On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. At Communities and Local Government topical questions on 26 January, and again last month during the local government finance report debate on 3 February, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government used Treasury costings to claim in the House that our policy of working with local authorities to help them to freeze council tax for two years was using
“dodgy, unrealistic and out-of-date figures”.—[Official Report, 26 January 2010; Vol. 504, c. 672.]
It now turns out that the Treasury figures on which he based those comments were themselves wrong. In fact, we have seen them updated, in a response to a freedom of information request, and the figures have now been updated on the Treasury website.
Mr. Speaker, will you give me some guidance on whether, given that the Secretary of State was quick to come back and comment on the original Treasury costings, we can get him to return to the House to comment on the fact that those figures, and therefore his comments, were wrong?
I thank the hon. Lady for her point of order, and I am happy indeed to offer her some guidance. The point that she has just raised is regrettably not a point of order, but a point of debate. On reflection, I think that she herself will almost certainly be conscious of that fact. My particular guidance to her would be that she should table further questions precisely to elicit the information that she thinks that she should get. I am sure that it will not be beyond her ingenuity to find a variety of ways to press her case.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Some months ago, when I raised in a question my concerns about Lord Ashcroft, I was, in a kindly and friendly way, warned by a Back-Bench Conservative Member that I should keep quiet because Lord Ashcroft had a way of exacting retribution from his critics. Indeed, he expressed the view that he personally would not cross Lord Ashcroft. Given this morning’s revelations about Lord Ashcroft’s true status, will there be an opportunity for the House to discuss him and the process by which he became a Member of the House of Lords?
If memory serves me, the hon. Gentleman entered the House in 1979, and therefore he is not far short of 31 years in the House. He will be well familiar with the institution of business questions on a Thursday morning, and I have a hunch—something tells me—that on Thursday he might be tempted to raise this matter and to seek the debate after which he obviously hankers.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your advice and help. During Question Time today, the matter of the state visit by the President of South Africa was raised. This is a major event involving 12 Ministers, and it is important both to this country and for the influence that can be brought to bear in Zimbabwe. Is it possible, through you, Mr. Speaker, to request that a statement be made by the Foreign Secretary as soon as he is in a position to do so?
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman, who is in his 39th year as a Member of this House, has been invited to any of the events attendant on President Zuma’s visit. Of course, that is not a matter for me. He has, however, placed his views clearly on record. I think that we will have to leave the matter there for today, but I suspect that many will study his remarks.