HC Deb 28 January 1993 vol 217 cc1162-4

4.2 pm

Mr. Chris Smith (Islington, South and Finsbury)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Yesterday, during Environment questions, the Minister for the Environment and Countryside, in response to a question from myself, said that there were plans to fit flue gas desulphurisation to three power stations in Britain. In fact, he must have known that, although that was the original intention, the current position is that only two power stations are to be retrofitted with flue gas desulphurisation. That was confirmed by the chief executive of PowerGen in evidence to the Select Committee on Trade and Industry on 17 November 1992.

This is a matter of considerable importance to the debate on the future of the coal industry. I am sure that the Minister did not intend deliberately to mislead the House. Can you, Madam Speaker, please ensure that the Minister has an opportunity to come back to the House to put the record straight?

Madam Speaker

I assume that the hon. Gentleman, before raising his point of order, informed the Minister that he was about to do so.

Mr. Smith

indicated assent.

Madam Speaker

I thank the hon. Gentleman. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Chair is not responsible for the accuracy of statements made by Ministers—or by hon. Members, for that matter. If, having raised his point in this way, the hon. Gentleman wishes to pursue it, he must do so through other means.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. As you will know, we are to debate the railway privatisation measure on Tuesday. As the Government have promised to issue at least six major policy statements which have a factual and direct effect upon that highly damaging legislation, only two of which have been published, please may we have some guidance?

Madam Speaker

The hon. Lady should have sought to catch my eye during business questions in order to raise that matter with the Leader of the House. It is for the Minister responsible to ensure that documents are available before a debate.

Mr. Brian Wilson (Cunninghame, North)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. May I have some guidance in relation to early-day motion 1255 relating to the GAH group of consultants, which was appointed to advise on the national lottery? Hon Members, not including myself, allege in that early-day motion that a reply to a question put by me was far from accurate.

As a great many questions remain to be answered and additional information is coming in all the time about GAH Consultants and their suitability for the post, may I have guidance on how we can ensure that the issues raised in the early-day motion are answered by the Secretary of State for National Heritage or whichever Minister now has responsibility for the appointment of the GAH group?

Madam Speaker

As the hon. Gentleman said towards the end of his point of order, that is a matter for a Minister and should have been raised during business questions. It is not a matter for the Chair; it is a matter of policy.

Mr. John Austin-Walker (Woolwich)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I understand that the Department of the Environment told the press that a statement was to be made today at 3.30 pm on the financial settlement for local authorities. I have recently checked, and that statement is not available in the Vote Office. I seek your guidance on what may be a planted question, which was tabled for written answer yesterday at the eleventh hour and which I understand is the basis of the press statement. If a Minister wishes to make a statement at this time, is it not usual for him to do so in the House so that he may be questioned upon it?

Madam Speaker

I can barely comment until the hon. Gentleman has put before me what he wishes me to see. When Ministers desire to make a statement to the House, they do not need my permission to do so: they merely inform me that they will do so. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that, as I said previously, I am not responsible for the tabling of questions on the Order Paper by hon. Members.

Mr. Martyn Jones (Clwyd, South-West)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I understand that a Foreign Office Minister has today intervened in an export of vehicles to Croatia which, I understand, would have broken the United Nations guidelines. Surely a statement should have been made to the House on that issue today.

Madam Speaker

Hon. Members are being rather ingenious in putting these points of order to me; they should be put to Ministers. The hon. Gentleman must find other methods of pursuing what he has in mind. I can assure him that no Minister has informed me that he wishes to make a statement today.