HC Deb 18 March 1997 vol 292 cc725-7 3.31 pm
Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I hope that you will ask the Secretary of State for Transport to come here this afternoon to make an urgent statement about the allegation that Great Eastern Railways administration ordered 20 train drivers to drive over the body of a young woman on the railway track. I hope that the report of that barbarism is not correct, but it should be discussed by the House of Commons.

Madam Speaker

I had not heard of that incident, but I am not aware of a Minister coming to make a statement on such an issue today.

Mr. Nick Raynsford (Greenwich)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You will be aware that on 27 February I requested under Standing Order No. 20 an early debate on the future of the Building Research Establishment. On 27 February, 6 March and again on 13 March—on three successive occasions at business questions—my hon. Friends the Members for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) and for Dewsbury (Mrs. Taylor) repeated that request. You will be aware that, despite the Leader of the House agreeing to draw the matter to the attention of relevant Ministers, no such debate has taken place and no effort has been made by Ministers to give this House the opportunity to discuss the many crucial issues that arise from the proposed privatisation.

Yesterday, the Minister for Construction, Planning and Energy Efficiency, in answer to a written question from the right hon. Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones), announced that his Department had entered into a contract to sell the Building Research Establishment. Is that not a flagrant abuse of ministerial power? Does it not demonstrate a deplorable failure to allow the House a proper opportunity to consider the matter before contracts are entered into? Would it not be right to require the Minister for Construction, Planning and Energy Efficiency to come to the House, make a statement and account for his actions in a matter that the House has had no opportunity to consider and debate?

Madam Speaker

As the hon. Gentleman and the House are aware, I have no authority to require a Minister to come here to make a statement at any time. Those sitting on the Treasury Bench will have heard the hon. Gentleman's remarks and the build-up to his point of order. No doubt they will take note of them.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You will know that there is a digital terrestrial broadcasting application before the Independent Television Commission. One of the applicants is Mr. Murdoch. I ask for your ruling, Madam Speaker. We know of a private fund that was used to fund the Leader of the Opposition's office, although we have yet to discover who was providing that money. We also know that the Leader of the Opposition went to Australia to see Mr. Murdoch. I wonder whether that type of thing is proper, as we now know that The Sun newspaper—which is owned by Mr. Murdoch—has for some reason best known to itself decided to back the Leader of the Opposition. Do we know whether a deal has been done?

Madam Speaker

That was rather ingenious, but it was a long way from a point of order.

Mr. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Transport Select Committee was due to meet tomorrow to interrogate South West Trains—the failed southern franchise. That meeting has now been aborted, without a decision by the Committee. Although we have not had a full business statement, I think that we should be entitled to the protection of the Chair and the House in ensuring that a hearing which is very important to people in 100 southern constituencies is not aborted for political reasons—to minimise the Tory party's acute embarrassment on rail privatization.

Madam Speaker

As the hon. Gentleman is fully aware, that is not a matter for the Speaker; it is entirely at the discretion of the Chairman of the Select Committee.