HC Deb 01 May 2001 vol 367 cc749-50 3.31 pm
Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, of which I have given you prior notice. You will no doubt have seen early-day motion 619 and press reports about the proposed merger of the Halifax bank and the Bank of Scotland. If those reports are to be believed, the Halifax headquarters will move to Edinburgh, even though it is a much larger bank. The Halifax is hugely important to my town, from which it takes its name. It is Yorkshire's premier financial institution and Britain's biggest mortgage lender. It would be a devastating blow for my town and the Yorkshire region if the headquarters were to relocate. Has a Minister from the Department of Trade and Industry notified you that a statement will be made on that important issue?

Mr. Speaker

I have had no approach from any Minister on that matter.

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As you know, there are a number of protests today, not only in London, but in more than 1,000 general practitioners' surgeries throughout the United Kingdom at the Government's inability to deliver their promises on health. Are you as surprised as I am that the Secretary of State for Health has not made a request—or perhaps he has—to make a statement to the House today?

Mr. Speaker

After 22 years in the House, I am never surprised.

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Given the revelation on this morning's edition of the "Today" programme that the Ministry of Defence is facing difficult choices between retaining our aircraft carrier programme or a large chunk of the Army, have you received an application to make a statement on that matter?

Mr. Speaker

I have had no approach from any Minister.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Do you agree that the serious issue raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Brazier) is worthy of further consideration? The revelation has been lent some credibility by the response of the Minister for the Armed Forces earlier today, who confirmed that difficult decisions have to be made. Given that there is not another session of Defence questions before the general election, is it not appropriate for a Defence Minister to be called to the House?

Mr. Speaker

I do not know when the general election will be announced.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You said in response to the hon. Member for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) that no Minister has contacted you to make a statement on the possible merger of the Bank of Scotland and the Halifax Group plc—in which, by the way, I have a small investment.

Hon. Members


Mr. Soames

In which one?

Mr. Winterton

The Halifax.

The hon. Lady made an important point. Bearing in mind that thousands of jobs could be at stake at the Halifax and in Yorkshire, and that the Government send Ministers to this place to make statements when jobs are at risk, are you, Mr. Speaker, able to bring pressure on them to make a statement on a matter that is crucial to Halifax, Yorkshire, England and Scotland?

Mr. Speaker

I have no desire to see anyone lose his job, but it is not a matter for the Chair. The hon. Members for Macclesfield (Mr. Winterton) and for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) know their way around the Order Paper, and they know how to get a Minister to the Dispatch Box to give an account of his or her stewardship of the matter.