Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 3:35 pm on 12 November 2007.

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Photo of Patrick Cormack Patrick Cormack Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee 3:35, 12 November 2007

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I should be grateful for your guidance on a point of order of which I have given you notice. Last week, you issued some helpful guidance and advice to the House on various matters. Would you consider also giving guidance and advice on the working of Select Committees? It has always been my understanding that Select Committees are for holding the Government to account. I think that you would agree that it would be preposterous if the Foreign Secretary, who is due to address us in a few minutes, suddenly became the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

This morning, I received a note—doubtless other Members did, too—that stated that on Wednesday the Modernisation Committee is to hear evidence from the Leader of the House. It may not have escaped your notice that the Chairman of that Committee is the Leader of the House. That is preposterous and absurd, and I ask you to give careful thought to whether we should take possession of all Select Committees.

Photo of Nicholas Winterton Nicholas Winterton Conservative, Macclesfield

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. As a member of the Modernisation Committee, I believe that the evidence to be given it by the Leader of the House will be helpful. Furthermore, the Committee will be in very good hands, as I shall be chairing it.

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 usual, the hon. Gentleman has been very helpful indeed. I was going to suggest that of course a Chairman of a Select Committee can give evidence, because a Select Committee is there not only for the purpose of calling the Executive to account but for the working of this House. Select Committees such as the Modernisation Committee and the Administration Committee seek to improve the facilities of the House. As Sir Nicholas said, we have a very capable Vice-Chairman who will take the Chair and allow the Leader of the House to give evidence. That is a very good arrangement indeed; I see nothing wrong with it at all.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Shadow Minister (Defence)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Are you aware of the league table that has been compiled by my hon. Friend Mr. Harper showing the very wide variation in departmental substantive answers to written questions? Whereas some Departments, such as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, give more than 80 per cent. of substantive answers on the due date for a named day question, the Ministry of Defence is the worst of the lot, with only 22 per cent. One of the answers that I received recently was to a question asking the Ministry of Defence whether, when it responds to an hon. Member by referring them to a previous written answer to another hon. Member's question, it would make it its policy to include a copy of that answer in with its reply. The reply to that was one word: "No." Is there any reason you can think of for this discourtesy to hon. Members?