HC Deb 11 July 2000 vol 353 c713 4.11 pm
Dr. Liam Fox (Woodspring)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I wonder whether you can clarify a point that has arisen as a result of a reply to an answer given at 3.30 this afternoon on the publication of the Treasury report, "Review of Ill Health Retirement in the Public Sector". The reply states that the present levels of retirement on the grounds of ill health in the public sector are higher than necessary, at 22,000. However, a letter from the Secretary of State pursuant to an answer given in the House on 4 July in relation to consultants states: The Department of Health does not collect data on the number of early retirements. The Treasury is either using old NHS data or excluding NHS employees from its figures, making nonsense of the report. Or perhaps figures exist of which the Secretary of State for Health either is or is not aware. In either case, the Government will have a lot of explaining to do. Have you, Madam Speaker, had any request from the Treasury or the Department of Health to make a statement to establish which version of the truth we are supposed to accept?

Madam Speaker

I have not heard that any Department is seeking to make such a statement. There is no basis for the hon. Gentleman's point of order; it is a matter of disagreement, and as such, he should pursue it with the relevant Minister by means of the Order Paper.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I have been lucky enough to be given sight of a letter that my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) received from the Secretary of State for Defence. It was placed on the letter board before the statement at 3.30. I notice that one or two other hon. Members have also had the privilege of receiving that letter—the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway) is holding a copy. Is it in order for the Ministry of Defence to place letters containing the details of a statement on the board for Members before the statement is made, or for that to be done at the time of the statement?

Madam Speaker

It is a matter for the Minister concerned if he wishes to communicate with colleagues, wherever they may be. I have been a Member for a very long time under several Governments, and Ministers have always corresponded with colleagues about statements, so there has been no departure. If the hon. Gentleman has more information, perhaps he will give it to me.