HC Deb 06 November 2001 vol 374 cc109-10 3.30 pm
Mr. Theresa May (Maidenhead)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday, in response to my private notice question about Railtrack, the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions said—speaking of the chairman of Railtrack— the chairman had come to me on 25 July and said, 'If you don't give me more money, I cannot make a statement on the 8th of November that we are a going concern.'"—[Official Report 5 November 2001; Vol. 374, c. 26.] This morning, on Radio 4's "Today" programme, the chairman of Railtrack was interviewed. James Naughtie said: Yes but he's saying that you said to him that unless you got something like you wanted you feared that the outfit might not be a going concern in November. Is that true or not? The chairman replied: No it is not true. I am sure that the Secretary of State would not wish Members to be given a misleading impression of the nature of that meeting, Mr. Speaker. Have you received any approach from the Secretary of State indicating that he wishes to come to the House and make a statement?

Several hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. Let me reply to the point of order.

I have had no communication from the Secretary of State on that subject.

Mr. John Burnett (Torridge and West Devon)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. During questions to the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, you had to admonish Ministers twice for their prolix replies. Is there any further action that you can take if that conduct continues? Some of us suspect that Ministers are trying to avoid difficult questions further down the Order Paper.

Mr. Speaker

I think the hon. Gentleman will know that Ministers have taken my advice on that.

Mr. Gerald Howarth (Aldershot)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You have been very determined in your attempts to safeguard the privileges of this House. In view of what you heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mr. May) about the conduct of a Minister, can you advise me what action can be taken if that Minister is unwilling to come to the House and answer those serious charges? How may I ensure that he will deliver his minutes of the meeting? If Mr. Robinson, the chairman of Railtrack, is prepared to deliver his version of events, surely the Minister ought to deliver his minutes so that we can see who is telling the truth—because shareholders have been defrauded by the actions of this Government.

Mr. Speaker

That is not a matter for the Chair.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)


Mr. Speaker

Does the hon. Gentleman wish to raise a point of order?

Mr. Skinner

Yes. Why on earth should we believe Robinson?

Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Is it about the same matter? I have stated my case on that: it is nothing to do with the Chair.

Mr. Robathan

It is not about the same matter.

Yesterday, Mr. Speaker, I spent a quarter of an hour and more talking to one of my constituents, a Mr. Evans of Broughton Astley. He expressed in strong terms his feelings and those of, I understand, a quarter of a million or so other people who had invested small amounts in Railtrack. They wanted to hear answers from the Minister yesterday, and did not. [Interruption.]

. Speaker


Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will you confirm that it is perfectly proper for a Secretary of State to put the minutes of any meeting in the Library of the House of Commons?

Mr. Speaker

That is a matter for the Minister; it is not a matter for the Chair.