§ Mrs. Margaret Beckett (Derby, South)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry today to release to the press on or about midday a written answer to the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Chope) giving notice that the Government's merchant banking friends are being given another chance to dip their spoon into the gravy by working on proposals to privatise Rolls-Royce? That move will put the jobs of thousands of people in my constituency at risk. Has a breach of privilege—[Interruption.]
§ Mrs. Beckett
Has a breach of privilege occurred in the timing of the answer? Its manner shows the Government's customary contempt for parliamentary democracy in not allowing hon. Members to question the proposal in the House.
§ Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)
Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. That is a most helpful ruling. The point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Beckett) is that the answer was released to the press before 3.30 pm. As far as we know, it will not be released to the House. What course of action is available to my hon. Friend? What breach of privilege has been committed?
§ Mr. Speaker
I shall look into the matter. If the answer was released to the press, it would have been embargoed until 3.30 pm and should certainly not have been published before that time.
§ Mr. Jack Straw (Blackburn)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I represent constituents who are employed by Rolls-Royce at Barnoldswick. I was telephoned earlier this afternoon by theLancashire Evening Telegraph and asked for my comments on this release by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. There was no suggestion when I was telephoned by the journalist that there was any embargo on the information.