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Points of Order

Volume 644: debated on Wednesday 4 July 2018

Order. We will come to the right hon. Lady later—I will not forget her—but first I call the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to make a point of order.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. While speaking in Parliament in answer to questions on the National Audit Office report on universal credit, I mistakenly said that the NAO had asked for the roll-out of universal credit to continue at a faster rate and to be speeded up. In fact, the NAO did not say that, and I want to apologise—

Order. This is rather unseemly. I know that passions run high, but the Secretary of State contacted me to say that she intended to say what she is about to say, and the House should hear her say it.

I want to apologise to you, Mr Speaker, and the House for inadvertently misleading you. I meant to say that the NAO had said that there was no practical alternative to continuing with universal credit. We adopt a “test and learn” approach to the roll-out of universal credit, which the NAO says mainly follows good practice, and therefore the point I was trying to make was that the calls from the Labour party to pause it seemed to fly in the face of those conclusions. As you know, Mr Speaker, I asked you yesterday if I could come to the House to correct the record. I believe it is right that, as a Minister, I should come and correct the record, and I therefore hope that you will accept my apology.

On the other issues raised in the letter sent today by the NAO, the NAO contacted my office at the end of last week and we are working on setting up a meeting. On the NAO report not taking into account the impact of the recent changes to UC, I still maintain that this is the case, and those changes include the housing benefit run-on, the 100% advances and the removal of waiting days. The impact of those changes is still being felt and therefore, by definition, could not have been fully taken into account by the NAO report. I hope that that clarifies the position.

I can confirm that the Secretary of State most certainly did contact me last night indicating that she would like to apologise on a point of order, and I certainly accept her apology.

Order. I gently say to the right hon. Gentleman that the apology has been proffered and, as far as the Chair is concerned, accepted. I do not want there to be an extended—

Order. No, I do not want further points of order on this matter. It can no doubt be the subject of future debate, but I cannot see what point of order can arise. If the right hon. Gentleman has a point of order, as opposed to a point of argument or an expression of criticism, I am happy to hear it, but if it ceases to be a point of order, he will have to resume his seat. I call him purely because he is the Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, but it had better be a point of order.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have given notice to you, for tomorrow’s agenda, to ask for an urgent question to follow up that statement.

It is very generous of the right hon. Gentleman to tell me publicly that he has given me notice. I do not know whether he means that he has given me notice just now, in the form of that point of order, or that he has made an application to my office. People do not normally advertise urgent questions to the nation in advance. I will make a decision about it at the appropriate time.

Flattery will get the right hon. Gentleman everywhere. My innovations are there for everyone to see, whether they approve of them or not, but as far as urgent questions are concerned, as I think the House accepts, I make a judgment at the appropriate time, and now is not the appropriate time. He has, with some cheekiness and a degree of perspicacity, made his own point in his own way, and it is on the record.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. During Prime Minister’s questions, the Prime Minister suggested that when she was chair of education at Merton Council, she put money into early years education while Labour was making cuts. She was chair of the education board from 1988 to 1990, when the council was Conservative-run and, as far as I recall, there was a Conservative Government. Can you advise me, Mr Speaker, on how we can correct the record?

I think that the right hon. Lady has, to her own satisfaction, done so already. I hope she will understand if I say that I will not get into a debate about the respective local government records of senior officeholders in the House. Apart from anything else, I am not sure that I would want to stand by everything that I said or did in the 1980s.