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Points of Order

Volume 598: debated on Monday 20 July 2015

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. On Friday the Government published a written statement announcing a commission to look into the Freedom of Information Act. The impression has been given that it is a cross-party commission with the support of all parties. May I make it clear that Opposition Members have not been consulted about the work of the commission, nor do we have representation on the commission, nor do we want to see any watering down of the Freedom of Information Act, the worth of which has been demonstrated this afternoon?

The hon. Member has made his point and that of his party with crystal clarity. It is on the record, and we are grateful to him.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. During the debates on the Infrastructure Bill on 26 January, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change told the House unequivocally that there would be an outright ban on fracking at sites of special scientific interest. That was the basis on which the majority of the House agreed the Bill should be enacted. Yet secondary legislation published on Friday does the exact opposite, by failing to include SSSIs in the list of protected areas. Mr Speaker, could you please offer some guidance on the appropriateness of concealing such a U-turn in the small print of a statutory instrument, and advise us whether you have had any indication that the Secretary of State intends to make a statement on the matter, given that what she told the House very clearly and specifically no longer appears to be the case?

I am very grateful to the hon. Lady for her point of order and for giving me notice of it. I have received no indication that a Minister is intending to come to the House to make a statement on the matter. I am not familiar with the detail of what was said at an earlier stage, and it would not be right for me to seek to umpire between competing voices on the history of commitments made. Suffice it to say that Members on the Treasury Bench will have heard the hon. Lady’s point of order.

Beyond that, I think what I would say is that the regulations will have to be brought forward, if they have not already been, and proceeded with either by the negative or by the affirmative procedure, with both of which the hon. Lady—an experienced Member of the House—will be well familiar. There should, therefore, be at least an opportunity fully to debate the matter, and for the hon. Lady to flag up what she regards as an inconsistency between past commitment and present content. I think we had better leave it there for today.