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Points of Order

Volume 541: debated on Monday 27 February 2012

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You might have seen in the past few weeks exchanges between the Prime Minister and me regarding the need for a stalking law. I chaired a parliamentary inquiry in which all parties were represented and whose membership was drawn from both Houses of Parliament. The report, which is evidence-based and has some firm conclusions, was available in the Vote Office until last week, when the authorities said the copies should be taken down and no longer offered to Members of Parliament. How can I ensure the widest possible readership of this very important document? I want it to be read from Tydweiliog to Twickenham—I think it is vital that everyone reads it. Where can I display it for that purpose?

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his point of order and for notice of it. As I know he, as an experienced Member, will readily understand, the reports of all-party parliamentary groups are not official papers of the House. The Vote Office stocks only official papers and, very occasionally, other documents directly relevant to a debate on the Order Paper.

The right hon. Gentleman says that he wishes to make his report more widely known. May I politely suggest that he has just very effectively started to achieve his objective? If he wishes to e-mail the said document to all Members, I suspect that there will be an eager audience, and for my part I will be at or close to the head of the queue.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Will you look again at the decision by the House of Commons Commission to charge people for going up Clock Tower to see Big Ben, which would cost a family of four up to £60? Are there not other ways of saving money, such as not publishing Hansard and other publications daily, but instead publishing them online? Will you please look at this again, so that we ensure that we are a Parliament for the many, not the few?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order and for his courtesy in giving me notice of it. I am bound to say at the outset that this is not a point of order about proceedings of the House; nevertheless, he has raised the point in good faith and it warrants a response.

It would of course be unthinkable to charge members of the public for access to the proceedings of the House and its Committees, or to meet their Members of Parliament. However, Clock Tower tours are special tours, allowing access to an area of the Palace that, realistically, cannot be open to all. The charges agreed by the House of Commons Commission are set at a level that will cover the costs—I emphasise: cover the costs—of providing the tours. No profit will be made. I hope that that reassures the hon. Gentleman, but if he wishes to pursue the matter further my advice to him is that he should in the first instance take it up with the Chair of the Finance and Services Committee.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You will be aware that on 12 January this House passed unanimously a motion relating to pub companies that called for the Government to commission a review of self-regulation of the pub industry in autumn this year, to be conducted by an independent body approved by the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee. In a response to a written question, I have been informed by the Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, the hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb), that the Government propose to ignore the will of the House. Is it in order for the Government to vote in favour of something and then act in entirely the opposite way? What is the point in having votable Back-Bench motions if the Government are going to agree to one thing in debate and do the polar opposite afterwards?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order, and for giving me notice of it. The question of taking action in these circumstances, consequent upon a debate and vote, is a matter for the Government; it is not a matter for the Chair. There are, however, other courses open to the hon. Gentleman, and I know that those at the Table in front of me and in the Table Office will be ready to advise him. Indeed, unless my eyes deceive me, he has already availed himself of that course of action. I hope that he will persevere with that approach, and I feel sure that if he is not satisfied I will hear from him again.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Thank you for that endorsement. I do not know whether you still read The Daily Telegraph, but page 4 of today’s edition states:

“Theresa May, the Home Secretary, will announce new rules this week meaning migrants working in the UK must earn at least £35,000 a year if they want to stay longer than five years.”

If that is the case, it represents a significant change in public policy that we would all expect to have been announced to this House first, rather than to the national newspapers. That is bad enough, but I understand from two journalists that the Home Office is preparing a briefing session on this policy for journalists tomorrow, which will be embargoed until Wednesday morning so that it can appear in the Wednesday newspapers and be discussed on the Wednesday morning television programmes, before the House of Commons has an opportunity to question Ministers. Will you investigate this matter, Mr Speaker, and ensure that Ministers at the Home Office are not shy and careless about coming to the House and that they come here first? We should know about these matters before the newspapers do.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I read a variety of newspapers, but I have not read the story to which he refers. Embargoed press briefings are not a new phenomenon, although they do carry considerable dangers. The Government are well aware of my view, which I have reiterated on innumerable occasions, that major policy announcements should not be made public before they have been reported to this House by way of a statement or, conceivably, by other means. I will reflect on what the hon. Gentleman has said about what might be planned for tomorrow, and I suggest that all those potentially engaged in the activity to which he has referred should reflect very carefully upon it between now and then. I hope that that is clear and helpful.