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Point of Order

Volume 646: debated on Thursday 13 September 2018

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. At 9.55 this morning, ensuring it was then too late to question the Secretary of State at International Trade questions, his Department released a written statement saying it was concerned about breaches of export controls and the conduct of licence applicants. We have been challenging this Government for many months to tighten export controls in relation to military and dual-use goods in Saudi Arabia, Honduras and the Philippines. Is it not discourteous to this House to deny Members the opportunity to question Ministers on which companies have given rise to concern and which country destinations are suspected of illegitimate use? Have you, Mr Speaker, received any request from Ministers to come to this place and allow a proper discussion of these disturbing matters? There is now a three-week recess and many will feel that what I have referred to as a discourtesy is in fact an outrage.

The short answer to the hon. Gentleman is yes, it is discourteous, and it is highly regrettable that Members have not had the opportunity to question Ministers about this important matter. It would have been open to the Government to make an oral statement to the House and it might have been judged seemly for that to have happened, so I share the hon. Gentleman’s sense of unease and disappointment, to put it mildly, that we find ourselves in this situation, but unless an oral statement is volunteered there is no immediate remedy. Knowing the hon. Gentleman as I do—he and I came into the House together 21 years ago—I know that he is nothing if not persistent, and he will seek to use the Order Paper and the opportunities presented in the House upon our return fully to probe the Government on this subject. I am sorry that that will have to wait for some time, but his opportunity will come if he is patient.