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Points of Order

Volume 636: debated on Tuesday 27 February 2018

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked the Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation whether the person specification for the board members of the Office for Students had been checked properly and if we could be assured it met the requirements of the code for public appointments. He did not address that issue, so I wonder whether you could give any advice as to how we can take it forward.

That is not a point of order for the Chair. Whether it momentarily slipped the Minister’s mind or for some other reason he chose to focus his remarks elsewhere, I do not know. The Minister is welcome to come to the Dispatch Box if he wishes, but he is not under any obligation to do so.

It is not a point of order, as the hon. Gentleman rightly says. If the hon. Lady wishes to go in hot pursuit of the Minister and to seek to engage him in conversation on this matter, conceivably even over a cup of tea, it is open to her to try, although it does not look as though the prospects of her succeeding today are high.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the Minister’s response to my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell), he said that the same due diligence was carried out by the same advisers on all candidates. That is simply not true. Would the Minister like to correct the record, based on the commissioner’s findings?

I am aware of the summary of the report, but I have not read the report. Again, this is not a point of order; it is a matter of debate. If the Minister wants to engage with this, he can briefly respond, but he is not obliged to do so—[Interruption.] It appears he does not wish to. What I would say to the shadow Secretary of State is that she has made her own point in her own way. As I said to somebody yesterday, she has done so with her usual force and alacrity. It is on the record and we are grateful to her.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I respect what you have just clarified, but what recourse does the House have regarding the former Universities Minister? I feel that he misled this House in his statement on 8 January, and the report by the commissioner has now clearly set out that it was a misleading statement. What recourse do we have regarding that Minister, who is not here today to answer?

I entirely understand what the hon. Lady is saying, but it is not right to accuse somebody of misleading the House, particularly when the Minister involved is not here. I think she probably wants to insert the word “inadvertently”—I think that would be safe.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her point of order. I understand her concern. The Minister in question no longer occupies this office—witness the fact that the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr Gyimah) answered the urgent question, as he is now a Minister in the relevant Department and the hon. Member for Orpington (Joseph Johnson) now serves in another capacity. My advice to the hon. Lady is that she should repair to the Table Office, which is a short distance from here, to consult it as to the means by which questions may be capable of being put to that Minister which might elicit a reply. If that course of action proves not to be fruitful, I suggest that she approaches me again, perhaps with notice, giving me an opportunity to reflect, because certainly I believe in the importance of holding Ministers to account for present and indeed past actions.

I will come to the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Toby Perkins)—we will save him for now. He can cook for a little longer.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the Minister’s gracious reply to me, he said that there should not be further education representation on the board of the Office for Students because it was about higher degrees. However, further education colleges actually do higher degrees. I just want to get that point on the record.

The right hon. Gentleman has made his own point and it is a factual one. It is on the record and it can be shared, not only with all parliamentary colleagues, but, conceivably, with the masses in his constituency of Harlow.

I think I ought to take the hon. Member for Chesterfield first, so the hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan) can wait.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. In my question, I described Toby Young as an old Etonian. I am sure he has been called worse, and I could have used many other phrases, but apparently he was not educated there and so that should not be added to his charge sheet. Will you therefore allow me the opportunity to correct the record?

Yes, the hon. Gentleman has corrected the record, and I am grateful to him for his courtesy in doing so.

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Further to the point of order of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell), if there are no other means by which the House could hold the former Universities Minister, the Minister of State, Department for Transport, the hon. Member for Orpington (Joseph Johnson), to account, is it still in order to table a motion to reduce his salary as a way of expressing the House’s concern about that lack of accountability?

That has been an option deployed in the past—there are certainly precedents for it. The hon. Gentleman, who is a person of considerable perspicacity, will certainly know the route to the Table Office by now, as he entered the House in 2001. He may wish to make that journey and to inquire about the feasibility of such an approach, but that there are precedents for such an approach I am happy to confirm.