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Points of Order

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:10 pm on 31st October 2011.

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Photo of William Bain William Bain Shadow Minister (Scotland) 4:10 pm, 31st October 2011

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Last Thursday morning, I discovered that my substantive oral question to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills on the impact of levels of bank lending on small and medium-sized businesses, which had been accepted by the Table Office and drawn first in the shuffle, had been removed from the Order Paper at the instigation of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which claimed that it was a Treasury responsibility. I was informed by the Table Office that I had been written to by the Department on Monday evening. I regret to inform you that neither my constituency office, nor my Westminster office received any such letter. Neither was I e-mailed or contacted by telephone by the Department, with the result that the first I was made aware of the question being transferred was through its absence from the Order Paper on Thursday morning and my subsequent inquiry at the Table Office.

I was most grateful to be able to catch your eye during topical questions, Mr Speaker, but the behaviour of the Department raises real concerns about the high-handed way in which the Government are treating legitimate questions raised by right hon. and hon. Members. Can you offer any advice as to how Departments should behave in such circumstances in future to ensure that the fundamental democratic right of this House to hold the Executive properly to account is protected and that Members are treated with the courtesy they should expect when raising matters on behalf of their constituents? Have you received any indication from the Business Secretary as to his intention to come to the House to make a statement on why he is no longer prepared to answer for the Government’s record on bank lending, although he was prepared to respond to such questions as late as June?