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Points of Order

Volume 560: debated on Tuesday 26 March 2013

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise for standing pre-emptively earlier on. I was so excited by the number of statements and was wondering where the missing one was. Ash dieback is the biggest tree disease to hit this country since Dutch elm, and it has spread to 427 sites around the UK. We welcome today’s publication of the Chalara management plan, but it is available only on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs website. The Government have briefed the press about the publication of the plan but have not informed the House about it, despite undertaking to present it to the House. I ask for your advice once again, Mr Speaker, on how the House can hold the Executive to account when they fail to deliver on what they have promised, which on this occasion was to bring the Chalara management plan that deals with ash dieback to the House for its consideration? Instead, it is only out there for the press and on the DEFRA website.

I am sorry to learn of what the hon. Gentleman has described in his point of order. What I would say to him is twofold. First, the Deputy Leader of the House is present on the Treasury Bench and will have heard the point that he has made. Secondly, there will be an opportunity in the upcoming general debate before the Adjournment for Members to raise this matter if they so wish. No other obvious remedies are available today, but if the hon. Gentleman wishes to have recourse to the Order Paper via the Table Office, I feel sure that he will do so.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I tabled a round robin question on 4 December last year asking how many computers, mobile telephones, BlackBerrys and other pieces of IT equipment had been lost or stolen in 2010-11 and 2011-12. I have received answers from every Department apart from the Cabinet Office. It was due to answer on 6 December. I chased an answer on 16 January and expected an answer on 21 January. I raised the matter at business questions on 7 February and the Leader of the House very kindly promised to endeavour to get me an answer. I still have not received an answer. What other options are available to me to try to hold this overbearing Executive to account?

The hon. Gentleman has just deployed one of the options, which is to air the matter on the Floor of the House in the presence and earshot of the Deputy Leader of the House. He has described a regrettable sequence of events. He and other Members know that, from the Chair, I attach great importance to timely and substantive replies to questions to Ministers. In this case, such a reply has clearly not been forthcoming. I hope that that point will speedily be communicated to the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, the right hon. Member for Horsham (Mr Maude). He or a member of his team should furnish the hon. Gentleman with the information that is required sooner rather than later.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is the third point of order about Members trying to bring the Executive to account. There were stories in this morning’s paper that, contrary to the coalition agreement, large subsidies will be paid to the nuclear industry. There is a motion after the ten-minute rule Bill entitled “Financial Assistance to Industry” on which there can be no debate. On making inquiries, I found out that the matter was discussed upstairs. The information available to me is only that the sum is up to £20 million. I can find no details on whether that money will go to the nuclear industry. Is it appropriate that this matter should come before us if it is not possible for Members to discover what precisely it is about or to air our objection that it is anti-democratic and contrary to the coalition agreement?

During the next 10 minutes while the ten-minute rule motion is discussed, the hon. Gentleman may wish to avail himself of the opportunity to read the verbatim text of the debate on that matter in Standing Committee. If that does not satisfy him—I am not an optimist in these matters so far as the hon. Gentleman is concerned—he may wish to return to the matter. Whether it was a Standing Committee of which one needed to be a member to contribute, I do not know. If he was not a member of the Committee, I am saddened for him. I cannot offer any compensation for him today, but knowing the hon. Gentleman, he will return to this matter just as predictably as a dog to his bone. We will hear from him on these matters ere long. I know that that is not satisfactory, but that is the best that I can offer him on this, the last day before the Easter recess. If there are no further points of order, we come now to the ten-minute rule motion. This is the hon. Gentleman’s opportunity to do his reading.