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Points of Order

Volume 459: debated on Wednesday 2 May 2007

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I should like to seek your advice on how to correct the parliamentary record. This is not the first time that we have heard misleading things from the Dispatch Box, but—

Order. The hon. Gentleman is a new Member and he must be given some—[Interruption.] Order. Some hon. Members have been here more than two years and do not know too much either. I am trying to say to him, in order to give him a chance to put his case, that “inadvertently misleading” is the best way to put it, after which we can move on.

This is not the first time that inadvertently misleading comments have been made from the Dispatch Box. The simple reality is that I did not receive an invitation to the ministerial meeting, and, as with the announcement on the children’s hospital, the first that I heard of the matter was in the newspaper, which is how the NHS is being run in Leeds. I seek your advice, Mr. Speaker, on how to change the parliamentary record, and I hope that the Prime Minister will see fit to issue an apology, although we know that he is not very good at that.

I say to the hon. Gentleman and the rest of the House that I am not responsible for what Ministers—Prime Ministers or any other Ministers—say from the Dispatch Box. However, the hon. Gentleman has managed to put the record straight. He has put the matter on the record, and if he says that he was not invited, that is good enough for me.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. When the right hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Hoon) was Secretary of State for Defence, on 3 November 2003, he told me in the House, speaking on the Iraqi army:

“It was not a mistake to disband the army”.—[Official Report, 3 November 2003; Vol. 412, c. 526.]

In an interview featured in today’s edition of The Guardian, he is reported to have said, “We certainly argued against”. His assessment was that it had been catastrophic, allowing Saddam—

Order. That is a point of debate. The hon. Gentleman has been here long enough to know that there are ways of putting the matter on the record—perhaps through an Adjournment debate—but I am not going to allow a point of order on it.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask for your ruling on the matter of sub judice? Both yesterday and today there have been references to the appalling judgment whereby two Libyan terror suspects are not being deported. Is it possible to ask on the Floor of the House why France, Germany and Holland are able to deport their terror suspects, but our courts do not allow us to do so?

My understanding is that perhaps a Minister did say that it was sub judice, but my ruling is that it is not sub judice, and the hon. Gentleman is therefore free to ask parliamentary questions, either written or oral, or to raise the matter on an Adjournment.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask your advice about a matter of which I have given you notice? Exactly a year ago today, I tabled a written parliamentary question about foreign nationals released from UK prisons who should have been considered for deportation. I received two holding replies and my office has chased the matter several times. I let the Immigration Minister know that I was going to raise this point of order and received some form of reply saying that it was not really a matter for the Minister but for the permanent secretary. A year on, what advice can you give me about ensuring that the Home Office responds more quickly? Specifically, can I bring the permanent secretary to this House to answer, or is it still the tradition of this House that Ministers should reply?

Ministers are responsible for giving answers to this House. I know it is hard, but the hon. Gentleman must be persistent and get to the Table Office. I also put it on the record that, as I have said before, I understand that the Home Office, in particular, has been inundated with hundreds of questions. It is my view that these questions are being put down by researchers who have nothing better to do with their day. If people in Members’ offices inundate Departments with questions—I am not suggesting that the hon. Gentleman does that—that puts the hon. Gentleman’s questions on to the back burner. I ask hon. Members to be careful about inundating the Home Office with questions. The hon. Gentleman must be persistent and keep putting these matters forward on behalf of his constituents. I hope that that is helpful.