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House of Commons Hansard
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19 July 2018
Volume 645

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rose

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rose—

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The hon. Member for Bath (Wera Hobhouse) is perfectly in order to raise a point of order and I will come to her in just a moment, but I first call Madeleine Moon.

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On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. This morning, a written statement has been released by the Ministry of Defence on the modernising defence programme. It says very little apart from warm words and platitudes, but the issue of great interest across the defence estate is when we are going to have a contractual agreement on the airborne early warning and control capability—the new airborne warning and control system plane—which is vital to our defence and security. There is great concern that there may be an attempt to release the details of a military-to-military sale, rather than of an open tender, during the recess. May I seek your advice and guidance on the protocol, because if the Ministry of Defence is planning to award such a contract, it should do so while the House is sitting so that it can receive suitable scrutiny from Members of Parliament?

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I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her point of order. She is right to use this opportunity in the Chamber to raise the point that concerns her, but I am sure she will appreciate that the time at which any Department releases information or the way in which it comes to a conclusion such as the one she has described is not of course a point of order for the Chair. However, she has taken this opportunity to put her point on the record, and I am sure that those on the Treasury Bench will have noted it. I also have every confidence that if something of significance occurs during the parliamentary recess, the appropriate Minister will come to the Dispatch Box in the Chamber as soon as we come back after the recess. I certainly hope so, but if that does not happen, the hon. Lady will I am sure have a point of order to raise with Mr Speaker.

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On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. During Exiting the European Union questions earlier, the Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, the hon. Member for Fareham (Suella Braverman), said:

“Manufacturing is at a record high”.

This is factually incorrect. The most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics show that in April manufacturing output fell by 1.4% compared with the previous month, the sharpest fall for five years. Similarly, the UK’s trade balance deteriorated further in April, falling by £2.1 billion. I am still a new Member, and I am perturbed, but is it acceptable for Ministers to make sweeping, unsupported, incorrect factual statements, especially when they encourage us and others to stick to the facts? I would really like your advice.

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I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising her point of order. She notes that she is a new Member. I am not a new Member, and over the decades I have heard hundreds of people use statistics in this place—

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A Minister.

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I have heard hundreds of Ministers, as well as non-Ministers, use statistics in this place, and every statistic is of course open to interpretation and to being used to put a political point of view, whatever that point of view might be. If it turns out that there has been a factual error, I am sure that the Minister in question will apologise to the House and to the hon. Lady, but if it is a question of the interpretation of statistics—in my experience, it usually is—then that is a matter for debate. The hon. Lady has, however, used the opportunity of raising a point of order to put her interpretation of the facts properly on the record.

Royal Assent

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I now have to notify the House about Royal Assent to certain Bills. In accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967, Her Majesty has signified her Royal Assent to the following Acts:

Supply and Appropriation (Main Estimates) Act 2018

Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018

Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Act 2018

Northern Ireland Budget Act 2018

Domestic Gas and Electricity (Tariff Cap) Act 2018.