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Points of Order

Volume 495: debated on Tuesday 30 June 2009

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. One of the very welcome announcements that you made when you first took the Chair was that Ministers had to make important announcements to this House first. The Secretary of State announced his change on home-school contracts and parenting orders in the pages of the Sunday Mirror. He made announcements about chains and federations in briefings to newspapers yesterday, and announcements on the legal guarantee for parents and pupils were briefed to broadcasters this morning. What action will you take to ensure that the rights of this House are protected, and that the Secretary of State does not continue to flout your rulings and the rules of this House?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. A number of the matters that have featured in the exchanges today have been the subject of political debate over a considerable period. I attended closely to what the Secretary of State said today, and also to earlier media coverage of the gamut of issues that have been addressed today. I have not found evidence that there has been prior briefing, which I think is the term that the hon. Gentleman used. It is very important that Ministers who come to make statements to the House give the statement first to the House and do not divulge things in advance to the media. I shall be watching closely to ensure compliance with the ruling that I gave last week, but I have not yet identified a breach.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will recall that yesterday the hon. Member for Hammersmith and Fulham (Mr. Hands) raised a point of order relating to my conduct. I do not believe that was a matter for the House, as it concerned my role as a prospective parliamentary candidate. However, I did not have the opportunity at that time, not having noticed the subject, to correct what I believe was an entirely inaccurate statement, and I would like to do that for the record.

Order. I ask the hon. Gentleman to resume his seat. I am grateful to him for doing so. I heard the point of order from the hon. Member for Hammersmith and Fulham (Mr. Hands) yesterday, and I heard the response of the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush (Mr. Slaughter). I hope he will understand when I say that I do not want a continuing and essentially political debate to take place through the device or contrivance of a point of order. I feel that I have heard quite enough on the matter from both hon. Gentlemen who are parties to the dispute, and I do not think the House will benefit from any further utterances on the matter today or, probably, for some time.

Further to the earlier point of order, Mr. Speaker. The House will have welcomed your remarks to my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove), following your welcome ruling that announcements should be made first to the House. The Home Secretary released a written statement on ID cards at 3.45 this afternoon. At 1.45 pm journalists were briefed at the Home Office about the contents. Indeed, I was informed about the contents by some of those journalists before any of us in the House had seen the statement. Quite apart from the fact that that should have been an oral statement, it is a flagrant breach of your ruling. I am sure I can offer you the support of many in the House in your efforts to stop Ministers behaving badly towards you and towards the House.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order and for his courtesy in providing me with advance notice of it. The Table Office has found no evidence that a written ministerial statement that was laid in the Library at 3.45 pm, as the hon. Gentleman says, was made available to the media any earlier than that. However, if it were to be established that that is in fact what happened, I would certainly expect the Minister responsible to report to me and to the House.

Perish the thought, Mr. Speaker. I am not trying to pursue that matter. I understand your ruling, but can you tell me how I can get a correction to an accusation of dishonesty by me on to the record?

The hon. Gentleman is an extremely experienced political campaigner. He will be familiar with the opportunities that exist for him in the media, including his local media, to put robustly on the record his version of events. I have a hunch that he will not long delay doing just that.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We have been lucky today to be able to welcome to the House of Commons some of our armed forces. Many of us think that is important in showing support to them. Is it possible that that can be recorded in the Official Report?