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House of Commons Hansard
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15 June 2016
Volume 611

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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. According to newspaper reports—[Interruption.]

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Order. I want to hear the hon. Gentleman’s point of order, which I suspect might relate to topical matters.

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It does; it relates to Parliament, Sir. If there is going to be an emergency Budget, would it not have been appropriate for it to be announced first in this House and not through the media? It seems a great discourtesy, Sir.

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We are in the realms of speculation here. If there were to be such a Budget, it would have to be delivered here and we would have been notified of it in advance. There is no such declared intention. There are all sorts of briefings, but to my knowledge, there is no such declared intention. If the Chancellor were here and wanted to comment on the matter, he could do so, but he is not, so I fear that he will not. If the Chancellor manifests himself during the course of today’s proceedings —there is quite an important debate taking place in the House today that relates to economic matters—the hon. Gentleman might choose to raise the matter with him. We shall have to await the development of events.

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I shall save up the hon. Member for St Albans (Mrs Main) for later. I call Mr David T. C. Davies.

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Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. You seem to have confirmed that you are not aware of any such Budget. That being the case, is it in order for members of the Government to be going around telling the press that there is such a Budget when it does not in fact exist?

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The hon. Gentleman is being a bit cheeky. I know of no such plan. The hon. Gentleman is an assiduous constituency representative and he is a politician. He knows very well that all sorts of things are speculated upon and made the subject of conversation and rumour. All I know is what concerns the business of the House today. What people say outside the House is a matter for them. If people have important things to say on public policy—between now and next Thursday, for example—it would perhaps be prudent and judged to be courteous to say them in the House of Commons.

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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sure it was an error on the part of the Leader of the Opposition, but he said that there were no boats outside on the Terrace—[Interruption.] On the Thames by the Terrace. May I confirm that the Wayward Lad was certainly giving voice, in a way that concerned some of the river authorities? These boats were indeed saying “Vote Leave”, and some of them have spent three days coming up the river to convey their views to those on Terrace. We wish them well.

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It is always useful to have a bit of information, but I am not responsible for boats—or indeed for what Hyacinth “Bouquet” used to call “riparian entertainments”. They are not a matter for the Chair.

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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. We are about to embark on a very important debate that is being led by the shadow Chancellor on—[Interruption.]

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Order. Some Members are disquieted because they want to get on with the debate. I want to get on with the debate, too, but points of order must be heard. They can be dealt with more quickly if we hear them.

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We are about to embark on a very important debate on the economic benefits of UK membership of the European Union. The shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer is going to lead the debate. Surely it is essential that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is in the House to answer the points that are made and to defend the ludicrous stance that he has been taking in the media. Why is the Chancellor of the Exchequer not here? What can this House do to require him to maintain its conventions and attend this debate?

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What I would say to the hon. Gentleman, and to those who are attending our proceedings, is that who the Government field to respond to a debate is a matter for the Government. The hon. Gentleman will probably—on the whole—be relieved to know that the matters for which I am responsible do not include the Chancellor’s movements, and I am bound to say that—on the whole—that is a considerable solace to me too.

There will be people, and I get the impression that the hon. Gentleman is one of them, who will feel that it is somewhat discourteous if a very senior Minister who is responsible for the policy area in question is not present in the Chamber, but it is not against the rules of the House. I would hope that the Chancellor would have some interest in what Members think about the matter. That would be courteous, and it would show a degree of humility and respect, but beyond that, it is a matter for the Government to choose. I gather that the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs will respond to the shadow Chancellor, and that is perfectly orderly.

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(Stone) On a point of order, Mr Speaker. It relates to the resolution of the House of Commons of 1997, which states:

“It is of paramount importance that Ministers should give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity.”

Last week, in reply to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset (Richard Drax), my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said that he had

“secured two vital treaty changes”.—[Official Report, 8 June 2016; Vol. 611, c. 1184.]

I subsequently sought a correction. Today, I received a letter from the Prime Minister stating that my letter to him was “misleading”. His reply flies in the face of the published facts, the law and common sense. In those circumstances, Mr Speaker, will you take note of the fact that I am stating that I believe that there has been a breach of that resolution?

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I do take note of what the hon. Gentleman tells me, and I take what he has said very seriously. He is an extremely long-serving and serious-minded Member of the House. However, I have already advised the hon. Gentleman—to whose representation I paid very close attention—that I do not think it proper or necessary for me to add anything to what has already been said on this matter. I would simply say to him, and to other Members, that although of course I have my own thoughts on these matters, I do seek wise professional counsel, which is impeccably independent and based on very great experience in the service of the House. That does not automatically mean that it is right, but it does mean that it is serious.

I think we must leave it there. I have, I think, very generously given the hon. Gentleman full opportunities to record this thoughts, and they are now recorded.