HC Deb 23 January 1991 vol 184 cc328-9 3.52 pm
Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey and Waterside)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I apologise for rising when you were on your feet. Will you acknowledge that the policy of private notice questions or ministerial statements followed by plenty of time for questions by Back-Bench Members, rather than full-blown debates at regular intervals, might be a better way for the House to respond to events in the Gulf as they unfold?

Mr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The House has a responsibility to give maximum opportunities to all Members of Parliament to participate in debates about what is happening. If nothing else, we owe that to our service men. We also have a responsibility to do so because one of the fundamental distinctions between this country and Iraq is that we actually support a parliamentary democracy.

I plead with you, Mr. Speaker, that the House must have more days to debate the issue. We must have longer time to debate statements. This afternoon we had 20 minutes to debate the attack on Israel. That is inadequate time. I strongly appeal to you, Mr. Speaker, to give hon. Members a full opportunity in the coming weeks, or even months, to speak their minds on this crucial issue.

Mr. Speaker

It is a continuing situation and the hon. Gentleman has had that opportunity. He has made a speech in a recent debate. There are business questions tomorrow, and he can put his question to the Leader of the House then.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It will be within your recollection that at 10.30 pm yesterday a request was made by several hon. Members for a statement on not only the attack on Tel Aviv and the loss of a Tornado but on what proposals have been made, if any, to do something about the Al-Wafra oilfield which is ablaze. We asked for an answer on who will put out the fires. Are they to be allowed to damage the planet for the foreseeable future? Could you not use your influence to ask the Government to make statements on serious matters which will not wait until after the weekend?

Mr. Speaker

I allowed a private notice question today on a subject submitted to me. The matter now raised by the hon. Gentleman was not submitted.

Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will you confirm for my benefit and that of other people that you granted a private notice question today and that, contrary to what we were led to believe by the Leader of the House last night, the Government did not offer to make a statement? If they had done so, questions would have run for much longer and everyone who wished to speak would have been called. Will you confirm that you were restricted by the rule of the House which states that on private notice questions only six or seven hon. Members from each side should be called?

Mr. Speaker

I was in the Chair last night, but I did not hear the Leader of the House promise that a statement would be made today. He said that he would take the request into consideration. The House should understand that a private notice question is an extension of Question Time. This is a continuing situation.

Mr. Dalyell

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I shall not take any more points of order. The hon. Gentleman has overstayed his welcome.