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Points of Order

Volume 513: debated on Wednesday 14 July 2010

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have made it very clear on a number of occasions that Ministers should make statements to the House first, rather than making them elsewhere. In response to a number of recent questions, the Secretary of State for Defence has refused to say what the outcome of the review of the costs of Trident is and has urged Members to wait until the statement at the end of the month. However, today’s Guardian reports that, in a speech yesterday at Chatham House, he decided, unannounced, that Trident was “pretty good value” for money, giving an indication that the review is of no consequence whatever and therefore that he has already made up his mind on this matter. Is there any way in which you can ask him to make it clear to the House whether his answers mean anything or not?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order, but I am not sure that there is a matter for me immediately to rule on because I do not have the material in front of me. However, it does seem to me a point that he can reasonably raise with the Secretary of State for Defence, and I have a feeling that he is likely to do so sooner, rather than later.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I ask you, and, as he is in his place, the Leader of the House, to look into something that has come to light this morning? I have inquired at the Public Bill Office about the procedure regarding the Academies Bill next week and it appears that amendments for Committee are to be tabled after Second Reading, but as the first day of Committee is next Wednesday, amendments from Front Benchers have to be given to the Clerk at the Table of the House at 10 o’clock on Monday. They will then have to be checked in the House and if there are any technical issues, there will be a problem. This system means that if any Government, Opposition or other Back Benchers decide during Second Reading that they want to table an amendment, they would have to know that they had to do so at 10 o’clock, before the closing of the House at 10.45 pm, or whenever the business finishes. Is it not an extraordinary way of running business to say that people have to table amendments on the same day as Second Reading? That is highly unusual and will make it very difficult for us properly to hold the Government to account on this Bill.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. I think I am right in saying that if there were to be a facility for amendments to be tabled before Second Reading, that would require a motion in the name of the Government. In the absence of such a motion, I think that the Chair would give sympathetic, and certainly due, consideration to starred amendments. I hope that that is all readily intelligible to the hon. Gentleman and, of course, the whole House.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not know whether you are aware that shortly before Parliament opened today, the road outside Westminster was temporarily closed by a demonstration by the stop the trafficking campaign. Is it not amazing that so many people can be so bothered and concerned about 20th-century slavery that they can actually stop the traffic outside Parliament?

It is, indeed, amazing and it also enables the hon. Gentleman, whose work on trafficking is respected across the House, to underline the importance of the campaign. That is precisely what he has done and I have a feeling that he will share the Hansard report of his point of order with people in Wellingborough.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The issue of the five lists and the mishandling of the Building Schools for the Future announcement was raised at Prime Minister’s questions. You will know that, on Sunday, I wrote to the Secretary of State for Education and copied the letter to you, to ask for a clear answer to the question of whether, a week ago, before the first list was published, the Secretary of State was advised by his departmental officials not to proceed on this course but to consult local authorities instead, because of the danger of getting the lists wrong and causing both confusion and legal challenge. I have had no reply yet from the Secretary of State. I wonder whether you think that that is in order or a gross discourtesy both to you and myself.

I do not think that there is anything disorderly at all at this stage, but if the right hon. Gentleman is dissatisfied by the absence of a reply to his letter, it is perfectly open to him to table questions to inquire when he can expect a reply. I have a feeling that that device, and possibly other parliamentary devices, will spring into the right hon. Gentleman’s fertile mind.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I thank the Prime Minister for restoring to its proper place the reading of the names of the fallen in Afghanistan? As you know, that has not happened in the past three weeks, and there was considerable unhappiness because the names were read out at other times. Can we look forward in future to the names of those who, sadly, will fall in the next few weeks being read out at a time of the maximum attendance of MPs and the maximum attention on the House from outside?

The answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question is that I think that there is great merit in that proposition, which is in no sense a partisan or political one. If there is to be any change on this matter from what has happened this week or that, it is something that should usefully be discussed with the people who make these announcements. Rather than pronouncing upon that here, it would be better for me to talk to other people who are directly involved in these matters, and the upshot of any such discussion will become known to the hon. Gentleman sooner rather than later.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. We heard in Prime Minister’s questions about the difficulties being experienced in Northern Ireland. May I bring it to your attention, Sir, that the Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs is not yet up and running, despite the fact that I had the honour of being elected its Chairman some weeks ago? I am not making accusations, but I understand that the problem is that the Labour party has not submitted its names to the Committee of Selection. I understand that that Committee meets later today. Will you use your good offices to try to encourage the Labour party to submit its names, so that the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee can begin to undertake what could be very important work?

The difficulties that the hon. Gentleman describes in respect of his Select Committee apply also to a number of others. Of course, I am in favour of the speedy constitution and operation of Select Committees; but, sadly, that matter is not in my hands. I have no power in this regard, notwithstanding the hon. Gentleman’s enthusiasm to ensure that I have. I hope that that is helpful, but his point will have been heard, not least by those to whom he was indirectly addressing it.