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Point of Order

Volume 447: debated on Tuesday 20 June 2006

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday at Home Office questions, I asked the Home Secretary whether he had read a report by the head of finance of the Association of Chief Police Officers, which warns that police force amalgamations will contribute to a funding gap equivalent to the loss of 25,000 police officers. The Home Secretary replied that he had not read the report, but that he had

“discussed it in detail with the authors”.—[Official Report, 19 June 2006; Vol. 447, c. 1061.]

He also said that the example that I had given was the “worst and most extreme” option. The author of the report is Dr. Tim Brain, the chief constable of Gloucestershire, who yesterday confirmed that at no time has the Home Secretary discussed the report with him. Indeed, he has not met the Home Secretary. He also confirmed that the figure of 25,000 police officer losses cannot be regarded as worst case.

The Home Secretary has already had to apologise to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the House for providing misleading information relating to foreign national prisoners. He has also made the extraordinary concession to the Leader of the House that Home Office answers are not always factual. I appreciate that the Home Secretary’s serial incompetence is not a matter for you, Mr. Speaker, but is it not a serious matter when he, even inadvertently, misrepresents a report that is of the greatest concern to all hon. Members and our constituents? Will you offer him an opportunity to come to the House to correct his mistake?

I think that the hon. Gentleman is trying to put the matter on the record. That is one thing, but he will understand that the Chair cannot be drawn into these arguments. There are occasions on which a Minister is due to come back and rectify a matter, but the hon. Gentleman has not only pointed out a mistake that the Minister has made; he has made an attack during a point of order. The best thing that I can do is not to be drawn into the matter at all.