HC Deb 05 February 1996 vol 271 cc26-7 3.51 pm
Mr. Foulkes

On a point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker

The hon. Gentleman has a point of order for me because he did not get in.

Mr. Foulkes

I have been waiting since 2.30, so I am grateful. As you will know, Madam Speaker, on St. David's day, my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, Central (Mr. Jones) will introduce a Bill that would give a right to interest on commercial debt. I understand that it has the support of the Government, yet I am told that, at the weekend, the Deputy Prime Minister admitted that, when he was a small business man, he was quite skilful at stringing along the creditors. If we now have an admission from the Deputy Prime Minister that he held off his creditors for as long as possible, is it not an example of hypocrisy— of saying one thing and doing another?

Madam Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is quite aware that that is not a point of order, and that he is abusing the time of the House.

Mr. Peter Hain (Neath)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Have you had any information from the Deputy Prime Minister that he intends to make a statement setting out a changed procedure for the Government paying their bills to outside businesses? Is the right hon. Gentleman advocating that the Government start fiddling their bill-paying by depriving businesses of much-needed income, which could drive them into bankruptcy, something which apparently he has been doing for many years?

Madam Speaker

I have not had any indication that the Government are seeking to make a statement today on that or any other matter. Let me make it clear to those Members who are seeking to raise points of order about statements that we are not expecting any statements today.

Ms Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. During the private notice question, the Secretary of State for Transport averred that the first service provided by South West Trains was the 5.40 from Teddington to Waterloo. In fact, the first service offered by South West Trains was the 3 o'clock from Eastleigh to Southampton, and it was a bus—

Madam Speaker

Order. That is an interesting point, but it is certainly not a point of order for me. I do not carry a timetable in my top pocket so as to be able to check what the Secretary of State and the hon. Lady are saying.

Mr. Bruce Grocott (The Wrekin)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. It relates to the rights of the House and Government consultation documents.

You will be aware that, on Friday, the Government, out of the blue, published a so-called consultation document entitled "Broadcasting Sports Rights: Informing the Debate". As long ago as July 1994, the Select Committee on National Heritage published a unanimous report stating that major sporting events should be protected for the major channels. The Government's response was to state that they proposed to take no action.

The Broadcasting Bill, which relates to the availability of sporting events, has been given a Second Reading in another place. If the Government start consulting on major issues of national policy, the Secretary of State for National Heritage should, at the very least, make a statement on which she can be questioned, especially as the consultation document to which I have referred has all the hallmarks of a paper that has been put together at the last minute. It contains no address to which representations should be sent. There is no reference to a closing date for the sending of representations and no list of the bodies that have been consulted. This is playing politics on the hoof.

Madam Speaker

The hon. Gentleman seems to be raising with me a matter that, had he thought about it at the time and had he been aware of it at the time, is really one for the Leader of the House. The hon. Gentleman is seeking a Government statement. He may wish that, as may his right hon. and hon. Friends, but that is not a matter for me. It is for the Government to decide whether Ministers should make statements, and when they make them.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. If the Deputy Prime Minister ever comes to you and says, "Can I borrow some money?", will you tell him that you are tough on debt and tough on the causes of debt?

Madam Speaker

The right hon. Gentleman would get very little change from me. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that. I have nothing in my pockets.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Is there anything that you can do to dissuade hon. Members from writing works of fiction about our proceedings? A book now being sold— it was written by the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie)—more or less suggests that this place is full of Members drinking themselves into oblivion and bonking their eyeballs out. Unfortunately, that is not the position. I feel that we need to be protected from such unfounded allegations.

Madam Speaker

I believe that the hon. Gentleman is quite capable of protecting himself. There is an answer: do not buy it; do not read it.

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