Jim Allister (Traditional Unionist Voice)
: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask for your guidance on Standing Order 20A, as it affects today’s proceedings. It deals with questions for urgent oral answer. I sought to table such a question this morning before 10.30 am to the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) to ask if they retained confidence in the Attorney General. I was then informed by the Business Office that the question would not be taken, not because you had ruled that it was not urgent, but because OFMDFM claimed to be unable to provide a Minister.
Standing Order 20A sets two criteria for admissibility. The question must be submitted before 10.30 am and the Ministers or Department must be given a minimum of four hours’ notice. Nowhere does it suggest that a Minister can simply say that they are not available. There are four Ministers in OFMDFM. Can you confirm that that matter did not get to you for a decision, but that someone in the Business Office took a decision that it would not be acceptable because OFMDFM claimed that a Minister was not available?
William Hay (DUP)
: The Member will know that there is a clear convention around that issue. We normally check first to make sure that a Minister is available. On this occasion, a Minister was not available. If Ministers are not available to come to the House to answer the question for oral answer, we have to look at a different situation. I would have thought that the Member understood that. It has been practised over and over again. I suggest to the Member that he might resubmit his question for oral answer. I think that might be useful to the Member.
Paul Givan (DUP)
: Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I had also tabled a question for the Justice Minister to answer orally about the same issue and got a response back to say that he would not be answering, yet he appeared on ‘Hearts and Minds’ and was quite willing to talk about the case. I have been told that we cannot raise it in the House, even though that Minister is available to answer questions for oral answer, because he does not want to address it in the House.