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Points of Order

Volume 529: debated on Monday 13 June 2011

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Last Thursday, a written statement on the fast-track solar photovoltaic review was quietly laid before the House. By Thursday evening we had been given the response. Gaynor Hartnell of the Renewable Energy Association said:

“The handling of this whole affair has been poor”.

Dave Sowden said:

“This is bad news for…worthwhile projects—schools, communities, public buildings.”

Friends of the Earth said:

“This consultation—

after which nothing changed—

“has been an utter farce—Ministers have completely ignored warnings from community groups”.

To make things worse, by Saturday there was an announcement in the Daily Mail that “Ministers plan an abrupt change of policy to rescue solar power jobs.” It was reported that the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker) had said:

“I am a big fan of solar energy. I believe it can have an important role in breaking the stranglehold of the Big Six energy companies.”

Out of respect to this House, which I know you hold most dear, Mr Speaker, and the necessity for policy announcements to be made in this Chamber, have you had a request for the Minister responsible for solar energy to appear before this House to explain, first, the review that never was, and secondly, the policy review change mooted over the weekend?

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You are, of course, aware that there is a major Bill before Parliament proposing huge changes in the national health service. It has been announced in the press today that the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister are to hold a staged event at 12 noon tomorrow to announce the changes that they intend to make to that Bill. Is it not utterly unacceptable, particularly when a Bill is before the House of Commons, for announcements about what is to be done to that Bill to be made two and a half hours before the House sits? Do you not agree that that statement should be made first to the House of Commons, and that this stunt should be called off?

I reiterate to the right hon. Gentleman, and to the House, my usual point from the Chair, which is that if Ministers, be they ever so high, have important policy announcements to make, including about any changes in policy, those announcements should be made first to the House of Commons.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. In the light of the NHS Future Forum report on the listening exercise for the Health and Social Care Bill, have you had any indication from the Secretary of State or the Government business managers when they intend to end the pause in the Bill’s progress, and whether it will be recommitted to a Public Bill Committee of MPs to allow proper scrutiny of the proposed changes and to allow the Labour party, which formed the NHS, to have a say on those important matters?

Those are important matters, but they are matters for the Government. The point of order raised by the hon. Gentleman, although a matter of great concern to him and to many others, is essentially a business question, and therefore is not a matter for the Chair. Those who are responsible for such matters will have noted, and doubtless taken heed of, the hon. Gentleman’s observations.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I am letting your original pronouncement in answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Sir Gerald Kaufman) sink in, and I would not want to put any words in your mouth, obviously, but it seemed to me that you might have been suggesting that the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister would not be right to go ahead with an announcement in another venue before coming to this House.

If the hon. Gentleman had not made his name as a Member of Parliament, I feel sure that he would have had a very fruitful career at the Bar—

Not downstairs, but in the law courts.

I simply say to the hon. Gentleman that I am not suggesting anything, and I do not feel the need to add anything to what I have already said in response to the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Sir Gerald Kaufman). First, I think that what I said was pretty clear, and secondly, the right hon. Gentleman is not in any way slow on the uptake. I hope that is clear.

Royal Assent

I have to notify the House, in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967, that Her Majesty has signified her Royal Assent to the following Act:

Postal Services Act 2011.