HC Deb 03 March 2000 vol 345 c663

[MADAM SPEAKER in the Chair]

9.33 am
Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am sure that you, like all of us, will have seen on television the terrible humanitarian tragedy that is currently occurring in Mozambique. Perhaps you have seen the amazing pictures of the bravery and courage of the South African helicopter pilots, who have rescued an enormous number of people with only three helicopters. On the radio this morning, the Secretary of State for International Development suggested that there was a dispute between two Departments about the deployment of United Kingdom helicopters to that part of the world. People will have been appalled to hear that the dispatch of helicopters has been delayed as a result of such a dispute.

Given the gravity of the humanitarian crisis, have you, Madam Speaker, had any intimation from the Prime Minister to the effect that he wishes to make a statement in the House about the United Kingdom Government's response, and to explain the failure to act more swiftly?

Madam Speaker

At this juncture, I have not been informed that the Prime Minister or any Minister wants to make a statement on that matter.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst)

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. Can you help the House by telling us the latest point at which a Minister—in this case, the Secretary of State for Defence or the Secretary of State for International Development—can approach you to ask to make a statement? It would help the House if we knew the deadline for Ministers to approach you.

Madam Speaker

Ministers are free to make statements in the House at prescribed times. However, on a Friday, I am usually informed at around 10 o'clock whether a statement is to be made, and it is usually made at 11 o'clock.

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