Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 3:35 pm on 27th March 2007.

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Photo of Andrew George Andrew George Liberal Democrat, St Ives 3:35 pm, 27th March 2007

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your advice in respect of an answer that I received during Health questions on 6 February from the Minister of State, Department of Health, Caroline Flint, in response to a question about the activities of and payments to private treatment centres, which are being paid irrespective of whether they complete their work. At column 703, she is recorded as having said:

"the Plymouth and Bodmin treatment centres are on target for up to 100 per cent. capacity."—[ Hansard, 6 February 2007; Vol. 456, c. 703.]

Yet following a freedom of information request to the local PCT, it now appears that the private treatment centre at Bodmin—which is represented by my hon. Friend Mr. Rogerson, who is assiduous in pursuing the issue—has fulfilled only 45 per cent. of its target in the first six months of this year and 65 per cent. in the second six months, not the 100 per cent. claimed. I am sure that the Minister had no intention to mislead me or the House, but I seek your advice as to what sanctions are available to ensure that inaccurate or misleading information is properly and quickly corrected by Ministers on the Floor of the House.

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

As the hon. Gentleman said, the information given was probably inadvertently misleading. The beauty of being able to table questions is that he can table another question today, which might tie up with the freedom of information answer that his colleague received. That is the way to resolve the matter.

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith Conservative, Chingford and Woodford Green

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. From listening to and watching the news on television over the past three or four days, it has become clear that almost everybody in Britain has been discussing and worrying about the kidnapping of our soldiers and sailors by the Iranians. So far, we have not had a statement of the official position from Her Majesty's Government. Have you received a request to make such a statement, as it would be remarkable if the one place in Britain where the matter was not being discussed was this Chamber?

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

My understanding is that the Leader of the House announced that there would be a statement this week. I hope that that is helpful to the right hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your guidance as to how it might be possible to question orally a Minister from the Department for Communities and Local Government on the written statement about local government reorganisation. None of the questions on the Order Paper was appropriate for raising the matter just now. In the county of Bedfordshire, there is confusion and consternation about the written statement. It is not at all clear what will happen to local government, particularly in the middle and southern part of Bedfordshire. Chief executives of local authorities do not know what to tell their staff about whether they will still be in jobs. My constituents deserve better. It is impossible to take forward important local matters when we do not know what councils will exist in future. The House rises in two days, and it is too late for an Adjournment debate. How can I question a Minister orally on the matter?

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

If Mr. Dunne will let me answer Andrew Selous, he might need not need to raise a point of order. I understand that at least three months of consultation will take place with the community at large, which will allow the hon. Member for South-West Bedfordshire to make representations. I agree that we are about to enter a recess, but one of the advantages of that is the Easter recess Adjournment debate, in which the hon. Member for South-West Bedfordshire could raise the matter on the Floor of the House. If the period involved is three months, he will have the opportunity of tabling further questions and of seeking an Adjournment debate, in which the Minister concerned would appear at the Dispatch Box. Does that help, Mr. Dunne?

Photo of Philip Dunne Philip Dunne Conservative, Ludlow

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. In connection with the announcement in the written statement by the Minister for Local Government today, the allegation was made that there has been a broad cross-section of support in the county of Shropshire for the unitary authority proposals. The Minister seems to have completely ignored the ballot of opinion in Shropshire, which was overwhelmingly opposed to a unitary authority. I seek your guidance as to whether we can get Shropshire struck out from the proposals.