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Points of Order

Volume 488: debated on Tuesday 3 March 2009

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday, you made a ruling that Ministers should

“reply in a prompt and full manner.”—[Official Report, 2 March 2009; Vol. 488, c. 587.]

On 19 January, on behalf of my constituent Mr. Edward Orgill, I wrote to the Chancellor’s office about the important matter of guarantees for charitable deposits. Having received no reply, I sent a follow-up letter on 6 February. Still having received no reply, I telephoned the Chancellor’s office last Friday, 27 February. I was informed that Lord Myners was now dealing with the matter and was about to sign my letter that day, and that it would be e-mailed to me as a PDF file and also posted. As of this morning, I have still not received that important reply. At 2.9 pm today I telephoned the Chancellor’s private office, informing him out of courtesy that I would be raising the matter with you, Mr. Speaker. At 2.16 pm, just seven minutes after that call, I received a telephone call from the Chancellor’s private office informing me that the reply could be e-mailed over straight away, and that a hard copy was in the post.

I understand that Lord Myners might be sorting out people’s pension arrangements at this time—and possibly even his own—but surely it should not take points of order to be raised with you, Mr. Speaker, for Ministers to reply, given your ruling of only yesterday that they should reply in a “prompt and full manner”.

At least the hon. Gentleman seems to have got a result by threatening the Department that he would raise a point of order with me. I hope that all Ministers act in kind when they are threatened with a point of order on the Floor of the House.

I assure the House that I meet the Chief Whip regularly and I shall raise the matter with him. It is not right that hon. Members of all parties, who pursue matters on behalf of their constituents, should be delayed unnecessarily.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday, at the end of Report stage of the Political Parties and Elections Bill, the Deputy Speaker allowed a vote on a new clause that a Back-Bench colleague had tabled, which was not in a group of amendments that had been reached when the guillotine fell. I make no complaint about the Chair’s discretion to use the power that Standing Orders permit. However, I ask for your guidance about when the power can be used, given that until yesterday, whenever colleagues asked whether we could vote on an Opposition or Back-Bench new clause or amendment that would not have been reached by the time the guillotine fell, they were told that it was not possible, and that there was no precedent for it.

How, therefore, are colleagues to know whether an item that has not been reached by the time the guillotine falls will be called? How will they know that there will be a vote? How can they express any view about whether there should be a vote? Above all, how can we have a transparent system, whereby we know whether we can vote on business that is coming down the track, and—more importantly—whether we can debate it? My last point—[Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] Everybody’s complaint on Report is that we do not have enough time for Opposition or Back-Bench new clauses or amendments. There is a wish for more time for debate, but not for voting, with no chance to debate.

Order. Let me put it on the record, in case there is any doubt, that the Deputy Speaker was acting on my instructions. I used the powers that the House gave me to allow a vote to take place. I do not need to give reasons for that, but I expect hon. Members to use some logic. Only a few weeks ago, a statutory instrument went through the House that allowed the addresses of Members of Parliament to be kept private. There was a debate on the matter, and when the amendment was tabled, I considered it right and fitting for parliamentary candidates to have that privacy. After all, as soon as a general election is called, every hon. Member becomes a parliamentary candidate. That is simple. The hon. Gentleman asks how Members will know when there is to be a vote. If any hon. Member comes to me or the occupant of the Chair and asks, “Is there going to be a vote on that amendment?” sometimes I say yes and sometimes I say no. It could not be simpler.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wonder whether you can help me. Later this afternoon or this evening, we will debate motions 5 to 12—eight motions on establishing regional Select Committees. Those of us who oppose the principle of such Committees, and are against having one for our own region, will wish to vote against each and every one of those motions. However, that would detain the House for two hours. Is there any way that the questions can be grouped, if the House agrees?