Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 3:30 pm on 30th November 1993.

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Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor Shadow Secretary of State 3:30 pm, 30th November 1993

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I wish to raise an important point of order about a serious matter—the leaking by the Secretary of State for Education of part of the statement that is to be made by the Chancellor this afternoon.

This is the first occasion on which we have had a unified Budget with announcements on expenditure as well as taxation. Clearly, any announcement on expenditure can be taken as an idea of the revenue to be raised by the Chancellor. Such an indication has been given by the Secretary of State for Education by way of a press release this morning—[Interruption.]

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. The hon. Lady must be heard if she has a point of order.

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor Shadow Secretary of State

Although this press statement makes bogus claims about increases in Government expenditure on education, along with cuts in student grants, it is an official statement by a Minister of the Crown on the unified Budget.

That is more serious than just a discourtesy to the House: it is a clear breach of Budget security, and has been acknowledged as such by both the Department for Education and 10 Downing street. In view of this, I wonder whether the Secretary of State for Education has asked to make a personal statement to the House, because clearly he should resign.

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

I have not been informed by the Secretary of State that he seeks to make a statement today. I have, however, had an opportunity to look at the document that has been referred to. It is an account of the expenditure plans of the Department for Education for 1994-95. The premature release of such information, ahead of the unified Budget statement and an associated parliamentary answer, does not have the gravity of the pre-release of tax proposals that are to have immediate effect.

It is nevertheless a most serious discourtesy to the House to disclose such information before it has been made available to Members. I most strongly deprecate what has happened, and I trust that all Departments will take note of what I have said, and that they will take steps to see that they prevent anything similar from happening again.

Photo of Mr Andrew Faulds Mr Andrew Faulds , Warley East

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. [Interruption.] Listen, you berks. [Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Andrew Faulds Mr Andrew Faulds , Warley East

Thank you, Madam Speaker. In view of the comments that you have just made, that the House should be properly treated, is it not now incumbent upon the Secretary of State whom you have commented upon to make an apology to the House of Commons?

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

What I have said stands and will be reported in the Official Report. We shall now move on. With permission, I shall put together the seven motions relating to statutory instruments.