HC Deb 09 March 1998 vol 308 cc19-20 3.31 pm
Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. My point arises from some articles in the press on Sunday, which speculated, clearly on an informed basis, that there would be changes to the mode and ceremonial of the state opening of Parliament and other matters relating to the House.

Do you agree, Madam Speaker, that it is for the House to make those decisions? As the champion and guardian of Back-Benchers' rights, will you ensure that no changes are made before they have received the most detailed scrutiny in the House?

Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West)

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. Is it not right that we should be given the details of the full cost of the state opening of Parliament? They were denied to us in the last Parliament, but we know that police costs are at least £300,000 for the day—in addition to the disruption of traffic in London. Should we not consider having one state opening per Parliament, rather than one a year?

Madam Speaker

The hon. Gentleman's last point was not a point of order.

I want to deal with the original point of order from the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames). He should not indulge in newspaper speculation—I do not. Any changes of the nature suggested are a matter for the House. I have not yet been asked my views on the matter, but I have very strong views and I am ready to give them as soon as I am asked.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire)

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. While it is right and proper that you should have full opportunity to comment on any suggested changes, do you agree that the official Opposition and other parties should be consulted widely on any such matters?

Madam Speaker

As far as I am concerned, all Members and all parties should be invited to comment whenever there is any suggestion that major changes should be made.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker

Order. I have dealt with the matter.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I make no complaint that question 38 was not reached, but have you by any chance received a request from the Foreign Office to make a statement clarifying the difference of opinion between, on the one hand, Mr. Kofi Annan, Russia, China and France, and on the other, the United States and, possibly, the British Government, on the authority that is needed for a military strike against Iraq?

Madam Speaker

I have had no such request. Of course, it is Foreign Office questions tomorrow. I do not know whether there is a question that covers the point that the hon. Gentleman is trying to make, but, if there is, he may try to catch my eye at that time.