Skip to main content

Points of Order

Volume 518: debated on Tuesday 16 November 2010

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I raised with you yesterday in a point of order the amount of time that the House would have to debate the Fixed-term Parliaments Bill when there was a possibility of there being one statement today. We have now had two statements that have taken an hour and 10 minutes out of our time. Members will, I think, find it particularly galling that one of those statements is the result of the leak on damages settlements, on which we have just heard the Justice Secretary report to the House. In these circumstances, Mr Speaker, what protection can Members be offered so that we have the opportunity properly to debate and discuss a major constitutional Bill that will change the way in which our democracy operates?

I have heard what the right hon. Gentleman has said and I fully understand the seriousness of his point. The short answer, however, is that these decisions—that is to say, decisions on the timing of Government business—are ultimately for others to make. Specifically, these matters are in the hands of the usual channels and, in particular, of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman might wish that it were otherwise, and many might agree with him, but that is the position as it stands. However, I simply say to him, as I was able to say to him yesterday, that his opposite number, the Leader of the House, is present. He will have heard what has been said and it is open to the Leader of the House to respond if he so wishes.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. It was not the practice of the previous Administration to add injury time when we debated constitutional Bills on the Floor of the House and it is not our habit either.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to raise a subject at the heart of public debate to do with the credibility of Parliament and the honesty of Members of Parliament. You will know that the Deputy Prime Minister has made numerous statements on the need for openness, transparency, probity and honesty with the electorate. Yesterday, I wrote to the Deputy Prime Minister asking for a copy of the paper on tuition fees written for him by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury on 16 March along with the paper by the Education Secretary on the same subject. Those papers are not Government publications but are public interest papers. Would you, Mr Speaker, be prepared to give the Library permission to hold those papers after I receive them?

I have listened carefully to what the right hon. Lady has said and I shall happily look into this matter for her and for the House. Ultimately, of course, the decision on which documents that are in the hands of members of the Government are published by the Government, including perhaps being put into the Library, is a matter for the Government. However, as I have said, I have heard what she has said, I shall look into it and I shall revert to her when I have done so.

We come now to the ten-minute rule Bill, for which the hon. Member for Glasgow North West (John Robertson) has been waiting very patiently.