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Points of Order

Volume 533: debated on Monday 17 October 2011

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Things have certainly moved on since last Monday, when the then Defence Secretary made a statement to the House. There has been a great deal of comment, and reports in the press, about various individuals and United States-based companies that were apparently involved with the individual who described himself at the time as the adviser to the Defence Secretary.

In view of the undoubtedly serious matters and allegations involving the Ministry of Defence, will the House have an opportunity to hear a statement? We heard a statement last Monday, but we have not heard one since, and these are very serious allegations.

During business questions last week, the House was reminded of the promise the present Prime Minister made shortly before the election that the most serious threat to the reputation of the House—after MPs’ expenses—was the possibility of abuse of our procedures by big corporate lobbyists. Sadly, the Government have taken no action to ensure that some control is exercised over the affairs of lobbyists, and there is now abundant evidence that that is an urgent priority.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Have Ministers informed you that they will come to the House to make a statement on that report before releasing it to the media?

I am correct in my surmise. We shall therefore come on to the hon. Lady’s point of order shortly—we will save her up. First, I shall respond to the earlier point of order and the subsequent comments on it.

The short answer to the hon. Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle), speaking from the Labour Front Bench, is no: I have not received any such notification. My response to the hon. Member for Walsall North (Mr Winnick) is that I have, of course, noted what he has told me and the House this afternoon, but, as he will know, responsibility for deciding to make statements, and then for making them, lies with Ministers. It is a matter of calculation or good fortune that as the hon. Gentleman was raising his point of order with me he was in the presence of the Leader of the House, who is sitting on the Treasury Bench. The comments that have been made will therefore have been heard, and I feel sure that if as a result of the publication of documents, or because decisions have been reached, a Minister wishes to make a statement, he or she will do so. Finally, I note what the hon. Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn) has said, and others will also have done so.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Following last week’s Westminster Hall debate on disabled access to public transport, I seek your advice on the treatment of visitors in wheelchairs to this place. This weekend, I received a number of complaints from people who missed the start of the debate because, despite stating their destination very clearly on arrival, they were directed to another Committee Room where a lobby meeting held by employees of Remploy was taking place. They, and others, were unable to fit into Westminster Hall. The majority of the chairs had not been removed because if they had been left in the corridor it might have disrupted a later debate. Our office gave notice that some visitors in wheelchairs were expected, but it does not seem right that people with disabilities should be required to give notice to come to this place when others are not. I have the greatest respect for the staff in this House and I do not attribute responsibility to any individual, but it seems that we have, collectively on this occasion, fallen far short of the standards that the 12 million people in this country with disabilities should be able to expect from their elected representatives. I therefore ask that you urgently investigate this matter, Mr Speaker, and ensure that such situations never arise again.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for providing me with notice of her intended point of order, I am grateful to her for what she said and I am grateful for the manner in which she said it. I attach the greatest importance to all our proceedings being accessible to everyone, without discrimination. The hon. Lady relates to me a sequence of events with which until a short while ago I was entirely unfamiliar. The best I can say to her and the House is that I will inquire into the matters she raises, reporting back as necessary to her and the House. I hope that is helpful.