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Points of Order

Volume 566: debated on Tuesday 9 July 2013

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I welcome the Minister’s statement, and I think I understood—it might have been my hearing—that she made an offer to look beyond the 47 cases raised by the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance. I was not clear, however, to whom any further cases should be referred. Perhaps, while the Minister is still in the Chamber, you can guide us on how we might get that clarification.

The failure of the hon. Gentleman to hear what was said does not, in itself, constitute a point of order. However, as the Minister is still here and looks happy to come back to the Dispatch Box to clarify the matter, he might be released from his ignorance before very long.

I am sure that the hon. Member for Ogmore (Huw Irranca-Davies) would have had the ingenuity to ensure that any such cases received attention in any event, but for the benefit of the House, I should point out that one avenue for highlighting any further cases would be to bring them to the attention of the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance, which will be part of the independent working group. I hesitate to suggest, although I am probably safe in doing so, that my right hon. Friend the Member for North East Hampshire (Mr Arbuthnot) would also be happy to continue in his role as a recipient for any such cases. He seems to be nodding. So those are two options for the hon. Member for Ogmore.

I trust that the hon. Gentleman is now satisfied. He does not have to suggest that his ear is somehow defective. I feel sure that it is not. He might simply not have been paying full attention; I do not know.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is it within your power to require the Government to provide time for the proper scrutiny of Government measures before they are subject to a vote? Command paper 8671, to which the Home Secretary referred in her statement, comprises 155 pages of pretty impenetrable prose, with hardly any explanation. The command paper has considerable policy implications, but there are many ifs and buts among the contents. I cannot see how the House can reasonably be expected to reach a substantive conclusion on whether signing up to the document is in the national interest unless we are given a lot more time for its scrutiny, not only by the House but by the Select Committees, which are appointed specifically to do the job of scrutiny.

The short answer is that I do not have the power to which the hon. Gentleman refers. I much appreciate his belief that the Chair ought to be invested with greater powers, and I do not for one moment dissent from that proposition. The reality is that he and others will have to use their best endeavours in the coming days—it is literally a matter of days—to ensure that they are furnished with adequate material, and understanding thereof, to enable them to participate to their satisfaction in the debate that the Government have apparently now scheduled. I can operate only within my powers, but I know that the hon. Gentleman is a persistent, indefatigable and skilful Member, and I am sure that he will make the very best fist of this, not only on his own but with others.