HC Deb 12 December 2001 vol 376 cc839-40 3.33 pm
Mr. John Whittingdale (Maldon and East Chelmsford)

Reference has already been made this afternoon to the fact that during a Select Committee hearing yesterday, the chief executive of Consignia announced that the Post Office intends to make up to 30,000 redundancies—twice the number that was being reported just a few weeks ago, news that comes at the worst conceivable time of year. Given that the Post Office remains wholly owned in the public sector and that Ministers have overall responsibility, have you received any indication that a Minister intends to come to the Chamber to make a statement about this matter?

Mr. Speaker

I have had no indication, but I consider the matter extremely important. I hope that a Minister will come at some stage to make a statement.

Mr. Andrew MacKay (Bracknell)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek clarification about today's business. I refer you to the Order Paper, where it is clear that there is an Adjournment debate on international terrorism. The front page of the Order Paper correctly points out that that debate can proceed until 10 pm. I now refer you to the programme motion that has been tabled by the Government in respect of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Bill. You will see that the knives for that motion fall first at 8.15 pm, in respect of amendments to parts 3, 10, 11 and 13 of the Bill, and that there is a further knife at 9.30 pm concerning amendments to part 4.

Clearly, that is a huge abuse of the House by the Government. It is very probable that the Adjournment debate will continue until 10 pm and that there will be absolutely no debate and possibly no vote on important amendments to an important Bill that is in dispute in the House. I believe that the House has been very shabbily treated. It looks to you for advice and guidance.

Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I remind you that we drew to the attention of the Leader of the House the fact that that problem could easily result from taking business on which there would be no vote—the Adjournment motion—before matters that should be put to a vote in the House? May I also remind you that, if we had been successful in those representations, the votes would have occurred in prime time and in the full glare of publicity? Instead, the debate has been tucked away in the middle of the night. Will you use your good offices to ensure that the House is given a proper opportunity to debate what are extremely important issues?

Mr. Speaker

Responsibility for the Order Paper and its shape lies with the Government and not with me. It is within the rules of the House to lay out the Order Paper in that way. What I am obliged to do as a servant of the House is to make my way through the Order Paper. That is the only advice that I can give to hon. Members at this stage.