HC Deb 26 June 1995 vol 262 cc567-8 3.30 pm
Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You will have noticed today that quite a number of Tory Members of Parliament are missing, and we can only presume that they are out plotting or campaigning, or in the Jubilee Room.

I want to ask you a question regarding the constitution. In the past few days, one Minister, the Foreign Secretary, has announced that he will resign shortly, and another, the Secretary of State for Wales, has announced that he will resign today at 2 o'clock, presumably to take part in the election for the Tory party leadership. The point that I should like to raise from a constitutional angle is this: why is it necessary for the Secretary of State for Wales to resign his position as a Cabinet Minister to participate in a leadership contest, while the Prime Minister has not done the same? That should be a matter for the British people.

Madam Speaker

That is a matter for the right hon. Gentleman in question; it is not a matter for me.

Mr. Peter Hain (Neath)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Do you have any information on a statement from the Welsh Office? Surely it is an insult that Wales is being covered by a moonlighting Cabinet Minister.

Madam Speaker

No, I have no information about any such statements being made.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I do not know whether you have received a copy of the letter that was circulated—I understand that it went out nationally—to all hon. Members by the north-eastern region of the National Union of Civil and Public Servants. It says: DSS headquarters has set a pilot project for a central correspondence section. The idea of this section is to move away from tailored replies to MPs' inquiries to Ministers on behalf of constituents and to offer standard replies. Those would be on individual cases. It goes on: These standard replies are withdrawn from a stock of paragraphs, then pasted together to give a general reply to the inquiry. This will inevitably lead to bland replies and dissatisfaction amongst constituents who receive them. We would ask you not to accept bland and meaningless replies but to press for complete tailored replies which fully address the concerns of your constituents"— my constituents, and, Madam Speaker, your constituents.

I have not had a chance to discuss this with my hon. Friends, but I am sure that they are all concerned, as hon. Members on both sides of the House will be—we have no monopoly on concern over these matters. I wondered whether you might consider that letter, which has implications for us all, and, in the great number of forums in which you are able to discuss such matters, raise the letter with the appropriate authorities? Clearly, such a policy would be damaging for our constituents.

Madam Speaker

I know full well that hon. Members on both sides of the House demand the fullest possible information generally, as well as information on an individual basis relating to their constituents—as I do myself. I have not seen the letter to which the hon. Gentleman referred. However, I shall make it my business to see the letter and make inquiries about it.

Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. As you know, I have been in this place for more than 16 years, and I have never known anything like what is happening today. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) said, it is significant that three hon. Members—for Colchester, North (Mr. Jenkin), for Welwyn Hatfield (Mr. Evans) and for Isle of Wight (Mr. Field)—are not here. They have something in common.

We have a Prime Minister whose mind is somewhere else, a Foreign Secretary who is about to retire, and a caretaker Secretary of State for Wales. Is it not the truth that they are all caretakers now? As they cannot turn up, and as their minds and hearts are elsewhere, why not adjourn the House until 4 July, and then we could all come back? Even better, instead of discredited Conservative Members choosing a Prime Minister, why not let the 30 million voters in the country decide?

Madam Speaker

A number of people, including myself, would disapprove of any adjournment, and certainly an adjournment until 4 July.

Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South)

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. Have you been approached by any Ministers, other than the one who has resigned today, saying that they wish to make a statement to the House in the coming week?

Madam Speaker

I have had no such requests.

Mr. John Gunnell (Morley and Leeds, South)

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. Knowing, as we all do, how much we are indebted to Hansard for recording both what we have to say and our votes on key issues, would it be in order for you to extend the role of Hansard to record the forthcoming votes of Conservative Members, which would be for the enlightenment of the whole country?

Madam Speaker

That is an ingenious idea, but I have no authority to do anything of the sort.

Mr. Ann Taylor (Dewsbury)

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. We have heard that the Secretary of State for Wales is resigning from the Cabinet. There is a convention that Ministers who resign can make a personal statement to the House. Is that something to which the Secretary of State for Wales would be entitled?

Madam Speaker

A resignation statement, not a personal statement, is sometimes made—although not always. If the former Secretary of State for Wales wishes to make a resignation statement, he must apply to me, and I shall certainly consider his request.