HC Deb 06 May 2004 vol 420 c1508 1.14 pm
Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex) (Con)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will have heard the concerns expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hertfordshire (Mr. Heald) and colleagues on both sides of the House about the possible deployment of additional troops to Iraq. You will also have heard the thoroughly casual and dismal reply by the Leader of the House to the serious point made by my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Hertfordshire. It is plain that the newspapers, particularly The Times and The Sun, have already been briefed that additional troops are to go to Iraq, and we know that a reconnaissance force is already there to assess the state of play in the area. Given your own very strong views, often rightly pronounced in the House, that statements should be made in the House before they are released to the press, if a decision has been made in principle—we believe that it has been to consider a deployment, the House of Commons urgently requires the Government to come and explain their policy, and give the House the opportunity to debate this serious question, which involves sending up to 4,000 troops into harm's way.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is quite right that the matter was raised by the shadow Leader of the House. With regard to comments in the press, as he knows, sometimes they can be inaccurate, and therefore I do not wish to make any statement on that. However—and I hope that note is taken of this—if there is any significant increase in Army personnel going into an area of danger, I would want the House to know about it.

Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall) (LD)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not a great discourtesy to the armed forces and their families that no attempt has been made to clarify the accuracy of the reports in the papers today or to make sure that we now have a statement on the facts?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman knows my difficulties. I cannot be drawn into these arguments, and I think that I have made the point on behalf of the House.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire) (Con)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I take you back to Question Time and draw your attention to Question 3, when a number of Opposition Members rose but you were unable to call them? I make no argument about that whatsoever. However, after Question 5, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Nigel Griffiths), a junior Minister in the Department of Trade and Industry, commented that no Opposition Member had risen to ask a question when, in fact, you had called four Government Members to ask a question. Could you inform Ministers that it is you who decides who is called in questions? Unfortunately, the Opposition do not have much say in whom you call.

Mr. Speaker

I think that Ministers know that, but from time to time they take some liberties.