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Points of Order

Volume 525: debated on Tuesday 22 March 2011

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Have you received any communication from Vodafone to explain its poor network coverage in the Westminster area since last Friday? Fortunately, I am on another network, but other Members are experiencing irregular reception and failing to get Rapide messages, which is quite unacceptable. Are you able to do anything about the situation, which is highly disruptive to the work of the House and its Members?

I fear that that is not a point of order and that the right hon. Gentleman perhaps entertains unrealistic expectations of my powers, although I take his point in the constructive spirit in which he volunteered his remarks. I have received no communication from Vodafone on this important matter. However, I think that I am right in saying that it would be of interest to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, representatives of which, I hope, will get to hear of what he said.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. During Treasury questions, the shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Member for Morley and Outwood (Ed Balls), brandished what he claimed to be a leaked copy of a Government document due to be published tomorrow. Is it in order for Government documents that have been obtained illicitly to be brought into the Chamber or, indeed, to be referred to?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady both for her point of order and her courtesy in giving me advance notice of it. Not only was that courteous, but it gave me the chance to look into the matter, as she would wish. “Erskine May” is helpful on the subject, and I quote from page 443 for the benefit of the hon. Lady and the House:

“There is no rule to prevent Members not connected with the government from citing documents in their possession, both public and private, which are not before the House, even though the House will not be able to form a correct judgment from partial extracts.”

Whether or not, in the words of the late Lord Birkenhead, we are any the wiser, I hope that we are at least, as a result, somewhat better informed.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You are the custodian and guardian of the courtesies and conventions of the House, so I would be most grateful for your guidance on a matter of which I have given you advance notice. Is it not customary for an hon. Member to inform another Member in advance of a visit to their constituency? Was it sufficient, for example, for the shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs simply to announce at DEFRA questions that she intended to visit, for political reasons, a forest in my area? Would it not have been normal for her to write in advance to inform me of the matter? I am sure that this was an oversight on her part, but your guidance would be most helpful.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her point of order. The answer is that if a Member is visiting the constituency of another Member on official or public business, it is courteous for them to notify that other Member of their intention to visit, preferably reasonably in advance. This convention has been breached on both sides of the House, and I hope not to have continually to make the point that it is really a matter of elementary courtesy that we should adhere to this convention.

If there are no further points of order, we come to the ten-minute rule motion, for which the hon. Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom) has been patiently waiting. May I appeal that Members who are leaving the Chamber do so quickly and quietly so that these important matters can be addressed?