On a Point of Order

Last week serious hostilities erupted between the MP for Aleppo (sorry Taunton Deane) and the MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset. For once Rebecca Pow bit back at Ian Liddell Grainger for his constant parliamentary interventions on the subject of Taunton. Which not being in his constituency is generally considered bad form. Especially if you don’t notify the relevant MP first. His point below that Taunton Deane and West Somerset will soon be one District is true. At which point he will have a legitimate interest in the affairs of the council as a whole. Including Taunton. That point however, is after 2nd May 2019 when the new council comes into being.

Nevertheless last week Ian Liddell Grainger, in absentia, got a fair old battering on the floor of the House of Commons. So yesterday, as Hansard records, he was jumping to his own defence:

Ian Liddell-Grainger Conservative, Bridgwater and West Somerset 

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker.

I am sorry the Speaker is not in his place, but I seek your wisdom and learned advice on an issue, Mr Deputy Speaker. At the close of business questions to the Leader of the House on the Thursday before last my hon. Friend Rebecca Pow in a point of order raised a complaint about the contents of my interventions. She said I had made a serious allegation that had caused real distress in Taunton. It concerned a company which has now confirmed in the Somerset County Gazette, the local newspaper, that everything I said in this place was in fact correct, and I will be sending that information to the Speaker as soon as I can.

Sadly, I was not in the House to respond to my hon. Friend’s complaint, and if I had known I would have stayed. I never want to cause distress to any colleague, and I understand the Speaker made it clear that free speech must be used wisely, maturely and with sensitivity. I totally agree, and I always try to let parliamentary colleagues know in advance if I intend to mention their constituencies. I ask you, Mr Deputy Speaker, as Chairman of Ways and Means, if there might be any possibility of bringing this protocol up to date.

I have been lucky enough to have been called in almost all of the last 30 business questions to talk about Taunton Deane, and I have raised many serious matters about the government and governance of Taunton. All of them have been aired by me outside this place. I do not represent the people of Taunton, but Taunton’s new council, which is about to start, will soon control the lives of 35,000 of my constituents in West Somerset. Most of them were dead against this merger, and many of them are alarmed and very worried about what is happening in Taunton. Frankly, it is impossible for me to avoid talking about Taunton and still do an adequate job on behalf of my constituents.

The Speaker’s predecessor, the late Lord Martin of Springburn, ruled in 2001 that a Member should inform a neighbouring Member 24 hours in advance of making any intervention about the other’s constituency. Eighteen years is a very long time in politics, as we know, and times change. May I offer a suggestion: if I write to my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton Deane just once at the start of each parliamentary Session, will that maintain the spirit of the protocol while recognising my duty to my constituents? I will of course send any of my more interesting comments to the Speaker in advance, as I have tried usually to do.

Now Mr Deputy Speaker happens to be Lindsay Hoyle, a Labour MP and you can almost see the smirk playing on his lips in the latter part of his response. Which went thus:

Lindsay Hoyle Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means, Chair, Panel of Chairs, Chair, Standing Orders Committee

Thank you for that point of order. There was a lot there; what I would say is that I think neighbouring MPs need to work closely together and I think customs and practices of the House should continue. One letter would not suffice, as the hon. Gentleman well knows, but I am sure there must be a way forward. You have certainly put on record the part that wanted to be corrected, and in the spirit of being good neighbourly MPs, especially from the same party, there must be a way of whipping this forward, and maybe a cup of coffee between the two of you will be a better way forward than raising it in the House. I wish you both well.

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