HC Deb 17 May 1988 vol 133 cc803-4 3.31 pm
Mr. Kevin Barron (Rother Valley)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will recall that last week the House attempted to give a Second Reading to a private Member's Bill—the Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill. During that debate I asked the Minister for Public Transport whether the rumour that there had been a meeting between a member of his ministerial office and the promoter of the Bill was true. He said, as reported at column 397 of the Official Report, that, to his knowledge, there had been no such meeting.

It has come to light from a written parliamentary answer that I received last night that the Secretary of State for Transport had met the promoter of the Bill, the chairman of Associated British Ports, in February this year, at a time when many hon. Members had put a blocking motion on the Bill and were waiting to debate it. As the Minister for Public Transport promoted the Bill and asked us to support it last Wednesday, would it be in order for you to clarify the position about the meeting of the chairman of Associated British Ports and the Secretary of State? Is it right that such a meeting should take place when the House has yet to consider a private Bill? Is that private business, or is it another way of getting Government business through the back door?

Mr. Speaker

I have no knowledge of meetings outside the House. I have seen the answer to that question and I think the whole House will agree that it is highly commendable for any Minister or Back Bencher who inadvertently says something to the House that turns out subsequently to be untrue to put it right, and the Minister for Public Transport has done that.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Further to the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron), Mr. Speaker, in which he pointed out to the House that the Minister had stated in his reply that he had met someone connected with the promoters of the Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill, would it be in order, as it used to be, for the Minister concerned to make a personal statement, instead of dealing with the matter by a written answer?

Mr. Speaker

I think the whole House will agree that sometimes inadvertently things are stated in the House that turn out to be incorrect. I think that the Minister of State has taken the honourable and correct course in answering a question that was put down by the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Barron). I do not think that any point of order arises for me. I am not responsible for meetings that take place outside the House.