POINT OF ORDER – MINISTERIAL REPLIES – 6 July 2006

Dr Julian Lewis: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am glad the Secretary of State for Defence is present while I raise the point of order. I know that you have previously advised disgruntled Members on a number of occasions that the Chair is not responsible for the adequacy or otherwise of ministerial replies. Nevertheless, I draw your attention to the reply that I received yesterday to a question to the Secretary of State for Defence, asking

“whether he was informed of the proposed content relating to retention of the nuclear deterrent in the long-term of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Mansion House speech, prior to its delivery.”

The reply that I received states simply:

“I have regular discussions with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on a range of issues.” – [Official Report, 5 July 2006; Vol. 448, c. 1107W.]

Do you agree that that does not even attempt to answer the question? In asking the question, I was well aware of the fact that the Secretary of State for Defence has those discussions. If he does not wish to answer the question, it would perhaps be more courteous to state that he refuses to do so.

[Mr Speaker: I will not be drawn into an argument about the quality of ministerial replies. The hon. Gentleman knows that he can always ask the Secretary of State for Defence another question.]