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Points of Order

Volume 548: debated on Wednesday 11 July 2012

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like to raise a point of order for which I have given prior notice. As my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield Central (Paul Blomfield) made clear in Prime Minister’s questions earlier, Ministers are poised to announce detailed plans to scrap direct financial support for more than 350,000 adult learners and replace it with a loan system. Their regulatory assessment suggests 150,000 adults falling by the wayside as a result, yet we are being told that regulations will be laid imminently, via the negative procedure, just before the House’s summer recess, offering no opportunity from the Government for debate. Is it in order for those changes to come into force, as they will, on 1 September, before we return, and is it acceptable that the further education sector should see the largest change in adult learning funding in a generation, with no opportunity offered to Members in this House to question Ministers or have a debate on the Floor of the House?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for notice of his point of order. The matters that concern him do not appear to me to raise any questions about the rules of the House. Therefore, they are not a matter for the Chair. No doubt Ministers will have heard what he has just said. It is open to any Member of the House to table a prayer against a statutory instrument. Moreover, I would emphasise that it is Wednesday today. The House will not rise for the summer recess until next Tuesday, so there are opportunities for the hon. Gentleman to seek to debate the matter, whether in Government time, Opposition time or, indeed, Back-Bench time. I hope that that is helpful to him.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your advice. I wrote to the Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice on the important issue of firearms on 4 January 2012, and again on 27 March and 21 May, as well as making two telephone calls to his private office to ask for a response. Today I have still not received a response. I wonder whether you could advise me on whether there is anything further I could do to seek a response from the Minister.

The hon. Lady is an experienced and assiduous Member of the House. One thing she can do is to raise the matter on the Floor of the House, which she has just done. It is perhaps fortuitous for her that she has done so in the presence of no less a figure than the Deputy Leader of the House, who, together with the Leader of the House, attaches great importance to timely replies from Ministers to Back-Bench Members. This is a point I have made repeatedly: Ministers must answer to hon. and right hon. Members. I hope that the failure thus far to do so will be speedily communicated to the Minister and that he will make good in time. I hope that is helpful.