Skip to main content

Points of Order

Volume 492: debated on Wednesday 6 May 2009

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You kindly granted an Adjournment debate in Westminster Hall for 90 minutes this morning on the important subject of the further education funding crisis. I wonder whether you are aware that no Minister was present for the start of that debate, that there was no Parliamentary Private Secretary either, and that the officials arrived 20 minutes late. Is there any way that this sort of insult to the House, with no Minister present for the start of the debate, can be addressed in future?

I am not very happy about the report that the hon. Gentleman has made, and I must look into it. Ministers should always be courteous to the House and ensure that they turn up for debates. We all have to be good timekeepers in this House, and there is no reason why Ministers should not be good timekeepers.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In answer to a parliamentary question in March, the Minister for Housing told me that since 1 January, 180 households were being helped under the mortgage rescue scheme and that

“500 applications have been made, resulting in approximately 180 cases meeting the eligibility criteria.”—[Official Report, 12 March 2009; Vol. 489, c. 747W.]

Subsequently, we learn this month from departmental figures that between January and March this year just one family across the whole country has been assisted in that way. Do Ministers have a responsibility in this regard, and is it incumbent on them to give truthful and accurate answers to parliamentary questions?

Every hon. Member, including Ministers, will be truthful. It is up to Ministers how they answer parliamentary questions.

Further to the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning), Mr. Speaker. In an excellent debate, I was extremely surprised, as were other hon. Members, to hear in response to a probing question from my hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes) that officials in the Department for Children, Schools and Families were aware of the Learning and Skills Council funding debacle, but that the Minister for Schools and Learners was unaware of it for a month. Surely we should have a statement and a debate on the Floor of the House.

I managed to give the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning) a debate for 90 minutes, so we have been doing well—but don’t push your luck.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The parliamentary ombudsman, Mrs. Abraham, has issued a section 10(3) report in respect of the Government’s response to her original report on Equitable Life. As you will know, Mr. Speaker, that is almost an unprecedented step for her, which she has taken because of the anger that she feels over the Government’s lamentable response. Is there anything that you could do to ensure that the parliamentary ombudsman’s voice is heard in this matter?

There is nothing to stop the hon. Gentleman from trying for an Adjournment debate on this matter.