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Points of Order

Volume 565: debated on Thursday 27 June 2013

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I draw to your attention the written ministerial statement provided this morning on flood insurance? There has been no opportunity to consider what is in that statement, and the Chief Secretary was not able to give full details in his statement earlier. My constituents are particularly concerned about flood insurance and the provisional deal that seems to have been reached by the Government and the insurance industry. May I ask that the appropriate Minister be brought to the Dispatch Box to answer questions, so that we can have effective scrutiny of the issue?

The Leader of the House has signalled an interest in coming in on this issue. He is welcome to do so.

If I may say so, the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North (Diana Johnson) asked a question at business questions, and she might have asked one that related to the issue she now raises. I would have been very happy to explain that, in addition to the written ministerial statement, following statements today there will be the presentation of the Water Bill, which will then be available for Members to see. As was made clear earlier, my right hon. and hon. Friends at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are today publishing a consultation that sets out the Government’s intentions and gives people an opportunity to respond.

I thank the Leader of the House for what he has said. In relation to the point of order made by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull North, what I have to say is twofold. First, my understanding is that the motivation of the Government in issuing a written statement was that the time of the House would be heavily absorbed today by both the Chief Secretary’s statement and the business statement, and the Government were mindful of the fact that this is a Back-Bench business day. It is only fair to be clear about the motives of the Government on the matter.

Secondly, in so far as the hon. Lady feels dissatisfied—and she is a persistent and indefatigable Member—I assure her that she will find other opportunities for the matter to be debated. I do not know whether the Government will decide to come forward with an oral statement because of the intellectual force and personal charm of the representations that she has made today, but even if they are not so minded, the hon. Lady can apply for debates, and I have a hunch that she will do so.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. On 18 March you were very wise—[Hon. Members: “Always.”] And on many other occasions—you are always wise and wonderful, never curmudgeonly, and all the rest of it. But, on 18 March, you very wisely dug the Government out of a hole and enabled the whole House to come to a view on the future regulation of the press, by allowing a manuscript amendment and a change to the order of business, without the normal rules of the House. That was a wise course of action to take. Since then, however, the declared will of the Prime Minister, the Government, the Opposition and the whole House, which was for the matter to go to the Privy Council meeting in May, has not been implemented. You are, as I understand it, a Privy Counsellor, and I suppose you could go to the Privy Council and insist that the matter be carried forward as swiftly as possible. You might not want to go down that route, but I wonder whether you could chase this matter up a little, because the whole House, the victims and all those who had their phones hacked would be profoundly disappointed if the matter did not go to the July meeting of the Privy Council, if legal advice were not provided, if no reason were provided to the House, and if no action had been forthcoming when we came back in September.

My response to the hon. Gentleman’s point of order, of which I did not have advance notice—I make no complaint about that; I simply point out that I did not have such notice—is twofold. First, I am a Privy Counsellor, but as the hon. Gentleman well knows, I do not call meetings of the Privy Council, which take place perhaps from time to time. Secondly, I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point—I would be exceptionally unwise if I did not—and if he is minded to pursue the matter, he will have multiple opportunities. I have a sense that the hon. Gentleman understands at least as well as I do that in campaigning quantity, persistence and, above all, repetition are at least as important as the quality of the arguments themselves.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have ruled that there will be a tight limit on speeches today, because the debate is obviously oversubscribed. Do you not share my concern that the Secretary of State for Justice has not even bothered to turn up for the debate?

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his point of order. I had not noticed the absence of the Secretary of State. It would undoubtedly enrich the House were he to be present, and there will be some sadness and disappointment if he is not present, but precisely which Ministers are fielded by the Government is, of course, a matter for the Government.

Bill Presented

Water Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Secretary Owen Paterson, supported by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary Vince Cable, Secretary David Jones and Richard Benyon, presented a Bill to make provision about the water industry; about compensation for modification of licences to abstract water; about main river maps; about records of waterworks; for the regulation of the water environment; about the provision of flood insurance for household premises; about internal drainage boards; about Regional Flood and Coastal Committees; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Monday 1 July, and to be printed (Bill 82) with explanatory notes (Bill 82-EN).