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Points of Order

Volume 570: debated on Tuesday 12 November 2013

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Last night at 9.9 pm, as the Prime Minister was addressing the lord mayor’s banquet in the City, the Chancellor announced that the autumn statement would be moved from Wednesday 4 to Thursday 5 December, to accommodate a prime ministerial trip to China and get the Prime Minister out of answering Prime Minister’s questions again.

Aside from the spectacle of major announcements to the House being arbitrarily shifted around to avoid inconveniencing the Chinese communist party, is it appropriate that the Chancellor announced this change on Twitter and not to the House? Even today, it has not been confirmed by a written ministerial statement on the Order Paper; nor was it mentioned during last week’s business questions. Given the fact that the Chancellor announced the original date by Twitter, too, will you rule on whether the Chancellor’s conduct is in order?

The Leader of the House can come in in a moment, with pleasure. I am obliged to the hon. Lady for giving me advance notice of her intention to raise the point of order. The original date of the autumn statement was announced to the House during an earlier business question. I am sure that we are all extremely grateful for the long notice given. However, if something has been announced to the House about its future business, I would consider it courteous for the House to be informed formally of any change before the wider world was informed. A written statement would usually suffice if there were not sufficient occasion or urgency to justify a supplementary business statement. That is my very clear sense of the matter. I am obliged to the Leader of the House for his presence. If he wishes to rise to his feet, we are keen to hear him.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I am grateful to the shadow Leader of the House for raising the point of order, as it gives me an early opportunity to confirm to the House that the autumn statement that was previously announced during business questions as taking place on Wednesday 4 December will now take place on Thursday 5 December.

I am grateful to the Leader of the House for that. He will, I hope, have heard the statement from the Chair. To put it very candidly and bluntly, these announcements should be made to the House, not by the mechanism of Twitter. I think it is pretty clear.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You are used to the Government making announcements to the press before they come to the House to make them. What happened this morning is different. The press have been privately briefed and the Secretary of State for Health has come to the House still not prepared to tell the House what is in the Keogh review. Is this the first time this has happened? Do you agree that it should not happen again? Will you now order that the Keogh review is put in the Library today, so that we do not have to wait till tomorrow to find out what is in it?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. He asks whether this is the first time that this has happened. There are very few firsts in this place; most things have happened before at some stage or another. I am not sure that it is within my bailiwick to insist upon the deposit of the report today, as the hon. Gentleman rather earnestly beseeches me to do. I hope that he will not take offence when I say that he is rarely satisfied about anything. He is an experienced parliamentary hand and he knows that Members apply for permission to put urgent questions, and it is for the Speaker to decide whether to grant the urgent question. I did grant the urgent question, which carries its own message about my sense that it was important that the issue should be aired in the Chamber today. The hon. Gentleman took part, I believe, in the exercise, and I think we will leave it there for today.