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Points of Order

Volume 684: debated on Monday 23 November 2020

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Thank you for granting me this point of order. If you could help me on this matter, I would really appreciate it. On 15 June, in response to my written question regarding laptop provision for schools, the Minister for School Standards said:

“ The Department has ordered over 200,000 laptops and tablets. This order was placed on 19 April.”

On 2 July, here in the Chamber, I asked the Secretary of State for Education why documents released by his own Department therefore suggested that the first order was in fact placed on 15 May. The Secretary of State responded:

“I will write to the hon. Gentleman with clarification on that matter.”—[Official Report, 2 July 2020; Vol. 678, c. 543.]

He failed to write to me. I asked the same question to the Secretary of State in the House of Commons on 1 September. He said:

“I will write to him with reference to that if he will be so gracious as to accept a letter.”—[Official Report, 1 September 2020; Vol. 679, c. 56.]

He failed to do so again. I followed this up with his Department on 2 November. It failed to reply. I followed this up again with his Department on 19 November. I received a holding email, but I have yet to receive a substantive response. Madam Deputy Speaker, will you please advise me on what steps I need to take to secure a response from the Secretary of State for Education, given that he first promised to write to me almost five months ago?

The hon. Gentleman’s point is not a point of order for the Chair, because the Chair does not have responsibility for what Ministers say or write—or do not say or write —but I nevertheless understand his purpose in raising his point of order in the Chamber at this moment. I can say to him, as Mr Speaker has said on many occasions, that Ministers ought to reply to questions and letters from Members of Parliament in a timely fashion, and the saga that he has just described is not acceptable. Although I cannot deal with this from the Chair as a point before the Chamber now, I can say that I hope the matter has been noted by those on the Treasury Bench and hopefully also by the Leader of the House’s office, and that the hon. Gentleman will receive his answer soon.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. You were not in the Chair last week when I made the longest point of order that had ever been made in the history of points of order—for which I apologise—but at the time I suggested that the Government had tabled their motion on virtual participation in debates and who should be allowed to take part in them at the very last moment and without notifying the Opposition. The Leader of the House has written to me to clarify that he had, in fact, been in touch with the shadow Leader of the House, so that channel had been open and I want to correct the record. I should have been much more precise in saying that the Government Whips Office had not notified the Opposition Whips Office, so I apologise to the House. I just wonder, Madam Deputy Speaker, whether the process that I have used for correcting the record would also be available to the Leader of the House, because he said last week that the reason he was tabling his motion in the way that he did was that the Government rule was that people should to go to work if they could—that is, physically—whereas this afternoon the Prime Minister has made it absolutely clear that even if we are in tier 1, the rule is that we should work from home if we can.

Oh, I am quite sure he will make the third longest ere long. I appreciate the point that he is making. It is quite in order, as he has realised that something he said in this Chamber was factually incorrect, that he should come to the Chamber and correct it, and I am grateful to him for doing so. As to whether the Leader of the House will consider that he is in a similar position, that is a matter for him and not for me.

We will now suspend the House for three minutes in order to allow the safe exit of hon. Members and the entrance of hon. Members for the next item of business.

Sitting suspended.