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Points of Order

Volume 572: debated on Tuesday 10 December 2013

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Earlier today, we had Treasury questions. We have only a few opportunities during the year to question the Chancellor but the Chancellor was not here today; he was at a routine meeting in Brussels. Is not the first duty of the Chancellor to be in Parliament to answer questions and should not the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, his deputy, have been the one in Brussels? What is your ruling on that?

It is for Ministers to decide, and I must say that, so far as I was concerned, the Chancellor of the Exchequer discharged his obligations by courteously writing to inform me of his intended absence and the reason for it. The hon. Gentleman has made his point very clearly. Nothing disorderly has happened. I think there would be a general agreement across the House that it is overwhelmingly desirable for Ministers to be present for their own Department’s Question Time sessions. There are occasions on which that does not prove practical. I think it right and fair to leave it there for today.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Earlier at Treasury questions, a Treasury Minister provided an answer from the Dispatch Box that was, I am afraid, clearly based on incorrect information provided by an official. It referred to pub closure figures and the CGA statistics. The Minister said that there was evidence to show that free-of-tie pubs close in greater numbers than tied pubs. CGA, which compiled the figures, has made it clear that there are no figures in existence for that comparison, yet officials are still wrongly briefing Ministers. Can you advise us, Mr Speaker, how we can correct what was clearly an inadvertently misleading statement from the Dispatch Box?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order, but this is the second occasion on which I have become aware of his displeasure. The first occasion was at the time of the answer, when I heard him bellowing his disapproval from a sedentary position with the words “not true” or something along those lines. The hon. Gentleman is nothing if not a persistent woodpecker. I must tell him, however, that Ministers are responsible for the accuracy of their answers. The hon. Gentleman has made his point with great force, and it is on the record. May I politely suggest that he might like to have a private conversation with the Minister if he wishes to pursue the matter further. At least for today, we will leave it there.