Skip to main content

Deputy Speaker’s Statement

Volume 742: debated on Tuesday 19 December 2023

We are about to proceed to the statement on housing. Before I call the Minister for Housing, Planning and Building Safety to make the statement, I must say to the House that Mr Speaker is seriously concerned that the ministerial code may have been broken.

It will be obvious to the House that the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is not here to make the statement, which is not unusual. The Minister is here, and we welcome him, but I remind the House of the following provisions of the ministerial code. In paragraph 9.1:

“When Parliament is in session, the most important announcements of Government policy should be made in the first instance, in Parliament.”

In paragraph 9.3:

“Every effort should be made to avoid leaving significant announcements to the last day before a recess.”

The House may not be aware, but Mr Speaker is aware, that the Secretary of State held a televised press conference just after 12 o’clock today—while this House was sitting but while it was still dealing with questions, as we always do between 11.30 am and 12.30 pm—and that just after 12.30 pm, while the House was dealing with questions and some two hours before the Minister came to the House, the Secretary of State made this statement to journalists.

Several Members have, not surprisingly, made very reasonable complaints to Mr Speaker about this very serious discourtesy to the House, and it really must be noted that it is not a trivial matter. A senior Secretary of State made an important policy announcement on television, and now the Minister—I place no blame upon the Minister, whom we welcome to the House—is here two hours later. This is a gross discourtesy to this House.

I cannot take a point of order until after the statement. I think it would be best to leave points of order, unless they relate absolutely directly to what I have just said.

Does it not show contempt, not only for Members of Parliament and this House but for our constituents, on whose behalf we speak, that the Secretary of State made this statement to journalists rather than to this House?

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his point of order. I hope that is the point I have just made to the House. I take it that he agrees with what I, on behalf of Mr Speaker, have just said. It is a gross contempt.

We will take points of order after the statement, but it is only fair that we hear the Minister.