler (Brent Central) (Lab)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I seek your guidance. On 29 November 2023, I wrote to the Prime Minister asking him to correct an oversight in the autumn statement. Although it included welcome additional funding to tackle antisemitism, it did not include an announcement of additional funding to tackle Islamophobia. Three months later, I have yet to receive a response. The Government seem to have a blind spot when it comes to Islamophobia—they cannot even mention the word—and what happened at the weekend makes that especially concerning. They have still not filled the role of independent adviser on Islamophobia, and they refuse to say the word. May I have your guidance on how I might secure a reply from the Prime Minister, so that we can all work urgently to stamp out Islamophobia, antisemitism and all forms of hate speech?

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Lady will be well aware that the Chair is not responsible for ministerial correspondence or responses. I seem to recall that in the dim and distant past, when I was on the Back Benches, I waited quite a long time for ministerial replies myself. I am quite sure that the usual channels will have heard what she had to say. If she wishes for further advice, I am sure that the Table Office will be most willing to help.

David Simmonds Portrait David Simmonds (Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I seek your guidance. My parliamentary assistant, Jill Brown, has just completed 50 years of continuous service to Members of this House. She joined the House in 1974, in the service of John MacGregor, and subsequently worked for Angela Watkinson and Nick Hurd, my predecessor. I seek your guidance on how the House may best acknowledge that exemplary record of service.

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

Yet again, that is not a point of order for the Chair. However, I am sure that the whole House will wish to join in congratulating and thanking Jill Brown for her long and distinguished service to several Members of this House.

Paul Holmes Portrait Paul Holmes (Eastleigh) (Con)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Following the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis), the hon. Member for Rhondda (Sir Chris Bryant) not only said,

“A bit of both if I’m honest”,

but,

“I think the whole day was grubby and we need a system which doesn’t allow people to manipulate the rules to be able to get what they want.”

The host of “Channel 4 News” then said that that was exactly what Labour did, to which the hon. Member for Rhondda simply laughed, without adding anything further. We all saw in this Chamber a number of spurious points of order, and the hon. Gentleman’s response to the ten-minute rule motion. The Leader of the Opposition denied that any parliamentary chicanery took place. That is clearly not true, so how do I urge the Leader of the Opposition or the hon. Member for Rhondda to come back to the House and correct the record to journalists relating to statements that the hon. Gentleman made outside this House?

Roger Gale Portrait Mr Deputy Speaker
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will go out on a limb and say that we probably all agree that the House did not cover itself in glory in that debate last week. That said, the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Paul Holmes) is well aware that the Chair, and indeed officers of the House, are not responsible for remarks made in the media outside the House, so I am afraid that on that score, I cannot assist him further.