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Point of Order

Volume 519: debated on Wednesday 1 December 2010

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I should like to secure advice on an answer that was provided to me yesterday during questions to the Attorney-General. In response to my question—[Interruption.]

Order. May I appeal to hon. and right hon. Members who are leaving the Chamber to do so quickly and quietly? It would be helpful if I could hear the point of order from the hon. Lady—I might then be in a position to respond to it.

I asked the Solicitor-General about the UK’s failure to sign up to the proposed EU directive on preventing and combating the trafficking of human beings. He said that the UK was a signatory, and repeated that in response to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for West Dunbartonshire (Gemma Doyle). However, that is not the case: the UK has opted out of the proposed directive. Could you advise me, Mr Speaker, on what is the best way for the Solicitor-General to correct his mistake?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her point of order. The short answer to her question is that the best way for a mistake to be corrected is for the Minister, if he has made a mistake, to correct it. We are about to hear from the hon. and learned Solicitor-General.

There was a degree of confusion; the hon. Lady’s question was too general. I answered the question correctly. There are two European directives, one of which is signed, and one of which is not, hence the confusion. The former right hon. Member for Airdrie and Shotts, now Lord Reid, signed on behalf of the Government the European directive to which I referred in my answer yesterday. The hon. Lady may have referred to a different directive that has not yet been signed, so we were both right and we were both wrong.

I do not want in any sense to treat this matter with levity, but I hope the Solicitor-General will understand if I say that that absolutely ingenious response is proof of the argument that no reply from a lawyer is ever simple.

Order. We are grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman. The hon. Lady has put her view very fairly and squarely on the record. We will leave it there for today. I am grateful to the hon. Lady, and indeed to the Solicitor-General.