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Points of Order

Volume 475: debated on Thursday 15 May 2008

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Two reports have been made available to the House this week from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. If the Leader of the House is going to refer to them in obviously pre-planted questions from Labour Members, it is right that she should fairly reflect what the report says. I would like to draw your attention to paragraph 79, where the commissioner says:

“I do not believe it would be fair or reasonable to criticise Mr. Osborne as a result.”

My hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr. Osborne) acted on advice from me and my office. The commissioner goes on to say in paragraph 80:

“The Opposition Chief Whip’s office took the right action in consulting the registrar and acted in good faith in interpreting the guidance which they believed they had received.”

When dealing with such matters, it is important that the Leader of the House reflects accurately, not selectively, what is in the report.

I am going to give a ruling on the matter. The Chief Whip has put the matter correctly, and I am going to close this matter down. The statement of the Leader of the House should be about the business for the next week, and perhaps the following week. I do give leeway at times because hon. Members may want to raise important issues, but it looks as though I shall have to make things tighter because such matters should not be brought before the House at business questions. There are other opportunities to do so.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. My recollection is that when an hon. Member wishes to criticise another hon. Member, it is the practice to inform the hon. Member that a criticism is about to be made. That is my understanding of the practice. If I am right, Mr. Speaker, would it be possible for you to reaffirm that rule?

I do reaffirm it. Normally, when an hon. Gentleman is mentioned by name, I usually ask whether the Member concerned has raised the matter with the hon. Gentleman to allow him to be in the Chamber. I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman; I reaffirm that.

Of course, this matter was slipped in by way of a report, and I might have to be tighter about business questions. The danger of being tighter is that legitimate matters that hon. Members might want to bring before the House, such as the bereavement of a famous football star, might not be allowed. I ask hon. Members to bear in mind what business questions are about.

On a separate point of order, Mr. Speaker. Again, I seek your guidance about ensuring that the record in Hansard is correct. Yesterday, the Prime Minister said that Her Majesty’s Opposition had opposed the introduction of flexible working. That is not correct; we did not vote against it, and I seek your advice on how we can ensure that the statements in the record are correct.

The best advice that I can give is, “Don’t bring that up in a point of order”, because it is not a point of order.

On a separate point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will recall the Opposition day debate on Burma yesterday. Because of the number of speakers, the Minister replying had only 10 minutes in which to try to respond to the whole debate. In the course of those 10 minutes, two hon. Members, whom I will not name, intervened and used up valuable time. Neither of those two Members had been present for any substantial part of the debate; they had come in a few minutes before the end of the debate and intervened. I am not sure whether that is a matter of order, but it is certainly a matter of convention in the House that Members do not behave in that way. I would appreciate it if you reasserted that convention.

In the situation that the hon. Gentleman describes, there is no breach of the rules. A Member coming into the Chamber late can seek to intervene. It is up to the Member addressing the House to decide whether they accept that intervention; it is not a matter for the Chair.