HC Deb 02 February 2004 vol 417 cc537-8 3.54 pm
Mr. Oliver Heald(Con) (North-East Hertfordshire)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I seek your guidance on a matter of which I have given you notice. You will know that we have been calling, as have others on both sides of the House, for a full inquiry into the intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, given that none has been found. According to today's Downing street briefing, a decision is to be made shortly. Would it not be right for the opposition—the other parties in the House—to be consulted on who should undertake the inquiry and its terms of reference so that it could command cross-party support? Can you assure us, Mr. Speaker, that if the decision is announced tomorrow at the Liaison Committee, when the Prime Minister gives evidence, you will ensure, through the powers available to you, that the whole House will have the opportunity to question the Prime Minister on this very important matter?

Mr. Speaker

That is not a matter for me. If something is going to happen tomorrow, I will look at the situation tomorrow, but today there is nothing before me regarding that matter.

Mr. Elfyn Llwyd(PC) (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. There is a media frenzy outside about the subject—shifting sands regarding WMDs and so on and so forth. Bearing in mind the importance of the whole issue to the future of the Prime Minister, should not a statement be made in this House, and not elsewhere?

Mr. Speaker

The media always seem to be in a frenzy.

Mr. Don Foster(LD) (Bath)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of rulings that you have given on previous occasions about matters of great importance coming to this House first, and given that representatives on both sides of the House have been clamouring for an inquiry of the type that might be about to be announced, could you use your good offices to ensure that there will not be a statement by the Prime Minister to the Liaison Committee and that there categorically will be a statement in this House?

Mr. Speaker

As I say, the matter is not before me at the moment.

Mr. Tam Dalyell(Lab) (Linlithgow)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As a simple seeker after truth, may I ask whether you were not a little quick on the draw, Mr. Speaker, in saying that my question should not be answered, because a lot of people are asking it?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The Father of the House has been here for a long time. The question did not relate to the statement, which is why I was rather quick.

Mr. George Foulkes(Lab/Co-op) (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the spurious nature of the interventions so far, will you consider running a master class on points of order?

Mr. Speaker

One day, perhaps, I will get a proper point of order.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con) rose—

Mr. Speaker

Even from the right hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Forth

On a genuine point of order, a genuine one, Mr. Speaker. Could you confirm to the House that our Standing Orders now allow for a thing called an urgent question to be submitted to you on matters that are deemed by you to be both important and urgent? Without wanting to speculate on anything that might happen in the future, could you not at least contemplate that the sort of subject that has been raised this afternoon might be just that thing?

Mr. Speaker

The statement that we heard from the right hon. Lady was made because an urgent question was granted. I look at requests for urgent questions every day.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin(Con) (West Derbyshire)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Could you perhaps ensure that whatever in future appears on the monitor to inform Members of business is correct in its nature? When we had the urgent question, the title on the monitor was "Chairmanship of the BBC". Many of us would therefore have thought that what the Father of House said was a matter that related to the chairmanship of the BBC.

Mr. Speaker

No matter what is on the monitor, the best thing is always for hon. Gentlemen and Ladies to come in and hear the statement. The supplementaries can then be related to the statement.

Alistair Burt(Con) (North-East Bedfordshire)

Further to the point of order raised by the Father of the House, Mr. Speaker. Is it not a matter relating to the process of selecting the chairman of the BBC that all information necessary for a prospective chairman to make a decision on what the job entails should be made public and open? A desire to understand the nature of the relationship between—

Mr. Speaker


Alistair Burt rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman should not defy the Speaker. I stopped proceedings on the statement five minutes ago—we are finished with it.