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Points of Order

Volume 589: debated on Thursday 11 December 2014

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Will you give the House some guidance? Quite rightly, there are certain barriers and hurdles that you put up before granting an urgent question, but in recent weeks I have noticed the increasing number of statements that the Government are making. What hurdles do the Government have to clear? Time after time, we find we do not have time for Bills and that the Government do not announce Bills or meetings at important conferences; instead, they make these pie-in-the-sky, “this is what we’re going to do about roads, rail, health” statements. It is not a genuine use of the House’s time. They are manipulating the timetable to promote policies for the next general election. What advice can you give the House?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order, because it is important to be clear about the constitutional position on these matters. Urgent questions are decided by the Speaker, and there are criteria that inform the decision, but the making of a statement by a Minister is a matter for the Minister; it is not within the purview of the Speaker. There is a courtesy that the Minister will tend to begin by saying, “With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a statement on—”, but that, I emphasise, is a parliamentary courtesy. The decision to volunteer a statement is a decision for the Government. I think the gravamen of the hon. Gentleman’s complaint is that this is not a good use, in every case, of the House’s time. That, of course, is a matter of opinion, but it is one reason why many people have favoured the creation of a House business committee, to which I know the Government have long been committed, but which is yet to materialise—but I am sure it is only a matter of time.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Will you provide some clarification regarding money resolutions for private Members’ Bills? In answer to questions I have put to the Leader of the House, he has informed the House that money resolutions have not been laid because the two parts of the coalition cannot agree on whether they should be approved. Surely, by tradition, a money resolution should automatically be laid if a private Member’s Bill gets a Second Reading, and then it is up to the House to approve it. Should not the money resolutions be laid automatically?

The norms regarding the laying of money resolutions for Bills that have secured a Second Reading do not currently apply. Yes, what the hon. Gentleman describes was the norm in the past, but that norm predated the coalition Government—[Interruption.] Although his brow is furrowed, he knows the essence of this matter is that government has to be seamless. The Leader of the House has explained to him that unless there is Government agreement, a money resolution will not be tabled. The truth is that the hon. Gentleman’s concern relates to a particular Bill—

Well, he might have a wider concern. However, there are people in the Government who would be happy to table a money resolution for the Bill he wants to see progress, but not for another Bill, and the Liberal Democrats take precisely the opposite position. The Leader of the House will correct me if I am wrong, but I think the thrust of what I have said is accurate.

The hon. Gentleman is an interested party in these matters, but I hope he is not seeking to continue the debate. If he has a genuine point of order, we are all agog.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Thank you for the intro. I think there is a matter at stake here that should detain this House because the pre-eminence of Parliament is being challenged, in the sense that the Government are defying the will of Parliament by refusing to grant, or rather to table, money resolutions in respect of private Members’ Bills. What the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr Bone) and I are seeking to achieve through your advice and support, Mr Speaker, is to ensure that the will of this Parliament is respected, and that the Government can be challenged when they refuse, as they have chosen to refuse, to table a money resolution in support of private Members’ Bills that have the clear support of this Parliament.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. The short answer is that I would be very sympathetic to somebody else being able to table the money resolution in compliance with, and following on from, the Second Reading approval by the House. However, such a right does not currently exist, and the Speaker cannot create it. I think the fairest thing I can say, with very considerable sympathy for the hon. Gentleman and for the hon. Member for Wellingborough, is that Leader of the House is in place and has, appropriately enough, an air of gravitas about him. He has heard what has been said and he is weighing the matters in his scholarly cranium, and we may hear further and better particulars in due course—or not, as the case may be. We will leave it there for now.