HC Deb 31 March 2003 vol 402 cc667-8 3.31 pm
Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. During business questions on Thursday, the acting Leader of the House indicated that he was confident that the Prime Minister would want to make a statement to the House about his conversations in America with President Bush and the Secretary-General of the United Nations. I gave the Secretary of State for Defence an opportunity to confirm that when I questioned him this afternoon, but he ignored that part of my question. Do you know whether the Prime Minister intends to come to the House tomorrow? If there is some doubt about that, could the matter be clarified later today?

Mr. Speaker

I have no knowledge that the Prime Minister is to come here tomorrow.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You, with your eagle eye, will have noticed that 14 written statements from Ministers are listed on today's Order Paper. You will also be aware that we currently do not have a Leader of the House. Given that these are fraught and important times, am I, a trusting creature, wrong to suspect that large amounts of information are coming from the Executive to the House of Commons not in the form of statements, on which there can be questions, but increasingly via written ministerial statements? May we hope that the practice will be drawn to Ministers' attention as not being helpful?

Mr. Speaker

I will look into the matter and report back to the hon. Lady.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am sure that you, like the rest of use, have noticed the current horse-trading over the future of Iraq and its people. It is daily reported that five large United States companies have been invited to reconstruct—indeed, one of them, Kellogg Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, has already been given the port of Umm Qasr to oversee. Does that not expose the real reasons for this illegal and immoral invasion—that it is about oil and resources? Have you had any indication from the Government that they will provide a debate so that we can discuss the real reasons for what is happening?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a matter for me.

Harry Cohen (Leyton and Wanstead)

Further to the point of order raised by the distinguished hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack), Mr. Speaker. I agree with what I think he was suggesting, which is that the Prime Minister's not making a statement to the House today is rather poor form. A great deal has been happening that the House should be informed about—not only the war itself, but the Prime Minister's statements about British troops being executed and his meetings in the United States and at the United Nations. Will you ensure that, when he makes that statement—whenever he does so, whether tomorrow or the day after—you will allow every Member of Parliament who wants to question him to do so and not cut that process short?

Mr. Speaker

I think that the hon. Gentleman is still disappointed that I did not call him during the last Prime Minister's statement.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Further to the point of order raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton and Wanstead (Harry Cohen) and by the hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Patrick Cormack), Mr. Speaker, will you indicate what the normal procedure is for the Prime Minister to make statements when he has had meetings with other Heads of Government or, in the case of the United States, Heads of State? The Prime Minister travels a great deal and sometimes makes a statement when he returns, and sometimes not. If he is meeting any other Head of Government or Head of State, can there not be an understanding that he should make a statement to the House on the nature of those discussions?

Mr. Speaker

I will not be drawn into that argument.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. On Thursday, we were given a clear indication by the acting Leader of the House when he said: I am sure that the Prime Minister will want to report back to the House at the earliest opportunity on his important discussions with President Bush and the Secretary-General of the United Nations."—[Official Report, 27 March 2003; Vol. 402, c. 454.] The Prime Minister may not have informed you, Mr. Speaker, but I think that following that comment we had the right to expect a statement from the Prime Minister.

Mr. Speaker

I did note what was said last Thursday.