HC Deb 08 June 1999 vol 332 c491 5.13 pm
Mr. David Faber (Westbury)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I seek your guidance, having given Madam Speaker prior notice of what I sought to raise. I have been involved in correspondence with the Secretary of State for Health for a number of months concerning the closure of a ward in my constituency. The last occasion on which I wrote to him was 23 March—11 weeks ago—since when I have had no acknowledgement and no answer to my letter, in spite of tabling written questions subsequently. Furthermore, I now understand that the Secretary of State's Parliamentary Private Secretary, in her role as secretary of the GMB group in the House, met a group of my constituents representing the GMB without informing me of that fact.

Do you share my disappointment at the lack of courtesy to me and my constituents in that the Parliamentary Private Secretary apparently went behind my back to meet my constituents to discuss a subject on which, after 11 weeks, I have still not had a reply from the Secretary of State?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst)

The hon. Gentleman will know that these are not strictly matters for the occupant of the Chair. All Members of Parliament appreciate that there is no harm in there being more, rather than less, communication when colleagues are involved in matters in one another's constituencies. It is customary for Ministers to try to see Members of Parliament who have particular problems in their constituencies, and I am sure that what the hon. Gentleman has said will have been heard by Ministers.

Mr. Tim Boswell (Daventry)

On a separate, but somewhat related, point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Having tabled questions to the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and to the Department of Trade and Industry on the last day before Whitsun for answer today, I was disappointed to receive a reply today saying that those questions will be responded to by Ministers "shortly". As nearly two weeks have elapsed since the questions were tabled, we must ask what Ministers have been doing in that time, and whether it is appropriate that they cannot respond promptly when they have been given proper notice.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Some of us can recall occasions when replies have been either extraordinarily prompt or extraordinarily delayed—it does happen. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows that the occupant of the Chair cannot determine these things, but his point will have been heard by Ministers.