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Points of Order

Volume 526: debated on Monday 4 April 2011

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I seek your advice on how the House may properly engage with the public in the referendum on the alternative vote. Many of my constituents, and many Members of Parliament, have drawn my attention to the fact that a recent publication by the Yes campaign appears to be an official document drawn up by the local electoral service. It also appears that those who apply for a postal vote may well be entitled to vote in all the elections. How can we make people understand that this is nothing to do with the electoral service, and that they must apply for a different postal vote if they want to vote in the local elections?

I was going to rule on the point of order raised by the hon. Member for Elmet and Rothwell (Alec Shelbrooke), but if the point of order from the hon. Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin) will help, I will take it.

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The leaflet in question uses local authority free post whether or not a person already has a postal vote, thereby adding to the costs authorities face for this referendum. How can the House engage in this matter and hold this disbursement of public money, which the Yes campaign is wasting, properly to account?

That point has already been raised in the House. It is not a procedural point on which I can rule, but I suggest that it might be taken up with the Electoral Commission.

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Just over six weeks from now, East Coast trains will start operating on a new timetable. East Coast is wholly owned by the Government and many people who wish to travel will want to buy their tickets in advance in order to get the best possible fares. However, even though there are only six weeks to go until the timetable takes effect, East Coast has still not published it, so last week I tabled a named day question to the Minister of State, Department for Transport, the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mrs Villiers), asking when the timetable will be published. On Thursday, the Minister responded, saying that she will answer the question shortly. That is not an answer; that is a happy coincidence of ink patterns on a piece of paper. What is the point of named day questions if Ministers are allowed blatantly to ignore and disrespect Members and the procedures of this House?

There are quite a few points in that point of order. The first of them is, to some degree at least, a matter for the Scottish Government. I cannot rule on the second point. Instead, it will need to be taken up with the Table Office, and I am sure the Member will do so on his way out, in order to ask about the progress of the answer to that question.