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Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 12:32 pm on 24th June 2009.

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Photo of Crispin Blunt Crispin Blunt Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 12:32 pm, 24th June 2009

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. This is really further to your statement, and particularly the first point in it. It was remarkable to read in The Independent today that

"Britain is to appoint its first national cyber security chief to protect the country from terrorist computer hackers and electronic espionage, Gordon Brown will announce tomorrow.

The Prime Minister's move comes amid fears that the computer systems of government and business are vulnerable to online attack from hostile countries and terrorist organisations."

A civil servant is then named:

"Neil Thompson, a senior civil servant, will be charged with protecting the national computer network."

Cyber-security is a very important issue, and the cyber-threat to the United Kingdom is extremely severe. I understand that there are no plans for an oral statement to this House tomorrow, quite apart from the fact that there is no record that there will be any written or oral statements to the House today on the issue. Would it be as well for the Government to prepare an oral statement of some kind for tomorrow?

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Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Members Estimate Committee, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for what he has just said, which seems to underline the merit of my having made the statement that I did. On the specifics of the question, of which I did not have any advance notice, I can only say to him and to the House that I will certainly look into the matter.

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

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Does your first ruling extend to Ministers commenting on the publication of Bills, and to cases in which no Member of this House has had an opportunity to see a Bill before they hear the relevant Secretary of State telling the world what is in it on the "Today" programme?

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Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Members Estimate Committee, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons

Certainly, Ministers ought to make key statements to the House before they are made elsewhere. I should have thought that that was pretty clear. I note that the Leader of the House and other senior Ministers are present on the Treasury Bench. I say to the hon. Gentleman: let us see how it goes, but I hope that the thrust of what I have said is pretty clear.

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Photo of Evan Harris Evan Harris Shadow Science Minister

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It relates to a matter about which I wrote to you this morning. Tomorrow we are debating a motion to set up a Select Committee to make recommendations about how the House can better hold the Government to account through procedural changes. One of the main issues at stake is the way in which the House is able to scrutinise public Bills on Report, which has been appalling, and which many senior Members on both sides of the House—including yourself, sir, while you held such public opinions as a Back Bencher—agree has not been satisfactory. We assumed that the Wright Committee would be able to consider that, but its terms of reference say only that it will be able to look at procedures relating to non-Government business. To help with how we settle this, could you clarify whether you would agree that the way in which the House scrutinises Bills, even those introduced by the Government, is the very essence of House business, because it is the job of the House to scrutinise legislation? It is not the job of the Government to scrutinise legislation.

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Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Members Estimate Committee, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. Unfortunately, I do not have the advantage of having seen his letter, though I do not doubt that it has been sent to me. Of course, he has tabled an amendment, of which I am aware and with which other Members of the House will be familiar.

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Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will be aware that following the recent Government reshuffle, an increasing number of Ministers of the Crown find themselves in the other place, rather than in this place, including two Secretaries of State. Given your welcome determination to introduce reform in the House, what consideration will you give to holding those Ministers and particularly Secretaries of State accountable to this House, perhaps by their giving statements in this House?

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Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Members Estimate Committee, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons

That would certainly require a change in the rules of the House, but it is something that the Procedure Committee might wish to consider, and I have just a sense that the hon. Gentleman will encourage the Committee to do just that.

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