On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I fear that yesterday the fire Minister, Brandon Lewis, inadvertently misled the House in responding to a question from me about reductions in funds for the fire service. He said that I
“might like to have a look at the figures, which show that the cut for fire authorities last year and the year that we are now in was 0.5%”.—[Hansard, 12 November 2012; Vol. 553, c. 15.]
I double-checked my figures yesterday with the House of Commons Library, which confirmed that the reduction in funds for fire authorities over that period was at least 6.5%, and that if specific grants were taken into account, the figure was even higher. I wonder, Mr Speaker, whether you might like to invite the Minister to return to the House to correct the record.
I have no need to invite a Minister to do that, but I will say two things to the hon. Gentleman. First, he has made his own point in his own way, with great clarity, and I hope he feels satisfied about that. Secondly, all Ministers are responsible for the accuracy or otherwise of their statements to the House. In the event of an inaccurate or incorrect statement, a Minister is responsible for correcting the record. The hon. Gentleman’s point will, I trust, have been heard.
On a point of order, Mr Speaker. In fact, I have two points of order, and have given you notice of one of them, which is about Parliament square. As you are aware, the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 made it possible for the square to be cleared, but unfortunately the remaining demonstration seems to have expanded, and is clearly in breach of the “prohibited activity” of keeping, placing or
“using any sleeping equipment…for the purpose of sleeping overnight”.
I wonder whether you are satisfied with the situation, Mr Speaker, given that only a few months ago an Act passed by Parliament came into force so that it could be addressed.
The short answer to the hon. Gentleman’s point of order is that, in respect of the situation in
Parliament square, I have rarely been satisfied—very rarely—and I am not satisfied about it now.
It is for the courts to enforce the law and the regime to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. I hope he will understand when I say that I do not wish to engage further with him on this matter at this time, but I shall be happy to look into it, and perhaps even to have a discussion with him outside the Chamber. However, I am sensitive to the inconvenience that he and other hon. and right hon. Members have experienced and continue to experience.
I have a feeling that the hon. Gentleman’s appetite for his second point of order is undiminished.
It is, Mr Speaker; I am most grateful. It will not have escaped your notice that last
I am not sure on the latter point. However, the hon. Gentleman is quite right in his recollection of the previous content of Sessional Orders. I understand that they ceased to include any such reference because it was judged that the reference was ineffective, in that there was no legal power of enforcement. We might have felt better, in and of ourselves, with such an order, but it did not actually work. Whether the fact that the alternative state of affairs is not working either is satisfactory is another matter.
I understand why the hon. Gentleman is dissatisfied, and, again, I shall be happy to have further conversations with him. I am sure that the House will applaud the disinterested and public-spirited way in which he seeks to uphold not only his own rights, but those of hon. and right hon. Members throughout the House.
If there is no further point of order, either from the hon. Gentleman or from any other Member, perhaps we can now deal with the ten-minute rule motion.