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Points of Order

Volume 514: debated on Monday 26 July 2010

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You will be aware of the recent Westminster Hall debate in which we were reminded that one party with representatives elected to this House still refuses to take up its seats yet claims its allowances and expenses. May I ask you to make a ruling as to how we can bring this shameful activity to an end? Do you not agree that it is an affront to Members who believe that it is a privilege to serve and debate in this House, and that it is not, as some others believe, possible to be an associated Member of the Houses of Parliament?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order, and I respect the fact that there is concern about this issue in some sections of the House. First, I am of course aware that there has recently been a Westminster Hall debate on the subject—on 30 June if memory serves me correctly. Secondly, this is a matter for the House. The hon. Gentleman might be aware—and other Members will certainly be conscious of this—that a resolution of the House regarding the use of facilities and the ability to claim expenses that touched on precisely the matter that is of concern to him was passed on 18 December 2001. If the House wishes at any stage to consider this matter again and to debate and vote upon a resolution, it will, of course, be entirely open to the House to do so. This is, therefore, a matter not for the Speaker but for the House. I hope that is helpful.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I welcome what you have just said, which clarifies matters. It might be worth my pointing out that there are Members on both sides of the House who share this concern and would like to see this measure come back to the House, as those of us who voted against it last time might find ourselves in the majority this time.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for that. As she is well aware, she has helpfully underlined and reinforced the point that the hon. Member for Keighley (Kris Hopkins) has just made. It is always a pleasure to be in agreement with the hon. Lady.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. On 8 July, I received a written answer from the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the hon. Member for Reigate (Mr Blunt), assuring me that this week a report would be published on research and statistics

“relating both to false allegations of rape and to other relevant issues.”—[Official Report, 8 July 2010; Vol. 513, c. 428W.]

I have two unanswered written questions, in which I was pursuing whether or not the Government would be making legislative proposals. However, I read in The Sunday Telegraph that an

“MoJ source said: ‘We will certainly not be legislating’”

on this issue, and that the Government do not plan to publish the evidence, about which they certainly responded in their answer of 8 July to my question. Although I welcome a U-turn by the Government on this issue, is it in order that they have failed to come to the House to tell us comprehensively what they intend to do on this proposal and how they intend to move forward and let Members on both sides of the House receive information at first hand, rather than through the press?

What I would say in response to the right hon. Lady is that the timing of Government statements to the House is a matter specifically for the Government. I hope that I have understood the right hon. Lady correctly with reference to the questions that she has tabled, and what I would say is that if she has not received answers—or, at any rate, substantive answers—to questions, I would very much hope that substantive answers will be forthcoming before the House rises for the summer recess. I very much hope that Ministers from the Ministry of Justice have heard—if they have not heard, I hope that they will hear shortly—precisely what I have just said. That approach seems to me to be conducive to the good conduct of business of the House.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. During questions the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport made reference, in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Paul Farrelly), to the political affiliations of the chairman of the BBC Trust and the chairman of Ofcom. Subsequently, in answer to a supplementary question from me asking whether or not he was calling into question their impartiality, he went on to claim that a number of appointments to non-departmental public bodies under the previous Administration had been made in a politically biased way, despite the fact that proper procedures had been put in place for public appointments during the previous Parliament. Given your ruling that when Ministers speak from the Dispatch Box they are speaking on behalf of the Government, can we have a statement from the Government on whether or not they believe that public appointments made under the previous Administration were made for political reasons and were not made through the proper public appointments procedures, which were set up and in place, and on whether they have confidence in those public appointments?

It is always a pleasure to hear points of order from the hon. Gentleman. Something tells me that at least in part of his point of order—I will be generous and say “in part”—he was seeking to continue an earlier argument. That in itself would not constitute a point of order and might almost risk becoming disorderly. What I would say, which may be of interest to him and to others in the House, is that when reference is made to individuals outside this place, such reference should be made with care, restraint and circumspection. I hope that that is helpful to the hon. Gentleman.

Bills presented

Local Referendums Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Zac Goldsmith presented a Bill to make provision about binding local referendums; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 3 December, and to be printed (Bill 66).

Recall of Elected Representatives

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Zac Goldsmith presented a Bill to permit voters to recall their elected representatives in specified circumstances; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 3 December, and to be printed (Bill 67).