Skip to main content

Points of Order

Volume 592: debated on Monday 2 February 2015

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. In written parliamentary question 221790, I sought information from the Home Office about funding allocated to the child abuse inquiry for the 2014-15 financial year and for future years. I received the answer:

“We will ensure appropriate funding”.

Given that we are nearly three quarters of the way through this financial year, I would expect the Home Office to have that information readily available. I also feel it is disrespectful to Parliament not to provide the detailed information requested in a parliamentary question. Can you offer me any guidance, Mr Speaker, on how to take the matter further?

Responses from Ministers to questions should be timely, and it is also widely expected that answers will be as forthcoming and copious as the circumstances require. As the hon. Lady will know, the content of answers is not a matter for the Chair. In my experience, the hon. Lady is both an extremely assiduous Chamber attender and a very dextrous parliamentarian. I rather imagine that she will be troubling—in the perfectly proper sense of the term—the Table Office on a regular basis with further inquiries. I have never been a Minister, but if I were one, and on the receiving end of a regular spate of inquiries from the hon. Lady, there would be a point at which I would think, “Well, it is probably better to give a full answer if such exists; otherwise, I shall just be chased to the end of the earth.” We will leave it there for now.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You may recall that, back on 22 June 2009, you spoke before Parliament about Speaker Onslow, who was in office for more than 30 years. You said that if elected, you had given your commitment to serve no longer than nine years in total. I just wondered—

Order. The hon. Gentleman will resume his seat. As has just been pointed out to me by the acting Clerk, whom I know the hon. Gentleman rightly respects, that is not a point of order. I have nothing to add and we will leave it there.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would be grateful for your advice. As a result of delays and confusion among Government Departments, my question, which would have addressed Government proposals to deny the people of Greater Manchester a vote on their mayor until 2019, was denied entry to the correct Department—the Department for Communities and Local Government—whose Question Time took place earlier today. Given that the people of Greater Manchester have not been given any opportunity to challenge these proposals, is there anything within your powers that you can do, Mr Speaker, to ensure that the Government cannot show the same sort of contempt that they have shown to the people to those who sit in this Parliament?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for the point of order. My understanding, from advice, is that an error was made by the Table Office, for which an apology has been made. I hope in the circumstances that that meets the needs of the case, but if the hon. Lady thinks otherwise, I dare say she will return to it.

My understanding from the Table Office is that there has been considerable confusion within Government about which Government Department is going to take responsibility for the proposals that are currently being rushed through the parliamentary process. Today’s Question Time was one of the very few opportunities before the general election for anybody to be able to shine a spotlight on what is happening. I understand that because of the delays and confusion, the question was incorrectly taken out of the shuffle by the Table Office.

My immediate response to the hon. Lady is that Ministers must take responsibility for the content of answers and, collectively, the Government have a judgment to make about which Minister will answer a particular question. I am happy further to reflect on the matter; and if, having done so, I have anything new that I can vouchsafe either to the hon. Lady or the House, I shall be happy to oblige.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Earlier today, during questions to the Department for Communities and Local Government, the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne) made reference to the ancient county of Lancashire. As a patron and friend of the Real Lancashire society, I want to ensure that it is put on record that between 1168 and 1351, it would have been correct to refer to Lancashire. However, following an Act of 1351, the status of county palatine was granted to Lancashire because of its strategic importance in defending England from the Scots. This position was restated in correspondence by the Duchy of Lancaster in 1992 and 1996. It confirmed that the newly constituted councils such as Manchester and Merseyside did not affect the duchy and the county palatine of Lancashire or its boundaries, which remain the same as they were in the pre-1888 geographical county. Given that, Mr Speaker, I am sure that the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish and I will rejoice that both of our constituencies remain enclosed within the ancient county palatine of Lancashire.

I am immensely grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I think that I will carry the House with me when I say that that was not a point of order, but a point of political geography. It was certainly learned, and we are deeply obliged to the hon. Gentleman for what he has said.

I am not sure that there is much of a “further”, but having indulged the political-geography enthusiasm of the hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Jake Berry), it would seem churlish to deny a similar prerogative to the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish.

I am very grateful to you, Mr Speaker. Of course, I bow to the hon. Gentleman’s knowledge of the history of the county palatine of Lancashire. However, I wish to place on record that not all my constituency is in the county palatine; in fact, Dukinfield is on the Cheshire side of the River Tame.

I hope that it is. It would be a remarkable state of affairs if we could now have a point of order.

During the urgent question, Mr Speaker, the Care Minister—inadvertently, I think—referred to me as “the Member for somewhere in Birmingham”. I think it important to place on record that, as the Member for Halesowen and Rowley Regis, I represent a black-country constituency in the west midlands.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for clarifying that point, and I am sure that people in his constituency will be as well. I remember visiting the area, and the distinction that the hon. Gentleman has made is extremely important.