HC Deb 14 December 1992 vol 216 cc53-4 5.22 pm
Mr. Bryan Davies (Oldham, Central and Royton)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. This is a genuine point of order—

Madam Speaker

I only hear genuine points of order.

Mr. Davies

This is a particularly genuine point of order —as you would expect, Madam Speaker. I understand that Ministers make statements on the basis of permission granted from the Chair. I wonder whether you would be prepared to consider expressing to Ministers your reluctance to grant such permission for non-emergency statements that are made on Fridays, such as the significant statement on arts funding which was made to a limited House last Friday? It caught many of us entirely unawares, despite the fact that the statement's gestation period was almost as long as that of an elephant; it was certainly not an emergency statement. For those of us who had important constituency commitments—I was travelling north to meet—

Madam Speaker

Order. I think that I can deal with the point of order.

I assure the hon. Gentleman and the House that the phrase "with permission" used by Ministers is simply a matter of courtesy. The Minister involved certainly does not need the permission of the Speaker of the House and can make statements to the House at the appropriate time—3.30 pm or 11 am on Fridays. It has nothing to do with the Speaker or the Office of Speaker. I hope that that makes it clear to hon. Members in the Chamber and those who may not be present.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. When a large number of right hon. and hon. Members are rising to speak and you come to the conclusion that it is not possible to continue with the exchanges due to other pressing parliamentary business, do you keep some sort of list of those who are not called so that they may have an opportunity to catch your eye during the following exchanges? I seem to be particularly unlucky.

Madam Speaker

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has always been unlucky, but I know full well that he was unlucky today. I assure hon. Members that I keep a full list of those who are not called, not only on what might be called important statements, but on all statements.

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)

On a different point of order, Madam Speaker. It was widely reported in the press in Wales this weekend that the long-awaited Welsh Language Bill, which the Government have been studying for the past six years and promised in the Queen's Speech, is to have its First Reading—after which it is printed—on Thursday.

It is extremely inconvenient for the House, and raises questions about the Government's motives, for the Bill to be introduced on the last day of the parliamentary Session so that it will be available in the Vote Office in printed form only after hon. Members have returned to their constituencies. That cuts across the opportunities to discuss the contents of such legislation, and, given the inordinately long period that the Government took to get the Bill that far, appears to be an abuse of the House.

Madam Speaker

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that that is not a matter for the Chair, as it involves no breach of Standing Orders or procedures. Those on the Treasury Bench will have heard what the hon. Gentleman said.

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones (Ynys Mon)

On a different point of order, Madam Speaker. You have often deprecated the practice whereby Ministers make important statements behind the curtain of written questions. That happened on Thursday, when an important statement was made stating that £20 million had been cut from the budget of hill livestock compensatory allowance payments for farmers, with great consequences for farmers in all parts of the United Kingdom. That is the sort of statement that should be made on the Floor of the House so that the Minister can be challenged from all sides on the nature of that drastic cut. Have you had a request for a statement today?

Madam Speaker

The answer to the last part of the hon. Gentleman's question is no. Let me make it absolutely clear that I have never deprecated the fact that the Government issue statements in the form of answers to written questions. That has always been the procedure in the House, whatever the complexion of the Government. I deprecate the practice of a Government making a statement outside the House to organisations outside the House before doing so in the Chamber.

Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker

Order. There can be nothing further to that point of order. I answered the hon. Gentleman's last question and clearly dealt with the procedures on written questions and statements made outside the House.