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Points of Order

Volume 523: debated on Monday 7 February 2011

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Will you confirm whether it is parliamentary to refer to right hon. or hon. Members as being guilty of “rank hypocrisy”? Obviously, if it is parliamentary, we might like to use it on a daily or even hourly basis to describe the Government’s policies. I gave notice to the Secretary of State for Education that I would raise this point of order. If it is an unparliamentary expression, can you require an apology and a withdrawal?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order and for notice that he intended to raise it. At the outset, I say to the House that there was an enormous amount of noise in the Chamber when the Secretary of State was responding to a question and I did not hear clearly every word that he said. However, as the House would expect, I have had the record checked, and the words about which the hon. Gentleman complains appear in the draft Official Report at the end of the answer. It is indeed unparliamentary for any Member of the House to suggest that another Member is a hypocrite or has said something hypocritical. The term “rank hypocrisy”, when directed at what another Member has said, is unparliamentary and should be withdrawn. I hope that is clear.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I cannot remember, having been in this House for quite a few years, a statement by the Prime Minister on such a diverse selection of topics. I find it difficult to understand how Members can hold the Prime Minister accountable if he comes to the House with a potpourri of different aspects for which we are supposed to hold him accountable. Will it become a general process that we will not be able to tell what we will be asking the Prime Minister about?

The decision on whether to make a statement is a matter for the Government, the title of the statement is a matter for the Government and the content of the statement is a matter for the Government. I never have treated and never will treat anything said by the hon. Gentleman, or any other Member, with levity. He is raising a serious point, but I do not feel that it is a matter for the Chair today. I hope I can safely say to the hon. Gentleman, who has been in the House for 31 years—coming up to 32 years—without interruption, that the idea that anything causes him difficulty is hard to credit.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Given that we no longer have debates in Government time ahead of the European Council, is it not even more reprehensible that the European Council statement has got mixed up with another major issue that should have been in a separate statement?

I really do not think that that is a matter for the Chair. I note what the hon. Lady has said about debates before European Councils, which is an important observation. The Leader of the House is in his place and has heard it, and if the hon. Lady wishes to pursue it through the usual channels or with the Leader of the House she is, of course, absolutely justified in doing so.

Earlier, I had an indication that the hon. Member for Walsall North (Mr Winnick) wished to raise a point of order.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Would it not be strange if the Prime Minister came to the House and made a statement, and then when somebody asked him a question, he said, “I’m not answering that, because it’s outside the remit of what I came to the House for”? I should think that we should welcome the Prime Minister answering questions as widely as possible.

I am not sure that I should be the arbiter of that. The hon. Gentleman has raised an issue of what he considers to be “strangeness” and asked me to rule on it, but I think that is beyond the remit of the Chair, so we will leave it there for today.