HC Deb 06 March 1995 vol 256 cc21-2 3.30 pm
Mr. Alistair Darling (Edinburgh, Central)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. On Monday last, the Chancellor made a statement to the House, following the collapse of Barings bank. On Friday, on the BBC, he was good enough to say that he had withheld certain details when he made his statement.

In the light of what has happened over the past week, especially the concerns over the role of the Bank of England in the affair, and as the takeover is now going ahead—bonuses are being paid, although the position of the investors and depositors is not yet clear—I wonder whether there is any mechanism whereby the Chancellor is required to come back to the House to explain what he meant when he said that he had not revealed the whole story to us? I understand that he is reluctant to make a statement, for reasons that we can understand, but it cannot he satisfactory that the Chancellor does not tell the House the whole story when he makes a statement.

Several hon. Members


Madam Speaker

No, I shall deal with this point of order first, thank you.

As the hon. Gentleman and the House are aware, I have no authority to require any Minister to come and make a statement. The hon. Gentleman has some ingenuity and I am sure that he will find ways in the course of our proceedings or through the Order Paper to get the Government to come forward if he wishes further statements to be made or on any point of clarification.

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

On that matter, Madam Speaker—

Madam Speaker

No, there is no further point of order.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

On a related matter, Madam Speaker. When the Chancellor made his statement last week, he did not say that the Bank of England might be responsible for actions of which it now stands accused by the Singapore authorities. Would you be prepared to show some flexibility in deciding what questions can be tabled, because I have a whole series of questions that I want to table about the actions of the Bank of England, but am concerned that when I seek to table them I will be told by the Clerks that I cannot do so because those questions are the subject of the inquiry that has been ordered by the Chancellor and are covered by the statement that was made at the Dispatch Box last week? All that I am asking is that we he permitted to ask questions freely and that there is no rule to allow the Clerks to hide behind the statement of last Monday.

Madam Speaker

I must make it quite clear that the Clerks of the House hide behind no statements. They are available to help any hon. Member from any part of the House, and they do so willingly. The hon. Gentleman's point is somewhat hypothetical, but I understand his concerns. I am certainly not going to give a ruling about it, but perhaps he will attempt to table his questions and we shall see where we go from there.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Is there any way in which a statement can be made by the appropriate Minister, not necessarily the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as it has now been discovered that, over the years, Barings bank allocated more than £700,000 to Tory party coffers? On the basis of that evidence and the collapse of the bank, I believe that the public demand a statement from the appropriate Minister so that we can question what has happened to that money and whether it should be paid back.

Madam Speaker

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave a little earlier.

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You may recall that, three years ago, there was a frightening accident that involved many of my constituents and in which 108 people were injured in the Severn tunnel. You may he aware, too, that, three years on, the local fire brigade in Gwent has said that the safety improvements that it called for in the tunnel have not been carried out. Have you had any request from the Department of Transport to make a statement on this alarming situation?

Madam Speaker

I have had no request from the Secretary of State for Transport or from any of his Ministers to make a statement on that matter.

Mr. Stephen Timms (Newham, North-East)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You may have seen, as I did, in this morning's press articles saying that the advisers who originally advocated the programme of hospital bed closures in London have now changed their minds and have acknowledged that that is extremely damaging. Have you had any word from the Secretary of State for Health to the effect that she intends to announce that she has changed her mind as well?

Madam Speaker

Let me make it clear to all hon. Members who wish to know whether a statement is to be made today that none will he made today. If any were to be made news to that effect would be put on the annunciator by 1 o'clock. We shall now proceed with the business of the House.