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Points of Order

Volume 495: debated on Monday 29 June 2009

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Notwithstanding the need for robust debate, is it in order for the Prime Minister to put words into Members’ mouths, when I had failed to suggest, because it is not true, that one side was particularly culpable of the offences scandal?

I think the hon. Gentleman might be seeking to lure me into a continuation of the debate. He is not an unduly sensitive flower, and I am sure he will rest content with the proceedings as they have taken place.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I raise with you a serious issue, of which I have given prior notification both to you and to the Member concerned? Last week, without informing me, the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush (Mr. Slaughter) organised an open meeting in my constituency for residents of two of my constituency estates, entitled “Hands off our homes”. The invitation was signed “Andy Slaughter MP” and it declared a number of falsehoods in relation to alleged plans “to demolish the estates and force everyone to move”, which is wholly untrue. This is an outrageous interference in another Member’s constituency, and I would be grateful for clarification on how we are to uphold the conventions and courtesies of the House.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me advance notice of his point of order. Right hon. and hon. Members should respect the existing boundaries of each other’s constituencies; they should not venture into neighbouring constituencies in anticipation of future boundary changes—but which boundary changes have not taken place—without prior notification of the hon. Member concerned. The hon. Member for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush (Mr. Slaughter) is in his place, and I feel sure that he has noted what has been said.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I raise with you a point of order that I raised on several occasions with your predecessor, relating to the increasingly casual speed at which Departments fail to answer parliamentary questions and correspondence? Will you agree that, when it comes to the courtesies of the House, there is no more important courtesy than answering questions of hon. Members from all parts of the House? May I ask you if you would make clear your view—if, indeed, it is the case—that parliamentary answers to correspondence and questions should be prompt and sent on the due date to Members?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order, and I can tell the House that I agree with what has just been said. Timely replies to parliamentary questions are of the utmost importance, and, if the hon. Gentleman attends to future proceedings of this House and to public debate, as I feel sure he will, he may discover that there will be further news on that matter erelong.

Further to the point of order made by the hon. Member for Hammersmith and Fulham (Mr. Hands), Mr. Speaker. For the record, I asked him to tell me when he would make his point of order and the details of it, but he refused. I am quite happy to deal with the points that he has raised and to deal with them with you, Mr. Speaker. However, that point of order is a trick that the hon. Gentleman tried repeatedly and regularly with the previous Speaker until he became bored with the issue. Those matters, which the hon. Gentleman deals with in his capacity as campaigner for the candidate in Hammersmith and Fulham, a constituency that the hon. Gentleman has abandoned, should be left to his other job outside the House, not to the job that he does here.

I have heard what the hon. Gentleman has said. However, the point that he has made is really not a point of order but a continuation of the debate, into which I know he would not seek in any way to entice me. The hon. Gentleman has placed his views firmly on the record.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. When you were elected to the Chair, the whole House welcomed your affirmation that, in the event of Ministers leaking statements beforehand, you would not—if I may put words into your mouth—let the matter rest there. In addition to the leaking of the statement that we have just heard by the Prime Minister, we have had four days’ continuous leaks by the Minister for Children, Schools and whatever it is—Families and Schools—about a change in education policy on literacy and numeracy. Will you not let the matter rest there but ensure that the Minister is reprimanded for not giving a statement at all to the House—even though for four days he has been briefing the press?

Some of the matters to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred have been of long-standing political debate. I have made my view on that matter and my future expectation extremely clear. I think it is fair, however, to say to the right hon. Gentleman and to the House that it would be unwise to prejudge whether the details of a statement have been leaked until such statement has been made to the House.