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Points of order

Volume 536: debated on Tuesday 29 November 2011

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Yesterday, just after Department for Work and Pensions questions, you said, in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Ms Eagle), that you were concerned that Government statements were being given to the media before coming to the House. In response to a question from the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone), the Work and Pensions Secretary said that all statements from his Department would be made to the House.

When the Minister with responsibility for disabled people, the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Maria Miller), was asked a direct question yesterday on what she was going to do about disability living allowance and people in residential care homes, she said that she would come forward with her final response. However, the 80,000 people who were affected by the relevant proposal could have found out the answer this morning, had they turned to page 8 of The Times, where the Minister says that she will announce that she is going to reverse the decision.

Mr Speaker, have you received any indication from the Secretary of State or the Minister as to why they did not seek the opportunity to make that statement at yesterday’s DWP questions, during Report of the Welfare Reform Bill in the House of Lords, or at any point during the progress of that Bill through the House of Commons, but instead waited to give a statement to The Times?

I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for her point of order. The short answer to her inquiry is no, I was not given any indication by any Minister on that matter. Naturally, the timing of Government statements is a matter for Ministers, as is whether a Minister chooses to make an announcement via oral questions or during a debate in the House. However, the basic point stands that policy announcements should first be made in the House and not through the newspapers. I understand the very real concern that exists on this matter because it is shared by me, and I have discussed it with the Leader of the House.

More widely—I will entertain the point of order from the hon. Member for Derby North (Chris Williamson) in a moment if he wishes to pursue it—let me emphasise my approach to today’s proceedings. I hope that the House will understand that I felt the matters in question had been rather fully aired outside the House, and it is therefore entirely to be expected that the opportunity should be provided for matters to be fully aired in the House. I know that the Chancellor would accept that as being entirely right and proper. The issues have been explored very fully. That, at least, is a satisfactory state of affairs.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. In his response to my question, the Chancellor inadvertently misled the House when he said that the previous Government had signed the contract for the Thameslink rolling stock programme. Can you, through your good offices, invite him to come back to the House to set the record straight so that there is no doubt about the situation—that the contract has been signed, at least to preferred bidder status, by this Administration and not by the previous one?

That is a testing point of order from the hon. Gentleman. All hon. Members, including Ministers, are responsible for the content and accuracy of the statements they make to the House. If an error has been made it is the responsibility of the Member who made it to correct it. I am sure that the Chancellor’s attention will have been drawn to the point of order raised by the hon. Gentleman and there may or may not be a response from him. If, however, the hon. Gentleman is dissatisfied, I feel sure, on the strength of my 18 months’ acquaintance with him, that he will pursue the matter like the veritable woodpecker he has proved to be. Perhaps we can leave it there for today.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder whether you could advise me how I can get on the record the fact that the Backbench Business Committee has arranged a debate on Monday about ministerial statements.

Well, the hon. Gentleman has done so. He will have warmed the cockles of the hearts of committed parliamentarians in all parts of the House. For my part, I will go about my business with an additional glint in my eye and spring in my step by virtue of knowing what he has just told me.

As there are no further points of order, we come now to the ten-minute rule motion, for which the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh) has been so patiently waiting.