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Points of Order

Volume 553: debated on Monday 19 November 2012

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Last week’s elections for police and crime commissioners had two remarkable characteristics that should concern the House. On the one hand, they had the lowest participation in any national election ever, and on the other hand, they had the highest number of rejected, spoilt ballot papers ever, when 120,000 people who thought themselves disfranchised wrote powerful, vigorous and emphatic messages on their ballot papers. Should not those messages be sampled and reported to this House?

The hon. Gentleman has been in the House long enough to know that neither turnout nor the number of spoiled ballot papers is in any way a matter for the Chair. It does not constitute a matter of order, and I would not want the hon. Gentleman, who is an extremely dextrous and experienced parliamentarian, to get those who are about to become new Members into bad habits at an excessively early stage. He has made his own point in his own way and will find ways to persevere with this matter if he so wishes.

Order. Members should calm down. It is impossible for me not to see the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman), but because he is so enthusiastic, he will have to curb his enthusiasm. I call Mr David Winnick.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. As you will know, there is considerable concern about the violence inflicted on Gaza by Israeli forces and about the civilian casualties. In the last few days, we have seen pictures of young children who have burned to death. It is therefore important for this House to debate the issue as quickly as possible. Will you confirm, Mr Speaker, that the Foreign Secretary will make a statement on Tuesday on this very urgent humanitarian issue?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. I am happy to confirm that I have been advised that the Foreign Secretary will indeed make a statement on these matters tomorrow. Ordinarily, hon. and right hon. Members might have hoped for a statement today, but it would be fair to say that, as some will know and others might not, the Foreign Secretary is in Brussels today, discussing these very matters. At the first opportunity tomorrow, the House will expect to hear from the right hon. Gentleman, and I feel sure that the hon. Member for Walsall North (Mr Winnick) will be in his customary place.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was trying to curb my enthusiasm to make sure that Ministers of the Crown come to this House to make statements that they should make to us rather than either leaking them to the press or launching them without the House’s participation. Only last week, when the House was not sitting, the Secretary of State for Education launched his Department’s review—a major review of the Department for Education, including proposals for a savage cut of up to 1,000 jobs and the closure of regional offices. This is a major restructuring of the Department for Education, so this report should have been launched by the Secretary of State to this House. It is disrespectful to us and to the education community to do it in any other way.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. My understanding was that the Government had announced a review rather than a specific policy. However, my expectation that Ministers make key policy announcements first to the House is both well known and unchanged. If the hon. Gentleman, who on the strength of his 33 years’ uninterrupted service knows these conventions, is dissatisfied with the Secretary of State, I have a keen sense that he will display his keenness to pursue this matter for days and days and days.

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I believe that the Secretary of State for International Development said a few moments ago that she had made a statement—or the Department had issued a statement—on the decision to stop aid to India. I believe that that is not the case, and it is possible that it needs to be corrected.

I think I am right in saying that there was a written ministerial statement on the matter. I do not think that any erroneous statement has been made, but the hon. Gentleman, who is a former Minister himself, will know that Ministers are always responsible for the statements that they make to the House.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman’s point of order is on an entirely unrelated matter, and I believe it to be so.

Indeed. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As a Member of Parliament in this place, I sometimes get tired of the endless sniping and backbiting, and being surrounded by rats and snakes and even cockroaches, so I have given up viewing “I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!”. However, I have now received a letter from a constituent of another hon. Member, which begins:

“May I apologise for writing to you rather than my own constituency MP, but living in Mid Bedfordshire I do not seem to have an MP at the moment.”

What advice can you offer, Mr. Speaker? Or perhaps the hon. Member for Mid Bedfordshire (Nadine Dorries) has left a forwarding address in the jungle with you.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. My advice to him is that he should begin by contacting Members representing constituencies neighbouring Mid Bedfordshire to ascertain whether any of them feels able to provide assistance.

If there are no further points of order, will Members wishing to take their seats please come to the Table?