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Points of Order

12.30 pm

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Did you receive an explanation today as to why the amendment in my name and that of my hon. Friends to the motion on the Queen's Speech did not appear on the Order Paper? Can you confirm that it was properly presented and presented on time?

Mr. Speaker: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. In this morning's Order Paper, there was an error regarding the motion for an address. The amendment to it in the name of the leader of the Scottish National party, which appeared yesterday, was not reprinted. A corrected version of item 3 on today's Order Paper has been placed in the Vote Office.

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You and I have been in the House a considerable time. We both enjoy a robust debate in the House but every Member deserves to be heard in the House. Although there is a fair level of activity in any debate, which we all understand, when an orchestrated group tries to stop a Member in the House from being heard, that is a serious concern. Towards the end of last evening, there was a clear, organised attempt—we used to call it talking among ourselves—to disrupt speeches. We always have to speak in polite terms, but now that we have gone back to silly hours on Tuesday nights, there is a great temptation for Members here to enjoy a good dinner. [Hon. Members: "Oh!"] The mixture last night—

Mr. Speaker: Order. That is not really a point of order. Let me tell the hon. Gentleman that I have noticed at times that he interrupts speeches, and I have had a bit of judicious deafness in that respect. He has given me an opportunity to say that it is good manners to listen to Members at all times. If Members want to enter into private conversations, they should go outside the Chamber. I have put that on the record as much as any Speaker.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Speaker: I have dealt with the point of order. I do not want to hear any more about it.

Mrs. Caroline Spelman (Meriden) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As recently as last week you urged Ministers to make their announcements to the House rather than to the media. Over the weekend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Deputy Prime Minister heavily trailed their plans for shared home ownership, and a press release today from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister precedes a written ministerial statement referring to documents that are not available in the House of Commons Library—I have just checked. Does not that show complete contempt for the House and will you support my efforts to get that issue, which was originally our policy, properly debated?
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Mr. Speaker: I understand that there has been a written statement. Let me clarify my position. It is bringing information to the House that is important. Let me say to the hon. Lady, who is a member of Her Majesty's Opposition, that I will, of course, always consider urgent questions. If things have been said in the media, perhaps over the weekend, that does give me a feeling that the Minister concerned must come to the House. I hope that that is helpful to the hon. Lady.

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. During International Development questions today and, to a certain extent, during Prime Minister's questions, it was impossible in certain parts of the House to hear the debate. It was not so much because of the normal ambient noise, no matter how much we may not like that ambient noise, as because some of the speakers were not working and the amplification system is faulty. It was faulty yesterday, too. May I ask that perhaps over this coming week it be looked at and repaired?

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Gentleman has a valid point. Just before I left to come to the Chamber the Serjeant at Arms told me that work would take place over the weekend, and perhaps the recess if necessary.

Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): Further to the point of order made by the hon. Member for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman), Mr. Speaker, you were robust in the last Parliament and said that if there were a ministerial announcement, it should be made here first, with the press statement coming later. The hon. Lady said that things had been done in the wrong order today, and it would be helpful if you confirmed your statement of the last Parliament.

Mr. Speaker: In this Parliament, before the House was kind enough to re-elect me, I confirmed my position—and I stand by that.


Identity Cards

Mr. Secretary Clarke, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Secretary Prescott, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Secretary Straw, Secretary Margaret Beckett and Mr. Tony McNulty, presented a Bill to make provision for a national scheme of registration of individuals and for the issue of cards capable of being used for identifying registered individuals; to make it an offence for a person to be in possession or control of an identity document to which he is not entitled, or of apparatus, articles or materials for making false identity documents; to amend the Consular Fees Act 1980; to make provision facilitating the verification of information provided with an application for a passport; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed [Bill 9].

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Regulation of Financial Services (Land Transactions)

Mr. Ivan Lewis, supported by the Prime Minister, Mr. Secretary Prescott, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Secretary Blunkett, Mr. Secretary Darling, Mr. Secretary Hain, Mr. Des Browne, Dawn Primarolo and John Healey, presented a Bill to enable activities relating to certain arrangements involving the acquisition or disposal of land to be regulated under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed [Bill 7].

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Orders of the Day

Debate on the Address

[Sixth Day]

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [17 May],

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as follows:

Most Gracious Sovereign,

We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament—[Mr Barron.]

Question again proposed.

The Economy and Welfare Reform

Mr. Speaker: I wish to inform the House that I have selected for debate the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition. Standing Order No. 33 provides that on the last day of the debate on the Motion for an Address to Her Majesty, the House may also vote on a second amendment selected by the Speaker. I have selected the amendment in the name of the leader of the Liberal Democratic party for that purpose. The vote on that amendment will take place at the end of the debate, after the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition has been disposed of.

12.37 pm

Mr. George Osborne (Tatton) (Con): I beg to move, as an amendment to the Address, at end add—

Let me start by congratulating the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr. Brown), on his new constituency, and on his reappointment as Chancellor. He is the longest serving Chancellor in recent British history, and I genuinely congratulate him on that impressive record. I know that he sees himself as Prime Minister in waiting, and I only hope that he proves better at being Prime Minister than he has been at waiting.

I welcome my right hon. Friend the Member for Kensington and Chelsea (Sir Malcolm Rifkind) back to his place. Later today he will demonstrate to new
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Members how to deliver a kind of maiden speech while winding up a Queen's Speech debate. It is traditional for a new Member to take us on a tour of their constituency, and I am particularly looking forward to my right hon. Friend praising the progressive thinking to be found in Notting Hill.

Last week at the CBI's annual dinner, the Chancellor called for a national consensus on the way ahead for our economy. He said that the Government should be more humble—not a word that regularly passes the lips of this Chancellor of the Exchequer. Perhaps he stumbled across it while looking up "hubris" in the dictionary.

Let us explore the Chancellor's new-found humility and put his call for a national consensus to the test. I am willing to acknowledge that the British economy has enjoyed 51 quarters of continuous growth if he is willing to acknowledge that by the time he entered office, 19 of them had already happened. I am willing to accept that giving the Bank of England independence was the right thing to do, if he is ready to accept the recent Bank of England report that says that the current period of remarkable stability began five years before Labour came to power.

I am happy to recognise the value of his golden rule, if he is happy to recognise that it is undermined because the Chancellor is his own judge and jury on that rule. Whatever happened to the panel of independent forecasters that would decide whether the golden rule had been met? The Chancellor proposed it himself 10 years ago, but when that idea appeared in our manifesto this year, he opposed it. What sort of national consensus are we going to build if he cannot even agree with his own ideas?

I will also support the Chancellor's sustainable investment rule, if he will publish more honest national accounts. A report says today that £40 billion-worth of private finance initiative and other liabilities are hidden off balance sheets. We should stop this fiddling and have an independent national statistics office. It was in the Labour manifesto in 1997, and it was in our manifesto this year. What more of a consensus is he looking for? He should get away and implement it.

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