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Points of Order

Volume 617: debated on Thursday 24 November 2016

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. During business questions, the Leader of the House, in answer to the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), seemed to suggest that there was a question mark over whether a money resolution will be tabled to the boundaries Bill, the Second Reading of which was passed overwhelmingly by this House last Friday. Mr Speaker, you are obviously well versed in the proceedings of the House, so you will remember that there was, I think, one example of that happening in the last Parliament—I was not here at the time—due to the incoherence of the coalition Government, who were not able to agree among themselves. Many previous Leaders of the House have been on record many times saying that such a procedural device would not be used as a means of impeding the progress of a Bill such as that which we debated last Friday.

Leaders of the House prosper in their posts by commanding the support of the whole House. The present Leader of the House, in his short tenure, has had that, as exemplified by his magnificent statement earlier, but may I say through you, Mr Speaker, that if a Leader of the House loses support across the Chamber through such procedural shenanigans—if, indeed, that is what he meant—he will not be long for his tenure?

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. We all like the Leader of the House and we take him at his word. Only a few weeks ago, he told the House that if not enough Members turn up to vote for a private Member’s Bill—this was in relation to the Alan Turing Bill—it should fall, and that was fair enough. We all turned up last week: large numbers of us took him at his word and the vote was carried by 257 votes—including several Conservative Members—to 35. Surely, by the Leader of the House’s own logic, the Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill should now go into Committee. Plenty of Members turned up to vote for it, and those who did not might be those who do not want it.

I intend to ask the Leader of the House if he wants to say anything. He is not obliged to do so, but he might choose to do so, because these are essentially political matters. I have some comments to make to the right hon. Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond) in due course, but not before we have heard from Mr Peter Bone.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. Members on both sides of the House are concerned about the issue. By convention, it is a tradition of this House that money resolutions follow Second Reading. The Library tells me that there has been only one example to the contrary, and that has been referred to by the right hon. Member for Gordon (Alex Salmond). In fact, the majority by which this House passed last Friday’s Bill was the biggest such majority other than that given to the other Bill that did not get a money resolution. I hope that the Leader of the House will make a statement that a money resolution will be tabled as speedily as others have been tabled.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. If it will help matters, I want to make it clear that all I was saying earlier is that there is a process to be followed when a private Member’s Bill receives a Second Reading. First, the Government, particularly the Treasury, have to consider whether a money resolution is needed and what its scope should be, and then it has to be drafted. That is the process that is being gone through at the moment, and I was saying no more than that.

I am very grateful to the Leader of the House. I think it might be helpful, both to the right hon. Member for Gordon, who raised the original point of order, and to all who have subsequently taken part in this brief exchange, if I say the following. Ministers are, of course, responsible for what they say, as are other right hon. and hon. Members. Let me, however, confirm two things. First, the decision as to whether a Bill requires a money resolution is for the Clerk of Legislation, not the Treasury. I understood the meaning of the Leader of the House’s remarks earlier to be to the effect that it was for Treasury Ministers to decide on tabling a money resolution. He may not have said precisely that, but that is what I interpreted as being his meaning, and I confirm that it is, indeed, for them to decide upon the tabling. The question of the requirement is determined, as I have said, by the Clerk of Legislation. I hope that that response helps both distinguished Privy Counsellors in this matter.

In that case, I just wonder whether the Clerk of Legislation has decided yet whether the Bill needs a money resolution.

Order. We are not going to have an extended conversation on the matter—at least, no more extended than the one we have already had. I think I have made the position clear. People can seek advice from whomsoever they wish, and the Government may choose to seek advice from the Treasury. In my experience, the Treasury is invariably ready to offer its advice, whether its advice is wanted or not. The Treasury may very well offer its advice, and people in the Government may want its advice, but the fact is that it is the Clerk of Legislation who decides whether a money resolution is required. Thereafter, let me go so far as to say that it is overwhelmingly the norm that the tabling then follows. I do not think that the Leader of the House has sought to gainsay that.

The Leader of the House confirms, by a very helpful shaking of the head, that he has not sought to gainsay that. I hope that that will suffice for the purposes of the right hon. Member for Gordon.

If there are no further points of order—if the point of order appetite of hon. and right hon. Members has been duly satisfied, at least for today—we will move on.