HC Deb 09 February 1988 vol 127 cc187-8 3.32 pm
Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will be aware that the Standing Orders of the House require priority written questions to be answered by the Minister. You will also be aware that some Ministers are using holding answers, and then delaying answers for a considerable time. I have raised this question with you before, Mr. Speaker. I have checked on the answer board. My question relates to the Department of Health and Social Security. There is an outstanding reply for a priority written question to be answered on 1 December 1987.

It is now two and a half months since that question was due to be answered. That is really an abuse of the House. The fact that that answer has not appeared shows that the hon. Member for Derby, South (Mrs. Currie), the Under-Secretary of State, is incompetent, indolent or uncaring of her responsibilities to the House. Mr. Speaker, I ask you to use your office to make sure that the Government do not evade their responsibilities in this matter.

Mr. Speaker

That does seem a very long time to wait to receive an answer. I am sure that what the hon. Member has said has been heard by those on the Government Front Bench. He has another recourse, which is to table a Question to ask when he will get that answer.

Mr. Geoffrey Dickens (Littleborough and Saddleworth)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Earlier this afternoon, although you may not have noticed this, when the Vice-Chamberlain of the Household had properly and correctly delivered a message to the House from Her Majesty and was retreating respectfully bowing to the Speaker, at the end of his passage we had to witness the disgraceful episode of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) using a packet of Polos to chalk the Vice-Chamberlain's wand of office.

Apart from the incident of the Vice-Chamberlain having his wand chalked, do you not believe, Mr. Speaker, that that is a typical example of why we do not wish to have disgraceful behaviour televised into the lounges of our constituents?

Mr. Speaker

I did not observe what went on beyond the Bar this afternoon, but I agree that it would not be very good television.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. We have a very important debate this afternoon, and I sense that the House wishes to get on with it.

Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I hope not to detain the House too long, but what I have to say relates to a very important point of principle.

On two occasions this afternoon, when my hon. Friends the Members for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist) and for Oldham, Central and Royton (Mr. Lamond) asked the Prime Minister specific questions on the Health Service and not on any specific area, they were treated to a series of figures based on—

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is a clear case of a continuation of Question Time. I say again to the House that a very large number of right hon. and hon. Members wish to take part in the debate today. If we have too much delay, I shall not be able to call very many of them.