HC Deb 08 November 1999 vol 337 cc691-2 3.30 pm
Mr. Shaun Woodward (Witney)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. As I informed you earlier today, last Thursday the Minister for Housing and Planning, the hon. Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Mr. Raynsford), told the House that, on 30 September, he had relinquished his responsibilities as Minister for London and that, on that date, the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Hill), became Minister for London and took responsibility for all decisions on London policy, including the Greater London Authority Bill.

The Minister for Housing and Planning also told the House that all responsibility for policy matters relating to the Bill, including amendments tabled since 30 September, rested with that Under-Secretary and that the Minister was present simply in an advisory role. Yet the amendment on impeachment, which we tackled first on Thursday 4 November, was tabled after 30 September and considered in another place on 12 October. The Minister—not the Under-Secretary—dealt with the amendment in the House, 12 days after his resignation as Minister for London. Was it in order for the Minister to do that?

As the Minister continues to speak for the Government, and given the guidelines in the code for Ministers, there is a conflict of interest between his public duties and his private duties as campaign manager for the right hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson). The Minister is in his place and, despite what he told the House last week, he clearly takes the lead role and the responsibility for guiding the Bill's passage. In the light of the ministerial code on conflicts of interest, has the Minister sought guidance from your office, Madam Speaker, on that conflict of interest? If so, can you give the House your ruling on the matter?

Madam Speaker

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of that point of order, which he helpfully did at some length. I can deal with it all the more speedily because I have had sight of it for some time and have been able to examine it.

The hon. Gentleman speaks of the application of the ministerial code. It is not for the Speaker to interpret or enforce that code. The hon. Gentleman must find other methods of pursuing the matter.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst)

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. Even as the House debated the Greater London Authority Bill on Thursday, the Government tabled yet more amendments—including an important amendment, which the Secretary of State tabled, to disagree with the House of Lords. The amendments can only have appeared on the Order Paper on Friday. That hardly gave the House proper time to consider them at all—and certainly not in the context of the timetable motion.

Are you satisfied, Madam Speaker, that the timetable motion can possibly allow the House to consider properly amendments that were only tabled on Thursday and that appeared on the Order Paper on Friday? Can that be right?

Madam Speaker

The timetable motion is perfectly in order. As far as I and many hon. Members are concerned, Friday is a proper, full working day.

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