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Points of Order

Volume 535: debated on Monday 14 November 2011

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I bring to your attention the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Mr Byrne) and the hon. Member for Leeds West (Rachel Reeves)—I have notified them in advance—and seek your guidance on whether a breach of the code of conduct might have occurred during the passage of the Pensions Bill? This follows—

Order. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for advance notice of his purported point of order, a welcome courtesy that might not have helped his cause. If, as I believe to be the case, he wishes to raise a matter relating to the code of conduct—

I am grateful for his nod of assent. He should raise such a matter with the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and not—I underline not—as I have had occasion to say before, as a point of order for me.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Last week, the Home Secretary and the Immigration Minister both asserted on more than one occasion in the House that their relaxation of border controls had not meant that any passengers arriving in the United Kingdom were at any point waved through without even rudimentary checks. However, I have incontrovertible new evidence that that is precisely what happened under a new general aviation policy that started earlier this year. Not only were passports not swiped and the warnings index not checked, but passengers were passed through without even being seen. I have also seen new evidence that the Government have statistics on how often—

Order. The hon. Gentleman is an extremely experienced Member, and he will know that matters of genuine contention and debate cannot be matters on which the Chair will rule. If he wants to avail himself of the mechanisms available to him through the Table Office and the other means by which he can draw his concerns to the attention of the House and seek to probe Ministers, I think that it would be best for him to do that first. In this case, I do not have the advantage of prior knowledge of the detailed content of his point of order—[Hon. Members: “Ah!”] I am not complaining about that; the hon. Gentleman is not guilty of any impropriety. It is no good people going “Ah!” as though I have made some dramatic disclosure. However, I have to make a judgment as to whether this matter warrants the further attention of the House now, and on the basis of the information available to me, my judgment is that it does not.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Various journalists were sent an e-mail from the Ministry of Defence last Wednesday at 6.13 pm informing them of the details of the planned troop deployment to the Kinloss base in Moray. The 930 Army engineering posts at Kinloss, although about 41% lower than the full RAF unit establishment total, will be welcome, but the Ministry of Defence first informed me, as a constituency Member, of the decision in a letter from the Armed Forces Minister via an e-mail some 15 hours later, at 9.06 on Thursday morning. Despite my e-mailing him back immediately to ask why the media had been informed some 15 hours in advance, I have yet to have a reply. Mr Speaker, do you agree that it is totally unacceptable for the MOD to operate in this way?

I am not sure that I can provide the hon. Gentleman with the satisfaction he seeks on the basis of what I have heard. He has taken this opportunity to put his concern on record, and I do not think that I need to take the matter further—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman is gesticulating at those on the Treasury Bench, using fulsome hand gestures in the process, but the Minister is under no obligation to respond. I would say, for the benefit of those who are interested in our proceedings, that this is not an occasion for debate. These are narrow matters of points of order for the Chair, and that is why I have ruled as I have done.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Please could the House have your ruling on the implications of the Information Commissioner’s ruling that the Department of Health has twice unlawfully withheld key risk indicators relating to the Government’s health reforms and to the Health and Social Care Bill? Can you advise the House on whether the Department’s action was unlawful, as stated by the Information Commissioner, and whether it should also be treated as contempt of Parliament, given that the information was sought through written questions from right hon. and hon. Members, and was withheld during the First, Second and Third Readings of the Bill in this House as well as during its unprecedented two Committee stages?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. On his first question about the action being unlawful, I will not respond, as it is not the job of the Speaker to rule on such matters. On his second point on the issue of contempt, this is in effect a complaint relating to privilege, which cannot be raised first on the Floor of the House. He should write to me if he wishes to pursue the matter. On the question of any further scrutiny, that is very much dependent on proceedings in the Lords, on which the Public Bill Office can advise. I think that I shall leave the matter there for today.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. The Procedure Committee is very willing to consider references to it of questions that have not been answered. Perhaps hon. Members will wish to know that no such references have been made recently and that we are looking forward to receiving them.

As ever, the hon. Gentleman has proved to be most helpful. His enthusiasm for consideration of these matters is widely known in all parts of the House.


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

That the following provisions shall apply to the Education Bill for the purpose of supplementing the Order of 8 February 2011 (Education Bill (Programme)):

Consideration of Lords Amendments

1. Proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 10.00 pm at this day’s sitting.

Subsequent stages

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

3. 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.—(Mr Gibb.)

Question agreed to.