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Points of Order

Volume 606: debated on Wednesday 24 February 2016

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. With your forbearance, I would like to raise a matter that was addressed in the Adjournment debate on Monday evening. During the debate, I asked the Minister about negotiations that might have taken place ahead of a proposal to allow ship-to-ship transfers in the Cromarty firth. Specifically, I asked whether Marine Scotland, representing the Scottish Government, had been consulted. The Minister replied:

“The hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber mentioned the Cromarty firth oil transfer licence. Marine Scotland was directly consulted on 10 December, and on 8 February, when the consultation ended, it had not responded. When it was asked whether it intended to respond, the answer was no. I hope that that clarifies that point.”—[Official Report, 22 February 2016; Vol. 606, c. 123.]

That was a very clear statement, and I was very surprised to hear the Minister make it, because I would have expected that Marine Scotland, on behalf of the Scottish Government, had responded to the consultation. I therefore checked the situation with the Scottish Government and received the following response:

“The Scottish Government is not aware of being directly approached by the UK Government during the consultation on the Cromarty Firth Oil Transfers. Marine Scotland was made aware of the proposal through informal contact by the Port of Cromarty Firth.”

It is safe to say that Marine Scotland was not contacted by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency or by the UK Government.

That is a very worrying statement, because it leaves open the suggestion that the Government have perhaps been economical with the truth at the very least in what has been said in the House. That is a very serious matter, not least because of the potential threat to people in my community of ship-to-ship transfers taking place, and of the Scottish Government not being adequately consulted on their responsibilities for environmental protection. I therefore seek your advice, Mr Speaker, on how I may deal with this matter and whether it would be appropriate for the Minister to correct the record.

It is open to any Member who believes that he or she has made a mistake to correct the record voluntarily. It is not the responsibility of the Chair to arbitrate between competing claims about a sequence of events, and nor is it my responsibility to interpret what the Minister might have meant in responding to the hon. Gentleman at the time. The hon. Gentleman has made his point with force and alacrity—we would expect no less of him. If the Secretary of State wishes to respond, he is perfectly at liberty to do so, but he is under no obligation.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I have noted what the hon. Gentleman has said and will have the matter investigated.

The Secretary of State has kindly said that he will have the matter investigated. I ought to emphasise, for the avoidance of doubt, that he was not the Minister who answered in the debate. I hope that the hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford) is satisfied with his prodigious efforts for the day and that we might now move on to other fare. I know that he will be absolutely delighted that we can now move on to the ten-minute rule motion, to be put forward by his hon. Friend the Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey (Drew Hendry). I am sure that he is sitting expectantly with that in mind.