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Points of Order

Volume 517: debated on Thursday 4 November 2010

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I hope that this is a very important matter on which you can offer some guidance. It seems to me that in this Parliament over the last 100 years, Governments and Prime Ministers have often dictated the terms and conditions for Members of Parliament, when in fact Parliament should be dictating the—[Interruption.] The point of order is this: is it right that the Government should be able to block Private Members’ Bills that relate to the terms and conditions for Members? [Interruption.]

Order. It is absolutely legitimate for Members of the House, including members of the Government, to take a view about a particular Bill. That is the short answer to the attempted point of order from the hon. Gentleman.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like to bring to your attention the huge difference in the time that it takes to get letters from various Ministers. Should we introduce a maximum time for responses to legitimate questions from Back-Bench MPs?

A number of Departments have target response times. The hon. Gentleman says that he is raising a point of order with me, but it is not a matter specifically and directly for the Chair. He has, however, raised his concerns in front of the Leader of the House, who will have heard them. I feel sure that the right hon. Gentleman will attach importance to ensuring that those concerns are heeded.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. It seems to me that, certainly for new Members, there is uncertainty about when it is appropriate for points of order to be made—and, indeed, about what actually constitutes a point of order.

There is no uncertainty in my mind. [Interruption.] Order. I am genuinely sorry for the hon. Gentleman if he is suffering from uncertainty. I am not suffering from any uncertainty on this matter, although I pay tribute to him for his efforts.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You will know that I have raised with the House authorities the delays there have been as I have tried to secure certain school tours. This week, I had a group cancellation—

Order. The hon. Lady was actively discouraged from pursuing that matter as a point of order. I fully understand her sense of grievance about it, but it is not, I am afraid, a matter of order. For her, it is a matter of real and understandable frustration, which is not quite the same thing.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your guidance. Earlier this week, there was a meeting, for the first time in 15 years, of the Welsh parliamentary party. I am not sure what the status of the Welsh parliamentary party is, but my question—

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Do you, like me, deprecate the practice, too common among Departments under the previous Government, of referring, in written answers to parliamentary questions, to website addresses rather than giving substantive answers? Will you intercede?

I am happy to comment on that point of order. The hon. Gentleman draws the attention of the House to what is becoming a common practice. Responses from Ministers to questions should be as helpful and clear as possible. Simply referring an hon. Member to a website is, frankly, not good enough. [Interruption.]

We come now to the main business. To move the motion, I call the Secretary of State, Dr Liam Fox.