HC Deb 18 February 1986 vol 92 cc216-7
Mr. Terry Davis (Birmingham, Hodge Hill)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As the Minister has just said, we are all interested in the Bill but we are also interested in other matters which are of great importance. During the last few weeks there have been several statements and questions about the future of British Leyland and the discussions with General Motors. I understand that at this very moment the Department of Trade and Industry is briefing journalists about further developments in the British Leyland saga. I and my lion. Friends resent very much the continued practice of the Department of Trade and Industry of using leaks and briefings instead of coming to the House and making a statement on a matter which is of extreme importance to many thousands of our constituents. I should like your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker, on how we can get a Minister from that Department to come to the House to make a statement at the earliest possible opportunity.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

The hon. Gentleman will realise that that is not a matter for the Chair. I am sure that the point which he has made will be duly noted in the quarters which can respond to what he has said.

Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. There has obviously been a great deal of controversy since we returned after the Christmas recess about leaks and inquiries into the Westland affair. I am sure that none of us wishes to think that the Prime Minister was misleading the House less than two hours ago in some of her comments about British Leyland. In order to protect her reputation, she, or at least one of the Ministers responsible, should make a statement to the House almost immediately.

Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for hon. Members suddenly to come into the Chamber in the middle of a debate on an important Bill and make party political points at a time when they know they will attract the maximum media attention? Is that the way this House must conduct its business?

Mr. Terry Davis

I raised the matter because at this time officials from the Department of Trade and Industry are briefing journalists. Instead of that, Ministers should come to make a statement to the House.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The point at issue is simple. The House of Commons has a sovereign right to know what the Government have decided about a basic industry. The matter has not been debated over a great number of hours in the Chamber, but we know that at this moment journalists are being given information which has not been given to the House. That is not only wholly unacceptable, but irresponsible.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

Further to those points of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) and seek your guidance. We are debating the Drug Trafficking Offences Bill. It is designed to save lives and to hammer people who bring drugs into the country and make vast profits. It is a measure of the highest importance, and this vital debate is being interrupted by Labour party members who came in to the House to make party political points of a dogmatic and cheap kind. I do not accept the sincerity of their points. They could have waited until the end of Third Reading to make those points. If they cared about stopping drug abuse, that is exactly what they would have done.

Mr. Stuart Randall (Kingston upon Hull, West)


Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Perhaps I can deal with the points that have been raised.

I have already made it clear that this is not a matter for the Chair. Hon. Members have made their points. We should now return to the business before the House, which is the Third Reading of the Drug Trafficking Offences Bill.

Mr. Peter Shore (Bethnal Green and Stepney)

Further to the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We all understand and sympathise with hon. Members who are taking part in the debate. Quite clearly, my hon. Friends would not have thought it right to intervene unless there was a matter of considerable importance taking place within the precincts of the Palace of Westminster but not in the Chamber. You will know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the issue of the disposal of British Leyland and its future is of the utmost current interest and importance, and it has been running now for more than the past week.

We well understand that it is not for you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to answer or decree on these matters. It is customary, particularly in the presence of the Leader of the House, who I am glad to see is now in his place, to put through you to him the need for an immediate statement on the matters which the press is now being briefed upon about the future of British Leyland. Surely it is now up to the Leader of the House to make some response and to make sure the House has the statement that it deserves on this important matter.

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

I am sure the House wishes to give proper consideration to the Drug Trafficking Offences Bill. I also recognise the point the right hon. Gentleman has just made. Of course, I will look into the matter and perhaps it could be further considered through the usual channels.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

In view of that exchange, I hope that we can now return to the business of the House.