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Points of Order

Volume 535: debated on Tuesday 8 November 2011

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I ask for your guidance? Item 4 on today’s Order Paper, under the heading “Backbench Business”, is entitled “Publication of a Select Committee Report”. Below that is a motion in the name of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs Ellman), which states

“That this House notes the publication of the Tenth Report from the Transport Committee on High Speed Rail”.

As you know, Sir, a number of us are concerned about that issue. Below the motion is a note which says

“Proceedings on Mrs Ellman’s Motion are expected to continue for approximately 20 minutes.”

I have never seen such a provision on the Order Paper before. Will you give the House some idea of what you expect to happen? Will the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside be allowed to speak for 20 minutes about the Select Committee’s report? Will those of us who have quite a lot to say about the report have any opportunity to intervene or to make a contribution, or does the note merely constitute guidance meaning that the business can continue until any hour?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order, and I hope to be able, at least in part, to satisfy his curiosity.

First, I am sorry the hon. Gentleman has not noticed such an item on the Order Paper before; that is uncharacteristically unobservant of him, as in my current recollection there have been at least three occasions on which similar items have been placed on the Order Paper.

Secondly, the hon. Gentleman seeks a steer as to the nature of the proceedings in question. It is an occasion upon which the Chair of the Select Committee presents a statement about the report, and it is customary on such occasions for Members to intervene on the Select Committee Chair, if they wish to do so. There are no other speeches, however.

Thirdly, I should inform the hon. Gentleman that this is a relatively recent development, and he may wish to look in the direction of his right hon. Friend the Leader of the House—who is currently sitting on the Treasury Bench—if he is curious as to whether it will be a temporary or an enduring phenomenon. I shall leave that little teaser in the mind of the hon. Gentleman.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I informed the Environment Secretary of my intention to make a point of order today. Yesterday, the right hon. Lady published a written ministerial statement on the results of the European Union Agricultural Council, in which she states that

“the laying hens directive…comes into force on 1 January 2013.”—[Official Report, 7 November 2011; Vol. 535, c. 5WS.]

As Members on both sides of the House will be aware, the laying hens directive, in fact, comes into force on 1 January 2012. The Secretary of State also states in that document, however, that the Commission plans to uphold the ban on battery cages and to start inspection visits at the start of 2013. There is therefore some confusion about what action the Commission will be taking and in which year that will start.

This is not the first time that Environment Ministers have slipped up. They had to correct the record on the new British Waterways charity, and there is also the now-legendary legal case that was supposed to be proceeding in Europe on the use of wild animals in circuses, but which transpired not to exist. Will you advise the House, Mr Speaker, on when the Secretary of State might come to the Chamber to correct the record? I see that the Leader of the House is in his place; I wonder whether he can assure us that such unfortunate episodes will not become custom and practice.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady, the shadow Secretary of State, for her point of order. The matter to which she has referred is certainly of intense, and probably of enduring, interest to a great many, including the hens themselves. The other matters to which she referred will have been noted, doubtless at a distance by the Secretary of State, and here in person, in the Chamber, by the Leader of the House. If the hon. Lady were minded to pursue the matter any further, I might—unfairly—conclude that she was seeking to establish a point not of information, but a political argument; but I am sure she has not got the latter in mind in any way.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister and the Health Secretary have both claimed that UK cancer survival and death rates are poor by international standards, and they have referred to that as a justification for the NHS reforms. It has become clear from a study produced by Professor Pritchard-Jones—

Order. The hon. Gentleman should resume his seat. I fear that points of order might be in danger of transmuting into comments on past ministerial statements on a range of matters. If the hon. Gentleman is seeking to prove to me and the House what an assiduous member of the Health Committee—and of the previous Health and Social Care Public Bill Committee—he is, he has succeeded in his mission.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I just wonder whether you are keeping any score of how many mistakes, misquotes or misdirections to the House Cabinet Ministers are allowed to make before there is some attempt to call them to account.

The short answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question is no, but he has made his point. If there are no further points of order, we can come now to the ten-minute rule motion, for which the hon. Member for Lewisham East (Heidi Alexander) has been patiently waiting.