HC Deb 25 May 1993 vol 225 cc753-4 3.30 pm
Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. May I ask whether the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, in view of the fact that he has made a statement to the press rebutting Sir Hal Miller's evidence to the Scott inquiry, has given any indication that he would wish to make a statement to the House?

Madam Speaker

No. I have not received any indication from any Minister about seeking to make a statement to the House.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Sir Patrick Mayhew)

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. It may be of interest to the House to know that I have been invited to take the opportunity to gave oral evidence to Lord Justice Scott's inquiry on Thursday—I believe, on Thursday morning—and I shall gladly avail myself of that opportunity.

Miss Joan Lestor (Eccles)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Flattered though I am that the Leader of the House should mention me in dispatches, and that he should remember an incident of 17 years ago when in seven years' time no one will remember him at all, is it in order for the Minister to make reference to another hon. Member without giving notice that he intends to do so? With your indulgence, Madam Speaker, may I reflect that if a few more hon. Gentlemen on the Conservative side resigned because of policies on which they have reneged, the country politically would be much better off?

Madam Speaker

I am sure the hon. Lady is aware that during Question Time it is not necessary to give notice, although it is necessary during a debate. It is a courtesy if the reference is planned.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I wonder if you could help me. Tomorrow Tory-controlled Calderdale intends to support a decision to tag electronically elderly people in elderly persons' homes in Halifax, as the homes are short-staffed and cannot supervise residents properly because of their under-funded budget. It is an unethical and undignified proposal. Has the Secretary of State for Health indicated that she intends to make a statement on Government policy on electronically tagging elderly people and NHS patients because of shortage of staff? In the past that procedure has been reserved for prisoners and people on parole.

Madam Speaker

I have had no indication that the right hon. Lady intends to make any such statement. The hon. Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) will have to seek some other method of raising the matter, in which she is obviously interested.

Sir David Steel (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale)

Further to the point of order raised by the right hon. and learned Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris), Madam Speaker. While it is welcome that the former Attorney-General is to give evidence to the Scott inquiry, it will not have escaped your notice that that coincides with the start of the Whitsun recess. The question is, when will we have answers about the matter in the House?

Madam Speaker

It is for the Government to determine the order of business and not for the Speaker, as the right hon. Gentleman is aware.

Mr. Bruce Grocott (The Wrekin)

Further to the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Eccles (Miss Lestor), Madam Speaker. You are quite right to say that, during exchanges, matters arise spontaneously, and hon. Members cannot normally be warned when their names are to be mentioned. However, it was clear during today's exchanges with the Leader of the House—as is common in the case of the Prime Minister—that the right hon. Gentleman did not say anything remotely spontaneous. It was all carefully rehearsed and read out. Given that there was no element of spontaneity, should not the rule that applies to normal debate—that Members ought to be warned when they are to be referred to in a premeditated way—have been applied in this case?

Madam Speaker

I dealt with that matter in my original ruling. It is necessary to give notice when a Member is to be mentioned in the course of a debate. However, as hon. Members know, that is not usually possible at Question Time.

Mr. Jim Cousins (Newcastle upon Tyne, Central)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Yesterday I raised with your office and with yourself matters relating to Sir Hal Miller's evidence to the Scott inquiry, which seemed to me to be matters for the House.

Madam Speaker

Order. As I have quite a few things to do, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will give me a little time. I have drafted a letter to him. If he gives me a moment, I shall leave the Chair and sign it. I trust that that satisfies him.