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Points of Order

Volume 461: debated on Thursday 21 June 2007

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will know, and Members will have observed, that among the written ministerial statements to be made today, the eighth, listed under the name of the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, is about the “Care Matters” White Paper. When Members tried to collect the paper earlier—indeed, at 11.50—this morning, it was not available, yet it was released to the press at 11.30. That clearly shows disrespect for the House and it does not allow Members to consider these matters as carefully as they should be able to. I know that in the past, Mr. Speaker, you have taken a very dim view of these matters. What action can I take—or, more appropriately, can you take—to address the problem?

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am inspired to raise a similar point of order. Before the statement on Tuesday, the shadow Defence team was promised it would have two hours to examine the media report arising out of the debacle of the capture of the sailors and the selling of their stories. In the end, we had only 45 minutes, so we really wonder what these assurances are worth.

That is a matter to do with the Government, so I advise the hon. Gentleman to take it up with them. Perhaps the Leader of the House will remark on the matter.

Further to the first point of order, Mr. Speaker, I am happy to take up the matter. My experience is that when this happens it is usually a mistake—albeit a mistake that should not have happened—but I will look further into it. Further to the second point of order, the rules or Cabinet Office guidelines suggest that just 30 minutes’ notice should be given of oral statements. Personally, I have always regarded that as inadequate for both sides of the House, as do my right hon. Friends. It is sometimes not possible to provide information other than at very short notice, but I will certainly take the matter up with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Back in 2002, I asked the Ministry of Defence whether it would agree regularly to place in the Library the monthly manning report, which is relevant to the debate that we are about to commence. I am grateful to the Minister of State for ensuring that this document finally arrived in the Library—just an hour or so ago. It is distressing, however, that before a debate of this nature, information is not made available to Members more timeously. I wonder whether you could use your good offices, Mr. Speaker, to persuade Ministers to make information more readily available.

“More readily available” is a big notion, is it not? What exactly does it mean? Some people might say that it means a week’s notice while others might say it means three weeks’ notice. The fact of the matter is that the hon. Gentleman has the information before him and is able to participate in the debate. I recall that when I was a Back Bencher I was given information even less than an hour beforehand, but I was still able to make a contribution. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be able to do so as well.