HC Deb 30 November 2000 vol 357 cc1138-40 12.32 pm
Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. On Tuesday, I asked the Deputy Prime Minister whether he had assessed the number of extra road deaths that might occur as a result of the increase in road traffic as people leave the railways. He answered by saying: Clearly, a lot more people are travelling by car, and congestion will obviously increase … I have made no estimate of the increase in death rates, but I shall examine our figures and send an estimate to the hon. Gentleman.—[Official Report, 28 November 2000; Vol. 357, c. 800.] Does that promise still hold, given that we are ending the parliamentary term? Will it continue over prorogation?

Mr. Speaker

Letters written by Ministers in response to matters raised in the House are not part of the formal proceedings. I have no doubt that undertakings given by Ministers in the House will be honoured, regardless of prorogation.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will you use your influence in the new Session to secure from the Government better manners from Ministers when answering correspondence from Members of Parliament? Are you aware that the delays in some Departments are wholly unacceptable and that that is a discourtesy to colleagues in the House and a grave discourtesy to our constituents? It is wholly unnecessary and should be stopped.

Mr. Speaker

It is important that Ministers answer Members' correspondence timeously. Members have a duty to their constituents. I am sure that, as the matter has been put on the record, Ministers will take note.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In the best possible mannered way, I do not know whether this is a point of order or a point of frustration, but it is certainly a point of substance. In the other place, the noble Lord Macdonald gave undertakings that he would make a statement there about the air traffic controllers and, in particular, the negotiations with the staff of the British Air Line Pilots Association and the Institution of Professionals, Managers and Specialists. Do we have any assurance that a similar statement will be made in this House at the same time?

Mr. Speaker


Sir Peter Emery (East Devon)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Should we not make it absolutely clear that, as a matter of order, you were left with no alternative but to sign the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill and that you were able to take into consideration no aspect of your personal view—[Interruption.]—nor the views of a vast number of clerics who have written to The Times today? You were obliged to take the action that you took, and people must realise that it has nothing to do with your personal view.

Mr. Speaker

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman because he allows me to put on record the fact that clerics do not tell me what to do—the House tells me what to do.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. One of the consequences of invoking the Parliament Acts in relation to the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill is an aspect that has never been considered by this Chamber—the reduction of the age for anal intercourse for girls from 18 to 16. That causes great consternation among the Christian community of this country. I urge you to rule on the matter, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

That is not a matter for the Chair.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Have you been informed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of any intention that the Foreign Secretary will come to the House to make a statement about the proposed European Union rapid reaction force, which many Conservative Members with long experience of defence issues feel places the Anglo-American relationship and the security of Europe gravely at risk?

Mr. Speaker


Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your guidance as to the need for an urgent statement. Given that it is now more than a week since the appointment of the patriotism Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment, the hon. Member for North Swindon (Mr. Wills), is it not imperative that, before the House prorogues, the hon. Gentleman—or someone on his behalf—explains his work load, what he is getting up to and what resources he is using? Surely he should give some account of himself to the House.

Mr. Speaker

Those matters are for the Under?Secretary, not for me.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. On Monday, the Government laid on the Table the draft Human Fertilisation and Embryology (Research Purposes) Regulations 2000. During an Adjournment debate on 17 November, the Under-Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), said that it was the beginning, not the end, of a thorough, on-going debate. Have you received any information, Mr. Speaker, as to whether the order will be debated on the Floor and voted on and when that might be, or when a Standing Committee might be appointed if that is appropriate?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a matter for me.

Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. This morning, the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for Education and Employment held a press conference during which they made wholly spurious claims about the new deal; they claimed that 250,000 young people had been found jobs through it. Has there been any communication with you, Mr. Speaker, to the effect that either of the right hon. Gentlemen wants to come to the House to make a statement, where we can demonstrate that their claims are wholly false and incorrect?

Mr. Speaker

Again, the answer is no.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Has it crossed your mind that there has been no business statement or questions today and that—as is obvious to Labour Members—what the Tories are up to is asking you questions that have nothing to do with points of order? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] They are trying to substitute business questions with points of order; that is an abuse of the procedures of the House—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. I think the hon. Gentleman is asking me a question that has nothing to do with me.

Hon. Members


Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

May I first clarify the fact that, had there been business questions, I had no intention of asking a question?

Further to my earlier point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Parliament Act is an important matter, but I realise that what has gone has gone. However, my understanding is that the purpose of the Act is that important constitutional measures should not be held up—the will of this House should not be defeated on important constitutional and manifesto issues. Are there not grounds for referring the Parliament Act to, for instance, the Law Lords, to interpret how it should work, especially in the present case where a majority of people in the country are opposed to the invoking of the Parliament Act notwithstanding the majority in this House?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is a Back Bencher; he can perhaps pursue such matters better than me.