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Points of Order

Volume 573: debated on Monday 6 January 2014

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. On 19 and 20 December there was a meeting of the European Council, after the House had risen for the Christmas recess. The Council specifically discussed defence as well as sustainable growth and unemployment—all things that are important to the United Kingdom. Have you had any application from the Prime Minister to come to the House and make a statement on the outcome of that European Council meeting?

No, I have not. It used ordinarily to be the case as a matter of course that there were statements on such matters, and generally speaking—if memory serves me correctly—that has continued to be so, with one or two exceptions. Those exceptions have sometimes been a cause of some concern to right hon. and hon. Members, and we no longer have the debate in advance of the European Council because the Government judge—which they are perfectly entitled to do—that that should come out of the allocation of time for the Backbench Business Committee. It seems a pity if there is no statement after a European Council meeting, but there are various means by which Members can try to pose questions on such matters orally, and get answers, and each case must be considered on its merits. The hon. Lady is an experienced campaigner and she can apply her own resources to the matter.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. We all appreciate that the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs may be tired after his endeavours in the past few weeks, but I know he would not want that to enable him inadvertently to mislead the House. He said that the figures I quoted in my question to him a few moments ago were wrong, but they were provided by a previous Minister in that Department, the hon. Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon), in answer to a parliamentary question on 9 September 2013. Either the Secretary of State was wrong to say what he said, or the written parliamentary answer given by the hon. Member for Newbury was wrong. I wonder whether you can assist me, Mr Speaker, and my constituents, in getting to the bottom of the matter and finding out whether the written parliamentary answer was wrong, or whether the Secretary of State was wrong earlier today?

No, it is not for me to say that the hon. Gentleman is wrong, but I am tempted to say it is a tad tendentious of him to raise that as a point of order. All Members are responsible for the accuracy or otherwise of the statements they make in the Chamber, and it is not for me to seek to assist the hon. Gentleman in his endeavours. I have, however, assisted him to the extent that I have enabled him to raise the point, and he has aired it to Members on the Treasury Bench. If any correction is required, doubtless it will be forthcoming; if not, the eager beaver that is the hon. Gentleman will, I am sure, pursue the matter further.