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Points of Order

Volume 447: debated on Monday 19 June 2006

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Mr. Mackay), the Prime Minister said that changes in the treaty and the rules were needed now. Moreover, he also said that the constitutional treaty required unanimity. However, two countries have said no, which means that the treaty cannot be implemented into English law. In the light of my representations and my question to the Prime Minister, will you, Mr. Speaker, consider whether it is appropriate to maintain on the Order Paper a provision relating to the Second Reading of a Bill which, by the Prime Minister’s own admission, cannot proceed?

No, I will not enter that argument. I think that that was the hon. Gentleman’s way of putting the matter on the record.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, the relationship between this country’s judges and Her Majesty’s Government, no matter who is in power, is important for all our constituents. In the past couple of weeks the Home Secretary lambasted judges and the Lord Chancellor defended judges, before a junior Minister in the Department for Constitutional Affairs—the Lord Chancellor’s own Department—lambasted judges again. Have you, Mr. Speaker, received any representations from Ministers to come to this House and explain Government policy?

Is it on the same point? If so, there is nothing further to be said about it, because Ministers do not approach me on these matters.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The House is about to debate the very important Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill. May I ask your advice on an important point? The previous Secretary of State for Education and Skills promised us that

“Ofsted will carry out an urgent survey of existing vetting practice in a sample of schools, and it will report to me in the spring.”—[Official Report, 19 January 2006; Vol. 441, c. 969.]

She later stated that this was

“in order to inform policy development”.—[Official Report, 1 March 2006; Vol. 443, c. 24WS.]

We understand that that the Ofsted report is currently being circulated to the press under embargo. It is entitled: “Safeguarding children: an evaluation of procedures for checking staff appointed by schools”. Is not this House in a very difficult position if we are debating legislation regarding the safeguarding of children and registers of sex offenders but a crucial document commissioned by the previous Secretary of State, which is directly relevant to our proceedings, is already available to the honourable members of the press but is not available to this House so that we can draw on it as we debate the Bill? Do you have any advice, Mr. Speaker, about how we can ensure that our consideration of the Bill is properly informed by the report that Ministers commissioned specifically as background to it?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of his point of order. I listened carefully to what he said, but I must say to him that the timing of the publication of the report and the arrangements for embargoed copies are matters for Ofsted, and not something upon which the Chair can rule. However, it may be helpful to bear it in mind that today’s proceedings are on the Bill’s Second Reading. There will no doubt be ample opportunity to take account of this report during subsequent proceedings.