Points of Order

Wednesday 16th May 2018

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber

Department for Transport
Andy McDonald Portrait Andy McDonald (Middlesbrough) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard

rose—

Mr Speaker Hansard
16 May 2018, 1:50 p.m.

I will take the point of order from the shadow Transport Secretary. We are very pressed for time as a result of the statement and the brouhaha surrounding its handling. I am keen to progress, but not before hearing the hon. Gentleman.

Andy McDonald Portrait Andy McDonald (Middlesbrough) (Lab) - Hansard
16 May 2018, 1:50 p.m.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Thank you for indulging me. Words are very important. In response to the question raised by the hon. Member for Edinburgh West (Christine Jardine) about the provision of the statement prior to its making, the response was that Opposition parties had been provided with a copy of the statement. That is simply not the case. I asked for a copy of the statement and I was provided with it after the Secretary of State sat down. For clarity, I had sight of it with the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Alan Brown) for minutes—30 minutes—before that statement started. I simply ask that the Secretary of State comes to the Dispatch Box to clarify the position and to apologise for giving the wrong impression.

Mr Speaker Hansard
16 May 2018, 1:50 p.m.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. If the Secretary of State wishes to respond, he can.

Chris Grayling Portrait The Secretary of State for Transport (Chris Grayling) - Parliament Live - Hansard
16 May 2018, 1:57 p.m.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. As I indicated to you earlier, my officials provided a copy to the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Andy McDonald) so that he could prepare his response to my statement in good time—about 45 minutes, in fact, before the statement started. I judge that to be the best way of approaching what is a market-sensitive announcement, and it did not require me to do what is done, for example, on Budget day, when no advance notice is provided.

Mr Speaker Hansard
16 May 2018, 1:50 p.m.

I think that this matter is best continued, if discussion on it is required, outside the Chamber. I have made my position clear on the subject of the statement being made today. I say this to the Secretary of State, who is not responsible for scheduling: there will be people who feel very unhappy that on a day when we have an Opposition day debate on Grenfell, which is heavily subscribed, a very substantial amount of time has been taken up, inevitably, by this statement. People will be very unhappy about that. I say to Members on the Treasury Bench that they ought to think about these matters extremely carefully from now on, because my priority is to defend the rights of the House of Commons, and I will do that against all comers. I have never been worried about the verdict of the Executive, and I am not going to start now.

Christine Jardine Portrait Christine Jardine (Edinburgh West) (LD) - Parliament Live - Hansard

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Secretary of State has again said that he provided copies of the statement. The Liberal Democrats asked for a briefing with him so that we could have some understanding of the statement that was going to be made, but this was refused. I gleaned my information from a reporter on the way into the Chamber, when they said to me, “You’ll be talking about trains today.”

Mr Speaker Hansard
16 May 2018, 2 p.m.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her attempted follow-up point of order, and I intend no discourtesy to her—she is an extremely assiduous Member of this House, but she is also a relatively new Member and therefore what I am about to say is intended in no sense as a discourtesy but as a clarification. Statements are made available to Opposition Front-Bench teams as a matter of courtesy, and in my experience that has always been extended to the principal Opposition party and ordinarily to the third party. I must emphasise to her, even if it is disappointing to her, that it is up to a Minister to determine to which Opposition parties to make the statement available. Beyond the official Opposition there are a number of Opposition parties, but that, I am afraid, is emphatically not a matter for the Chair; rather, it is for Members. I appeal to all those involved henceforth to seek to agree these matters outside the Chamber in the spirit that the House and—at least as importantly—the public expect: namely, in the spirit of mutual respect.

Chris Bryant Portrait Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab) - Hansard
16 May 2018, 2:09 p.m.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker—I am sorry, I have largely lost my voice; there may be many who rejoice. I am enormously grateful to you for your statement yesterday in response to my point of order the day before. I meant no disrespect to any of the House authorities, and I do not think that anyone is attempting to mislead anybody at all, but the matter of the general data protection regulation and how it affects Members of Parliament is a complicated business. I am conscious too that the law has not fully gone through Parliament, so there are elements on which people cannot yet give solid advice, but lots of MPs have approached me over the past 24 hours concerned about what they should and should not be doing.

Members want to do the right thing by the law, but they also want to do the right thing by their constituents, and lots of staff have had the fear of God put into them about what might happen if we get this wrong. I wonder whether you might consider, once the law has gone through Parliament, bringing in the Information Commissioner to host a session for all Members so that we can hear from the horse’s mouth the clearest possible advice and thereby do the best by our constituents and by the law. I understand that political parties may be providing advice as well, but in the end we all share the same ambition, and it would be better if it were done with all Members.

Mr Speaker Hansard
16 May 2018, 2:09 p.m.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. He makes a very reasonable and fair suggestion. I thank him both for making it and for doing so in the terms he has. I do not want to dwell on the matter, but I think there might have been—I am learning as we go along—some confusion as a result of differences between briefings from House officials, which will have been volunteered in good faith and with some expertise, on the one hand, and those proffered by political parties, on the other. I say that on the basis of people having told me of different briefings they have received.

Any confusion is inadvertent but nevertheless unfortunate. I cannot guarantee that the Information Commissioner would be willing to come to the House for a meeting hosted by me, because the occupant of that office does not answer to me, but it is a constructive suggestion, and yes I am happy to make that approach, and I hope it will go ahead. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is satisfied for now, on the back of yesterday, that nobody is disputing—I certainly would not—his complete honesty. There is some confusion and an argument about what is and is not the case, but he is a very distinguished parliamentarian, and I will always treat him with respect.