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House of Commons Hansard
18 March 2010
Volume 507

  • On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday, the Table Office told me that the 2009 annual report from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on human rights would be laid before the House and made available to Members during the day. In the event, the report does not appear to have been laid before the House, although it appeared online yesterday evening. I also understand that it was made available to members of the media and others who attended the FCO’s launch event yesterday evening. I hope that this is no more than an unfortunate oversight, but that you will use your good offices to ensure that it is not repeated.

  • I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order, and for giving me advance notice of it. I understand that the document referred to was indeed published online without being laid before the House, which should not have happened. I have instructed that the matter be taken up at once with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office—a representative of which, in the form of the Minister for Europe, is with us. He is poised to respond.

  • I am grateful, Mr. Speaker. I think that this is a very unfortunate oversight, and I do apologise to the House. We will make sure that it is rectified as soon as possible.

  • I am extremely grateful to the Minister, and I think that the House will be as well.

  • On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I want to raise two related issues on which I seek your guidance. On Monday 1 March, the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary visited my Reading, East constituency. Neither contacted me, but the Prime Minister’s office did inform the press, the council, the police and the neighbouring Labour MP. I seek your guidance first about whether that lack of courtesy is acceptable.

    Secondly, I put down parliamentary questions to ask the Prime Minister when he notified the groups I mentioned, but the response that I got was:

    “For security reasons, my engagements are announced as and when appropriate.”—[Official Report, 15 March 2010; Vol. 507, c. 580W.]

    That was not the question that I asked. I was asking after the event, so there should have been no security implications. Can you advise right hon. and hon. Members how to get straightforward answers to straightforward parliamentary questions that have absolutely nothing to do with the security of the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary?

  • Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I was not going to raise this matter, but in a sense the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister are both the same and both to blame. The right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) wrote to me on Friday about his visit to Tilbury on Monday. I am not suggesting that that was deliberate, but both of them need to understand that they owe courtesies to ordinary Back Benchers in this House. Their offices should tell us—[Interruption.] No, no: it was sent by pigeon post and did not reach me till Tuesday. That is the point. I wanted to greet the bloke, because I wanted to ask him about the Conservative council doing away with the subsidy on the thousand-year-old Tilbury ferry. Why do we not bang their heads together, and move on?

  • I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who is the embodiment of the cheeky chappie this morning. However, he makes a very reasonable point.

    The hon. Member for Reading, East (Mr. Wilson) raised the subject of the normal courtesy of notifying a Member whose constituency one is visiting on public business. I say to him that I think that it is very desirable that that courtesy should always be observed, and that it is regrettable when it is not. In respect of the other point that he raised, I think that he knows that he was engaging in a debate. Whatever scope I have, he will recognise that my powers are limited. My scope does not extend to the content of ministerial—including prime ministerial—answers to questions.

    Royal assent

  • I have to notify the House, in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967, that the Queen has signified her Royal Assent to the following Acts and Measures:

    Appropriation Act 2010

    Marriage (Wales) Act 2010

    Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies and Credit Unions Act 2010

    Taxation (International and Other Provisions) Act 2010

    Church of England (Miscellaneous Provisions) Measure 2010

    Vacancies in Suffragan Sees and Other Ecclesiastical Offices Measure 2010

    Crown Benefices (Parish Representatives) Measure 2010.