HC Deb 05 July 2004 vol 423 c549 3.30 pm
Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex) (Con)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Given that defence is the first charge on any Government, and given that there are now more troops on operations overseas than at any time since the 1950s, are you aware that the Secretary of State for Defence will come to the House on Friday 16 July—a private Members' day—to announce substantial cuts in both manpower and capabilities in the armed forces? Do you agree that such an important announcement should not be made to Parliament on a Friday, and that to bury bad news in such a way the day after two by-elections is hopelessly unacceptable and serves to compound the Government's endless felonies in that regard?

Mr. Speaker

There will be at least one session of business questions before 16 July when the hon. Member and others may be able to raise that matter, and there are the usual channels. If there is deep concern about the matter, I urge the hon. Member to seek to have it negotiated through the usual channels.

Mr. Soames

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I shall indeed pursue the action you suggest, but may I ask you to make a general point that announcements of such importance should not be made on a Friday, when many Members are unable to be present in the House because of duties elsewhere? It is quite wrong that such an important announcement, touching on the security of the country and the future of our armed forces, should be made on such a day.

Mr. Speaker

It is difficult for me from the Chair to make a judgment about which statements are important and which statements are less important. It is not for me to be drawn into that argument.

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