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Points of Order

Volume 519: debated on Wednesday 24 November 2010

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You will recall that during Prime Minister’s Question Time my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Bain) asked the Prime Minister about the mobility component of disability living allowance for those in residential accommodation and the Government’s plans for people in those circumstances. The Prime Minister said in reply that the official Opposition supported the Government’s position. I observed that the Prime Minister was being advised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I recall that the Chancellor made the same comment to the House at Treasury questions a week or so ago. I seek your advice on the following point, Mr Speaker. The fact is that my Opposition Front-Bench colleagues assured me right up until when the last statement was being made that that is not the policy of the official Opposition, and that we are utterly opposed to it—

Order. I am very grateful to the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr Clarke). He is an extremely experienced and assiduous Member and I was waiting expectantly, with bated breath and beads of sweat upon my brow, for the point of order he was going to raise, and I think we have now just about reached it, except that it is not a point of order. It is, I think, a point of debate, at which the right hon. Gentleman is very adept, but I am afraid we will have to leave it there. There is nothing on which I need to rule, although it is always a pleasure to hear from the right hon. Gentleman.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think that, like me, you are very concerned when Ministers widely trail announcements prior to their being made in this House. I cannot recall a more widely trailed ministerial statement than the one just made by the Secretary of State for Education. The statement and the White Paper have been extensively trailed in the newspapers over the past four or five days—I have many examples here. I know that you are against that practice, so I wonder whether you would like to comment.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. As he knows, I believe very strongly, on behalf of the House, that statements of policy should be made first to this House and not through the media. He will appreciate that I keep a very attentive eye on these matters and I seek to perform the role of a detective such as I am able; I am always on the lookout for decisive evidence. But as to the specifics of today, I have nothing to add. I just say to the hon. Gentleman that I have his interests at heart—I hope he will realise that—and these matters are continually under review. If there are no further points of order—

I cannot. Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. You asked for evidence. The Financial Times was given drafts of the White Paper and I can supply that evidence to you. My hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead (Ian Mearns) is right that on this occasion there seems to have been a widespread breach of your stricture about making announcements first to this House. I will provide that evidence, but I would be grateful if you would then raise this matter with the Government.

I say to the right hon. Gentleman that I have no desire to quibble with him or any other Member, but I did not ask for evidence; I simply said that I am always on the lookout for the evidence, which is not quite the same thing. I think that the matter must be parked for today. I have referred previously to the fact of the Procedure Committee inquiry into statements, to which he and other of his colleagues, and other Members from across the House, might wish to submit evidence. The matter will be kept, on an ongoing basis, under review. If he wants to bring to me particular instances of alleged abuse, he can do so. For today, that must not be done on the Floor of the Chamber, but on another occasion. If there are no further points of order, we come to the ten-minute rule motion; the hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz) has been patiently awaiting her opportunity.