HC Deb 17 July 1985 vol 83 cc341-2

5.3 pm

Mr. Michael Meacher: (Oldham, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As you are no doubt aware, authoritative information has been made public today, based on leaked documents, giving the numbers of gainers and losers under the social security Green Paper and the amounts of their gains and losses, largely losses. It shows that the number of losers is in excess of 8 million, including 600,000 of the poorest on supplementary benefit, and that their total losses are about £1 billion.

Ministers, including the Prime Minister, have repeatedly said that the information is not available now, before the April 1987 uprating. These documents, which have been seen and copied, reveal that Ministers have repeatedly misled the House.

Will you, Mr. Speaker, use your good offices to ensure that a statement is made at the earliest opportunity by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Security, so that hon. Members in all parts of the House may have an opportunity to question him on essential information the existence of which he cannot deny and which should have been made available at the outset, when he made his original statement on 3 June?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is raising matters which are for Ministers and not for the Chair. It is not for me to call Ministers to make statements. That is a matter for the usual channels.

Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) was not asking you to force Ministers to make statements. He was pointing out that until now the House has been misled by being told by, among others, the Prime Minister that the information was not available. He was—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Nor is that a matter for me. It is for the Government.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Prime Minister and other Ministers have consistently denied the existence of documents relating to the cost of the social security reviews. Proof has now emerged that such documents exist. Is it not incumbent on the Government to present those documents to the House in the normal way in the form of a statement?

Mr. Speaker

That is a matter for them, not for me.

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. We have a requirement in the House that no hon. Member is allowed to accuse another hon. Member of lying, and it is proper that we should have that arrangement. However, it poses problems for hon. Members who wish to comply with that reasonable proposition when there is a clear case, as in this instance, the occupants of the Government Front Bench, including the Prime Minister, have been less than honest with the House of Commons. How are we to pursue these matters when it is clear that we cannot make the accusation, yet the accusation would be absolutely valid?

Mr. Speaker

There are plenty of opportunities at Question Time and at Prime Minister's Question Time.

Mr. Alan Williams

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) has touched on an important point. You say that there are plenty of opportunities when hon. Members can raise issues such as this, Mr. Speaker, but we shall go into recess in a week's time and will not return until the end of October. Apparently the information is available. The Government have refused to present it to the House and have actually denied its existence. May we have an assurance from the Leader of the House that a statement will be made before we rise for the summer recess?

The Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Biffen)

No assurance can be given, but I suggest that we might look at the matter through the usual channels.