POINT OF ORDER – STATUS OF BACKBENCH DEBATE VOTES – 18 March 2014
Chris Bryant: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Two years ago, on 12 March 2012, this House unanimously agreed a motion calling on the Government to introduce precisely the kind of Magnitsky list that the Leader of the House just mentioned. At the time, the Government said they were not going to oppose the motion – indeed, those in the Government shouted "aye" along with the hon. Member for Esher and Walton (Dominic Raab), who had introduced the motion. Yet despite it having been unanimously agreed, the Leader of the House has today, as far as I can understand it, reneged on that position. Far from being more robust with Russia, we are being less robust today than we were two years ago. Have I got that right?
Mr Speaker: Far be it from me to say whether anybody has reneged or not, although I note in passing that to renege, whether disagreeable, not least in this case to the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), is not unparliamentary – nothing unparliamentary has happened. He is a considerable expert in parliamentary procedure and has just written a two-volume tome on the history of Parliament. He may well be very dissatisfied, but he has vented his concerns and they are on the record.
Dr Julian Lewis rose –
Mr Speaker: Clearly the hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) is most agitated also to raise a point of order, and we had better hear from him.
Dr Lewis: Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Yesterday, you noticed my eccentric gesticulations and today you note my great agitation. I think the point raised by the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) has wide ramifications, similar to those we were concerned about yesterday: what is the status of motions passed, either in substantive votes or nem. con. votes in this House, when they are the result of the Backbench Business Committee agreeing that something should be debated and voted on? There is something a bit wrong when the House passes a motion and the Government appear to take no notice of it. What is the point of having a vote in that case?
Mr Speaker: The hon. Gentleman has opened veritably a can of parliamentary worms. The issue he raises is important, and I do not seek to brush it off for one moment, but it is not a matter of order for the Chair. What I say to him in all seriousness and solemnity, recognising that the concern he expresses is probably more widely shared, is that ultimately it is for the House to decide what is the meaning of a particular decision taken. That is not a matter for the Chair but it is a matter for the House, and it is a point to which he and others can return if they so wish, but we cannot dilate upon it now. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Rhondda could if he were in order, but he is not and so he will not. We will leave it there for now.