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Points of Order

Volume 508: debated on Thursday 8 April 2010

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I fully understand that when the Lords messages come back the competence of this House is to deal exclusively with those messages, but will you and your deputies allow one bit of licence and give Ministers the opportunity to explain why things have been omitted from legislation when they gave undertakings to the House that they would table amendments in the House of Lords?

If I may illustrate the point, the hon. Member for Foyle (Mark Durkan), seconded by the hon. Member for East Antrim (Sammy Wilson), tabled amendments in this House to extend the credit unions in Northern Ireland to come under the auspices of the Financial Services Authority. That would have allowed them to have a greater product range, guarantees and so on. We should bear it in mind that credit unions are very important in Northern Ireland; 26 per cent. of people in Northern Ireland use them as opposed to 1 per cent. in England.

The Minister at the Dispatch Box gave an undertaking that the Government would table amendments in the House of Lords. If they have been deleted—

Order. Well, I want to be helpful to the hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay). First, as a general principle and a matter of practice, debate is restricted in these circumstances to the Lords amendments themselves. It is not an occasion for wider ruminations. Secondly, the hon. Gentleman’s attempted point of order—I am not sure that it was a point of order—raised a hypothetical question, and I think that my best answer is that we will deal with these matters as they develop.

I conclude by saying to the hon. Gentleman that I think he was being argumentative, and he would not be the hon. Member for Thurrock if he was not being argumentative. I will miss him, and I am sure that the House will miss him.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. A parliamentary written answer has revealed that Charlie Whelan has been given a House of Commons pass by the Labour party, yet you will recall that the Prime Minister asserted in previous Prime Minister’s questions that Mr. Whelan is in no way connected with the Labour party. Has any indication been given to you that the Prime Minister now wishes to correct his original assertion, which was untrue?

The hon. Gentleman is a very experienced Member. He has served in the House without interruption since 1992. He knows that I have absolutely no responsibility for the content of ministerial answers, including Prime Ministerial answers. The issue of passes is a matter that is handled in the normal way. The hon. Gentleman is a perspicacious fellow, and he knows perfectly well that what he has raised with me is an intriguing point of debate, but not a point of order.

Further to the points of order, Mr. Speaker. The issue that I think was raised was one about lobbying. A political director of an outside organisation with a parliamentary pass is a lobbyist. That is the issue that needs to be considered by the House authorities.

Further to the point raised by the hon. Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay), is it not clear that Ministers need to be reminded that they may rise on a point of order to say something that they cannot say as part of the debate? I hope that Ministers will have heard that.

Again, that is a hypothetical point, and perhaps the hon. Member for Worthing, West (Peter Bottomley) excels at those. He has made his point. It is on the record, and Ministers who might not have been aware of the opportunities available to them have helpfully been made aware of them by the hon. Member.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have two points of order on the same subject. First, you will be aware that on 4 March the House voted to reform its procedures by an overwhelming majority, and essentially instructed the Government to bring forward the Standing Orders for that purpose in this Parliament. Those were the terms of the motion. The Government have not done that. Have you heard of a precedent for the Government defying the will of the House in that way? If they can do that, what is the point of our being here if we can pass a motion instructing the Government to do something and the Government just ignore it?

My second point of order is that it emerged yesterday that one of the excuses that the Government gave for not introducing the Standing Orders was that they had tabled them for approval without objection. They said that because objections had been made against their will, they could not bring forward those Standing Orders by that method. I am glad that the Deputy Chief Whip is in his place. It turned out yesterday that when one of the people—the right hon. Member for North-West Durham (Hilary Armstrong)—who had put down objections responded to an e-mail from the hon. Member for Cannock Chase (Dr. Wright) asking her to remove her amendments, which counted as objections, her office referred the matter to the Government Whip’s Office. That means that the Government were objecting to their own motion, by proxy. Is it acceptable for the Government, first, to do that and, secondly, to attempt to mislead the House—apparently inadvertently—by saying that these were individuals acting freely?

The hon. Gentleman is indefatigable in his efforts. He said that he wanted to raise with me two points of order. In respect of the first, I think that he is seeking to inveigle me into debate. I think that I should resist any such temptation. The wider point that I would make in relation both to his first and second points of order is that all of these matters have been very thoroughly ventilated. The last observation that it is sensible for me to make to the hon. Gentleman is that a Committee was established under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for Cannock Chase (Dr. Wright). It produced its recommendations, which were, as the hon. Gentleman said, debated and voted upon on 4 March. I have absolutely no doubt whatever that the House will return to these matters. If I were in any doubt, the hon. Gentleman could assure me that they will arise again. I cannot go further than that. These matters will not go away, but I cannot be drawn into debate upon them today.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I would be grateful for your assistance. I understand that the House will dissolve by royal proclamation on Monday and that our last sitting will be Prorogation later today. For the sake of those of us who will be leaving and who will wish to attend that ceremony, could you ensure that adequate notice be given on the monitors of its timing?

Certainly notice will be given on the screen and the hon. Gentleman is right to draw our attention to that. I am very glad that he and others will wish to attend the ceremony. Knowing that the hon. Gentleman has served in the House without interruption, I think, since 18 June 1970, I would like to echo the tributes that have been paid to him. I wish him a long, happy and healthy retirement. I say exactly the same to his hon. Friend sitting to his right, the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton), who entered the House in 1971 and has served without interruption since. I am sure that both of them will be at the ceremony and I look forward to seeing them there. Of that ceremony they will get decent notice.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. On the issue of Charlie Whelan’s pass, is it in order for a lobbyist to have a pass for this place?

I have already ruled on that matter—[Interruption.] Order. The hon. Gentleman must calm himself. He has raised a point of order and I am answering it. I simply said that I have ruled on that matter. What I have said is all that I have to say at this stage and we should not pursue it. There is important business that the House has to consider. I am always very open to points of order and I try to deal with them in a way that is helpful and comprehensive, but I do not think that the patience of the Chair should be unduly stretched.