§ Miss Ann Widdecombe (Maidstone and The Weald)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Are you aware that this evening a statement has been issued by the Home Office in relation to the detention of General Pinochet, and that that statement says in terms that, in the circumstances—that is, the medical recommendations—the Secretary of State is minded, subject to any representations he may receive, to take the view that no purpose would be served by continuing the present extradition proceedings and that he should therefore decide not to extradite Senator Pinochet?
248 Is it not a contempt of the House that such an announcement should be given to the press and no statement made to the House? You indicated to me earlier, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you had received no request to make a statement. May I ask you whether it is in the traditions of the House that the Home Secretary—wherever he may be—should make a statement to the House before briefing the press?
§ Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I associate my colleagues and myself as strongly as possible with the request made through you that the usual convention of the House be observed and that Secretaries of State making the most controversial and most potentially provocative public statements on a matter that relates both to their parliamentary duties and to their judicial responsibilities do so first to those who have regularly raised it with them across the Floor of the House?
May I ask that everything be done to make sure that, at the earliest opportunity tomorrow, the Home Secretary comes to the House, apologises to the House, makes a statement to the House and explains what is this evidence that is so conclusive—and how we can have a guarantee in this case that there is not the sort of illness from which people recover very miraculously? In the past, such people have been allowed to escape from judicial process.
§ Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You will know that during the 18 years of the previous Government there were many occasions when we protested because statements were not made in the House, so there is nothing unique about what has happened today.
Having said that, and bearing in mind that the Conservatives have said time and again that Pinochet should be sent home, those of us who believe that a statement should be made at some stage are very concerned indeed. We therefore want to put on the record the fact that someone we consider to be a murderous tyrant should face justice and not be sent back to Chile.
§ Mr. Michael Howard (Folkestone and Hythe)
Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sure that we all understand how preoccupied the Home Secretary is at present to press home his attacks on the aggressive behaviour of the people of England, but notwithstanding that, would it not be a mark of respect to the House if he were able to tear himself away from that preoccupation for just a few moments to explain to the House why he has come to this decision now and not many, many months ago? Given the presence on the Treasury Bench of at least one Home Office Minister among the legion of 249 Ministers there, would it not be in order for that Minister to communicate to the Home Secretary the desirability of his—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I have heard enough. Right hon. and hon. Members will be well aware that this is not a matter for the Chair. Whether or not ministerial statements are made, and the timing of such statements, are entirely matters for the Government, who will no doubt have heard the exchanges that have taken place here this evening.