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Points of Order

Volume 566: debated on Wednesday 17 July 2013

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that the House attaches importance to accuracy and establishing the accuracy of events as quickly as possible. In that context, the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Wayne David) raised at Prime Minister’s questions the case of Mr and Mrs Goodwin, which he had raised previously on 27 February. He asserted that the Prime Minister had not replied to a letter from, or on behalf of, Mr and Mrs Goodwin. May I inform the House that the hon. Member for Islwyn (Chris Evans) wrote to the Prime Minister on behalf of Mr and Mrs Goodwin, who are his constituents, on 4 March, enclosing a letter on their behalf from a sister written on 28 February? I have here a copy of the Prime Minister’s reply to that letter from the hon. Member for Islwyn dated 11 April this year.

That is not a matter for the Chair. The Leader of the House has offered helpful information that is now on the record, and we should leave it there. [Interruption.] There is no matter of order for the Chair. It is not a debate. Information has been volunteered and we will leave it at that.

I would just like to make the point that I chose my words carefully in my question, which has been confirmed by Hansard. What I actually said was that the family had written to the Prime Minister and had not received a reply. That is correct—they have not received a reply. What the Leader of the House said about the response to my hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Chris Evans) was accurate. There was a response, but it made no reference to the case whatsoever. I stand by those comments.

Order. We are not going to have a long debate on this; we have a lot of business to get through. I call the Leader of the House, briefly.

I have the Prime Minister’s letter of 11 April here. It is to the hon. Member for Islwyn, who wrote on behalf of his constituents, and I think we can assume that he passed it on to them. It relates specifically to Mr and Mrs Goodwin and replies to their circumstances.

Order. We are not going to have a protracted exchange on this matter. I think that people are perfectly capable of making their own assessment—those in the House and outside it. The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Wayne David) made a point about a letter from individuals who did not receive a direct reply. The Leader of the House has made the point that there was a letter from an hon. Member to which the Prime Minister replied. We really do not have to go into the interstices of this, and it would be a disservice to the House to do so when we have pressing demands on our time, and, before we even reach those other matters, more points of order. [Interruption.] I think that I have given a very fair hearing to both points of view on this matter, and I am grateful to participants.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You will be aware that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury has in the past hour published the Government’s initial response to the Silk commission on the devolution of taxation to Wales, but you may not be aware that it was leaked to the media at about 7 o’clock this morning and appeared on the BBC website. I know, Mr Speaker, that you take very seriously the role of Ministers to inform the House first, so could you please offer some guidance on the appropriateness of the response and, given that the former Secretary of State for Wales, the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan), had committed to a full debate about these important matters on the Floor of the House, on whether it is appropriate that the Government should issue a scanty, one-page response on the penultimate day of this term?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that point of order, to which I respond as follows. First, if material has been leaked to the media in the way he suggests, that is entirely inappropriate and I deprecate it in the strongest possible terms. Important announcements should be made first to the House and it is a discourtesy to the House of Commons if people have pursued alternative methods.

Secondly, as to the question of a prior commitment to there being a debate on the Floor of the House, that is not a matter for the Chair. I note the moral point that the hon. Gentleman is making in a sense. He may well seek to make it again in business questions tomorrow or, if for some reason he will not be available to do so, it will not be beyond his wit to ensure that the point is aired. It will be a question of airing it for a second time, given that he has done so for the first this afternoon.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have given notice of this point of order, as you are aware, Mr Speaker, and I am glad that the Leader of the House is present, because it relates to the accuracy of statements given to the House by a Government Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the hon. Member for Wirral West (Esther McVey), who has responsibility for disabled people. On 4 July, in answer to a question of mine about Wrexham Remploy, she said:

“I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that the Wrexham site is being sold with a view to making 10 to 20 jobs available for some of the ex-Remploy staff.”—[Official Report, 4 July 2013; Vol. 565, c. 1085.]

I had no knowledge about that transaction, so I wrote to the hon. Lady, who wrote back:

“I can confirm that the disposal of assets at the Wrexham site has the potential to create up to 20 job opportunities for disabled people including ex Remploy employees.”

Those two statements are not the same. In the interests of accuracy, the hon. Lady’s statement on the Floor of the House contradicts the letter that she subsequently wrote to me. I have corresponded with the Minister to give her the opportunity to deal with this matter. I wrote to her yesterday telling her that if she did not respond to me I would raise it on the Floor of the House. She has not had the courtesy to reply. What steps can I take, Mr Speaker, to ensure that the record that my constituents—ex-Remploy workers—heard from the Government Dispatch Box is accurate?

I want to make two points. First, no request has been made to me by the Minister to correct the record. Secondly, the hon. Gentleman is in pursuit of salvation on this matter, but I think I might fairly make the point that he has found his own. He asks what mechanism is available to him to, in a sense, put the record straight, and the answer is that his ingenuity and indefatigability have enabled him to do precisely that through this point of order. It may well be that it would be more to his taste for the Minister to come to the House, but Ministers are responsible for their own words and decisions on whether to provide a correction. Some people might feel—I leave it to colleagues to judge—that the hon. Gentleman has now substantially achieved his objective of clarification. Perhaps we can leave it there for today.

Bills Presented

Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Mr Andrew Lansley, supported by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary Vince Cable, Oliver Letwin, Miss Chloe Smith, Tom Brake, Jo Swinson and Joseph Johnson, presented a Bill to make provision for establishing and maintaining a register of persons carrying on the business of consultant lobbying and to require those persons to be entered in the register; to make provision about expenditure and donations for political purposes; to make provision about the Electoral Commission’s functions with respect to compliance with requirements imposed by or by virtue of enactments; to make provision relating to a trade union’s duty to maintain a register of members under section 24 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 97) with explanatory notes (Bill 97-EN).

Selective Licensing (Housing Standards) Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Graham Jones presented a Bill to allow local authorities to apply selective licensing conditions to improve housing standards.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on 28 February 2014, and to be printed (Bill 98).