Speaker stops question on Mark Spencer’s promotion amid Islamophobia allegations
A Labour MP was stopped by the Commons Speaker from raising concerns about a Government minister facing accusations of Islamophobia.
Sir Lindsay Hoyle ruled Prime Minister’s Questions was “not the appropriate place” for Labour MP Imran Hussain to address the allegations linked to Commons Leader Mark Spencer.
Mr Spencer was moved from chief whip to his new post in Boris Johnson’s minor reshuffle, but his continued role in Government raised eyebrows as he continues to be investigated over his role in Tory MP Nusrat Ghani’s allegations of Islamophobia.
Leader of the House of Commons Mark Spencer (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Wire)
The Prime Minister commissioned an investigation to “establish the facts” regarding Ms Ghani’s claim that she was told by a whip her dismissal as a minister in 2020 was partly because of concerns about her “Muslimness”.
Mr Spencer identified himself as the whip but denied her accusation.
At Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Hussain (Bradford East) said: “The member for Sherwood is currently under investigation for Islamophobia following accusations he told a fellow MP that her being a Muslim was making colleagues uncomfortable.
“How did the Government punish this behaviour? With a promotion that puts the accused member in charge of the complaints procedure. And, of course, we all know that the Prime Minister himself is no stranger to derogatory remarks about Muslim women, so let me…”
Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons (House of Commons/PA) (PA Wire)
Interrupting him, Sir Lindsay said: “This is not the appropriate place to be raising this.”
As a result, Mr Johnson was not required to answer Mr Hussain’s question.
A House of Commons spokeswoman said: “Mr Speaker was following the convention set out in Erskine May that members should not make accusations about the conduct of other members as a ‘sideswipe’ as part of a question.
“In other words, any accusation about a member’s conduct should only be done in the form of a substantive motion, and not just in passing.”
Nusrat Ghani (Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament) (PA Media)
Erskine May – which outlines the parliamentary rules – states: “If a member wishes to pursue accusations of a kind not permitted because of these principles, the proper course is to table a distinct motion about the conduct of the other member.”
A Labour spokesman said the rules of the House are a “matter for the Speaker” when asked during a briefing with reporters whether Mr Hussain was right to raise the issue in the Commons.
The spokesman said: “The rules of the House are a matter for the Speaker and the Speaker made a ruling on that at the time, in terms of bringing the question to a halt. So, I’m not going to… comment on the decisions that the Speaker has made.”
Pressed on whether Labour supports Mr Hussain asking those questions, he said: “Do I think more broadly it is a legitimate line of questioning to ask about Islamophobia within the Conservative Party? Of course, I do.
“Whether Prime Minister’s Question Time was the right place to do it… as I say, that’s a matter for the Speaker.”