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Points of Order

Volume 464: debated on Monday 8 October 2007

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I seek your advice on what opportunities exist for the Home Secretary, whom I have contacted, to correct the impression that she gave at her party’s conference in Bournemouth—the impression that she does not hold our Territorial Army, on which her Government are heavily reliant, in the high esteem that is surely its due.

I have to say to the hon. Gentleman that I am not quite clear what he is referring to, but it is up to the Members concerned to respond to any remarks made outside the House.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. On Wednesday, the House will discuss the European treaty, and at 2.30 pm the Foreign Secretary will come before the Foreign Affairs Committee as a witness on the proposed treaty. In the Vote Office, a copy of the draft European treaty, which emerged last week after the meeting of a group of legal experts, is not available. It was dispatched to the Foreign Office on 5 October. The Foreign Office has been able to produce the draft declarations, but the protocols are not available, and nor is the latest draft of the treaty. It is unacceptable and sloppy that it is not available today. I wonder whether you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, could use your good offices to put a rocket under the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, so that it gets some of its Johnnies over here quickly with some copies.

I am not sure that the matter will be dealt with in quite the way that the hon. Gentleman suggests, but I am grateful to him for bringing it to the attention of the House. Clearly, all the proper papers should be available at the appropriate time for Members to look at, and I am sure that those on the Treasury Bench will have taken note of his point of order.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Given that I have an outbreak of bluetongue in my constituency and that I unfortunately failed to catch your eye following the statement, is there some way in which I can bring extra pressure to bear so that I might raise the matter on the Adjournment of the House?

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman was not called at the time of the statement, but he will appreciate that it went on for nearly an hour and that lots of hon. Members have an interest in these matters. He is an experienced Member of the House and he will know that there are other ways of raising these issues. The point that he has made has been noted, and I am sure that he will find other ways of raising the question of bluetongue in his constituency.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I fully appreciate the time constraints that the House, and therefore you, are under this afternoon. Can you ask the Speaker to contact the DEFRA ministerial team directly, to see whether it might be possible to have a subsidiary statement later in the week? The bluetongue boundary goes straight through the middle of my constituency, and I have constituents who are affected either way. It would be hugely important for the welfare of my constituents and indeed for the greater edification of the House if the Secretary of State for the relevant Department could be asked to come back here to discuss the matter further this week.

Sadly, I fear that these matters will continue for some time. The Secretary of State responsible for them has said that he will keep the House informed, and I am sure that that means that he will be coming back to the House on future occasions, on which the hon. and learned Gentleman will have the opportunity to put to him the serious problems in his constituency.

Further to the point of order made by my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Dr. Murrison), Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Army’s unofficial websites are buzzing with fury at the derogatory jibe made by the Home Secretary about the Territorial Army. There is a real problem with the structure of this place, in that when Ministers speak outside their briefs, they do not appear to be directly accountable to the House. By what mechanism can the Home Secretary be pressed on this matter? Six young Territorials have died on active service in the past two or three years, and a much larger number have been wounded. This remark has caused grave angst among people serving abroad and their families.

I understand the concern—[Interruption.] Order. I understand the concern that the hon. Gentleman raises. These are clearly important matters. Every Member of the House, whatever role they occupy, should be very careful about the language that they use, both inside and outside the House. At the end of the day, every right hon. and hon. Member is responsible for their own words, but they also eventually have to come back to the House to justify them.

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will notice that on page 2828 of the Order of Business for today, there are a number of written ministerial statements. No. 14 concerns recruitment to medical training. The House will probably know that Sir John Tooke’s report was released at midday today. I understand why no copies are available; I am not sure that he has had a printed copy yet. However, given that this report into what might gently be called the chaos of what happened in the summer also includes, as appendix 9, the Douglas review’s final report, which was not provided to the House in July, would it be possible to invite the Secretary of State for Health to consider making a statement tomorrow, as well as a written statement today, when the Tooke report is available, so that hon. Members can question him on what happened under the previous Secretary of State? This is an important issue, but the report is not available today for us to read.

I understand the hon. Gentleman’s concern about this matter. Whether to make written or oral statements is entirely a matter for the Minister responsible, but I know that this is an important issue and no doubt those on the Front Bench will have heard the hon. Gentleman’s point of order.