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Mr. Speaker: In a sense, the hon. Gentleman has put the matter on the record by raising his point of order, but there is nothing to stop him putting down more parliamentary questions about it.

Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. At Treasury questions on 10 November, I asked the Chief Secretary to the Treasury why the UK economy was growing more slowly than any other major economy in the English-speaking world. The right hon. Gentleman's reply can be found at column 462 of the Official Report for that day, when he said that the UK was growing faster than Australia and New Zealand. Late last night, I received a letter from him apologising for misleading the House. Mr. Speaker, I seek your guidance as to how the matter can be put more clearly on the record.

Mr. Speaker: Let me make it clear that the Chief Secretary would not mislead the House deliberately. I am not responsible for the quality of replies, and I repeat that there is nothing to stop the hon. Gentleman putting down an identical question and seeking elucidation about previous answers.

Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire) (Con): On point of order, Mr. Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) made a serious point when he said that this House should concern itself with matters of great public interest. The Government have flatly refused to address the huge public issue of police reform, and I think that there is a real danger that the House's reputation will be diminished in the eyes of the public. As the guardian of the House's reputation, what powers do you have to call in the Leader of the House and the shadow Leader to discuss a way forward, so that we can have a debate and a vote before the deadline of 23 December?

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr. Speaker: Perhaps if I answer, there will not be further points of order on the matter. I am aware of the
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hon. Gentleman's feelings, but there is the institution known as the usual channels. These matters should be taken through the usual channels because, as he knows, the Speaker cannot determine the business for the forthcoming week. That is up to the usual channels—

Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire) (Con) rose—

Mr. Speaker: That does not help the hon. Gentleman?

Peter Luff: I am sorry, but it does not. Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will have noted the passion on all sides of the House about this matter, which needs to be debated. If the usual channels are unable to reach an agreement—and the response of the Deputy Leader of the House today suggests that the Government are not prepared to give ground, an intransigence that I find genuinely surprising and shocking—are any mechanisms available to Back Benchers to work through you to secure an urgent debate on this subject?

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West) (Con): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is this matter not eloquent testimony to the fact that this legislature must take back control of its agenda from the Government?

Mr. Speaker: I advise hon. Members that, on this matter, I am governed by the rules of the House. I can only operate by the rules that the House has given me. I cannot go beyond them.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): On a fresh point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker: That is a refreshing change. Thank you.

Mr. Forth: Can you assure the House that Opposition Members will not be penalised if too few Labour Members show an interest in business questions? We are very enthusiastic about those questions, but can you assure me that we will not be penalised simply because they run out of people?

Mr. Speaker: The right hon. Gentleman is always helping me, and his question helps me to clarify for newer Members exactly what happens. It does not matter whether we run out of Labour Members to ask questions, because a far higher proportion of Opposition Members get called at business questions. I shall let the right hon. Gentleman into a secret: my policy is to give priority to new Members, regardless of which side of the House they are on. Sadly, some hon. Members have been left without an opportunity to ask a question today, but I think that they will be very pleased next week.

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I take you back to the lack of papers available for the Second Reading debate on the Armed Forces Bill? You will know that I have raised many times the threat perceived by our armed forces as a result of the climate of prosecution in Iraq. Given the amount of public concern about the widespread threat of prosecution that young soldiers in Iraq face, is it not
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extraordinary that debate on the Bill should have been brought forward? It is 250 pages long, and will merely turn the system even more upside down than it already is, in many cases removing commanding officers from the decision-making process. No explanatory notes have been supplied, even though we have been given only about a week's notice of the debate.

Mr. Speaker: On the general point, the hon. Gentleman is correct. Explanatory notes for Bills should be made available for Back Benchers, and I am obliged to him for raising the matter.

Mr. Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) (Con): Further to the points of order about a debate on policing, Mr. Speaker. You will have heard the Deputy Leader of the House say that such a debate would be inappropriate before the consultation process ended even though, three weeks ago, it was apparently not inappropriate for the Government to table a debate on the subject for today. Can you help me with this matter? Does any doctrine or rule state that it is not possible to hold such a debate?

Mr. Speaker: I think that the hon. Gentleman may be trying to extend business questions. He can have a go next week.

Mr. Paul Goodman (Wycombe) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday, I received a letter from Stephen Geraghty, the chief executive of the Child Support Agency. The letter responded to a written question that I tabled about the enforcement directorate. In effect, it confirms that that directorate managed to retrieve £8 million last year, but that its running costs were more than £12 million. Have you had any notice that Downing street has resolved its difficulties with the Department of Work and Pensions about the CSA's future? Will a Minister come to the Dispatch Box and give us a statement about the mater? That would help us deal with angry constituents, who express their fury at the state of the CSA nearly every week of the sitting year.

Mr. Speaker: The hon. Gentleman should bear it in mind that I am a constituency MP in my own right, and that I get lots of these complaints myself. He would help me by putting down parliamentary questions on this matter, as I cannot do so.
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Orders of the Day

Council Tax (New Valuation Lists for England) Bill

Not amended in the Standing Committee, considered.

Clause 1

Dates on which new valuation lists must be compiled for England

12.39 pm

Sir Paul Beresford (Mole Valley) (Con): I beg to move amendment No. 3, in page 1, line 8, at end insert—

'(1B)   An order under subsection (1A) may be made in relation to an individual billing authority, a group of adjoining billing authorities or all billing authorities.'.

Mr. Greg Knight (East Yorkshire) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We are dealing here with a very important piece of legislation, but it is not freestanding and does not introduce a new concept. Instead, it seeks to amend the Local Government Finance Act 1992, which makes that Act very relevant to our debate. I was shocked to be told by the Vote Office that that Act is not available. Therefore, we are being asked to debate a Bill that amends an Act of Parliament, a copy of which is not available for right hon. and hon. Members to peruse. I therefore ask that you consider suspending this sitting until such time as that Act of Parliament is available.

Mr. Speaker: I think that we must continue, and I have called Sir Paul Beresford to move his amendment. However, I instruct the officials that copies of the Act must be available for the right hon. Gentleman and any other hon. Member who wishes to see it.

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