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Point of Order

Volume 588: debated on Wednesday 26 November 2014

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was pleased to give some short notice of this point of order on an issue that goes to the heart of Government transparency, accountability to Parliament and potential inappropriate lobbying of Ministers and a former chief executive of the Food Standards Agency. It relates to a potential announcement on campylobacter tomorrow and it is important that we have the information.

On 12 November I wrote to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Cabinet Office and the Secretary of State for Health, asking them to respond to these allegations so that the individual could be cleared of inappropriate lobbying, which would be a breach of his terms of conduct on leaving the FSA—and potentially a breach of the ministerial code as well. To her credit, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs responded to me within seven days—on 19 November. The Cabinet Office, after follow-up letters, e-mails and telephone calls, is on the job and tells me it can respond by 8 December. I have received no response whatever from the Health Secretary or Department of Health.

I ask for your help and guidance on how to expedite the responses. It is a critical issue for the individual concerned and the conduct of Departments. Parliament and the public need to know the answer before any statement is made—possibly tomorrow.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. If I heard him correctly, he said that I had had some modest advance notice. I am sorry to inform him that I was not aware of his intended point of order and, therefore, I have not had an opportunity to reflect on its contents. I note that he ascribes considerable urgency to the matter. He is dextrous in his use of parliamentary devices and can no doubt repair to the Table Office to table further questions if he is dissatisfied.

Also, immediately to his left sits no less a figure than the shadow Leader of the House, who might think it appropriate to raise the matter at business questions tomorrow. If she has a miscellany of other matters to raise and does not wish to raise this issue, the hon. Gentleman might seek to catch my eye at business questions himself. Ministers from the Department of Health will certainly be conscious of the matter by now or very soon. The hon. Gentleman is fortunate also in that the Leader of the House is sitting resplendent on the Treasury Bench and will therefore be aware of his angst on this matter. We will leave it there for now.

Bill Presented

Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Secretary Theresa May, supported by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary Philip Hammond, Secretary Michael Fallon, Danny Alexander and James Brokenshire, presented a Bill to make provision in relation to terrorism; to make provision about retention of communications data, about information, authority to carry and security in relation to air, sea and rail transport and about reviews by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission against refusals to issue certificates of naturalisation; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed (Bill 127) with explanatory notes (Bill 127-EN).