Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 4:00 pm on 30th March 2010.

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Photo of David Drew David Drew Labour, Stroud 4:00 pm, 30th March 2010

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Business questions has been dominated over recent weeks by the question of what progress is likely to be made on private Members' Bills. The Leader of the House has said on a number of occasions that she intends to progress these Bills. Will you use your good offices to ensure that that happens? Will you ask the Leader of the House to make a statement on how that can be done?

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Members Estimate Committee, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Members Estimate Committee, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

If I understand the hon. Gentleman correctly, he is concerned about time. I understand that concern and I have listened carefully to what he had to say. He will, however, understand that I cannot make predictions about the near future: I take matters a day at a time, which seems to me to be a prudent way to proceed. He will also understand that the provision of time is not in the hands of the Chair, but in those of the Government, with whose representatives, I feel sure, he will have the necessary serious and earnest conversations. He has put his concerns on the record and I hope he is moderately satisfied.

Photo of Andrew Robathan Andrew Robathan Opposition Deputy Chief Whip (Commons)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You may recall that on 22 March, the Leader of the House made a statement about lobbying. I specifically asked her about meetings and undue influence involving Charlie Whelan, who is the top political officer of Unite and who is alleged to have an office in No. 10 Downing street. The Leader of the House said:

"I will have to write to the hon. Gentleman about the situation in relation to the Prime Minister's diary."-[ Hansard, 22 March 2010; Vol. 508, c. 35.]

This very day I have received a letter from the Deputy Leader of the House, which says absolutely nothing about the Prime Minister's diary, nor about Charlie Whelan, nor about any meetings or undue influence that he might have with the Prime Minister. Sir, would it be possible to ask the Leader of the House to come back and answer this question when she is fully briefed or could the Deputy Leader of the House get the Leader of the House to write to tell me whether Charlie Whelan has met the Prime Minister about Unite in the recent past?

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Members Estimate Committee, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Members Estimate Committee, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. My response is as follows. The Leader of the House is responsible for the content of her answers. I am saddened if the hon. Gentleman is saddened or dissatisfied by the content of the answer, but the responsibility lies with the Leader of the House. The hon. Gentleman is an observant fellow-he would have to be to be the deputy Chief Whip on the Opposition Benches-so he will have noted that the Deputy Leader of the House is present and that she will have heard what he had to say. The hon. Gentleman has served in the House, I think, for 18 years next month. If I did not know him as well as I do, I would have thought that through this attempted point of order, he was seeking to draw me into a debate. Because I know him as well as I do, I know that he would not engage in misbehaviour of that kind.

Several hon. Members:

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Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Labour, Denton and Reddish

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Further to the point of order by my hon. Friend Mr. Drew, given that the amendments to the Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Bill have been withdrawn-sadly, I could not be present in the Chamber for its proceedings-will you use your good offices to ensure that the Bill remains on the Order Paper next week, without the amendments?

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Members Estimate Committee, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Members Estimate Committee, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

I have already ruled on this matter in response to earlier points of order. I understand the very real frustration that the hon. Gentleman, his hon. Friend Ms Keeble and others feel on this matter. He has registered that concern with his usual force and eloquence. Unfortunately, however, the questions of whether it remains on the Order Paper, of whether it is or is not reached and of whether it does or does not reach the statute book is a matter for others. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for seeking to boost my powers, but they are at present limited.

Photo of Evan Harris Evan Harris Shadow Science Minister

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In the response to the urgent question that we have just heard, the Minister for Policing, Crime and Counter-Terrorism said twice that Professor David Nutt had resigned. What is the best way in which to give the Minister a chance to correct the record if he inadvertently misled the House? When we talk about civil servants or distinguished public servants in the House, we need to be accurate. Professor Nutt's treatment was highly contentious, and he was sacked. He did not resign.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Members Estimate Committee, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Members Estimate Committee, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

The hon. Gentleman is continuing the debate. He is committing precisely the sin that I knew Mr. Robathan would not commit.

The hon. Gentleman, who is a perspicacious fellow, asked me what was the best method of putting the record straight, as he sees it. He has just done exactly that. He is now gesticulating from a sedentary position. It is true that the Minister has not responded, but the hon. Gentleman has put his point fairly and squarely on the record.

If the appetite of right hon. and hon. Members for raising points of order has now been exhausted, perhaps we can proceed to the next business.