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Points of Order

Volume 507: debated on Thursday 11 March 2010

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I tried to raise the issue of the day nursery during questions to the spokesman for the House of Commons Commission. One of the important areas surrounding this whole affair is that the staff—

Order. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman must resume his seat. The hon. Gentleman did indeed ask a question on the matter, to which he received a reply. Unfortunately his question was a bit on the long side, which is why I had to cut him off. [Interruption.] Order. If the hon. Gentleman has a point of order, I am happy to hear it. What I am not prepared to have is Members extending question time and debate through abuse of the point of order procedure. That must not happen.

I think that you will find that this is an important point of order, Mr. Speaker. The facts surrounding the proposal are that the important staff of the House have not been consulted about the proposal. There are no alternative facilities proposed, and as well as the loss of the restaurant and the Astor suite—

Order. I am sorry; this is not a point of order. Unless my memory fails me, the hon. Gentleman entered the House in 1992 so he has now been in this place for 18 years. I am sure that he should know by now what is a point of order and what is not. Starting up or continuing a debate and expressing a view about a particular proposal is not the way in which to proceed so far as points of order are concerned. My own suspicion that what he is saying is not a point of order has been confirmed by advice.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I refer you to Standing Order No. 144, under which there is provision that there

“shall be a select committee, to be called the Finance and Service Committee, to consider expenditure on and the administration of services for the House.”

We heard earlier from the hon. Member for North Devon (Nick Harvey) that in view of the time constraints, it was not feasible for a particular item of expenditure—namely the replacement of facilities at Bellamy’s bar and elsewhere in 1 Parliament street with a day nursery—to go to the Finance and Services Committee. In your understanding, is it compliant with Standing Order No. 144 that on such an important issue, involving major expenditure, the Finance and Services Committee can be bypassed?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. The answer is that a decision was made, in an entirely orderly way and after extensive consideration of sites, by the House of Commons Commission. That was a proper responsibility discharged by the Commission and the Commission certainly complies with the Standing Orders of the House. If the hon. Gentleman is worried that in some way the Standing Orders of the House have been breached, I can reassure him that that is not the case. Whether my answer will satisfy him is open to doubt and conjecture, but that is the factual answer to the hon. Gentleman, who need not trouble himself with a further point of order on it today.

Order. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman should resume his seat. I say very clearly and explicitly to the hon. Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown) that he would be very unwise to try to continue the argument on this matter when I have ruled upon it and when I have already had to advise him that his attempted point of order simply did not meet the test. I will give him one brief go; he had better not make a mess of it.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Could you advise me, under Standing Orders, what is the point of the Finance and Services Committee if it is not to consider important matters of finance concerning this House?

The matters are set out in the Standing Orders and, as I have just explained to the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope), there are important responsibilities that fall to the House of Commons Commission, which has been discharging those responsibilities. It is of course open to the hon. Gentleman to form his own view as to the way in which those responsibilities have been discharged. It would be difficult to be clearer or more explicit in response to the further point of order raised by the hon. Gentleman.