HC Deb 06 December 1999 vol 340 cc570-1 4.15 pm
Mrs. Angela Browning (Tiverton and Honiton)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Following the serious announcement at the weekend that the World Trade Organisation talks had collapsed in a shambles and today's press announcements that the British Secretary of State for Trade and Industry is to take a lead role in restoring the situation, have you received any request from the right hon. Gentleman to the effect that he wishes to come to the House to share with us and, through us, with British business, the way in which the Government intend to take the lead role in restoring what is now a very serious matter?

Madam Speaker

No. I have not been informed by Ministers that they seek to make a statement. Perhaps I can refer the hon. Lady to the Order Paper for Thursday of this week when, on a motion for the Adjournment, the very subject in which she is interested will be there for debate by the entire House.

Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You will be aware that hon. Members from both sides of the House may seek to amend on a non-political basis the Government Resources and Accounts Bill so as to guarantee the rights of the House. You will also know that the Bill's long title says that it will Make provision about government resources and accounts … and for connected purposes. It has been intimated that there is some confusion at an official level and that some officials think that we are circumscribed by the long title. Will you confirm that the reason why the long title is the last part of a Bill to face amendment is to ensure that the long title can be brought into line with amendments that have been made in Committee and on Report?

Madam Speaker

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving me a little notice of his point of order. The House knows, however, that the Speaker never gives hypothetical rulings. By inviting me to give a firm ruling at this stage on the technical scope of the Bill, he is effectively inviting me to prejudice decisions that have to be made by the Chairman of the Standing Committee and not by me. I suggest that he uses his skill, his experience and, I know, his ingenuity as well as his knowledge of the Clerks in the Public Bill Office, to secure the objectives that he has in mind.

Dr. Liam Fox (Woodspring)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. You will be aware from reports in the written press and the broadcast media of elderly patients having food and water withheld as a result of the lack of national health service beds. Those reports will have been met with horror and disbelief inside the House and beyond. Given that they have come from eminent consultants and from patients' groups, there needs to be a full inquiry. Should not the Secretary of State for Health ask to make a statement on that matter, and could not time be made available for it during today's proceedings given that people must now wonder what sort of culture we live in when all the stops can be pulled out to provide a dome for our entertainment but when the necessities of life are withheld from our elderly patients?

Madam Speaker

As the hon. Gentleman will appreciate, I shall not comment on the political issue that he has raised, but I can tell him, as I am sure he knows, that no Minister is coming to the House today to make a statement on it. May I respectfully draw his attention and that of his hon. Friends to the fact that, tomorrow, they can table parliamentary questions to the Secretary of State for Health, for answer before the House rises for the Christmas recess?

Mr. Peter Atkinson (Hexham)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. At about half-past 10 this morning, a Cabinet Office report relating to the north-south divide was given to the media. At 4 o'clock this afternoon, it was still not available in the Vote Office, although throughout the day the media have been asking Members with a constituency interest in the north for their comments. Could you in future ensure that the Cabinet Office makes such documents available to Members at the same time as it does to the media?

Madam Speaker

It probably is an important document, and I shall consider the matter. This is the first time I have been made aware of the document, but if the hon. Gentleman leaves the matter with me, I shall make some inquiries.