HC Deb 27 November 1978 vol 959 cc31-3
Mr. Henderson

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your guidance on an important matter.

Last Thursday and Friday an important meeting was held in Brussels on the subject of EEC fisheries policy. This was a major meeting, and reports in the press on Friday and Saturday said that there were major disagreements at the meeting. Therefore, I was approached by many constituents at the weekend asking me to discover from the Government what had happened and what the Government proposed to do about it. I confidently expected the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to make a statement today so that he could be questioned on the matter. Will you tell the House whether the right hon. Gentleman made an application to you or whether he intends to make a statement tomorrow? Ministers are constantly flouting their responsibility to the House and are in contempt in not reporting these meetings back to the House. I seek your support and guidance in this matter.

Mr. Corbett

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not discourteous to hon. Members in this matter of fisheries policy, a subject which concerns hon. Members of both sides of the House, that the Minister has not come to the House today to make a statement on the failure of these negotiations? Is not the urgency of the matter underlined by the fact that a summit meeting is about to take place at which this subject may be discussed? Since we are unable to question the Minis- ter, is there anything that you can do to assist the House so that, if there is a statement, we can at least ask the Minister questions?

Mr. Speaker

I have never yet told a Minister that he cannot make a statement to the House. I think that a Minister would be very surprised if I were to attempt to do so.

Mr. James Johnson

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Since my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House is now present, would he care to make some comment on this matter? Is he aware—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Will the hon. Gentleman at least try to make his comment sound something like a point of order? That would be very helpful for my self-respect.

Mr. Johnson

I beg your pardon, Mr. Speaker. Are you aware that the Minister of Agriculture met the all-party fisheries committee last week and left us in no doubt that he was going to Brussels to fight for the fishing industry? Are you also aware, Sir, that we are all in despair because we have not had any statement on this matter today? Even worse, we are doubly disappointed that the Germans have dragged their domestic policy into this issue. If my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has seen the newspaper reports on this subject, I beg him to do something to remedy the situation.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. May one convey to the Leader of the House, through you, Sir, that the desire to have such a statement comes from all Members of the House, whatever their views on the European Community may be?

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker, which, I submit, is not a point of order, though none the less—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I had intended to tell the Lord President earlier that I would take account of what he said, but he would be better advised not openly to indicate his feelings on the matter.

Mr. Foot

I accept your rebuke, Mr. Speaker, and I certainly take account of what has been said on the subject in all parts of the House. Perhaps I could add —I hope that I am still in order, if that is the proper way to describe it—that I am sure that no one on either side of the House would say that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food was ever backward in taking account of the opinions of the House. I hope that that is taken into account by the House as well. I shall certainly take account of what has been said on this subject in all parts of the House.

Mr. Speaker

Before we leave this matter, I may say that there are times when, in the interests of the House—or, at least, when I think that it is in the interests of the House—my interpretation of what is a point of order is a little more elastic. That is all that has happened today.