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Points of Order

Volume 635: debated on Thursday 25 January 2018

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. First, may I say what a delight it is to see you back in the Chair? Have either you or Mr Speaker been given notice by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that, in view of the important call by the former Secretary of State for Defence that we spend 2.5% of GDP on defence, he will be coming to the Chamber to announce an increase in the defence budget, so that the present Secretary of State can put it to good use?

I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that I have had no such indication, and Mr Speaker has not passed one on to me either. The good thing, however, is that his comments are on the record, and I am sure that someone will be letting him know the outcome shortly.

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. It is very good to see you back in your place. It was July 2017 when the Prime Minister announced a public inquiry into the contaminated blood scandal, the worst treatment disaster in the history of the NHS. It is now nearly the end of January 2018 and we still do not have a chair, terms of reference or any indication of when it will be established. Have you been given any indication by the Government of a statement or announcement of what will happen next with this long-awaited public inquiry?

I have been given no such indication, but I know that the hon. Lady will be taking up other avenues to pursue the matter. Her comments on this important matter are on the record, and I am sure the Government will be looking at it.

On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Again, it is a pleasure to see you back in your place. We have just had the statement. Many Members—those who are here and those who are not here—feel deeply aggrieved at the way it has been handled. You will know, Mr Deputy Speaker, about the shenanigans yesterday: the statement was on and off several times. Worse, in a debate yesterday morning, the Minister for the Armed Forces assured Members that the statement would be happening next week, not this week. I was also given an assurance by the Leader of the House that it would happen next week. I welcome the fact that it has come early, but the Government’s jiggery-pokery has been deeply unedifying and discourteous to Members. Can you give us an assurance that the Ministry of Defence will not do this again, and can you advise Members on how to ensure that, when Ministers report on the review in July, as they hope to do, the same thing will not happen and they will not trick Members into thinking that a statement is not forthcoming when it actually is?

What I can say is that it is not for the Chair to decide when the statement will come; it is up to the Secretary of State when they decide to do it. I recognise that there has been a lot of frustration. I am sure that will have been taken on board. I am sure that the usual channels can begin to have a conversation to try and ensure that all parties do not feel aggrieved. I am sure this is something that has been taken on board, but I can assure you that it is not for the Chair to decide when the statement will come. Recognising that the House is frustrated, and that this is an important matter, I am sure that this was not done deliberately.

Further to that point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I am sorry to come back again, but I happen to know that there was a strong wish on the part of the Secretary of State for Defence and his team to make the statement yesterday. The only reason it was not made was so as not to cut into Opposition day time. I do think that should be borne in mind.

What I would say is that I do not want to pursue the debate. I know there were various discussions yesterday. In the end, the statement came today. I do not want to get into how it was arrived at. I think that is something that was done, quite rightly, with Mr Speaker. It is where we are at now, and I am not going to pursue this in any other way, other than to say that the statement has been heard. Let us move on from that.