§ Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. At about 2.50 pm today, I tried to gain access to the House through the St. Stephen's entrance. Because of the large number of representatives of sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses complaining about the change of policy on the payment of social benefits, it took me and my two guests more than five minutes to gain access. The Metropolitan police had lost complete control over access to the House. Will you make representations to the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, Madam Speaker, to ensure that Members of Parliament can gain ready and immediate access to the House whenever necessary?
§ Madam Speaker
I shall certainly draw the comments made by the hon. Gentleman and the delay that he experienced in gaining access to the House to the attention of the Serjeant-at-Arms and seek a report from him.
§ Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde)
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. On 13 April, the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson), speaking as a Minister, made a statement commenting on—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Jack
Clearly, there may be deficiencies in mine, Madam Speaker.
At column 13 of Hansard, on 13 April 1999, the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate, speaking as a Minister, commented on remarks made by the Opposition. She said that our policies would have caused a third of the London underground to be closed down. While she was still in office, I pursued the reasons behind that statement through correspondence with her Department.
I received no reply, but continued to pursue the matter by correspondence. Yesterday, I received a reply from the office of the current Minister, signed by a private secretary. The substance of that letter was that, because the item that I queried had come from a Labour party briefing, it was not possible for the Department to comment on it, and that the matter was being referred back to the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate for her personal comment.
I had thought that when Ministers spoke from the Dispatch Box, they spoke on behalf of the Government, and that they should be able to justify their statements. Is it in order for such business to be sub-contracted back for answer from a Back-Bench Member?
§ Madam Speaker
The matter that the right hon. Gentleman raises is certainly a matter for argument; however, it is a matter for the Government and I hope that he will pursue it with them.