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Points of Order

Volume 495: debated on Tuesday 7 July 2009

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Today the Ministry of Defence issued a written statement. While I have no doubt that that was perfectly in order, the statement contained the sensational announcement that the Government were making preparations for a strategic defence review. They have resisted calls for such a review for some considerable time. While this may be within the letter of your admonition that the House of Commons should hear major policy announcements first, Mr. Speaker, do you really believe that it is within the spirit of your admonition? Are there any means that you can use to bring a Minister to the House to make an oral statement? Alternatively, will you allow an urgent question on the topic tomorrow?

The first response to the hon. Gentleman is simply stated. It is for Ministers to decide which orderly method of making their announcement they choose to deploy, and, on the hon. Gentleman’s own admission, what the Government have chosen to do is perfectly in order. The second response—which I think may be of interest and encouragement to the hon. Gentleman, who takes a keen interest in these and related matters—is that Defence questions will take place next Monday, and he may find a suitable opportunity to explore the point then.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. This morning I received a reply to a letter from Lord Myners, the Financial Services Secretary, dated 2 July. I had written to him on 3 December. To be fair to the Department, an apology from the permanent secretary was attached to the letter, but given that the Department aims to respond within 15 working days and the reply has taken seven months to arrive despite two chases from my office, I really do not think that this is in order. I know that the permanent secretary said that the Department is introducing measures to deal with the problem, but it would be helpful if you could make it clear to Ministers that such delays are simply not acceptable.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I am glad that he has raised that point of order. He will be aware of the premium that I attach—as, I know, do a huge number of Back Benchers—to timely responses both to written parliamentary questions and, indeed, to letters.

I think it fair to say that the hon. Gentleman has a legitimate grievance. He has suffered a lengthy delay. I hope that that delay is coming to an end, and that such an example of bad practice will not be repeated. The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that Treasury Ministers were present to listen to his point of order.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will recall that on 16 March this year the House resolved

“that the UK Youth Parliament should be allowed for this year alone to hold its 2009 annual meeting in the Chamber of this House.”—[Official Report, 16 March 2009; Vol. 489, c. 742.]

You will also know that the annual meeting of the Youth Parliament takes place between 24 and 27 July at the University of Kent at Canterbury, and that it will not now take place in the House. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] I am delighted that some of my hon. Friends think that that is good news.

My point of order is this, Mr. Speaker. I understand that there are proposals afoot for a meeting of the Youth Parliament to take place in the Chamber on Friday 30 October. Although that date does not fall in the recess, it is a non-sitting Friday, and a good deal of disruption could potentially be caused. Will it be necessary, Mr. Speaker, for the House to consider a fresh motion before such a course can be taken?

The hon. Gentleman is a very experienced hand and knows very well—he referred to it at the start of his point of order—that the House has made a decision on the question of whether the Youth Parliament should be able to hold a debate here. The hon. Gentleman was present at and a contributor to the debate on that matter in March. I know that he would not seek for one moment to inveigle me into repeating a debate that we held some months ago. As a point of clarification, it might be of interest to the House to know what I understand to be the case; namely that the annual meeting of the UK Youth Parliament is indeed taking place later this month—I believe in the county of Kent—but that that is a quite separate matter from the special occasion of the debate in this House upon which the House agreed earlier this year.

I will take a point of order from the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), but I know that he will not want for one moment to continue the argument or to indulge in excessive or even tedious repetition.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am seeking further clarification. The House resolved that the UK Youth Parliament should be allowed for this year alone to hold its 2009 annual meeting in the Chamber of the House. Surely if it is not going to have its annual meeting in the House, a new resolution will be needed.

I do not think that there is any immediate prospect or likelihood of reversing the decision that the House made. I am quite happy to look both at the text of what was agreed and at the title of the event that is to take place in Kent. I know that the hon. Gentleman has a fastidious concern for correctness in these matters and that is something we can do our best to satisfy. But we cannot and will not rerun old debates. I know that the hon. Gentleman would not want that for one moment.