Skip to main content

Points of Order

Volume 586: debated on Thursday 23 October 2014

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your view on the role of the Leader of the House. Last week, I thought the Leader of the House assured me that there would be an opportunity to discuss the Ebola crisis in Africa. What can we do if the Leader of the House gives an assurance and then does not follow it through. Do you have a role in this, Mr Speaker?

I am not aware of any breach of undertaking. I respond cautiously because the hon. Gentleman presumably has a specific instance in mind. He recalls a commitment that he thinks was made, but I am not aware that there has been a breach. I would say two things. First, in my experience the Leader of the House—I have known the right hon. Gentleman for 20 years—has always been a person of his word who treats this House with the utmost respect. Secondly, the hon. Gentleman has been here for 35 years, and if there is a feeling of unhappiness on his part, I am sure he can talk to the Leader of the House. As to whether I regularly talk to the Leader of the House, of course I do, and I am quite happy to have a chat with him about this. Because the hon. Gentleman has been here 35 years, as I say, I will allow him a follow-up, but we must then move on.

It is the only one I could find in my office this morning. Someone from the Green campaign gave it to me, as you can see.

What ability do you have, Mr Speaker, if the Leader of the House makes a commitment at any time and does not follow it through? I asked last week about the Ebola crisis and feel passionately that we seem to be ignoring it in the House. I thought we had a commitment. Do you have a role in chasing the Leader of the House on this?

Further to that point of order, it is a huge relief to hear that the hon. Gentleman was given the tie.

I do not have the record here, but I think I said last week that the Secretary of State for Health had made a statement the previous week about Ebola, that there would be further opportunities in the House and that the Government would keep the House updated. One of the things that the Prime Minister will discuss at the EU summit in the next couple of days is the response to Ebola. In his statement on Monday the Prime Minister will be expanding on the latest situation. I did not say that there would be a discussion of it this week, but there will be on Monday. I hope that the hon. Gentleman can look forward to that.

I simply say two things to the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman). First, the main recourse for a Member disappointed that a matter he or she judges to be urgent is not being aired in the House is of course to apply to me for permission to put an urgent question, 185 of which have, I think, been granted since June 2009. Secondly, although I have made it clear that I think the Leader of the House is absolutely a person of his word and of unimpeachable integrity, I say gently to the hon. Gentleman that if the Speaker were required to apply a sanction every time something said was not subsequently delivered upon, I would be an extraordinarily busy man.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I take the opportunity to apologise to the Leader of the House for suggesting during the business statement that he was wrong to say that the Government Chief Whip was gainfully employed? I understand that the Government Chief Whip and his dog Snowy have just become runners-up in the parliamentary dog of the year competition, so I withdraw the implication that he does not have much to do with his time.

That is a characteristically resourceful and ingenious use, and abuse, of the point of order procedure by the hon. Gentleman.

Perhaps we can now proceed to the first of the two debates scheduled to take place today under the auspices of the Backbench Business Committee. That first debate is on the repeal of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011. To move the motion—wow, does he look excited about it—I call Sir Edward Leigh.