HC Deb 17 June 2004 vol 422 c928 1.22 pm
Mr. George Osborne (Tatton) (Con)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is a point of order that relates to Treasury questions, which we have just had, and the answer that the Financial Secretary gave to Question 10, on Equitable Life, which was asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Mr. Mackay). The Financial Secretary used her answer to make a major announcement about the future of the savings industry and to launch a Government consultation document, which is now available in the Library. Is it right that the Government can use a very narrowly worded question on Equitable Life to make an announcement about what is really a very different area of Treasury business, and to do so in such a way that gives the House very little opportunity—indeed, no opportunity whatsoever—to question the Government? When the Government first made such an announcement, they did so by oral statement. There was a statement on Sandler products at the time. Is it right for the House that that announcement has been slipped out in response to an oral question on another issue?

Mr. Speaker

Of course, I am not responsible for the replies from Ministers. The hon. Gentleman will have noticed that those on both Front Benches get some elbow room from the Speaker, so it cuts both ways. My understanding was that the Minister was drawing attention to a written statement that was put on the Order Paper today. Therefore, I gave the hon. Lady some elbow room. I would not expect that to happen all the time, but it did today, so we will leave it at that.