HC Deb 26 March 2003 vol 402 cc306-7 1.21 pm
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Do we have your assurance that it was the length of the question that I asked, rather than my discordant view that politicians, for their own ends, in Washington and London, are using brave service men, that caused you to curtail my question?

Mr. Speaker

I will be perfectly straight with the hon. Gentleman, as I always am. He asked about three questions, instead of one supplementary. I expect one supplementary question: it is as simple as that. I sometimes allow some elbow room, but when it gets to the fourth supplementary, it is time to stop.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. A few seconds ago, the Secretary of State made a comment about embedded journalists, which seemed to go much further than previous comments by the Government about their policy on embedded journalists, in terms of the safety of the troops, in terms of the safety of journalists, and in terms of the credibility and independence, I think, of the reports. Will any Minister make a full statement on the whole concept of having journalists embedded with forces?

Mr. Speaker

That is a matter for the Minister concerned: it is not a matter for me.

Mr. Quentin Davies (Grantham and Stamford)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In a few minutes, we will consider the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill on Report. That Bill, taken with the Government's new clauses, schedules and amendments, bears little relation to the Bill that was dealt with Upstairs in Committee. There are six substantive new clauses, one 11-and-a-half page new schedule and 35 Government amendments. My questions are simple. First, are there any rules or limits in this regard? Would it be possible for the Government, if they were so minded—as we are moving in this direction—to introduce a one-clause Bill on Second Reading, have it debated in Committee, and then spring 99 new clauses on the House on Report? If there are limits, what are they? What is the point of our having a Committee stage as part of our legislative procedures, as we do in this House and in other legislatures worthy of the name around the world, if the Government can simply bypass the whole Committee stage with impunity and bring forward major, substantive new concepts and areas of policy on Report?

Mr. Speaker

I understand that we have been allocated six-and-a-half hours for debate on these amendments. Perhaps, during the course of those six and a half hours, the hon. Gentleman will ask the Government those questions, as they are really nothing to do with me. The amendments must have been in order, as I would not have selected them otherwise.

Mr. Peter Robinson (Belfast, East)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. In the Northern Ireland Committee, which also considered this matter, the Minister gave a firm undertaking that these proposals would not be introduced until certain circumstances came about which have not come about. Surely it is out of order for the Minister to do that in these circumstances.

Mr. Speaker

I repeat that this is a matter for debate. It is up to the hon. Gentleman to raise that during the debate.

Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I agree that we must debate the matter, but it seems strange that when my party tables an amendment, it is not selected. Therefore, we cannot debate what we want to debate in the House.

Mr. Speaker

Perhaps it is something to do with the quality of the amendment. The hon. Gentleman knows the rules of the House: whatever amendments are before me, if they are in order, I will select them. Perhaps the message to him would be, "Better luck next time."