HC Deb 13 July 1995 vol 263 cc1112-3 4.42 pm
Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Yesterday I raised a point of order with you about a rave party that had been arranged at county hall and the possibility of it disturbing your peace and contentment. To prove the efficacy of points of order, I can inform you that I have received a letter from the Serjeant at Arms telling me that, following my point of order, permission for the rave event has been withdrawn by the owners of county hall, so you will now be able to enjoy a weekend of peace and contentment and the whole of London will rejoice with you.

Madam Speaker

I shall not be here this weekend, but in my constituency. Nevertheless, I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, although it was not a point of order today any more than it was a point of order yesterday.

Mr. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. May I have your guidance on how a certain problem can be remedied? Page 4593 of today's Order Paper shows that this evening there will be opportunities for two one-and-a-half hour debates, one relating to the Food Protection (Emergency Prohibitions) (Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning) (No. 5) Order 1995, and the other relating to the No. 6 order on the same subject. We can have up to three hours' debate on that matter; yet the preliminary draft budget for the European Community is not debateable. Surely it is time that we found some way to ensure that Parliament debates issues which matter to many millions of people rather than giving preference to orders about paralytic shellfish, which can be debated for up to three hours.

Madam Speaker

Some of the people who may eat poisoned fish might not appreciate what the hon. Gentleman is saying. The debates are perfectly in order. If the hon. Gentleman wants to change our procedures, he should approach the Procedure Committee.

Mr. Richard Tracey (Surbiton)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I want to bring to your attention a matter relating to the statement on defence equipment an hour or so ago. The Ministry of Defence did not deliver any copies of the statement to the Vote Office, with the result that hon. Members from both sides of the House could not obtain copies and so could not question my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in the necessary detail. That appears to be a singular breakdown of the procedures of the House.

Madam Speaker

The usual practice is for the Minister concerned to determine at what time the statement is to be placed in the Vote Office. Some Ministers have the statement put in the Vote Office as soon as they stand up to make it—others when they sit down. It appears that today's statement was not available when the Minister made his statement, but it was for the Minister to determine when it was to be made available. I take the view that it is rather better to have the statement available as soon as the Minister stands up, so that hon. Members can be made aware of what is in the statement and therefore ask rather more intelligent questions.

Mr. Patrick Thompson (Norwich, North)

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker

Order. I do not think that there can be a further point of order because I have answered it very fully. I do not usually take further points of order. If the hon. Gentleman can make it into another one, I shall listen.

Mr. Thompson

I can make it another one because it relates to the issuing of statements to the Press Gallery, which has not been mentioned. Many hon. Members are disturbed when, as so often happens, the press get statements and information long before Members of Parliament. It is something about which I have felt strongly for 10 years. I hope that you will allow that as a separate point of order.

Madam Speaker

I certainly will, because I feel as strongly as the hon. Gentleman does. I quite understand why Government Departments have to keep the press informed, but there has to be a strict embargo and often, I suspect, the embargoes are not kept. That is when Members of Parliament get very upset and rightly so. I give them full support in their strong feelings on that.