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Points of Order

– in the House of Commons at 1:56 pm on 3rd July 2013.

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Photo of Thomas Docherty Thomas Docherty Labour, Dunfermline and West Fife 1:56 pm, 3rd July 2013

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Further to the exchange with the Secretary of State for Defence regarding the site at Kilmarnock, as I understand it, he confirmed that this is a 10th new or reopened reserves site. That is a direct contradiction of the figures given in the belated statement and in the exchanges with, for example, my right hon. Friend Mr Murphy and Angus Robertson. Can the Secretary of State give any indication as to whether that information was accurate? When he writes to you, Mr Speaker, will he also be encouraged to explain what on earth has gone on with the sudden appearance of this 10th site?

Photo of Philip Hammond Philip Hammond The Secretary of State for Defence

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I cannot answer the hon. Gentleman’s question from the Dispatch Box, but I will of course write to him as soon as I get back to the MOD. I am not sure that it does represent what he is suggesting it represents. Some of the sites in question are complex. I am happy to write to him and copy the letter to you, Mr Speaker, as soon as I get back to the MOD.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow 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

I happily accept that offer from the Secretary of State. As he will know, I am principally concerned with matters of order and good form. Although in a human sense, no doubt, particular sites are of interest, they are not within my sphere of competence, and he knows that. What I am interested to hear about is the handling of the matter. He has given me a commitment on that, and I am grateful for it.

Photo of Jim Murphy Jim Murphy Shadow Secretary of State for Defence

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. My hon. Friend Thomas Docherty has just raised a point of order about Kilmarnock being on the list of reopened or opening sites. The only place in Scotland that is determined as a location appears to be in Edinburgh, which is nowhere near Kilmarnock. It seems that every Member of the House, including Ministers, was reading this list for the first time.

I seek your guidance, Mr Speaker, because I was handed a copy of the Secretary of State’s oral statement as I arrived towards the end of Prime Minister’s questions, which is why I did not thank him for advance sight of it. The written statement was provided late. In fact, I have an e-mail from the House of Commons Library confirming that it arrived at 12.55 pm. That is well after the Secretary of State spoke and well after I spoke. When the House of Commons Library receives it only at 12.55 pm, something deeply untoward has happened. At 1 pm, a few minutes later, the supporting paperwork arrived.

Then, in the midst of all that, at about the same time, Dr Coffey, the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Michael Fallon, took it upon herself to scurry round the Chamber with a poor photocopy of documentation that we should have been provided with earlier. It does not have Kilmarnock on the list, so it was not only a rushed photocopy circulated informally but perhaps also incomplete.

My point of order, therefore, is to ask whether you would look kindly, Mr Speaker, on a request by the Minister for the Armed Forces to make a supplementary statement tomorrow in light of the fact that the weighty impact assessment arrived only in the past couple of minutes. No Member apart from myself and, I suspect, the Secretary of State is in possession of the impact assessment of the measures announced today. Would you look kindly, Mr Speaker, on a request by the Minister for the Armed Forces to make an additional statement tomorrow, so that this sordid mess can be clarified once and for all and so that we can have proper scrutiny?

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow 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

What I would say to the right hon. Gentleman is that it is a matter for Ministers to decide whether they wish to make oral statements to the House. As he will be aware, the convention whereby a Minister delivering an oral statement begins it by saying, “With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a statement”, is just a convention and, frankly, a courtesy that is, I think, on the whole appreciated by the House, but Ministers can make statements to the House when they wish. The right hon. Gentleman may wish to wait to see whether there is an offer of a statement, but there are various parliamentary devices open to Members to deliver the scrutiny that they think a particular measure warrants and everything ought to be looked at on a case-by-case basis. Perhaps I can leave it there for now.