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Points of Order

Volume 580: debated on Tuesday 13 May 2014

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Sadly, you do not control when we have debates, but there is a regrettable tendency by Government now to have more and more statements on big Foreign Office issues, such as Ukraine, and fewer and fewer debates. Ukraine is a massive issue of war and peace, yet we have had just one three-hour debate on the subject. Members had only five minutes in which to speak. As the Father of the House told me, he barely draws breath in five minutes. We cannot deal with the complexities of the issue in that time. I regret to say that statements allow the Government to dominate the proceedings completely. Can you use your influence, Mr Speaker, so that we can have a proper, full day’s debate on this major international issue?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order, and I understand where he is coming from on the matter. It is not entirely fortuitous that he should raise this in the presence both of the Foreign Secretary and the Leader of the House. I say just two things in response. First, I am sure that he would be the first to acknowledge that the Foreign Secretary is absolutely fastidious about coming to the House when it is appropriate to do so, and he has always volunteered statements without any pressure being required to be applied to secure that outcome. Secondly, I rather agree that it would be good if we could have a more substantial debate on these matters. As he rightly says, with sadness—a sadness that I share—it is not in my hands; it is in the Government’s hands and I hope that it will happen sooner rather than later so that these matters can be explored in the detail and at the necessary length that are required.

I am not sure that there is one, but, as I always operate according to my standards rather than those of the right hon. Gentleman, I will be generous to him. Let us hear from him and see whether he has anything worthwhile to raise.

To paraphrase, I am most grateful, Mr Speaker. Will you confirm that the same problem arises with urgent questions, but the Government have no control over the choosing of them?

It is not the same problem at all. It is a different issue, and different principles apply. I was hopeful that the right hon. Gentleman might have a valid point to raise, but it was a question of a triumph of optimism over reality.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would be grateful for your guidance on the following matter.

On 4 April, Monitor, the sector regulator for health services in England, issued new guidance for the commissioning of radiosurgery services. That new guidance clearly updates and modifies the guidance issued in 2013.

The new guidance means that NHS England’s ban on NHS patients being treated by the gamma knife machine at University College hospital, London is not sustainable. In the past couple of weeks, I have asked three questions of the Secretary of State, and I made it clear that they related to the new guidelines that were issued on 4 April. I stated:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to section 3 of the guidance issued by Monitor on the commissioning of radiosurgery services on 4 April 2014”.—[Official Report, 7 May 2014; Vol. 580, c. 245W.]

I then led into my questions. The Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Battersea (Jane Ellison), answered all three questions in the context of the outdated Monitor guidelines. I understand that that might be an error on her part, but it means that my legitimate questions remain unanswered, and I do not know how else to get an accurate response to oral and written questions. I seek your guidance, Mr Speaker, on how to redress that.

I am deeply grateful to the hon. Lady for her courtesy in giving me advance notice of this point of order. Moreover, I understand why she is frustrated or aggrieved that what she thinks is a clear and specific question is not being answered. That said, I am sorry to inform her that there is nothing in what she has said that engages the responsibilities of the Chair. I must therefore advise her to undertake the short journey from here to the Table Office where I have every confidence that she will get good advice on the best means by which to chase down this matter. If that proves to be unavailing, she might consider having a friendly and genial chat with the Leader of the House, who I am sure will wish to assist. If that gets her nowhere, I have the feeling that she will probably come back to me. Perhaps we can leave it there for today.