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Points of Order

Volume 516: debated on Monday 18 October 2010

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. We are informed by the media that the Government have been lobbied into spending vast sums on the nuclear industry, which has already dumped a £93 billion bill on taxpayers to clear up its waste, at the expense of developing tidal power, with all its immense potential. It is power that is clean, British and renewable, virtually for eternity. May we call the Minister to the House? We realise that he is embarrassed by his volte-face, but a decision of such magnitude, which will have spending commitments for decades, should be presented to the House.

The hon. Gentleman is an experienced parliamentarian. He is no stranger to getting his point across, if at all possible in prime time, and registering it in the Official Report. He has been successful in that objective. There is, I believe, a written ministerial statement today. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will understand if I take the remainder of his comments in the spirit in which I think they were intended—as a contribution to the debate and a register for the benefit of his constituents of his trenchant views on the matter.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Over the weekend, the media reported a leak from the Treasury about the amount of compensation payable to Equitable Life victims. That came the day after the Public Administration Committee published its report on the matter. May I seek your advice, Mr Speaker, on how we can get clarification from the Treasury as to how that happened and if it is indeed the Government’s position? May I also ask you how we clarify whether the Government will actually respond—as they should—to the Select Committee before they make firm and final recommendations?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order, to which I would make two points in response. First, as he knows, an urgent question application was submitted on the matter—if memory serves me correctly, by the hon. Gentleman himself. That urgent question was not granted and the House will know that the Speaker is not expected to give reasons as to why UQ applications are not granted and, in fact, is expected not to do so. In those circumstances, it is not really proper for an hon. Member, who may be disappointed by the decision, then to try to raise it as a point of order instead. I say that on this occasion, but I am sure that it will not be necessary to say it again.

The second response to the hon. Gentleman, who is a very assiduous contributor to our proceedings, is that on Wednesday he will have an opportunity, or at least the House will, further to probe these important matters, which I accept are of enormous interest to a large number of Members, and more particularly to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of constituents across the country. I hope that is helpful to the hon. Gentleman.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. As my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) said, today the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change published a written statement dealing with significant issues for the future supply of energy, particularly as regards tidal technology and nuclear power, in the United Kingdom. I share the concern that it was not an oral statement; the House should have had the chance to question the Secretary of State.

Mr Speaker, you have been a good champion of the House, and of Back Benchers in particular, when such information is leaked to the national newspapers. I was surprised to read in great detail about the written statement in the national and Welsh papers on Sunday. I hope that you will take the matter up and find out whether Ministers in devolved Administrations were consulted on this important information being leaked.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her point of order. The last point that she highlighted is a matter on which I can make no comment, because I am simply not in a position to know the answer to the question that she raised. I am grateful to her for saying that I do my utmost to ensure that the rights of the House are paramount. It will not have gone unnoticed over the past 16 months that, on issues on which it is perhaps thought that there should be an oral statement but none is forthcoming, there are frequently urgent question applications. This Chair has been inclined to grant them regularly; indeed, one was granted today.

My third point is that the form of statement made by a Minister—that is, whether it is written or oral—is a matter for the Department. It might help the hon. Lady to be reminded that the House has invited the Procedure Committee to look into how Government announcements are made to the House. She may wish to contact the Committee with this example and mention her dissatisfaction. She may also wish to submit further evidence as part of the Committee’s inquiry. I hope that that is helpful to her and the House. I am grateful to her, and to other hon. Members, for their points of order.