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Points of Order

Volume 532: debated on Monday 12 September 2011

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Last week, this House was asked to debate, amend and agree the Health and Social Care Bill. We were asked to scrutinise that legislation with no updated information on the costs and consequences of the biggest reorganisation in NHS history, because the Government had promised a new impact assessment but had not published it before the debate. It was then smuggled out with no press statement the very next day and it shows that savings are planned at £2 billion less, it shows that the new economic regulator, Monitor, is set to have 600 staff at an average cost of £84,000 each and, most importantly to this House, on page three it shows that the Minister signed it off on 1 September, a full five days before the debate in this House. It is a disgrace that these facts were kept hidden from the House and the public before such a critical and controversial debate. In the light of page 447 of “Erskine May”, can you advise this House whether the Government have followed the proper parliamentary procedure and of what steps can be taken to stop such abuse in the future?

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of his point of order. He has made his point and it will have been heard by those on the Treasury Bench. Although the release of such information is a matter for the Government rather than for the Chair, I can tell him and the House that I do attach importance to the timely provision of information to the House, which is both courteous to Members and helpful in their deliberations. It is fortunate for the right hon. Gentleman and the House that at the time of his raising his point of order—this may not be a coincidence—the Leader of the House was sitting on the Treasury Bench. The Leader of the House is as courteous a man as is to be found on either side of the Chamber; he attaches importance to these matters and though he may not wish to respond to the point of order now, I can assure the House that he will have heard it.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Further to a written question regarding Government policy on equality issues relating to gender-specific dress codes in the workplace, I was rather surprised when the Home Secretary replied outlining what she was wearing on the day in question—a grey trouser suit and some shoes from L. K. Bennett—and mentioned her personal preference for smart dress and her belief that such dress had never hampered her career. Intrigued, I inquired at the Table Office whether I could seek regular sartorial insights from Ministers via written questions. I was advised that because the choices Ministers make before leaving home, such as

“whether to wash, shave or wear blue underpants”

are entirely personal and are not part of their ministerial responsibility or subject to Government policy, it would not be in order for me to do so. Is it therefore in order for a Minister to answer an entirely orderly and serious question regarding Government policy on an issue that has been raised with me by a constituent with what is a frivolous, albeit fascinating, fashion commentary?

The hon. Lady will understand immediately when I say that I do not regard myself as an authority on fashion. In response to points of order, I think an appropriate humility and self-denying ordinance on the part of this Chair would be prudent and seemly.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his sedentary intervention on the subject of ties, about which I do not intend to expatiate now or at any time from the Chair.

The hon. Lady kindly gave me notice of her point of order. What I would say to her, very seriously, is that the content of answers to parliamentary questions is a matter for the Government and not the Chair, and there are very good reasons, which will be immediately apparent to Members, why that should be so. The Chair cannot get into the business of acting as umpire or arbiter of the merit or demerit of a particular answer—only on the question of whether it is orderly. However, if the hon. Lady is dissatisfied with the answer, she should contact the Table Office to find other and perhaps further ways of pursuing the matter to obtain the satisfaction she seeks.

Police reform and social responsibility Bill (programme) (No. 3)

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 83A(7)),

That the following provisions shall apply to the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill for the purpose of supplementing the Orders of 13 December 2010 and 30 March 2011 (Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill (Programme) and Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill (Programme) (No. 2)):

Consideration of Lords Amendments

1. Proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments shall be taken at this day’s sitting in the order shown in the first column of the following Table.

2. The proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at the times specified in the second column of the Table.


Lords Amendments

Time for conclusion of proceedings

Nos. 1 to 4 and 6

8.00 pm

Nos. 5, 7 to 52, 54, 55, 58, 60 to 168, 53, 56, 57, 59, 169 and 170

10.00 pm

Subsequent stages

3. Any further Message from the Lords may be considered forthwith without any Question being put.

4. The proceedings on any further Message from the Lords shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion one hour after their commencement.—(Stephen Crabb.)

Question agreed to.