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Points of Order

Volume 516: debated on Monday 11 October 2010

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Future students and their parents will be alarmed that Members from the governing Lib Dem party are preparing to break their election promises and vote for huge increases in university fees. Given the need for a system of funding that is sustainable, fair, progressive and related to earnings—and which means that able students do not have to shop around for the cheapest option—is it in order for Government policy on this issue to be announced by the Secretary of State not in a statement to the House but in an e-mail to Liberal Democrat and Conservative MPs?

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for raising what is undoubtedly an important point. Certainly these matters have been widely reported in the media and the House knows of my wish, oft-stated, that statements of Government policy should be made first to the House. At this stage, I do not know whether the briefing that has taken place falls into the category of briefing to the media in advance. However, I confidently expect—and I emphasise that point—that these matters will be before the House in the very near future, and I also underline that last point. That will both inform me and give the right hon. Gentleman and others the opportunity to explore these issues in greater detail. I hope that that is helpful to the right hon. Gentleman and to the House.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is a proposal to close the passport office in my constituency, with the possible loss of 300 jobs, which would leave Wales as the only country in the United Kingdom without its own regional passport office. I wrote to the Minister responsible about the matter in September. No word has come from any Minister—neither the Home Secretary nor the responsible Minister—yet a civil servant has presented the case and argued it to the press; indeed, they were actually present in my constituency this morning trying to justify it. As the convention in this House is that we do not attack civil servants, how can we go about ensuring that those Ministers responsible for this irrational and damaging suggestion come before the House to justify themselves?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of this matter, and I am struck by it. I am not clear in my mind that it is a point of order, but it is certainly an important matter. He will know that the House has invited the Procedure Committee to consider how Government statements are made to the House. He could draw that example—and I suspect that he will—to the Committee’s attention. In addition, the Table Office will advise him on other opportunities to raise this important matter.