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Points of Order

Volume 542: debated on Monday 26 March 2012

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Reports in the press this weekend have given direct rise not only to the statement that we have just heard but to a series of statements by No. 10 and, today, a statement by the Prime Minister. I put it to you that it is utterly unacceptable for the Prime Minister to make such a statement outside the House of Commons instead of coming here to make the statement and to face questions from Members. This is not the first time that this has happened. In fact, there has been a long series of Ministers making statements outside Parliament instead of coming here to face the elected House of Commons. Will you put it to the Government that it is totally unacceptable that they should make statements on such issues outside the House instead of coming to Parliament to face us?

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Is it not true that, notwithstanding the fact that the House has decided not to sit this Wednesday, the Government could, if they wanted to, table a motion tonight to allow us to sit on Wednesday, so that we could have Prime Minister’s questions? For that matter, notwithstanding this afternoon’s statement from the Minister, could we not have a statement on this matter from the Prime Minister later today, or a statement from him and a special round of Prime Minister’s questions tomorrow?

I will deal with the points of order in reverse order, if I may. First, I say to the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) that I know he is an expert in all matters of parliamentary procedure, as well as being blessed with a fertile imagination. I hope that he will accept that I do not want to get into hypotheticals. I am not disputing what has been said; nor am I making an argument for it. I simply note what the hon. Gentleman has said.

So far as the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Sir Gerald Kaufman) is concerned, I reiterate the importance that I attach to statements being made in the House on important matters of public policy. I hope that he will take it in the spirit in which it is intended when I say that it has been my privilege to listen to his points of order, his interventions, his questions and his speeches in this Chamber on a vast miscellany of topics for almost 15 years. Others have savoured that particular joy throughout the 41 years and nine months since the right hon. Gentleman entered the House of Commons.

There are other points of order, and the day would not be complete without a point of order from Mr Keith Vaz.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Actually, I very rarely raise a point of order, as you know, but this is almost a “further to that point of order”. Last Friday, I awoke to the dulcet tones of the Home Secretary talking on the “Today” programme about the Government’s new alcohol policy. An hour or so later, I was notified that a statement was going to be made to the House on that subject. This was on Friday morning, and very few Members—and no members of the Home Affairs Select Committee—were present. We fully support minimum pricing for alcohol—it has been a recommendation of the Committee—but it would have been helpful to know that such a statement was to be made before hearing the news on the “Today” programme.

I note what the right hon. Gentleman has said. I do attach importance to statements being made in the House. Statements on a Friday are relatively unusual, but they are certainly in no way disorderly. I acknowledge that the rarity of the circumstances was reflected not least in the fact that he was not present. Ordinarily, of course, in respect of virtually any conceivable aspect of Home Office business he is present. I detect a degree of frustration that he was unable to be and note it, but nothing disorderly occurred. The Home Secretary was perfectly in order to do what she did.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. On Friday the Supreme Court upheld the ruling that the Government’s cuts to the feed-in tariff for solar power are unlawful. Mr Speaker, have you or your good office had any indication from Ministers at the Department for Energy and Climate Change who presided over this debacle that they wish to come to the House to apologise for the chaos they have created in the British solar industry and the thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money they have wasted on legal fees?

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is my first point of order, so I understand why something so uncharacteristic might have slipped your eye. Will you urge the Cabinet Secretary to hurry back to the House, because in answer to one question he described the Prime Minister’s flat in No. 10 Downing street as private property? Have the Government sold off part of No. 10, or did he misinform the House?

I will not continue the exchanges that took place earlier and will not urge the Minister for the Cabinet Office to hurry back to the Chamber. I sense that the hon. Lady’s point of order is really a rhetorical question and hope that I can be forgiven for making the point in passing, which is simply a statement of fact, that the right hon. Member for Horsham (Mr Maude), although he occupies a high office in the Government, is not the Cabinet Secretary.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Rhondda for what he says from a sedentary position. Speaker’s House remains standing, and I hope that it will continue to do so. I thank colleagues for their co-operation.