Skip to main content

Points of Order

Volume 557: debated on Thursday 31 January 2013

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Departments of State have varied records as to the quality and timeliness of answering questions. The Department of Health is very good, but the Department for Education has been particularly bad—so bad, in fact, that an evidence session with a Minister of State in December at the Procedure Committee, and an evidence session with the Secretary of State last week, considered why that Department was so woefully bad. Last week at the Procedure Committee there was a list of 36 questions that had been asked in 2012 to which answers had not yet been given. As of yesterday, 31 of those questions remain unanswered. Would it be in order for me to apply for an urgent question to ask the Secretary of State for an explanation of the departmental failure if urgent progress is not made?

The matter that the hon. Gentleman raises is, I believe, the subject of a current investigation by the Procedure Committee, of which he is himself a distinguished member. I think the House should await the outcome of the Committee’s deliberations before considering the matter on the Floor. The hon. Gentleman has made his point and it will have been heard in the appropriate quarters.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. On 12 December, I wrote to the Deputy Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr Clegg), asking him to desist from accepting an invitation to open a relocated business premises in my constituency on 1 February, which is of course tomorrow. Only today I received a response in which the right hon. Gentleman asserts that he will be attending the event in his capacity as a local MP, having been invited by the company due to a personal connection. May I ask for your guidance, Mr Speaker, on what appears to me an arrogant and blatant disregard of the protocol governing relationships between MPs and their constituencies?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her point of order. The short answer is that what is required in these circumstances is notification. It is not the case that under our procedures a Member is prohibited from visiting and making a public appearance in another hon. Member’s constituency. I do not seek in any sense to duck the issue, but ultimately it is not one for the Chair. It is a matter for resolution, if possible, but certainly for discussion between neighbouring Members. It is clear that the hon. Lady is extremely dissatisfied, and she may wish to raise the matter further with the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr Clegg). I must say, however, that on the specific matter of order, there has been no breach thereof. I think we will have to leave it there for today.