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Points of Order

Volume 511: debated on Thursday 10 June 2010

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I ask your advice? Today, two contradictory statements have been made on the Floor of the House—and just repeated by the Leader of the House. It was stated that the decision by the last Government to build 20,000 new homes was not properly funded and there was a black hole, but we also heard the Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill), say that no ministerial direction was given in the Department for Communities and Local Government in the past 12 months. Both statements cannot be true, because if the policy was not properly funded, the permanent secretary would have asked for a letter of direction. Will you advise on whether it would be possible to have a Treasury spokesman come here to explain the true picture?

I do not think I can offer any advice on that point. What I say to the hon. Member for Halton (Derek Twigg), who is a very experienced Member, is that what he has just put to me is not a point of order, but a point of debate. He has put his views and concerns very clearly on the record and that may be an object lesson to new Members in debating points, although probably not in points of order.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Perhaps you can advise me, even if you could not advise my hon. Friend. In the course of business questions, the Leader of the House made a statement that absolutely no preparation at all had been undertaken by the last Government for a referendum on extending powers to the Welsh Assembly—something that is strenuously denied by those concerned. Is there any way Members can require Ministers to provide evidence for statements made when they are trying to rewrite history?

Such a strict requirement would create an entirely new precedent in the way in which debate is conducted in the House. As I understand it, the hon. Gentleman is asking me to insist that, in future, any statement by a Minister or another Member should require evidence before it can be made. That, I think, would be an extremely dangerous and risky precedent to set. However, he has put his views on the record and I am sure the House is grateful to him.