HC Deb 24 January 2002 vol 378 cc1027-8 1.26 pm
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will recall that at 11.30 this morning the Chairman of Ways and Means moved that the City of London (Ward Elections) Bill be set down for debate, and in the business statement the Leader of the House said that it would be debated at 7 o'clock on Monday evening. Would you consider some means by which the time for tabling amendments can be extended? Under the procedure, amendments to be considered for selection on Monday would have to be on the Order Paper by tomorrow morning or this evening, which means that there are only seven and a half hours in which to table such amendments. Do you not think that that is a wholly inadequate time for what is, after all, a deeply controversial and, many of us believe, wholly unnecessary piece of legislation?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman might realise that I cannot make an exception for one Bill. It would be very difficult for me to do so.

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I of course fully accept the ruling that you gave my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Lidington), but I seek your advice as to how to raise the ghastly case of my constituent, 83-year-old Arnhem veteran Bill Holman, whose surgeon telephoned me a few minutes ago to say that Mr. Holman spent 36 hours waiting among 40 other people on trolleys in casualty, with really severe stomach pains. I could not get into business questions because I was telephoning Mr. Holman. He told me that at one point he was considering suicide. The place was so overcrowded and the staff were so over-stressed that he had his coat instead of a pillow under his head at one stage. How much longer will this go on in our hospitals in Kent?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman has already used his ingenuity to help his Arnhem veteran. The hon. Gentleman knows his way around the Order Paper and knows how to get in touch with Ministers.

Dr. Evan Harris (Oxford, West and Abingdon)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Following exchanges in the House yesterday at Prime Minister's questions, Members of Parliament will be aware that they are not, unlike medical staff, under a duty of confidentiality. Does that not nevertheless place a responsibility on MPs, given parliamentary privilege, to recognise, first, that best practice involves seeking the permission of a patient, where a patient is competent to give consent, before raising their case publicly; and, secondly, that medical staff are not in a position to respond to allegations made against them by patients' relatives, other third parties, the media or MPs without risking employment sanctions or being reported to their professional regulatory body?

Would you consider, therefore, Mr. Speaker, some guidelines to Members of Parliament, similar to our self-denying ordinance on the question of sub judice, that will show best practice and recognise patients' right to confidentiality and the difficulty that medical staff have in responding to allegations made, because of the risk that they will be reported to their professional bodies for breach of confidentiality? I should be grateful if you would consider issuing such guidance.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman gave me notice of this point of order, and I understand that, in doing so, he said that he would write to me. The best course of action is for him to write to me, so that I can consider this matter.

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