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Point of Order

Volume 507: debated on Monday 8 March 2010

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I know that you are always determined to ensure that Ministers have every opportunity to put the record straight when they might inadvertently have misled the House. I believe that the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families might inadvertently have misled the House when he denied the fact that 45 children out of the 80,000 eligible for free school meals made it to Oxford and Cambridge. By what means can the Secretary of State put the record straight? I am sure that he would not want to allow anyone to be under any misapprehension as to the real state of affairs.

None of us wants to be under any misapprehension at all. I am grateful to the shadow Secretary of State for his point of order and I am sorry to have to disappoint him but, as things stand, my strong impression is that the point that he has raised is not a point of order but a point of debate and arguably even of frustration. There is a genuine difference of opinion between the intellectual Titans on the Opposition Front Bench and on the Government Front Bench on this important matter. The hon. Gentleman, from a sedentary position, observed earlier that Ministers are of course responsible for everything that is said in this House, including its length or brevity, and he was right about that. I do not think that the Secretary of State, at this stage, is in any sense required to issue the clarification that the hon. Gentleman seeks, but he is—

Order. The hon. Gentleman must calm himself; I do not want him to suffer. I do not think that any clarification is required but the hon. Gentleman is a persistent fellow and I shall give him one more bite at the cherry.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is not a matter of debate or dispute, but a matter of record in Hansard, in a parliamentary reply given by the Minister for Higher Education and Intellectual Property. Now that you have had the opportunity to be reminded of that fact, will you ensure that the Secretary of State similarly has the opportunity to tell the House that he got it wrong?

I think the hon. Gentleman is a little confused and I want to release him from his confusion. The answer is twofold—[Interruption.] Order. I am trying to be helpful to the hon. Gentleman; I am sure that he will want my help. First, Ministers are responsible for what they say and it is not for me to adjudicate on the quality of a ministerial answer. Secondly, I say in all charity to the hon. Gentleman, whom I am doing my best to help—I hope he wants my help—that if he feels strongly that he has been wronged and if he feels aggrieved about that and wants to write to me about it, citing the relevant references and so on, he is of course perfectly at liberty to do so, as other shadow Ministers have done many times. I shall look forward to reading his words with eager anticipation.