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Points of Order

Volume 547: debated on Tuesday 26 June 2012

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. During yesterday’s urgent question on flooding, I asked the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what support Calderdale council could expect to receive under the Bellwin scheme to fund both its emergency response and its recovery effort. In her reply, she said that

“the trigger for the Bellwin formula is 15% of a local authority’s income”.—[Official Report, 25 June 2012; Vol. 547, c. 25.]

That did not sound right to me, so I went to the House of Commons Library and discovered that the trigger is in fact just 0.2% of a council’s annual income; that triggers a reimbursement from central Government of 85% of the costs incurred. Would you like to invite the Secretary of State to comment and correct the record on this matter?

Clearly this is a key point in the mind of the shadow Secretary of State. As the Secretary of State is with us and literally on the edge of her seat, let her come to the Dispatch Box and respond if she so wishes.

This just shows what we all know in the House: when it is not one’s departmental brief, one probably should not venture an opinion. The hon. Lady has informed the House of this matter. The 15% figure that was in my mind when answering the urgent question comes from the amount that is then disbursed to the local authority. I have taken the matter up with the Department for Communities and Local Government, but what matters is that the council gets help if it is entitled to it.

We are grateful to the Secretary of State for that acknowledgement and explanation, which is very helpful.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Although, sadly, the Deputy Prime Minister is no longer with us—corporeally, at any rate—I was concerned, as I trust you were, at the widespread reports in the weekend press that he had vetoed any prospect of a referendum on the possible introduction of a proportional representation voting system for elections to a reformed upper House. Given the constitutional importance of such an issue and the motivation that it is clearly designed to help the Liberal Democrats retain a permanent stranglehold on future legislative processes, should not such announcements be made initially to this House rather than via the media?

That was a scintillating polemic for the House to savour, but what I would say to the hon. Gentleman, whom I have known for 29 years this October, is that although the logic of his attempted point of order is compelling, it suffers as a point of order from the disadvantage that the premise on which the logic has been built is, in my judgment, misplaced. The reason I say that to the hon. Gentleman is that the Deputy Prime Minister was not announcing a change of Government policy but, as far as I can tell, merely reiterating the status quo. That will have to do for now, but all these matters will doubtless be explored eloquently, in detail and at length in the upcoming debates on House of Lords reform, to which I fancy the hon. Gentleman will wish to contribute.