Skip to main content

Point of Order

Volume 703: debated on Monday 15 November 2021

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I speak further to my point of order on Tuesday 9 November, in which I sought assurances that the long-awaited integrated rail plan—the centrepiece of the Government’s so-called levelling-up agenda—would not be leaked to the media while the House was in recess. All or most of the contents of the integrated rail plan have now been reported in the press over the weekend. Yet again, before any statement to this House, there has been selective leaking to the media ahead of the plan’s launch, which Government sources say is not until Thursday. This is despite previous statements from Mr Speaker telling Ministers on numerous occasions—most recently over the recent Budget statement—to end this repeated and systematic abuse of the House.

The Department for Transport now says that it does “not comment on speculation”, but its advance briefings set the speculation running. What further action can Mr Speaker take to address the way in which the House has been treated, and is waiting until Thursday for the House to hear about the rail plan not just a charade now? Will the Secretary of State for Transport now be summoned to this House to make his statement on his wholly, or mostly, leaked rail plan without further delay and before Thursday?

I thank the right hon. Lady for her point of order and for giving Mr Speaker notice that she intended to make it.

I have to say, yet again—to repeat what Mr Speaker has said many, many times, and I venture to say too many times recently in the House—that it is a basic point of good constitutional form that announcements about Government policy should be made here in this Chamber to this House of Commons. When the Government have something of importance to announce, the people who should be asking the questions and holding the Government to account are the elected representatives of the people—you, Members of Parliament—not those in the television studios, the radio studios, Twitter or the newspapers. I have no hesitation in reiterating Mr Speaker’s often and very forcefully made point that Ministers who make announcements other than in this Chamber should consider very carefully whether they are adhering to the ministerial code.

I thank the right hon. Lady for bringing this matter to the House. As to her question about summoning the Secretary of State, she is well experienced in these matters, and I think she will know that if she consults the Clerks there will be ways in which she can endeavour to summon a Secretary of State here to this Chamber. I am sure that Mr Speaker will listen to her plea.