On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I believe that you have had advance notice of this point. I seek your guidance on how best to elicit a response from the Treasury on a number of questions that I tabled about the average tax paid at different high income levels. On 28 February, I tabled three written parliamentary questions to the Treasury, numbers 97755, 97800 and 97801, for named day answer on 5 March. I received a holding reply and on 27 March I tabled a further named day written question, asking when I would receive a response to the previous written questions. On 16 April, I received a further holding reply. As the House is shortly to prorogue and as there is a danger that the questions will fall if they are not answered before Prorogation, I would appreciate your advice on how I might best receive a response. Whether it was intentional or accidental, this is inexcusable and an insult to democracy and I hope that you can help me.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her point of order and for giving me advance notice of her intention to raise it. Ordinarily, I would say to the hon. Lady or to any other Member who was dissatisfied with an answer that they should consider taking the matter up with the Procedure Committee, which monitors such matters. In general terms, I stand by that advice. When the objection of the hon. Member is not to the content of an answer being in some way unsatisfactory or out of kilter with the spirit of what the House expects but rather to the fact that there has been no substantive reply at all, that is an extremely serious concern. It was flagged up several times earlier in this Parliament and in the previous Parliament and I hope that the presence of the Leader of the House and the Deputy Leader of the House on the Treasury Bench will suffice to ensure that the relevant Ministers are chased with some urgency to provide substantive—not holding—replies to the questions posed by the hon. Lady before the House prorogues, thereby avoiding the need for the hon. Lady to have to return to the matter in the new Session.
It will not do for Ministers simply to wait several days or even weeks and then to reply by saying, “I will reply as soon as possible.” The Leader of the House and I share a distaste for that practice.
Housing (Selective Licensing of Private Landlords in Exempted Areas) Bill
Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
Graham Jones presented a Bill to give local authorities the power to apply selective licensing conditions to private landlords in exempted areas with social housing stock.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 27 April, and to be printed (Bill 330).