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Points of Order

Volume 565: debated on Wednesday 3 July 2013

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Further to the exchange with the Secretary of State for Defence regarding the site at Kilmarnock, as I understand it, he confirmed that this is a 10th new or reopened reserves site. That is a direct contradiction of the figures given in the belated statement and in the exchanges with, for example, my right hon. Friend the Member for East Renfrewshire (Mr Murphy) and the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson). Can the Secretary of State give any indication as to whether that information was accurate? When he writes to you, Mr Speaker, will he also be encouraged to explain what on earth has gone on with the sudden appearance of this 10th site?

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I cannot answer the hon. Gentleman’s question from the Dispatch Box, but I will of course write to him as soon as I get back to the MOD. I am not sure that it does represent what he is suggesting it represents. Some of the sites in question are complex. I am happy to write to him and copy the letter to you, Mr Speaker, as soon as I get back to the MOD.

I happily accept that offer from the Secretary of State. As he will know, I am principally concerned with matters of order and good form. Although in a human sense, no doubt, particular sites are of interest, they are not within my sphere of competence, and he knows that. What I am interested to hear about is the handling of the matter. He has given me a commitment on that, and I am grateful for it.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline and West Fife (Thomas Docherty) has just raised a point of order about Kilmarnock being on the list of reopened or opening sites. The only place in Scotland that is determined as a location appears to be in Edinburgh, which is nowhere near Kilmarnock. It seems that every Member of the House, including Ministers, was reading this list for the first time.

I seek your guidance, Mr Speaker, because I was handed a copy of the Secretary of State’s oral statement as I arrived towards the end of Prime Minister’s questions, which is why I did not thank him for advance sight of it. The written statement was provided late. In fact, I have an e-mail from the House of Commons Library confirming that it arrived at 12.55 pm. That is well after the Secretary of State spoke and well after I spoke. When the House of Commons Library receives it only at 12.55 pm, something deeply untoward has happened. At 1 pm, a few minutes later, the supporting paperwork arrived.

Then, in the midst of all that, at about the same time, the hon. Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey), the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the right hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Michael Fallon), took it upon herself to scurry round the Chamber with a poor photocopy of documentation that we should have been provided with earlier. It does not have Kilmarnock on the list, so it was not only a rushed photocopy circulated informally but perhaps also incomplete.

My point of order, therefore, is to ask whether you would look kindly, Mr Speaker, on a request by the Minister for the Armed Forces to make a supplementary statement tomorrow in light of the fact that the weighty impact assessment arrived only in the past couple of minutes. No Member apart from myself and, I suspect, the Secretary of State is in possession of the impact assessment of the measures announced today. Would you look kindly, Mr Speaker, on a request by the Minister for the Armed Forces to make an additional statement tomorrow, so that this sordid mess can be clarified once and for all and so that we can have proper scrutiny?

What I would say to the right hon. Gentleman is that it is a matter for Ministers to decide whether they wish to make oral statements to the House. As he will be aware, the convention whereby a Minister delivering an oral statement begins it by saying, “With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a statement”, is just a convention and, frankly, a courtesy that is, I think, on the whole appreciated by the House, but Ministers can make statements to the House when they wish. The right hon. Gentleman may wish to wait to see whether there is an offer of a statement, but there are various parliamentary devices open to Members to deliver the scrutiny that they think a particular measure warrants and everything ought to be looked at on a case-by-case basis. Perhaps I can leave it there for now.

Bill Presented

Defence Reform Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Secretary Hammond, supported by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, Danny Alexander, Secretary Vince Cable, Secretary Chris Grayling, Francis Maude, the Attorney-General and Mr Philip Dunne, presented a Bill to make provision in connection with any arrangements that may be made by the Secretary of State with respect to the provision to the Secretary of State of defence procurement services; to make provision relating to defence procurement contracts awarded, or amended, otherwise than as the result of a competitive process; to make provision in relation to the reserve forces of the Crown; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 84) with explanatory notes (Bill 84-EN).