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Points of Order

Volume 521: debated on Monday 10 January 2011

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. In a statement given to this House in December, the Under-Secretary of State for Justice, the hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr Djanogly), circulated a list of courts to be closed which stated that the county court services in Worksop would transfer to Worksop magistrates court. To clarify that that was the case, I asked him a question from these Benches, and he confirmed to the House that it was so. It has subsequently come to light not only that that information provided orally to the House and in writing was inaccurate, but that exactly the opposite is happening, and that the county court services are to transfer away from Worksop court. I am sure that this was not an attempt to mislead the House but a bureaucratic cock-up of some kind by civil servants. Will you advise me,Mr Speaker, on how the Minister can best rectify this situation whereby his civil servants have clearly not carried out his instructions as outlined to the House?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order and for his giving me notice of it. From that notice—the letter that he sent to me before Christmas—I am well aware of his concern on this matter, which he has reiterated forcefully this afternoon. There is a mechanism for the correction of ministerial replies where necessary. That observation will have been heard by those on the Treasury Bench and, I trust, in the relevant Department. The hon. Gentleman can seek advice from the Table Office on how to pursue this matter, and I rather imagine that he will. I note that Ministry of Justice Ministers are answering oral questions tomorrow. I hope that that response is helpful.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You will be aware of the serious riots in Ford open prison during the parliamentary recess. The Government have set up an inquiry to consider the causes and what lessons can be learned. I would be grateful if you could ensure through your good offices that when the inquiry comes to a conclusion, Ministers come to the House to make an oral statement on the findings, and do not simply rely on a press notice or leaks to the newspapers.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her point of order. The means of communication of Government conclusions is a matter for the Government—that is to say, it is not for me to specify that there be an oral rather than a written statement. Her plea will have been heard by those on the Treasury Bench. More widely on this important issue, I reiterate a point that I made in response to the previous point of order, namely that Justice questions will be answered tomorrow. I doubt that it will be beyond the wit and dexterity of hon. Members to raise this matter if they so wish.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I in no way seek to challenge your ruling, but wish to explain to you and the House that I was delayed by seeking to speak to a constituent who is a double infectee of hepatitis C and AIDS, who has suffered greatly and who has been very active in the campaign, to discuss the very issues that were the subject of the statement by the Secretary of State for Health. I will be in touch with the Secretary of State in writing to raise the points that I would like to have raised.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. That was not a point of order, but it might be described as a point of courtesy, and the House is grateful for it.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is a good deal of disquiet over the proceedings against six demonstrators. The case has been dropped because the police were very reluctant to give information about an undercover agent. It is not unknown, of course, for police officers to act as undercover agents, and in many cases it is perfectly justified, such as in terrorism cases that safeguard our country. It appears that the police constable in this case was not just an undercover agent; he has more or less admitted that he was acting as an agent provocateur—there is no other way to describe it. Is there any way in which the Home Secretary can be asked to make a statement on this case, which as I said is creating a good deal of disquiet?

It is up to a Minister in the Home Office or another relevant Department to decide whether to make a statement. On the face of it, this seems to be good material for a business question. The hon. Gentleman might want to raise the matter at the appropriate slot on Thursday. That is the best that I can offer him at the moment.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Has the Business Secretary asked to make a statement on Royal Mail’s deployment of what it calls the “Way Forward” system of working? Its roll-out in my constituency has been shambolic for nearly two months, with many constituents receiving mail late or not at all. What powers do you have to compel the Secretary of State to take questions on that matter before the system is deployed elsewhere in the country?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. I think he well knows that I have no such powers, but it is decent of him to think that I might be granted them. I say to him that the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and his colleagues will, if memory serves me, answer oral questions on Thursday. I look forward with interest and enthusiasm to seeing him in his place on that occasion.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. On 20 December, the day before the House rose, the Secretary of State for Transport made a statement on the route of the high-speed rail network and said that the main interchange would be at the Old Oak Common depot in my constituency. He visited that depot before coming to the House. Although that is the largest ever civil engineering project in the area, he did not inform me of that visit. He did, however, inform the press, to which he made statements; the local Conservative party, which then publicised the visit; and the local authority. Given that that appears to have breached not only the custom of informing Members but those of not making statements before coming to the House and of not using announcements to party advantage, can you help me understand how it can be prevented from happening in future?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that point of order, and I appreciate the importance of the issue to his constituency and a great many others. Major announcements should be made first in the House. The exact mechanics by which Ministers inform all the interested parties are not necessarily a matter for the rules of the House, but I suggest that he draw the matter to the attention of the Procedure Committee, which is considering ministerial statements.

More widely, if I have understood the hon. Gentleman correctly, I simply reiterate what I think most colleagues understand and try to apply, namely that there is a convention that a Member, including a Minister, visiting the constituency of another Member notifies the Member whose constituency is being visited in advance, and preferably in a timely way so that that Member has proper notice of it. I hope that that is helpful.