HC Deb 09 November 1988 vol 140 c336

Lords amendments considered.

5.12 pm
Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We have for a number of months expressed our concern about the way in which the Bill has been handled both in the House and outside. I draw to your attention, Mr. Speaker—although I recognise that there is little you can do—the fact that last Wednesday during Environment Question Time there were two opportunities for the Government to tell the House of Commons first what they intended doing about housing action trusts and their vote.

In fact, the Government announced their intentions to the nation on a television programme last Sunday. As one of my hon. Friends described it, it was Government by Dimbleby. We object to Government announcements being made on television when only a few days previously they missed an opportunity of dealing with the matter during questions, which only serves to devalue Question Time.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Not only was the Government's announcement on television extremely vague, but when my office phoned the appropriate Government Department a little later, it did not know whether or not an announcement had been made. We often complain to you, Mr. Speaker, knowing that all you can do is to listen, and that you are a means of passing on our complaints. I realise that you cannot do anything, but I wish to register a very strong protest.

My other point concerns a matter that we have been raising for a year. We have had the shortest possible time, rather than the normal amount of time, to deal with matters that have come to this House from another place. I realise that we are near to the end of this Session, but corners are being cut far too often, particularly in respect of major legislation affecting millions of people, and that is not acceptable.

Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North)

Further to those points of order, Mr. Speaker. The House has problems enough arising from the Minister for Environment, Countryside and Water being in another place and not accountable to this House. That is compounded by the fact that major announcements are made on television rather than from the Floor of this House. There is a strong feeling on the Opposition Benches that it borders on contempt when announcements are made in that way.

Mr. Speaker

I understand that the broadcast in question concerned housing action trusts. I did not see it myself, but right hon. and hon. Members know my view that the House should always be the first to be told about such matter, rather than learn through other means. It will be possible to debate this matter under Lords amendment No. 111. Perhaps that will be the moment when right hon. and hon. Members who heard the broadcast can comment and ask questions.

Forward to