Point of Order

– in the House of Commons at 2:36 pm on 4th July 2018.

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Photo of Nia Griffith Nia Griffith Shadow Secretary of State for Defence 2:36 pm, 4th July 2018

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. May I ask your advice on the process by which the Government should inform Her Majesty’s Opposition of changes to business, including questions? As you will be aware, the Government have amended the order of oral questions to bring Defence questions forward by a week to this coming Monday, but they did not inform me or anyone in the Opposition of this fact. This means that those questions will fall before the NATO summit and before the modernising defence programme reports, so my colleagues will not be able to question the Department on the outcome of those events. What would be considered sufficient pretext to make this request, and what would be the standard procedure for notifying the Opposition? I know that the Secretary of State is rather busy with various extra-curricular activities at present, but should not he, his ministerial team or the Government Whips have shown us the courtesy of notifying us of this important change?

Photo of Desmond Swayne Desmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Of course, by bringing this forward, we will have the opportunity to tee up Ministers on issues before they arise at the summit—and, indeed, we will not be denied the opportunity to question Ministers on the outcome of the summit, because there will be further Defence questions.

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his further point of order. I can see that we have two sides of the same story, not surprisingly—that is what this Chamber is for. I am concerned by the point of order put forward by Nia Griffith, but the arrangement of questions is of course a matter for the Government, not for the Chair. Mr Speaker has no direct input or influence in how these matters are done. I understand that if changes are made to the order of questions, that is usually discussed through the usual channels. If that has not happened on this occasion, it is regrettable.

I understand, though, that the revised rota was actually published by the Table Office on 13 June and that the new dates for Defence and Home Office orals have been visible in the “Future Business” section of the Order Paper since that date. I appreciate, of course, that is easy to overlook these matters. I understand that the Table Office will explore the best way to highlight changes to the rota in future. However, I am sure that the House has heard both the points made by the hon. Lady and by the right hon. Gentleman—

Photo of Hugo Swire Hugo Swire Conservative, East Devon

Further to that point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I was wondering if you could offer any assistance in enabling those on the Labour Front Bench to follow parliamentary procedure more closely and to actually read what is printed in good time.

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

I appreciate the point that the right hon. Gentleman makes. It is of course incumbent upon every Member of the House to look at the Order Paper every day, but there are also matters of courtesy to be observed. I think that those courtesies are usually observed, and if there has been a failure to do so on this particular occasion, I am quite sure that those on the Treasury Bench have heard these exchanges and that apologies will be forthcoming.