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Volume 739: debated on Thursday 19 July 2012

While the Leader of the House is here, I feel that I should bring to the attention of the House a very serious matter that has arisen. At Question Time yesterday, I asked a question of the Treasury. The noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, who is normally very honourable, told me that he could not reply to my question and would do so in writing. We did not know at the time that a Written Ministerial Statement was being made by the noble Lord, Lord Sassoon. The Leader of the Opposition asked a few days ago that, while this House is sitting as part of this Parliament, any major Statement—this was a serious Statement on infrastructure and loan guarantee schemes—be taken here. It was taken as a Written Ministerial Statement while I was asking an oral question. It really is quite outrageous and I hope that the Leader of the House will be able to assure us that it will not happen again.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, has been a Member of this House for a very long time indeed. The noble Lord knows that it does not have points of order and that if he needs to raise a question, it has to be on a relevant Motion. It is a gross discourtesy to the Lord Speaker for the noble Lord not to have put down a PNQ if he felt it was appropriate. It is also a discourtesy to the House for him to break the rules in this way. If the noble Lord does not know what the rules are, then I urge him to take advice from the Clerk of the Parliaments, who no doubt will provide an induction course for him.

My Lords, I have indeed been a Member of this House for nearly 30 years and have never, I hope, done anything discourteous in any way. I was putting an oral question on the specific issue and at the same time a Minister was putting down a Written Ministerial Statement. This was on something rather important, to say the least, because the Prime Minister—and even his deputy was with him—was making this major statement about loan guarantees. The Leader of the Opposition asked specifically that those kinds of statements should be made here; she never said written ones. What is wrong with my asking now that it should not happen again?

My Lords, what is wrong is that the noble Lord is breaking the rules of the House by not raising it at a relevant time on a Motion that is on the Order Paper.