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Points of Order

Volume 570: debated on Monday 4 November 2013

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I thank the right hon. Lady, the Home Secretary, for her generous remarks, and you, Mr Speaker, and just say that I am not dead yet?

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. When the right hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) was Justice Secretary, he had the kindness to ring me early one morning to say that he was making an oral statement about putting Wellingborough prison out to market testing. Unfortunately, under this Government the prison was closed and I learnt about it on a radio programme. I have today, Sir, learnt by letter that they are now selling it off. Would it not have been a courtesy to this House for them to have made a statement?

I am rather perturbed to learn what the hon. Gentleman has just said. As he knows, the decision on whether or not to make statements is in the hands of Ministers. Ordinarily, certain courtesies obtain in dealings between colleagues, including, most notably, between those who hold Executive power and Back- Bench Members in whose constituencies particular important decisions are contemplated or made. I do not think I can go further than that today, but knowing just what a thoroughly—I hate to use this word in the light of his surname—dogged individual he is, I feel sure that Mr Bone will raise the matter, either at his own behest or on the advice of Mrs Bone, before very long.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Last week, I received a very short answer to three detailed questions I had tabled about the access to elected office for disabled people fund, which exists to help improve the diversity of this place. Never mind answers, I barely received an acknowledgement that there were, in fact, questions tabled. May I seek your advice on how to get answers to these questions, especially as this is an important matter concerning the diversity and make-up of this House?

I am very grateful to the hon. Lady for her point of order. I am well aware of that £2.6 million fund, about which I was speaking in Edinburgh on Friday. If memory serves me correctly, the fund is a follow-through from the recommendations of the Speaker’s Conference which concluded in February 2010. The matter is indeed of the utmost importance, so I am disappointed if she has received less than substantive responses. The general principle here, as the Deputy Leader of the House, who is on the Treasury Bench, will know, is that ministerial replies to questions should be both timely and substantive. If they are heavily delayed, that is a discourtesy. If they are “insubstantive” or insubstantial, whether delayed or not, that is not serving the House. Members look for a response that is as comprehensive as possible and informative. If the hon. Lady has not achieved that so far, I hope that the Deputy Leader of the House may be willing, in Parliament’s interest, to assist her in her endeavours. If she has to go through the Table Office again to probe further, I do not think she will require any additional encouragement from me.