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Points of Order

Volume 571: debated on Wednesday 27 November 2013

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I seek your advice on a reply given by the Prime Minister in Prime Minister’s questions, as he may inadvertently have misled the House? When asked about the impact of the bedroom tax on disabled people, he told the House: “Obviously, what we have done is to exempt disabled people who need an extra room.” Leading charities claim in a letter to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions today that there is “stark evidence” to the contrary.

I am extremely grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that attempted point of order. The juxtaposition of the two lines of argument has been made perfectly clear from his first quotation and from his second, of which no more is needed for me to rule. My ruling is that it is not a matter for the Chair. I understand the hon. Gentleman’s concern, but it is a point of debate. Of course, all Members, including Ministers, are responsible for the accuracy of what they say in the House, and everyone will be conscious of that. The hon. Gentleman has made his point, it is on the record, and I trust that he is satisfied.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I draw your attention to remaining orders and notices in the Order Paper—future business item 40 on changes to Standing Order No. 33, as tabled by the Leader of the House and the Deputy Leader of the House. The Procedure Committee, which I chair, has been in discussion with the office of the Leader of the House, and we thought we had been in a fruitful discussion. The Leader of the House is promoting the proposal that there may be three amendments to the motion on the Queen’s Speech, and the Procedure Committee has advised that it should be four amendments, so there seems to be a point of disagreement on the matter. I seek your advice: is it not the established principle that it is the Procedure Committee in this House, not the Executive, that leads changes to Standing Orders?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. He is substantively correct, as far as I am aware, on the latter front. Indeed, that point has been made to me in the past in other contexts by Ministers when they have thought it convenient to deploy that line of argument. I would always hope that Ministers would treat Committees of the House with courtesy. However, nothing disorderly within the rules of the House appears to have occurred and I do not think there is a point of order for the Chair. Those on the Treasury Bench will have heard what the Chair of the Procedure Committee—a very important Committee with a very illustrious Chair—has said, and we will leave it there for today.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Would it be helpful if I were to release a letter that I received from the Clerks of this House which said, in effect, that there was no need for the Leader of the House to be helpful to you as the Chair, as you already had sufficient discretion as to how many subsequent amendments could be chosen on the day of the Queen’s Speech debates?

Well, in one sense it is very flattering that the hon. Gentleman seeks my advice and asks whether a proposed course of action on his part would be helpful or not, but I feel that the hon. Gentleman is, in most circumstances, his own best counsellor. He will judge whether or not he wishes to release the said letter. I think he can rest content with that emollient and non-committal response from me. He knows how to look after himself. We will leave it there for now.