HC Deb 30 June 2004 vol 423 cc302-3 1.30 pm
John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday, the Department for Work and Pensions announced possibly the most significant reorganisation of its local services in the past decade, which would involve the closure of 550 of its 650 local benefits offices. That will affect virtually every constituency in the country, and could result in tens of thousand of jobs being lost in the civil service—yet the announcement was made in a written statement, not in an oral statement in the Chamber. Therefore, Members were given no opportunity to question the Secretary of State. Will you consider the development of a protocol that would provide guidelines for the Government on what matters should be announced in written statements, and what matters should be announced in oral statements, based on their significance to our constituents?

Mr. Speaker

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of his point of order. As I said in the House on Monday, not all Government statements can be made orally. If he wishes to bring this matter to the Floor of the House, as he clearly does, there are various ways of doing so. As an experienced Member, he knows as well as anyone what the options are. I am sure that he will find a way of doing so.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North) (Lab)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Could you give some indication as to the importance of statements? We have no notice of statements being made, other than on the day on which they are made, no opportunity to question them if they are written statements, and no automatic right to question Ministers. Therefore, something as important as the matter to which my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) refers, or the Orders in Council made on 10 June concerning the Chagos islanders, cannot be challenged other than by the lottery of Adjournment debates.

Mr. Speaker

It would be very difficult for the Speaker to judge which statements were important. Some hon. Members would consider one statement important and another not so important. The Adjournment debate is not the only facility available to the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell), whose experience I mentioned: questions can be put to the Leader of the House, asking for a statement or debate, and further parliamentary questions can be put. The picture that I am painting is that there are many ways of ensuring that the Minister concerned is accountable to the hon. Gentlemen.