HC Deb 01 May 2002 vol 384 cc950-2 3.32 pm
Mr. Speaker

I have carefully considered the important matters raised on Monday by the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) concerning evidence obtained for the Lockerbie trial. I must inform him that acts by prosecuting authorities in Scotland are devolved matters for which no Minister in the House bears responsibility. I am sure, however, that those responsible will have noted the matters that he raised in his point of order.

The Table Office will, of course, offer any assistance to the hon. Gentleman about any international aspects of the Lockerbie case which may fall within the responsibility of United Kingdom Ministers.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I thank you and your advisers for the care that you have given to this complex matter? Is not part of the difficulty the imprecisions that were not addressed on the passage of the Scotland Act 1998? Is there not an important matter of principle, however? When there is a long report from Dr. Hans Koechler, who was appointed by Kofi Annan for the United Nations, should not the subject of that report—the conduct of the trial—also be a matter for the House of Commons? After all, United Nations matters are surely matters for Westminster and not for the Mound.

Mr. Speaker

I have nothing to add to my statement.

Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have a constituent, Dr. Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the dreadful Lockerbie incident, and who feels very concerned about these matters. Could you advise me on how I can best represent his interests, as I am a Member of this Parliament but not of the Scottish Parliament? Could you give Members such as me advice on that?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Lady will note that I said in the last paragraph of my statement that the Table Office will give any assistance that it can on this matter.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Are there not constitutional implications affecting the position of the House of Lords as the supreme court in this country? Would you be prepared to reflect on that point and speak to the House again?

Mr. Speaker

This matter was the subject of a criminal trial and there would be no appeal to the House of Lords on that.

Mr. Stephen O'Brien (Eddisbury)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Following the points that have been made, led by the Father of the House, may I register the fact that I am the constituency Member representing Mrs. Ann Mann, whose brother, his wife and their two children—the whole family—were killed in that dreadful disaster? By your ruling, there is now a serious issue as to whether I have the powers of representation— as the constituency Member in the national Parliament of the United Kingdom—that I would expect on behalf of any constituent in the privilege of Parliament.

Mr. Speaker

We all feel for the relatives of the Lockerbie victims and our hearts go out to them. The hon. Gentleman can continue to represent Mrs. Mann. The Table Office and any Officer of the House will seek to give as much assistance as possible to help the relatives of Lockerbie victims who live in any Member's constituency.

Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker, and to the point raised by the Father of the House. My constituent, Martin Cadman, lost his beloved son on that flight and he is very concerned by Dr. Hans Koechler's report. Mr. Cadman is anxious for me to initiate an Adjournment debate in the House. If I apply for an Adjournment debate, will it be in order, given your earlier ruling?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman should apply for the Adjournment debate. He will not get the debate unless he asks for it. If his Adjournment debate is against the rules of the House, I will not be able to grant it. However, if it is within the rules of the House, he stands a good chance of securing it.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex)

On a separate and much simpler point of order, Mr. Speaker. A week ago, I tabled 14 questions to the Home Office about specific matters relating to immigration. Two of the questions were subsequently transferred to the Lord Chancellor's Department, and I have no quarrel with that. I asked the questions specifically for a named day—yesterday—and I gave the Home Office six working days to answer the questions when I could have given it just three.

Twelve of the answers came back to me last night, and all of them contained the words, "I will reply as soon as possible." I have spoken to the Home Office and I have let it know that I believe that to be wholly unsatisfactory. The Home Office has apologised for the lack of answers, but I raise this point of order because answering parliamentary questions is not a voluntary option for Departments or Ministers. A named day is specified so that Members receive replies on that day. Will you, Mr. Speaker, be good enough to say, at the very least, that it is your wish that Ministers answer parliamentary questions on the day they are due?

Mr. Speaker

I am very keen that all Back Benchers should receive proper replies that are delivered in decent time. I promise the hon. Gentleman that I will look into his complaint and I will reply to him.

Mr. John Taylor (Solihull)

Further to the point of order raised by the Father of the House, Mr. Speaker. Are we, in effect, being told that there are functions of the Crown in this country that we cannot refer to a responsible Minister in this national Parliament?

Mr. Speaker

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Scotland Act 1998 went through the House and there are devolved matters. I refer him to the last paragraph of my statement. On any question or matter that he wishes to raise, he is entitled to seek the assistance of Officers of the House.