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Point of Order

– in the House of Commons at 12:32 pm on 11th March 2009.

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Photo of Paul Goodman Paul Goodman Shadow Minister, Communities and Local Government 12:32 pm, 11th March 2009

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As you are aware, the preventing violent extremism pathfinder fund distributes more than £70 million of public money to local authorities. Last year, after a delay of some six months, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government was persuaded to place in the Library details of how that fund was being spent for that year. Earlier this year, I wrote to the Secretary of State to ask her to place in the Library the corresponding details for this year. I received no reply. After a written question, I received a reply studiously ignoring the request I had made. This morning, I phoned the Secretary of State's private office and was told that the Department may—I stress "may"—no longer holds these financial details for this year at all.

My point of order is as follows. Either the Department no longer holds the details of where a substantial tranche of £70 million-worth of public money is going, which is a scandal, or it is refusing to place in the Library details of where that money is going, which, frankly, is no less scandalous in relation to information that Members of this House and members of the public have the right to see. What can you do, Mr. Speaker, to assist Members of this House in obtaining access to information that they have a right to know?

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

It is up to Ministers as to how they answer parliamentary questions. I will look into the matter the hon. Gentleman raises, and I will get back to him. I thank him for raising it.

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Photo of Peter Luff Peter Luff Chair, Business and Enterprise Committee

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I want to point out my concern, which I hope is shared by the House, that it seems easier to get information from the Government through freedom of information requests, which would work for my hon. Friend Mr. Goodman, than through written questions. That is a very worrying development.

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

It would certainly worry me. When parliamentarians seek information through parliamentary questions that is all-important and they should be a priority for any Minister.

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