HC Deb 13 January 2004 vol 416 cc673-4 12.32 pm
Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, of which I have given you notice. From the headlines in today's newspapers it seems clear that the Government are determined to press ahead with yet another outrageous stealth tax on motorists to fund compensation for victims of crime. In the Home Secretary's foreword to the consultation paper issued yesterday, he said that, when the consultation was over, the Government intended to legislate through amendments to the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Bill. That Bill has already received its Second Reading in the other place. Is not the last-minute announcement of major changes to a Bill that is already on its way through Parliament a serious discourtesy to the House and the other place? Is it not also an indication of the contempt that the Government show for Parliament? Will you, Mr. Speaker, investigate what has taken place on our behalf?

On a further point of order, a Home Office press release yesterday stated that there will be a 12-week period of consultation, which is the standard minimum period specified in the Government's own code of practice, but the deadline for responses is 29 March—only II weeks away. Will you, Mr. Speaker, inquire why the Home Office is making inaccurate statements and why it is ignoring the Government's own guidelines on written consultations?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Lady refers to a consultation document, and I can tell her that the House will have ample opportunity to debate that matter and respond to it. On the other point of order, she gave me notice and I have taken advice, but it is not a matter for the Chair.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

I have answered the point of order, so I do not propose to open it up again. I will take the point of order from the right hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes).

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

On a point of order Mr. Speaker.

You may have noticed that during last Thursday's business questions, I asked the Leader of the House about the fact that the subject for the Opposition day debate was not announced last Thursday. We are getting totally inadequate notice of Opposition day debates, and the public and lobby groups are unaware of what subjects are being discussed. Could you require the Opposition to make the subject for Opposition day debates known in time for the Leader of the House to make an announcement at business questions?

Mr. Speaker

In days gone by, the right hon. Gentleman and I were in opposition. We did not impose such restrictions then, and I will not impose them now.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) (Lab)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am glad to make this point of order in the presence of the Leader of the House and the Defence Secretary, because both have been very good about coming to the House to make statements. As column 529 of the relevantHansard shows, yesterday my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (David Winnick) and I discussed the principle of whether, when British troops have been in action, a statement should be made to the House of Commons. Did we interpret you wrongly, or were you rather sympathetic to that point of view? And have you received a request from the Ministry of Defence that a statement be made about the events in Amara?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman heard no terms of sympathy from me on that matter.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire) (Con)

On a point or order, Mr. Speaker. Has a Home Office Minister indicated to you today that the Home Office will make a statement on the categorisation of prisoners, in terms of whether they should go to open prisons? In the past, only those designated as safe and unlikely to abscond have gone to open prisons. I have an open prison in my constituency, and in the first seven months of this year some 56 people absconded, of which 11 had been convicted of either murder or grievous bodily harm. That is causing great concern, and the Government should make a statement to the House on this matter.

Mr. Speaker

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman could initiate an Adjournment debate on the matter.