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Point of Order

Volume 616: debated on Wednesday 2 November 2016

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can you do anything about the fact that the Home Office is not observing named days? On 17 October, the Home Secretary made a statement on the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse, in the course of which she said that she had passed on a request that Dame Lowell Goddard should appear before the Home Affairs Committee—as you know, Dame Lowell Goddard had resigned as the inquiry’s chair. I put down a named day written question to the Home Secretary asking if she would put the relevant correspondence with Dame Lowell Goddard in the Library. There was an interim reply saying that the Home Office was unable to answer the question on that particular day. A few days later I therefore put down another question, due for answer yesterday, asking when the Home Secretary would make a substantive reply to the first question. There has been no reply at all.

The Home Office, as I understand the position, seems to be in such a state of crisis about written questions that it is not able to answer them—unless it does not want to provide an answer in the first place. This seems quite simple to me: the Home Secretary could say that she had placed the correspondence in the Library or else say what she meant when she said what she had passed on the information. It is hardly a complex question, so why do I have to raise a point of order with you, Mr Speaker?

It is a very curious state of affairs to which the hon. Gentleman alludes. If he has a wider concern about overall response rates to questions it is of course open to him to write to the hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mr Walker), the Chair of the Procedure Committee, which keeps an eye on these matters. In relation to this particular question, the situation seems rather curious. However, experience tells me that when a Member raises his or her disquiet about a lengthy delay in securing a reply to a parliamentary question, that reply is, thereafter, ordinarily forthcoming very quickly. If the hon. Gentleman is in any doubt on that matter, he can always have a word with his right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Sir Gerald Kaufman), who has found it expedient to complain from time to time and has then secured very quick replies. The Leader of the House will have the hon. Gentleman’s interests at heart and I think a solution will be found, possibly within hours.

If I may very politely say so, that observation was superfluous, in the sense that I do not think that any Member of the House would have expected anything less of the hon. Gentleman. He is nothing if not persistent and tenacious to a fault.