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Points of Order

Volume 465: debated on Wednesday 24 October 2007

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am grateful for the opportunity to raise this point of order, of which I have given you prior notice. It relates to the important matter of the House’s ability to scrutinise the Executive. I see that there is no meeting of the Committee of Selection today. That means that it will not be possible to nominate Members to the three new Select Committees necessary following the machinery of government changes made by the Prime Minister in June.

The intention of the orders that the House passed on 25 July was to ensure continuity of scrutiny. The Leader of the House said on that occasion:

“We do not want the existing Committees to disappear with no effective Committees to replace them. That would create a gap of some time in the pattern of accountability of Government to Committees in respect of the three Departments, which would not be right.”—[Official Report, 25 July 2007; Vol. 463, c. 942.]

Those three Departments are, of course, the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, the Department for Children, Schools and Families and—from my own point of view as Chairman of the outgoing Trade and Industry Committee—the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. Can you advise me, Mr. Speaker, what options are available to Back Benchers on both sides of the House who are concerned about the problem to put it right, preferably in this Session, to ensure complete continuity or, if that is not possible—as I fear—at least to ensure that the matter is brought to a speedy resolution in the new Session?

I thank the Chairman of the Trade and Industry Committee for giving me notice of his point of order. I am aware that his Committee comes to an end at the end of this Session. It is for the Committee of Selection to nominate the members of the successor Committee. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman takes the matter up with the usual channels, and once again I thank him for giving me notice of his point of order.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can you confirm that it is both out of order and unparliamentary language for one hon. Member to accuse another of misleading the House, as the Prime Minister clearly did to the Leader of the Opposition during Question Time? Should not the hon. Member involved then apologise and withdraw the remark?

The right hon. Gentleman will have heard me call for temperate language to be used at all times. However, to help him, I have consulted the record and I am satisfied that the Prime Minister has said nothing unparliamentary.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Can I therefore take it that it is quite in order for Members of Parliament to accuse another Member of Parliament of misleading? If so, we will bear that in mind when we come to challenge the Government on so many occasions. [Interruption.]

Order. Mr. Skinner, I am sure that you are not going to help me. I can tell the Opposition Chief Whip that I understand his anxiety. All I can say is that he should read the Hansard record tomorrow. [Interruption.] Order. I ask the House to bear my words in mind. I have consulted the record, and I am satisfied that the Prime Minister—[Interruption.] Hon. Members must understand that I am in the Chair and that it is a rolling situation—[Interruption.] I have tried to tell the hon. Gentleman that I have consulted the record and am satisfied that the Prime Minister has said nothing unparliamentary. I am inviting the Chief Whip of Her Majesty’s Opposition to read the record, and tomorrow he is welcome to come back to this matter. He is of course always entitled to come and see me, as he does on a regular basis.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. That is very helpful to the House. Would it be possible for you to ask the Clerks, in consultation with the Editor of Hansard, to listen to the record and then give you advice, if necessary?

Order. I already have the record. The hon. Gentleman, who is a very fair individual, knows that I have consulted with the Clerk. I have given a perfectly good offer to his Chief Whip to look at the record tomorrow. Of course, we have a day to look at things calmly.

Would I be right in saying that, if anybody said that another hon. Member or right hon. Member was using the phrase “deliberately misleading the House”—and I see that the Clerks are nodding all together, in unison—that person would have to withdraw the remark? I have been around a long time, and I have tested the market several times—[Interruption.] And it is called experience, and it is worth a guinea a box!

The hon. Gentleman does not have to use a point of order to tell us that he has been around a long time. Don’t I know that? I used to sit with him below the Gangway.

We now go to the ten-minute Bill. I call Mr. Ian Cawsey.