On a point of order, Mr Speaker. On 20 July, you kindly granted an urgent question on the Government’s response to the Penrose inquiry and the contaminated blood scandal. The Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Ipswich (Ben Gummer), who is responsible for care quality, responded on behalf of the Government and, referring to me, said:
“She…asked about the compensation fund, and I shall return to her with a written reply on that.”—[Official Report, 20 July 2015; Vol. 598, c. 1223.]
I have chased the private office on several occasions without success, and at column 1232 the Minister also promised to write to the hon. Members for Bedford (Richard Fuller) and for Rugby (Mark Pawsey). I do not know whether he has written to those hon. Members, but I would have expected as the Member who asked the urgent question to have been copied in to any letters the Minister wrote and I have seen no copies of any letters. I seek your advice, Mr Speaker, as there is a great deal of public interest in this matter, on how we can best get a response from the Minister when a letter is promised.
I am rather perturbed by the hon. Lady’s point of order, because my mental arithmetic tells me that it is seven weeks yesterday since the matter was aired and the commitment was made to the hon. Lady. There is a premium on timely and substantive replies to Members’ questions and that premium is on account of the respect due to not just Members but their constituents. Ordinarily, there is some healthy competition between Departments to try to ensure timely and substantive replies but for some reason that instinct of competition seems to have deserted them on this occasion. No Whip is present, to my knowledge—[Interruption.] Oh good, Mr Elphicke is present. The Leader of the House is not present, but the Whip on duty will have heard what has been said and it would be most helpful and courteous if a substantive reply could now be forthcoming without delay.
Devolution (London) Bill
Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)
Gareth Thomas presented a Bill to require the Secretary of State to make provision for extending the autonomy of the government of London, in particular in relation to duties and powers for the Greater London Authority (GLA) in respect of income tax, property tax and valuation, other fiscal matters, economic management including a London minimum wage and its enforcement, housing policy and planning, the regulation of rents chargeable within the private residential housing sector and skills and employment training; the devolution of responsibilities for health and the NHS in London to the GLA and appropriate London authorities; the Secretary of State to consult the Mayor about decisions on justice and education expenditure, administration and policy as they relate to London and mandatory membership for the Mayor or his representative of the boards of certain public bodies with responsibilities affecting London; to require proposals for extending the autonomy of the government of London to be approved by the residents of Greater London in a referendum before they may come into force; to make provision for such a referendum; and for connected purposes.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 16 October, and to be printed (Bill 65).