§ Mr. Allan Rogers (Rhondda)
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You will recall that yesterday, during the statement by the Secretary of State for Wales about the Welsh Development Agency, he was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Hain) about regenerating the valleys and he replied:
I have announced today the next five-year programme for the Welsh valleys initiative.Later, on a point of order, I asked the Secretary of State why he did not have the courtesy to come to the House to make the statement so that he could be examined on the content of the initiative, which is of vital concern to us in the South Wales valleys.
You kindly invited the Secretary of State to comment on that point of order. He then said:I am grateful for the opportunity. I meant to say that I would make a statement tomorrow." [Official Report, 19 October 1993; Vol. 230, cols. 156–57].I asked that the statement be made to the House.
Today I was waiting, as were my hon. Friends, for the Secretary of State to make a statement to the House so he could be questioned on the content, which is of such vital importance. The Secretary of State has not come. Yesterday, he was confused between yesterday, today and the day before. Has he confused the days again?
I wonder whether you could use your good offices, Madam Speaker, to get the Secretary of State for Wales to come here. At best, he is treating the House with absolute contempt—and I think that he is treating you, Madam Speaker, with the same lack of courtesy—but at worst, he is being economical with the truth, because I understand that today he has gone outside the. House and issued a statement in Wales, where he cannot be questioned or come under parliamentary scrutiny for what he is doing.
§ Madam Speaker
As the hon. Gentleman and the House are aware, Ministers determine for themselves whether they make a statement orally at the Dispatch Box or choose to do so by means of answer to a written question. The best I can do is to refer the hon. Gentleman to written question 356, which was answered today by the Secretary of State for Wales. It became available at 3.30 and is headed "Programme for the Valleys".
§ Mr. Ron Davies (Caerphilly)
Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker, we all understand that the question' to which you refer was tabled after the Secretary of State had given an assurance to the House. What compounds the error is that, yesterday morning, the Secretary of State took it upon himself to conduct an extensive press briefing. Thirty-six hours before Members of the House with a direct constituency interest, the press knew of the nature of the statement that the Secretary of State was making this afternoon. It is, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Rogers) said, a blatant disregard of the rights of Members of the House with a direct constituency interest.
I would ask that you reflect on previous rulings that you have given to the effect that, when Ministers have statements to make, they should be made in the House before statements are made to the press.
§ Madam Speaker
I have always taken the view, as the House knows, that, when a Minister has a statement to 297 make, he should make it here to hon. Members who are elected, rather than outside the House. We now proceed with our business.